San Francisco, CA

Posted on March 29, 2011

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When an American friend of mine moved from Paris to San Francisco he told me this the America I want my European friends to see. Now I understand.

The city seems to be made up of villages, in the same way as Paris. Each area has it’s own character, and it’s high streets are not made up of chain stores. I loved Haight street (ask for Lower Haight) where I wandered with friends stopping in cafes and soaking up the sun. I recommend Cafe du Soleil near Duboce which has a French feel (although they seem to get slightly mixed up with Spanish at times.)

There are plenty of parks, the largest of which is Golden Gate Park (confusingly this is not the park at the end of Gold Gate Bridge) This is home to the DeYoung museum which has some impressive collections com in through, check the schedules at deyoung.famsf.org

Two days is enough to walk around and get a good feel for the city. Transport is good, the BART for longer journeys, including the airport and then Muni trams within the city. I’d recommend getting a Clipper card (a Navigo or Oyster equivalent) with $20 or so prepaid to make like simple (and a little cheaper.) A ride is $2 which is valid on any of these forms of transport for 3hrs from time of buying/validating you card.

To get a good view of the city, walk up Telegraph hill to Coit tower. It’s worth the climb (or lift for the faint hearted) especially on a clear day.

I don’t get to see the sea much so I enjoyed the opportunity of walking along the wharfs, from the Ferry terminal that has great foodie shops, to Fisherman’s Wharf for fresh crab or clam chowder served in hollowed out sour dough bread. At the end we spent a few minutes in the Musee Mecanique which hosts a free collection of old arcade and fairground games. Pier 39, on this route, is touristy and reminded me of the Brighton Pier but I loved standing in the sun watching the sealions (that apparently turned up in 1989 after the earthquake and have been there ever since.) Many told me that Alcatraz isn’t worth the visit so we admired from afar.

To get back to downtown, take one of the old style cable cars which go from Fisherman’s Wharf to Powell and Market street via two routes. These get busy so be wary in peak tourist times.

No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a wander around Chinatown. It’s rumoured that fortune cookies were invented here. Eat at the House of Nunking. It’s a local staple, complete with gushing press reviews all over the Walls and a few famous photos on the wall. If it’s good for Jamie Oliver, it’s good for me. Have the five hour braised beef pancakes, delicious. Beware American portions though – one dish plus rice, noodles or vegetables is enough for two people. We ate like kings at lunch (a little too much so, couldn’t manage any more food until the next morning) all for the bargain price of $20.

Other restaurant recommendations that I had but didn’t have time to try are below. tables get booked way in advance so book earl (at least a week) through www.opentable.com

Staying with a gay friend we got our fair share of cheesy nightlife too. The main gay area, equivalent of Marais in France or Soho in London, is Castro. Most shops on the main street have a double entendre: a nail bar called ‘Hand Job’ is just a couple of doors from an Italian ‘The Sausage Factory’. We ate at Starbelly in Castro which is absolutely delicious.

Lastly, if you are lucky enough to be in town when there is an SFGMC (San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus) make sure you get a ticket. My friend is in the choir so I tagged along to watch the rehearsal. The sound that these 268 men produced blew me away. It was beautiful.

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Posted in: USA