City Spotlight: San Francisco

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After almost a week traveling in San Francisco, I must sing praises to the city. Here, there lives architectural charm, cultural density (without the population density of, say, New York), gastronomic delights and playgrounds of nature.

In this post, I’ll concentrate on activities I recommend in the city.

You can get around by foot, public transit, Uber and, for tourist pleasure, cable car. The San Francisco cable car bears the distinction of being the only one in the world that is operated manually. The conductor stands in the middle and works the gears by pushing and pulling a lever. The cars are open air and packed tight, with riders often standing at the car’s side edges.

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We took a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf. When we got dropped off, we spotted The Buena Vista Cafe and decided to have breakfast there. It’s an old-school, comfortable place with a tile floor and a bartender in crisp white with a black tie. I recommend the crab cakes topped with poached eggs and their signature Irish coffee.

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After breakfast, we wandered through the waterfront and made our way to Pier 39 to see the resident sea lions that lie on floating platforms. They make a lot of noise and love being lazy. Super cute.

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For a 360 view of SF, we walked to Coit Tower, which is full of Depression-era murals on the inside that were commissioned by the Works Progress Administration. If you want to take the elevator to the top for the view, there’s an $8 fee. It’s worth it on a clear day to get sweeping vistas of the city and the bay.

City Lights

If you like reading, a visit to City Lights is a must. Like many other college kids, I was enamored of the Beats as that age, and this store was founded by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who, God bless him, is now 98. There’s a special Beat section upstairs. This store is a literary beacon for the city and well beyond. We bought a few books, of course.

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For lunch, we walked about a mile to Swan Oyster Depot. We were not expecting to stand in line for an hour and a half just to get into this tiny bar-top counter place, but it might be Anthony Bourdain’s fault; once we finally got inside, there was a featured quote from him, something to the effect of he’d die a happy man if he ate this last. We were actually a little disappointed because once we sat down and looked at the menu, the oysters and fish were mostly sourced from Vancouver, where we used to live. We were hoping for a more local selection, although they did have local versions of the oysters we knew so well in Vancouver, which we ordered. We also sampled the scallop sashimi with ponzu and Sriracha; absolute heaven.

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To round out our afternoon, we took an Uber to Amoeba Music, the world’s largest indie record store. This place is indeed big like a warehouse, and it has new and used LPs, CDs and DVDs, as well as a small stage for performances. We picked up a couple Grateful Dead CDs in honor of the concert we came to town for–more on that, and other SF highlights, soon.

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About Aileen Torres-Bennett

All content on this site was created by Aileen Torres-Bennett, unless otherwise specified. References to material on this site should credit Aileen Torres-Bennett and link to the site.
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