Perhaps the song that Scott McKenzie made famous in the late 60s- “If you’re going to San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” – or Tony Bennett’s nostalgic song about leaving his heart in San Francisco are to blame for our love of San Francisco. Whatever the reason, this city has kept me enthralled for years. My husband also happens to love this pretty Californian city by the bay. In fact San Francisco is our ‘go to’ destination when visiting the west coast of America so he can indulge in a nostalgic trip and reminisce about his childhood adventures when he lived there as a young boy. Living there, he spent most of his leisure time pier fishing at the San Francisco Municipal Pier, fondly called Muni pier by the locals. He laments the fact that these days, only a handful of diehards take the time to enjoy the pier.
What makes us keep going back? Is it the steep hills, the cable cars, foggy mornings, the vibrant art scene, eclectic food and lively community that appeal? Or the sourdough bread from Boudin bakery at the wharf (and their classic San Francisco Wharf Clam Chowder on sourdough bread bowl), the Dungeness crab salad at the Franciscan, the seafood tower at Alioto on Pier 8, the classic cioppino (fish stew) at Cioppino’s or perhaps the Golden Gate bridge which highlights the enviable location of this city by the bay?
There is so much more to San Francisco that make this city special to us… the certain ‘something‘ that is exactly what Tony Bennett rhapsodises in the famous tune he first sang in 1954, at the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel.
Departing Yellowstone for Salt Lake City where we boarded the California Zephyr to complete the final section of our Amtrak vacation, we oohed and aahed over the magnificent scenery through Nevada and California as our train rattled its way to Emeryville. The stunning landscape of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake and the American River as we went through Sacramento cemented the impression that America is indeed God’s own country. So beautiful, so diverse! Arriving at the terminus of Amtrak at Emeryville, we then boarded the shuttle bus to San Francisco, our final destination and felt we were home, where we left our hearts each time we departed. In no time, we wandered aimlessly around the pier area and Fisherman’s wharf then proceeded to dine at Cioppino’s where we treated ourselves to a hearty bowl of cioppino served with crusty sourdough toast, naturally. Needless to say we had a delicious meal. Cioppino’s never disappoints.
400 Jefferson Street
San Francisco, CA 94109(415) 775-9311
The next day, we went to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to meander and check out what was available that day. CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) a non-profit organisation operates a farmers market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays held both in front and behind the Ferry Building. During market days, one can expect to see numerous stalls of fresh produce (some organically grown) – fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers and not to be outdone, butchers have a fine selection of meats and meat products. There are eggs, breads, cheeses and jams and what outdoor market would be complete without the ubiquitous street food staples of wood-fired pizza, grilled meats, sandwiches, and tacos and many more delectable cooked meals. What about the crowd hovering at the Korean fish tacos stall ( Korean tacos?) side by side with the Paella and tapas stand as well as the ‘sushi to go’ kiosk? They were doing a brisk trade as well. What I really went there for was the pulled pork roll from the stall at the rear of the building overlooking the bay. The long queue spoke of the quality of food on offer- a variety of meats on rotisserie and fresh bread rolls that were still warm from the oven. I suffered the long queue under the sun just to get hold of one big pulled pork roll for lunch. It was worth it I tell you!
Inside the building, there is an interesting selection of food and wine merchants permanently onsite. Their shops have made this location a foodie paradise and we spent a few more minutes browsing, shopping (I always spend a lot of time browsing at one of my favourites, Sur la Table and having coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee. For us, the Ferry Building is a compulsory stop if only to indulge in the diverse selection of food or to simply soak in the ambience that is uniquely San Francisco. Here, one can really glean the history and culture of the city through the array of food selection and the obsession and reverence the residents have for good food. Thanks to the 49ers – no, not the NFL team of San Francisco, rather, the immigrants and residents who prospered at the height of the Gold Rush in 1849- the lure of gold brought people from all over the world and populated this well situated enclave. The Chinese, Mexicans, European settlers from the east coast (of America) Koreans, Japanese and many more nationalities all came and settled in San Francisco. They influenced how food was prepared and served, bringing their own recipes and sourcing food supply to satisfy their palate. Immigration and ethnic diversity is reflected in the modern day food and continue to evolve energising the San Francisco food culture.
Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111
The art scene in this city is another drawcard. We can never go past a visit to the downtown gallery district where some of San Francisco’s art galleries are located. For a comprehensive list of art galleries in San Francisco, it’s best to visit the:
Gallery Guide, Tourist Information Center.
Address: 1369 Fulton St, San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone: +1 415 9211600
As it happens, a few of our close friends and family live in the bay area. A catch up with them always keeps us informed with trendy happenings, places to see and restaurants to try. And there’s always the shopping of course. The department stores and specialty shops in and around Union Square are definitely worth a visit. Whenever we do, I never go home empty handed .
On our last evening, we decided to stroll down towards the Embarcadero, to try Hillstone San Francisco, part of the up market restaurant group with restaurants throughout America… Manhattan, Dallas, Santa Monica to name a few. The menu offered a good selection of steaks, seafood, pasta and salads. I went for a simple meal of their free range half roasted chicken and selection of seasonal vegetables on the side and my husband couldn’t go past the roasted prime rib (on the bone).
The ambience, live jazz music and décor added to a most delightful dining experience. Promenading back to have coffee and desserts at our cousin’s condo above on Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower can be glimpsed, even at night.
Address: 1800 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111, United States
Hours: Sun-Thu: 11am-10pm
Serves: Dinner, Lunch.
There is so much charm to San Francisco, what’s not there to love?
…Next article will feature, Union Street, the Columbarium, Japantown and Chinatown.