San Francisco ranks among my five favorite cities in the world. I am fascinated by its cultural diversity and the different scenes of life. Every neighborhood has a separate and distinct personality, each with gems for the traveler to unearth. On this trip to San Francisco, I decided to experience what it might be like to live in San Francisco.
On our first two nights, we stayed with a friend who lived a block away from Chinatown. Every time I set foot in Chinatown, I never cease to be amazed at how it reminds me of home. The roadside markets, the hardware stores, the newspapers, the old grandmas slowly pulling their basket-on-wheels full of groceries home to cook for their grandchildren. There is also the occasional awkwardly-named beauty salon and the passé boba store.
After we made the obligatory visit to Pier 39 to bark at the sea lions, we settled down at the lawn in front of Ghirardelli Square. This was once the factory location for the renowned San Francisco Ghirardelli chocolate, but have since moved. The square is now inundated with tourists seeking Ghirardelli sundaes and chocolate in a plethora of flavors and packaging. The weather was glorious so we decide to people watch. To our left, there was a group of French-speaking young adults. To our right, there was a pair of teenagers who tried unsuccessfully to get their kite to stay airborne.
SFMOMA and de Young Museum are must-gos for every trip to San Francisco. The exhibitions are always changing. The gift shop at SFMOMA always fascinates me and the view at the top of the de Young Museum is amazing. This time at de Young, we are fortunate to catch an exhibition of Dutch paintings from the Mauritshuis Museum in the Hague, featuring “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Vermeer. It also brought back an annual mash-up of art and flowers called “Bouquets to Art 2013.” There are floral arrangements throughout the museum that mimic pieces of art. At first, we thought they were merely arbitrary floral arrangements but it wasn’t until we were almost finished with the museum that we realized it was life imitating art imitating life. So we ended up retracing our steps to look at the flowers.
Yerba Buena Gardens is directly adjacent to SFMOMA and provides a wonderful place to drink coffee while sitting in the sunlight. It was also cherry blossom season during our visit and we got the chance to sit under a shower of white petals.
We made it a point during this trip to visit a brick-and-mortar bookstore. It is a pity there are no bookstores in Monterey and I miss the smell of new books and flipping through the crisp pages. One of our professors recommend we go to City Lights Bookstore in North Beach. It carries a wide-ranging of literature and non-fiction topics such as queer studies, women studies, and the arts. On our last day, as we were making our way around Hayes Street in search of macarons and the best ice cream ever, we stumbled upon Bibliohead Bookstore. It is tucked away discreetly on Gough Street but it is a treasure trove. Stocked with mostly second-hand books in mint condition, it also offers a small selection of amazingly cheap new books.
We stayed in the Tenderloin district the last three night, in a lovely studio apartment that I found on AirBnB. It was spacious, had a fully-equipped kitchenette and a heavenly mattress. The only downside was the location. The Tenderloin has a reputation to be rough and it did live up to its name. There were constantly people loitering at street corners, whom I found out were mostly drug dealers. We were careful to walk in groups and always returned to our rooms at a decent hour. But, no one bothered us. They are, after all, only trying to make a living.
Photo credits: all owned by me