Category Archives: San Francisco Tourist

San Francisco’s Culinary Side

When you visit San Francisco, or if you live here, you will be delighted by the incredible food experiences that can be found in this great city.   First of all, you can find any type of food here from any country, and often made and served in the traditional manner.   In addition, many of the local, yet world-renowned, chefs perform something called “California Fusion” where they take the traditional recipes and add more modern ways of cooking and manipulating spices in order to give the taste buds a feast.  It’s not all about the food, but if you are a foodie, you will find yourself spending several evenings wiling away the hours at a local restaurant taking in the food and the ambiance.

Going out to eat is not always a precursor to the main event in San Francisco.  Instead, it is the main event.  Don’t be surprised if you end up waiting in line for thirty minutes to an hour and  a half just to get into some of the better restaurants.  Better does not necessarily mean expensive in this case.  For example, check out the line at Dotty’s Cafe on the weekends and you will see people waiting for extended lengths of time to get extraordinary breakfast fare at a very reasonable price.

Located on the West Coast, full of entrepreneurs, and home to large number of immigrants, San Francisco has always been a place of exotic and diverse food choices.  Many new menu items have grown out of this creative culinary melting pot including the following:

1.  The Hangtown Fry.  This is a dish of scrambled eggs mixed with oysters and bacon.  Pair with this with a thick slice of Irish soda bread and you will have an incredible brunch.

2.  The Popsicle.  According to city legend, this item was invented in the 1920’s in Neptune Beach, an amusement park in Alameda.

3.  Rice-A-Roni.  Yes, it really is a San Francisco treat.  It was created by an Italian family in the 1950’s in the Mission District.

4.  Hot Pink Popcorn.  This item could be acquired in the past in Golden Gate Park and the zoo.  You can still get it in the Mission at the Wright Popcorn and Nut Company.

5.  Wine.  Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley are literally a 45 minute drive North.  Needless to say, the city shamelessly ignored  the Federal Laws pertaining to Prohibition in the 1930’s.

That’s all for today.

Cheers!

Mike

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North Beach

This area of the city is nestled near Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf, and has a long history as the Italian section of San Francisco. By the 1930’s, one tenth of the city’s population was Italian. It was home to Italian notables like the great chocolatier, Domingo Ghirardelli; and that baseball sensation, Joe Di Maggio. In fact, Joe renewed his wedding vows to the beautiful Marilyn Monroe on the steps located in front of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. This is the one of the few churches, if the only church in America, with the street number 666. No kidding.

North Beach was settled in the late 1800’s and received its name because it was the Northern waterfront. Because of landfill and new construction, this characteristic of the area changed drastically over the past 100 years. San Francisco is always trying to find new ways to add livable space to this tip of the peninsula community.

The area thrived after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. In fact, three and four-story Edwardian homes appeared magically all over the area in order to offer cheap housing near the bay. Many of these structures are still around today, and they definitely add to the charming appeal of the neighborhood.

Eventually it became home to the Beatnik culture, and places like Vesuvio, Specs, and other businesses which encouraged radical self-expression popped up all over the area. This is also the place where you will find City Lights Bookstore which boasts one of the largest collections of Beat literature and history.

Finally, the area also was, and is, a center for nightlife. Walking down the streets at twilight you can smell the Italian food from the restaurants, hear the music of live bands seeping out into the streets, and you can even check out a peep-show. Starting in 1964, people rushed to North Beach and caused traffic jams in order to see the topless dancer, Carol Doda, perform at the Condor Club. Shocking!

North Beach is a magical place, and best experienced in the early evening on into the night.

Cheers!

 

Mike

Source: San Francisco: A Cultural History, Mick Sinclair (This is an awesome book, and I highly recommend it.)

 

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Filed under San Francisco Art, San Francisco History, San Francisco Living, San Francisco Tourist

“Cupid’s Span”

"Cupid's Span"

You are walking along the Embarcadero enjoying the views which include the Bay Bridge, Yerba Buena Island, Treasure Island, and far off Oakland; ships are docked in the bay, and a multitude of sail boats are racing all around.  Everything seems nice, laid back, and predictable until…you look up ahead and you see a giant, yes giant, bow and arrow sticking half way up out of the ground.  Surprise!  You have just found Cupid’s Arrow.  (You can check that off the scavenger hunt list.

Designed by the international artists Claus Oldenberg and Coosje Van Brugen’s, “Cupid’s Span” was erected in 2003  in the new Rincon Park on the corner of the Embarcadero & Folsom Street.  These same artists created “Spoonbridge and Cherry” in Minneapolis, and “Saw Sawing” in Japan.  They are worth a “google” to check out the images.

This sculpture consists of fiberglass and steel, and it rises 60 feet out of the ground and covers 140 feet of the 1,000 square foot park.

“These urban pieces are treated like something that’s hit the city,” Oldenburg told The S.F. Chronicle (12/23/2002).  “At first there’s the man-in-the-street opinion, but then there’s the more nuanced response. We don’t copy the objects we use, we try to transform them and we hope they go on transforming as you look at them. The idea of endless public dialogue — visual dialogue — is very important to us.”

Needless to say, their bow and arrow hit the mark as far as public dialogue.  As you walk by this brilliant piece of art, you will often hear tourists and residents talk about it and what it might mean.

As more and more people fall in love with this magical city, this modern-day Atlantis, it should come as no surprise that this is the place that Cupid chooses to keep his bow and arrow.

Cheers!

Mike

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Scenes from San Francisco’s Gay Pride, 2011

Gay Pride in San Francisco is a time where everyone comes out and celebrates diversity.  GLBT and heterosexual people from all nationalities and all races join in the festivities.  Young, old, families, singles, rich, poor, all are welcome. 

S.F. Gay Pride 2011 36

S.F. Gay Pride 2011 29
S.F. Gay Pride 2011 33

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The Hanlon House, San Francisco

If you find yourself walking around the Russian Hill/Nob Hill neighborhood on Jackson Street, take a couple of moments to walk by the Hanlon House at 1659 Jackson Street.  It was built in 1881 and moved to its current location after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.   
It is fascinating to reflect on all the life and conversations that have occurred in this residence.  The 130 year old home began its life during the Victorian Age, when women and men dressed elaborately and kept their parlors over decorated.  It was an age of showy excess, and this house looks like it belonged to that era.  Families continued to live in the house during the times of World War 1 & 2, McCarthyism,  poodle skirts, first moon walk, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Summer of Love, and the AIDS pandemic.  Most recently, this house witnessed the advent of accessible technology flood it’s rooms.  It was built around the time that the phone was invented, and now cell phones, computers, laptops, and televisions are used on the premises.
From the looks of this residence, it is not going anywhere anytime soon.  Maybe in the future it will be cars, and not just planes, that the grand old lady will see flying above it’s rooftop and chimneys. 
Cheers!
Mike
IMAG0343

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Leland Stanford (One of the "Big Four")

Leland Stanford, one of San Francisco’s infamous “Big Four,” did not come from remarkable origins. He had seven other siblings, and was the son of an innkeeper. After a short time in the law profession, Leland came to California in order to work with his brothers to start up a grocery in Sacramento. His brothers moved on to other pursuits, but Leland stayed faithful to the small grocery store.

Opportunity Knocks!

One of his customers was struggling to keep his gold mine open and pay the grocery bill, so he paid Leland in shares of his mine. For whatever reason, Leland decided to accept these shares as payment for the bill. One must wonder if he was motivated by charity or greed. It turns out that this was quite possibly one of the two best business decisions Leland ever made in his life. The gold mine was successful, and it eventually made him half a million dollars. This was not a bad return for a few groceries.

Opportunity Knocks!

After amassing a tidy sum of money that cemented his place as a wealthy businessman in the Bay Area, he attended a presentation by a railroad engineer named Theodore Judah.   He was a convincing orator, and Judah left that presentation with many commitments to buy shares in his idea to build a railroad through the Sierra Foot Hills to the mines. It was a successful business venture, and this was the beginning of the creation of Leland’s fortune. He became known as one of the Big Four in San Francisco, and created an empire based on the railroad. He had come a long way from being the son of an innkeeper, a mediocre lawyer, and a modest grocery store owner.

As his influence grew, Leland became more interested in politics. He became the governor of California for two years during the Civil War era, and later served as a U.S. Senator

Things were going well for the Stanford family until their only son died of typhoid at age 15. The heir to the throne had passed away, and everything he had worked for seemed meaningless. In order to grieve the loss of their son, Leland and Jane founded the Leland Stanford Jr. University in 1891.

Stanford died in 1893, and the university almost went under. As it turns out, Leland had bankrupt his own legacy by spending enormous sums of money on everything from showplace mansions, a Palo Alto farm, an orchard, etc. In fact, he and his wife built Stanford University with five million borrowed dollars.

With the university on the brink of closure, Leland’s wife came to the rescue and somehow figured out a way to keep herself and the university afloat after her husband’s death.

What a remarkable life. After reading his story, one must wonder if Leland contributed his success to the direction of a divine higher power, hard work and business savvy, or just plain dumb luck.

Cheers,

Mike

Source: Historic San Francisco: A Concise History and Guide, by Rand Richards

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Bay to Breakers

Wikimedia Commons:  Geoffrey Weber

It is finally here. The 100th anniversary of Bay to Breakers will be this Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. This is a 12k race from the San Francisco Bay to the ocean breakers, and it was established as a way to raise the city’s spirits after the tragic 1906 earthquake and fire. It is the oldest foot race in the world that has never changed its course. During W.W. II, attendance dropped to below 50 participants, but it has continued to grow. This year they are expecting 55,000 registered entrants and an untold number of bandits who “crash” the race. In 1986, the race had 110,000 participants, enough to make into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest footrace in the world.

This is not your mother’s footrace. Over the years it has evolved with a San Francisco feel and vibe. When you go and view the race tomorrow, don’t be surprised by the large number of runners/walkers/drunk crawlers who are wearing costumes. You may see Egyptian princes, super heroes, pink gorillas, spacemen, and any number of people dressed up. In addition, you may also see those who declined to wear a costume, or a running suit, or anything at all for that matter. Yes, they must be cold.

Stay tuned to this blog for pictures of the event. G-rated pictures of course.

Cheers!

Mike

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