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!