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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 2:06 AM
boulevardofdef boulevardofdef is offline
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San Francisco: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

In the summer of 1989, when I was 11 years old, my family of lifelong New Yorkers embarked on an epic vacation to California, with stops in San Diego, Los Angeles, Yosemite and San Francisco. The trip was and is one of the highlights of my childhood, but my favorite part was San Francisco. Well, no, my favorite part was waiting in line for an hour at Universal Studios Hollywood to sit inside and have a brief conversation with KITT from Knight Rider, but San Francisco was a close second.

In the decades since, I made it to 38 states and became pretty familiar with California. I had occasion to visit Los Angeles several times and even lived there for a few months while I was doing a college internship, but in all that time, I never made it back to San Francisco, even as I still occasionally thought about that long-ago vacation. When I talked about my favorite U.S. cities, I always wanted to mention San Francisco, but it felt so dishonest. When I saw it, I was a child.

My wife's best friend lives in England, and every year she flies across the pond to visit while I stay home and take care of the kid. She feels a little guilty about this and often encourages me to take my own solo trip, but I'd always been too cheap and protective of my vacation time to take her up on the offer. Last year, though, I was stressed out enough that I decided to do it. I considered various exotic locales, but my thoughts kept coming back to San Francisco.

I'd never done anything like it before -- just me, a terrible rental car, a beat-up pair of shoes and a lousy smartphone camera for six days and five nights in early December. It was a little lonely, but it was a lot awesome. And when it was over, I could finally feel comfortable officially placing San Francisco among my favorite cities. New York will always be my first love, but the City by the Bay is now my easy No. 2. I guess in some ways I'm still 11 years old.

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My cheapo hotel, the San Remo: closet-sized rooms and shared bathrooms, but clean and charming and under $100 a night in an amazing location blocks from Fisherman's Wharf. The restaurant is allegedly the oldest existing Italian restaurant in America.



The San Remo is in North Beach, the city's old Italian neighborhood.







Not far from North Beach is Lombard Street. If you know anything about San Francisco, you know Lombard is supposedly "the crookedest street in the world." Actually, it's not even the crookedest street in the city. It's just the best-looking crooked street.







This is Nicolas Cage's house. Not bad, huh?



My hotel was also walking distance from Chinatown, but I drove.









The song "Grant Avenue" from the second-tier Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song was in my head before, during and after this trip.



A lot of people claim that today's Chinatown is inauthentic. To them I say this: This store has exactly zero signs in English.



On the waterfront, the Ferry Building is home to a pretty amazing farmer's market.



Some San Franciscans hate this bow-and-arrow sculpture, which is fairly new. They are wrong.



More in the same neighborhood:



The Bay Bridge, No. 2 in San Francisco's Big Two:



Obligatory Haight-Ashbury shot:



More in the Haight:







Not one of my better photos, but this was the best food I had in San Francisco, so it must be documented:



I'm not sure these are officially licensed:



And now across to the Castro, the original gayborhood.







The medium of photography fails to capture the sheer magnitude of this flag in Harvey Milk Plaza:



The stunning Dolores Park links the gentrified-forever Castro and the more-recently gentrified Mission District. Mark Zuckerberg lives on an adjacent street.







In the heart of the Mission, still a very Mexican-feeling neighborhood despite the hipster invasion, the legendary La Taqueria made me sick, but I still recommend it.











Golden Gate Park is home to San Francisco's premier museum, the DeYoung.







In the Presidio, you'll find the mind-blowing Palace of Fine Arts.







Also nearby: Baker Beach, which I will forever remember as the place where I was admiring the Golden Gate Bridge when my wife called to tell me she'd been diagnosed with shingles.





If I had to pick a single favorite experience in San Francisco, I might choose to be obnoxious and pick this somewhat under-the-radar attraction: the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps.



Did you think the steps were nice from the bottom? You ain't seen nothing yet.



The Union Square area may have reminded me more of New York than any place I've ever been.













No idea what's going on here:



I don't remember what store this is, but I ducked in for just a minute to take this photo.



And another part of downtown, the vicinity of Yerba Buena Gardens -- an oasis amidst all the bustle -- and SFMOMA.











But as spectacular as San Francisco is, you're seriously missing out if don't leave the city limits. So let's head across the bay to Oakland. This is Jack London Square, the Bay Area's equivalent to Boston's Faneuil Hall or New York's South Street Seaport: a historic gathering place turned into a family-friendly tourist trap that locals avoid like the plague. I liked it. (By the way, I did visit nouveau hipster Oakland, which was super cool, but mostly at night, so no photos.)













And here's some of the history in historic Jack London Square. After Oakland's greatest author died, somebody located his cabin in the Klondike and transported half -- yes, half -- of it back here to his hometown, where it was reconstructed. The other half is still in Canada, I think.



Right next to Oakland -- and I do mean right next to it; I hadn't realized how close its center was to the Oakland border -- is famed counterculture haven Berkeley, home to the flagship of the University of California system. I've had a major thing for college towns for most of my life. Berkeley is the best one I've ever visited.









That's what's over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco's east. Heading over the other big bridge, the Golden Gate, deposits you in Sausalito.













And on the same side of the bridge is a similarly affluent waterfront town, Tiburon:





My longest day trip was to Wine Country, which seemed like a can't-miss destination. It was just me and my rental car, so I couldn't do a Sideways-style vineyard crawl, but I did want to hit both Napa and Sonoma. My chosen Napa Valley town was St. Helena. I didn't visit any wineries there, but I did drink some wine, including a great varietal that's widely considered not commercially viable and is therefore very rarely seen outside of the region. That's why you have to be there, I guess.





And then over to Sonoma, once the capital of an independent California. One of the town's biggest attractions is Sonoma Plaza, the largest plaza in California. I, however, live in New England, where similar village greens are a dime a dozen.









After meticulous research, I chose Sonoma's Bartholomew Park Winery for my big vineyard experience. Not only is it a winery, it's a sprawling park open to the public. Its wines are only available directly from the winery. Highly recommended.





As much as I love planning my trips, sometimes I like going off the beaten path. On this occasion, having already been to the DeYoung Museum, I decided to skip SFMOMA (the earlier photo was from the lobby) to take a drive about an hour down the coast. It was beautiful, but I was in a moving car, but no pictures until I got to my final destination, Half Moon Bay.







And now we've come full circle. Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower were just around the corner from my hotel, but the Bay Area had so much to see, I didn't make it until the morning I left.



Wait, haven't I posted a Transamerica Pyramid shot yet? Can't end without that.

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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 2:32 AM
sterlippo1 sterlippo1 is offline
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fantastic!
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 5:15 AM
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Great pictures! Your San Francisco experience was much like mine in 2010. I hit up Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, the Embarcadero, Lombard Street, the Tenderloin, Haight-Ashbury, Dolores Park, the Mission District, over to Tiburon, and more, like Muir Woods.
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 2:13 PM
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It's like a magical perfect rainbow filled urban wonderland.
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 4:33 PM
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The thing I miss most about the Bay Area is the Victorian architecture, captured in many fo your photos. Seattle's architecture is pleasant and cute, but not nearly as varied and historic.
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 5:02 PM
jg6544 jg6544 is offline
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The Christmas Tree is in Neiman-Marcus on Union Square. The store was built in the 1980s over the vocal objections of preservations who objected to demolishing the old City of Paris store to build the new one. N-M agreed to preserve the City of Paris dome (but moved it to the corner of the new building. The Christmas Tree is an annual thing. It's fashionable to diss it in San Francisco, although I never understood why. Although N-M originated in Dallas, I think the San Francisco store is now the largest in the chain and it reminds me of the original store in Dallas in the company's glory days.
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 5:11 PM
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nice shots. beautiful city
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 5:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boulevardofdef View Post
After meticulous research, I chose Sonoma's Bartholomew Park Winery for my big vineyard experience. Not only is it a winery, it's a sprawling park open to the public. Its wines are only available directly from the winery. Highly recommended.
Californian productions are growing a bit renown over here as well. Local winemakers and related experts don't seem to be chauvinistic pricks. They appear to have class and sense of their global business, then acknowledge quality wherever it may grow and come from, which I find great by principle. It's like some sort of what we call 'solidarity' (say unity) between them all over the world. That's really nice.

I know nothing much of their business but find it inspiring anyhow. Growing quality vineyards takes a lot of knowledge about your own soil and peculiar environment, and studies of sorts. It's cool.
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 9:47 PM
LAsam LAsam is offline
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Really nice job with this. Thanks for sharing!
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Old Posted Apr 12, 2017, 9:57 PM
i_am_hydrogen i_am_hydrogen is offline
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I really enjoyed this thread! I can never get enough SF. I'm happy I was able to hit up 710 Ashbury during one of my visits.
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Old Posted Apr 13, 2017, 2:30 PM
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Great photos!
Is it a new way to park bicycles?

http://s1381.photobucket.com/user/bo...pw2yj.jpg.html
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Old Posted Apr 13, 2017, 3:30 PM
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Amazing tour of one of my favourite cities.
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Old Posted Apr 13, 2017, 7:20 PM
bigcubfan bigcubfan is offline
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Great great thread. I'm dying to go there again soon.
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Old Posted Apr 13, 2017, 9:06 PM
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Excellent pics! San Francisco is my favorite city in all the US. Whenever I visit, it's always hard to leave.

I like that you included areas outside the city too, especially Berkeley, my favorite college town; I love that there are a lot of leftists there... does the communist bookstore still exist, do you know? And of course UC Berkeley is historically significant for being the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.
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Old Posted Apr 14, 2017, 3:19 PM
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Oh man. These are the types of stories I love to hear. It sounds so cliche, but following a dream is to be commended, and it looks like you had a good time. Some nice weather, too.

In 2011 I took a solo 2-legged, 11 day trip from my home state of MI at the time, visiting Seattle and San Francisco both for the first time. I had built them both up in my mind so much that I had to just go and see for myself. I visited two of my oldest friends, one in either city. It was pretty life changing. As you can see, I'm now living somewhere in between, and I'd like to think that trip had something to do with it

Kudos, and whatever you do, don't stop.
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Old Posted Apr 14, 2017, 3:22 PM
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Oh...side thought: I keep getting ads on FB for the 50th anniversary of the summer of love this year. I bet with the social movements that are happening right now that it could be pretty intense there.
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Old Posted Apr 15, 2017, 3:40 PM
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Great pics and commentary, thanks for sharing!
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