First post in the “Discover” section. We were thinking about what we were keen on talking about, and I personally do really love when people suggest where to go in a city. Travel guides tell you a lot, but the insiders know better.
I start with San Francisco because it is a place I’ve been quite regularly lately. Most of the suggestions below are from my friend Geoff who lives there. But of course I went there myself. I wouldn’t dare talking about a place I don’t know. And it wouldn’t make any sense either.
So one little insider tip to start with: Don’t call San Francisco “San Fran” or “Frisco”. Geoff told me that locals do not call this city this way. Either San Francisco or SF. Okay now you are well prepared for your first trip there and merge into the cool SF crowd!
When you’ll be in Downtown SF go to the Ferry Building (I really love this place as it has a nice view over the harbour and Oakland; also there are plenty of little – fairly pricy – shops to browse around) and grab a coffee at the Blue Bottle Coffee (Ferry Building Marketplace, Shop #7, 1). There is mostly a queue and for a good reason: They prepare their coffee with lots of love and skip the decision-making of small/ medium/ large coffee. Each time I am in San Francisco I-have-to-go to the Blue Bottle Coffee (at least once!) to have one latte and a treat! The cookies are really delicious and not too big so there is always room for one. I had the ginger cookie and the chocolate one. Both are absolutely yummy, not too sweet and nicely moist.
Also they pack the cookies in coffee filters. Very cute, right?But obviously I can’t drink coffee all day long and a nice evening drink is also my friend. The closest bar from a shopping spread Downtown would be for me the Rickhouse (246 Kearny St.) in the Financial District. It is a rather dark bar but nicely designed with wood. You feel a bit like in a high-class tavern. And it is a quite busy place but this is what makes the experience so nice. I loved the bartenders being dressed up in a Mumford & Sons style and their speciality is apparently cocktails mixing. Too bad that I had a beer! One more reason to come back!
I stumbled over the Grand Café when I was waiting for friends. Starbuck’s is everywhere but I can’t have the idea of being in a vibrant city like SF to grab a “Venti-Caramel-Macchiatto-with-semi-skimmed-soy-milk” which you can get… everywhere! So the Grand Café at the corner of Geary Street and Taylor Street was appealing enough to me to spend an hour with my book and a nice cuppa tea to warm me up. It has something of the fancy cafés in Paris. The funny part was that I realised that I was sitting next to French tourists and start to have a little chat with them. I felt a bit like home! Of course I was slightly hungry whilst smelling the food they were serving around so I tried the fries with Parmesan cheese. Really yummy!
Being in another place, mostly makes me want to bring something back. For myself. Yes I do like stuff just for me. During my last visit in SF I was there with my friend Maja. She needed new boots. So off we were into a shoe store which is a chain here in the U.S.: DSW. The fun part about moving to a new place is that you are not completely brainwashed by advertisements and brands yet. Therefore each shop or product have more or less the same degree of excitement for me. I can’t say yet how amazing or bad DSW is but even though I had no intention to buy new shoes, I managed to get out with a new pair of ankle boots who have a bit of an Indian style. I loved them right away and the great thing about Southern Californian winters: they don’t get really cold and I can basically wear shoes without fur without risking a metamorphosis of my feet into ice cubes.
Maja was also successful in her shoe hunt, she went more on the folk side of things with those boots.
You will most probably go to the Ashbury Heights district too, to get a bit of the flower power feeling whilst being in San Francisco. There are lots of nice second-hand shops, unfortunately a little bit pricey. However if you like music you’ll love Amoeba Music (1855 Haight Street)! Just look at the photos, this should be enough to make you wanna go there. My friend Annette and I were for a good while in heaven and bought quite a few vinyls and Cds. They played really fitting music to this back-in-time-atmosphere. I went to the info desk and saw the name of the band which was just playing: The Faces. I sort of runed (walked very fast) to “F” in the rock section and grabbed the “best of” album just before the next customer could get it. And guess what? Rod Steward is part of the band! Very different, more rock’n’roll and therefore so much cooler!
One of my all-time favourite bands is R.E.M.. Amoeba Music made my day when I found this awesome interview recording from the beginning of the 80s. Recording in England and ofr the bargain price of only $10, I was fairly delighted!
Ashbury Heights is full of cafés. We decided to enter the Red Victorian Peace Café (1665 Haight Street). Has nothing of a stylish café. But you feel very comfy there. They seem to have a lot of cultural events going on. Behind the counter there was a little room where a couple danced tango. And if you don’t have enough conversation topics, they offer you ideas with thoughtful questions placed on each table. Very laid back place which fits into the free spirit of Ashbury Heights (1665 Haight Street).