My mom was out to San Francisco for a Sierra Club conference this weekend, so I drove up Friday night to stay with her.
This was probably the most active visit I’ve had to the city yet. The Hotel, the Sir Francis Drake, was just a block off Union Square and a few blocks from Market, making it more or less in the center of downtown. Friday night was dinner at Town Hall Saturday was a walk to the Ferry Building Marketplace, an hour-long Bay cruise, a trip to Haight-Ashbury, and a Bill Maher show back at Union Square; Sunday was a trip to the Exploratorium out by the Marina, followed by dinner in the Castro district.
Even though we took public transit a fair amount (both bus and streetcar), my feet felt like they were going to fall off. My right ankle still hasn’t recovered.
Town Hall is an “in” restaurant, I gather—both critically-acclaimed and popular. The food style walks a line between hip and retro, classic American mixed with a bit of Iron Chef flair. I had a pork chop encrusted with peanut and tasso ham. That’s right, the meat had a crust of meat. This is not a place to take your vegan friend. It is, however, a great restaurant.
The Ferry Building I’ve written about before (I think); this time we were there during the farmers’ market. No, really, the farmers’ market. It’s huge and eclectic and, if you’re a foodie, a lot of fun. There’s a row of little takeout lunch stands there, too.
The Exploratorium is San Francisco’s science museum and… I’ll be back. In a bit over two hours, I think we made it through about half of the place, and we weren’t dawdling.
As for Haight-Ashbury and the Castro—are there many other American cities out there that have neighborhoods that are nationally famous? Haight was ground zero of the “hippie ’60s” and the source of most of the stereotypes we have today, which have largely obscured the real ’60s—but that’s a rant for another time. While there’s a definite tourist aspect to it now, a lot of it’s still pretty obviously a neighborhood, not a tie-dyed Kodak picture spot.
Many people reading this know the nearby Castro district is the Gay Neighborhood™—every big city has one, and in SF it’s an institution. It’d be terribly stereotyping to note that it’s clean, well-lit and tastefully color-coordinated. But it’s true. So sue me. We had dinner there at a restaurant called Tangerine, a quasi-Asian fusion place which is really good. (Walking to Tangerine may be how I managed to do in my right ankle, though, as we found a route which went down a street at a good 30-degree angle.)
It occurred to me that while I’ve lived in the Bay Area for nearly three years now (!), I’ve not taken much advantage of living within an hour’s drive of one of the world’s great cities. SF engenders the same reaction that NYC does, which I wrote about before once (“half the people seem to think ‘the city’ is only a nice place to visit, and the other half doesn’t even agree with that”). But they exist on a level which is qualitatively different. There are places that are bigger than San Francisco—Houston, Detroit, even San Jose—but more cosmopolitan? NYC meets it, Chicago might, but nothing else in this country comes close. Seriously. I don’t know if I’d want to live in San Francisco (I wouldn’t want to live in NYC, for dislike of the cold alone), but I can definitely see how people could fall in love with the city.
There’s more that could be written about this trip, but that’ll have to wait a bit.