Pardon me for the lack of posts, the summer weather has been very distracting and I’ve taken two separate week long trips to Europe recently, there will be many posts and pictures to post soon. Hope that everyone is having a nice summer so far (if you’re in the northern hemisphere that is). Last month I revisited one of my second homes for the first time in a few years: San Francisco.
We arrived the weekend before pride weekend so the vibe was getting really hyped for that, in fact in San Francisco they have dubbed the entire month of June “pride month”. Its reputation as the gay Mecca is so felt that you almost can’t tell the difference since every day feels like a part of pride month.
Rekindling with some of my favorite things in San Francisco was a true joy after years of absence. Some of those things include the nightlife, the stunning architecture, the scenic walks, the beautiful parks, and of course….the food. Some of my favorite spots in the city from previous visits include Japantown, the Castro and the Mission. In Japantown you can enjoy the architecture in the peace plaza, a video store with hundreds of Japanese anime selections, delicious sushi places including a cute place where little sushi boats pass by seats at the sushi bar (beware, it gets addicting and the bill adds up), and even Japanese crepes! The Castro has great gay bars and restaurants and the famous Castro theatre. The Mission has great places to sample Mexican and Salvadorian food, go to brunch along Valencia, and sun tanning in Mission Dolores Park is a must-see for anyone on their first visit.
On this visit, I got to see some of my friends whom I haven’t seen in years! My friend Christian who recently moved from New York picked us up at the airport and showed us his area called Visitacion Valley, owing to San Francisco’s Spanish influence. It’s a quiet area in the southern part of the city filled with Chinese families, quaint houses, and scenic views at McLaren Park.
Even though I spent a whole month in 2011 exploring the city, I still hadn’t seen everything so I decided to get a new orientation for the city. San Francisco is pretty easy to circumnavigate by foot or bus, but some things are just out there are hard to get to. Thanks to Christian, we were able to visit some of San Francisco’s harder to reach points. We started with the gorgeous Twin Peaks, arguably the best scenic view of San Francisco. It’s located in the southern part of the city, and affords panoramic views of multiple angles of the city. You have to fight your way through some tourists to get a good picture, but it’s well worth it.
For lunch, we met with my friend Katie who is an Oakland native and checked out the cleverly named SoMa SteEat Food Park, where you can get really fresh food of any sort of ethnic variety at a reasonable price from the numerous food carts or a few sit-down places. I tried the paella spot and the Burmese cuisine, both very good choices.
We proceeded to check out the Richmond District, where there isn’t much to see per se, but along Geary Blvd there’s some nice architecture in the form of Russian churches and dozens of restaurants and coffee shops. We got a refreshing bubble tea at Infini Tea, which has a wide variety of flavors of milk tea spanning from quirky to conventional. They even have a happy hour for discounted teas and quick snack foods. Afterwards, we made our way to Sutro Baths at the end of the Outer Richmond District along the Pacific Ocean. In its heyday in the 1890s, Sutro Baths was the largest indoor swimming complex in the world, with natural pools of salt water that were fed by the ocean during high tide. There were also many cultural exhibits, and the creator of the baths even made a railway to increase visitation to the baths due to its isolated location along the sea. It was wildly successful up until the Great Depression and after years of decline it was mysteriously burnt down, arousing conspiracy theories. The ruins remain beautiful and protected by the National Park Service, and it’s a great way to spend a few hours exploring the sea caves, walking along the ruins of the baths, and hiking up the trails with incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge by the cliff sides.
My friends Juan & Kevin hosted us for the weekend in their apartment in Nob Hill, and they showed us some cute little spots in the neighborhood. We had dinner at the Bell Tower, which was very good considering that I usually don’t go for bar food. Also, the staff is beyond friendly and the service was excellent. Another amazing place we ate at that weekend was the Pancho Villa Taqueria right on 16th Street down the block from the BART station in the Mission District. The lines are really long, but the authenticity of the food and the quality of the ingredients are unbeatable, even to Mission standards.
Also while I was in town I had the pleasure of seeing Beach Blanket Babylon, a San Francisco staple. It’s the longest running musical revue in the world complete with an over the top performance with highly extravagant and detailed costumes and wigs. I’m lucky enough that my host is in charge of the entire wigs department so not only did he hook us up, but he gave us a tour backstage and a behind the scenes look of the wardrobe department, where we got to meet some of the actors before the performance. It’s an experience definitely not to be missed as the show is highly entertaining and extremely unique.
The remainder of the trip was spent just leisurely strolling the streets for beautiful houses and buildings in the gorgeous areas of the Nob Hill, Cow Hollow, Telegraph Hill, and North Beach. I’d definitely recommend doing most of San Francisco by foot since you’ll pass by so many unexpected treasures that way. The buildings are ornate, detailed, and colorful, and every street looks different. And of course, the San Francisco hills, fog, street cars and view of the bay add to the dramatic effect of this gorgeous one-of-a-kind city.
Have you ever been to San Francisco? What are some of your favorite experiences you’ve had here?