The San Francisco Beat

We spent our two days in San Francisco strolling the familiar visitor zones of Fisherman’s Wharf, hopping the crowded tour bus to Muir Woods, taking snapshots of the Golden Gate Bridge, and exploring the Italian food districts. After all, what makes San Francisco so incomparable is the sheer breadth of its neighborhoods and its distinct pockets of local culture. Within a relatively compact 40-square-miles, we found showy Victorian manses and elegant Art Deco skyscrapers; the sprawling, verdant oasis of Golden Gate Park, along with some shockingly good museums; and oh the restaurants, with food, much of it made with sustainable, local ingredients, are simply sublime. Few other cities can match this town’s charm and simple bliss.

Some 80 vendors and growers spread out around the waterfront Ferry Building during the Saturday Farmer’s Market. The market offered fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, meats, and eggs from small, regional farmers and ranchers.  Have you ever seen cardoons, pawpaws, or purple carrots at the supermarket? We saw it all at the Farmer’s Market! A wealth of other products including regional artisan specialties such as breads, cheeses, and jams filled our senses with delight.  We walked by alligators made of bread, huge pallets filled with fish, and hundreds of other viewers and shoppers that searched the market for a good deal. The food that comes to the market is often picked the day before, or even that very morning, it is sold. Since 1993, the market has been a crucial link between San Francisco residents and the farmers who practice sustainable agriculture in the region.

For only $6 return, we were able to use public transportation from downtown San Francisco to Muir Woods. Nestled in a cool, foggy canyon north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods is the world’s most famous grove of redwoods. We spent over two hours amidst the tall trees that are a spectacular remnant of the vast redwood forests that once filled the hills surrounding San Francisco Bay. Redwoods grow taller than any other tree species in the world, and the average age of the redwoods in Muir Woods ranges from 400–800 years old. The sunlight peered through the trees and cast it’s rays on unsuspecting branches and leaves providing a warmth and comfort to us as visitors.

The Golden Gate Bridge is the most iconic landmark in San Francisco. It’s featured in numerous photos, posters, and postcards of the city. We wanted to do ourselves a favor and see the Golden Gate Bridge the way it was meant to be seen: from below. Starting at Baker Beach, that lies at the foot of the rugged cliffs on the rocky shoreline, we witnessed incredible views of the bridge, but I was surprised to catch a glimpse of a little something more. Also known as Nasty Boy Beach, which I was totally unaware in the beginning, the shoreline was littered with nude, gay males strutting their stuff as freely as “birds”. Once we passed the slongs and nudists that were playing volleyball and standing proud, we truly enjoyed the majestic views of Golden Gate Bridge.

North beach is known as the Italian District, and this neighborhood has the best Italian food that the city offers. For a relaxing, Italian dinner, we landed at Calzone’s.  This sparkling bistro had a large awning along the front with tables and chairs beneath it, which was perfect for watching the crowd go by after a long day of walking and hiking.  The crisp, oblong shaped, thin-crust pizza was an excellent choice. Coupled with a spinach salad, it made a delicious evening meal. We shared the unique, homemade Italian pot stickers, an intriguing combination of Asian and Italian flavors, stuffed with sausage, wild mushrooms and ginger and served with a soy-sesame dipping sauce. With Italian service and authentic ingredients, we were transported to Italy, and all the serenity that it encompasses, without enduring the long flight.

North Beach was also the home of the Beats, which made the 540 Broadway location of the Beat Museum a fitting tribute. With a meager $5 admission fee, it was well worth our time. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Michael McClure are just a sampling of the people who comprised the spirit and the force that became the Beat Generation and filled the walls of the museum. We spent an hour enjoying the spirit of the Beats through writings, photos, artifacts, and history, as well as taking in a portion of a documentary that was playing in the make-shift theatre in the back. The museum was a step back to where it all started, celebrating the spirit of The Beat Generation, which is Tolerance, Compassion, and having the courage to live your own individual Truth. It’s a great introduction to the movement. I left with a desire to learn more about the fascinating history and culture that made up The Beat Generation and an understanding of why even “Jesus was a beatnik.”

As much as we wanted to see everything, we were limited to a weekend of activities.  There is really too much to see and do in San Francisco and far too many beautiful sights to capture on camera, but we definitely enjoyed our time there, as if it is possible not to, and we’ll hopefully get back to the San Francisco Beat in the near future!

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132 thoughts on “The San Francisco Beat

      • My dream is one day to get to San Francisco as well. I would love for you to meet my 26 year old daughter she travels all over the world too and has been to San Francisco, through Europe, Africa, Hawaii, Alaska, the Fiji Islands – just to name a few… God bless you on these journeys and now with a baby your life is complete.

  1. I’m thinking of going to Muir Woods on Monday but all reviews that I can find say that it’s so overcrowded with visitors that it’s not worth it. What did you think?

  2. Wow, I would normally we going there next weekend, yearly delight. Your pictures will satisfy me for now. What camera shot the bridge? Crisp, and fantastic color! I like how each entry has a related picture. It sets the tone… Love your style Leslie! Thank you for the post! Next year I will be there for sure!

  3. Great photos, and I had a laugh about the nudes, it’s funny when you come across something like that especially when you are not expecting it. :)
    The lunch sounds really nice, and it sound as if you both had a fantastic time.

  4. I’ve never been to San Francisco but after reading your post I feel like I’ve been to the best of the best. Thanks for letting me travel through your post!

  5. Thanks, Leslie, for a reminder of the past. I was in San Francisco in 1967, stayed in the YMCA and loved wandering around the streets, gawping at the sights! For a young NZ girl from the depths of the depths of the country, it was a real revelation – the Golden Gate, sea-lions, the fabulous Japanese Gardens (I wonder if they are still there) and of course, the tourist “musts” of the day, Haight-Ashbury and the “steepest street in the world”!
    I mainly remember, at night, the noise of the sirens – fire engines, ambulances, police – who knows? But I had never heard the like!!
    Thanks again.

    • The Japanese Gardens are still there and make for a popular tourist destination, although I didn’t make it there.

      We did make it to the “steepest street in the world”, but I felt like my post was already overflowing with tourist spots so I limited it to my favorites.

      The heart of the city would have been a wonderful experience at night but we stayed outside of the city and didn’t have that adventure.

      Living in southern California, with no intentions of moving, making San Francisco a long weekend trip rather than a long journey so we hope to return soon.

      • I hope you get the chance to go back and visit the gardens. The last time I was there I went with my grandma, mom and sister…and it was the last trip we took with my grandma before she passed. The gardens are beautiful… and with your photo chops…. you’ll get some great images for sure.

  6. I was raised in the East Bay – and going to The City was a constant joy to me. Still is, although I live 3-4 hours away now, and only get there a few times a year. Thanks for the memories – for I am truly one of those who “left their heart in San Francisco!”

  7. We went to San Fran for my first time this past August. Had a fabulous 3 days there and then went on to Napa Valley. We ate in this great restaurant (although all are great) on our last evening called North Beach Restaurant, Italian of course. Ended up sitting right beside the owner himself and his guests and had a very entertaining evening :) Haight Ashbury was another great place to visit along with Alcatraz! Definitely a city worth visiting more then once!

  8. I’ve never been to San Fran, but your travel tale made it somewhere I definitely want to visit (hopefully in the near future). Thank you for the caveat, though, of Nasty Boy Beach. I’m sure that was quite a surprise! And of course, the Muir Woods Pictures are probably my most favorite because I’m simply fascinated with those trees and the history that they have witnessed. :)

  9. I love San Francisco. It’s so alive. I think I left my heart there. :D

    Oooh Calzone! I’ll be going to Spain next month to have some of those. Excited.

  10. I worked as a foreign journalist in the city for two years and was probably the best time of my life. I enjoyed living San Francisco running up and down the streets and avenues after the news, knowing their people, and ending the day clearing my head walking on the Ocean Beach at the sunset observing the flying of the pelicans, the power of the waves, the force and the beauty of the Nature, with the refreshing wind on my face. What a time!

  11. Is Girardelli’s chocolate store still in business? I recommend it. And also I found there that the most ancient restaurant opened and run by the same families who opened it in the times of the golden rush, was a Croatian restaurant specialized in fish food. For me being Croatian was a stunning surprise!!! All this was in the nineties. I hope all still in place. I love San Francisco.

  12. I was just talking about Frisco last night with friends, planning a trip to Northern California to go abalone diving that might afford us a day or two in the Bay Area.

    I haven’t been to San Fran in WAY too many years, and your photos brought back some wonderful memories.

  13. Great post! Thanks for sharing. I love San Francisco. Growing up in SoCal made it easy for us to take the trip many many times. We spent a week there this past August and I saw it in a different light. We were treated to a tour by a friend of ours who has lived there her entire life. What a delight to see it to differently.

  14. Great post! Great pictures! LOVE this city!! It’s one of my favorite cities in the country. I love the photo of you with the Golden Gate Bridge behind you. Iconic picture. :)

  15. That’s my neck of the woods. You want to check out something really cool, but very quaint – next time you’re in town go to the Musee Mechanique – antique coin operated games and entertaiment. It’s right by Fisherman’s Wharf and Giradelli Square.

  16. I have always wanted to go to San Fran! It is on my list of places to see. I have been to Seattle and from what some say they are similar cities. If that’s the case I know I will love San Fran. Thanks for sharing your experience, it looks like you had a wonderful time.

  17. San Fransico is one of the places i did not get to go last time I was in california. Next time the family is going I will definently check some of those places out you mentioned. looks like fun.

  18. I never tire of the city. I lived close and still visited often, which is something to say. Crab cocktails on the wharf, Beach Blanket Babylon, all the wonderful restaurants and small bistros. Love it.

  19. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. Your blog nails it. You have captured the romance, fascination and beauty of this amazing city. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there, but from time to time I revisit in my mind. Also, great picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was my grandmother’s favorite thing to paint.

  20. Great shot of the shoreline at the bridge. Thanks for the heads up on Nasty Boy Beach, no pun intended there. This is on my bucket list, so thanks for the preview.

  21. wow what a great read. Funny as I was knee deep in snow I was thinking of visiting a nice warm city like San Fran : ) Sounds like a fun city. When I eventually get there I wanted to see Chinatown. Did you go there?

  22. Oh the fun of it all. It has been years since I was in SF not once but twice. The second time was for an Avon two day event and we had to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. The pictures reminded me of so many wonderful things about SF. Thanks for the memories.

  23. Oh my gosh! I just bookmarked this page–I’m headed to San Fransisco this April for the first time ever. This post made me even more excited! Thanks for the great tips and beautiful photos.

  24. That’s one of my favorite cities, and it looks as if you had a wonderful trip! I have yet to make it to the Beat Museum, and your photos reminded me of how badly I want to go :)

  25. Thanks for stopping by our blog! We loved your post about our favorite city in the world. It made us green with envy…the farmer’s market…yum. We love how you can eat from one end of the city to the other…a world tour inside of 40 blocks. As they say up here…”Luuucky!”

  26. Great stories about my hometown! We are actually going up for a long weekend at the end of the month, which we do two or three times a month. Next time don’t forget to swing by The Buena Vista for an Irish coffee.

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