Since I live blogged my L.A. trip, I thought I’d tackle my San Francisco trip in reverse and write about it a few weeks after I returned. So, here are my tips on successfully navigating San Francisco.
1. Bring cash, specifically $1 bills. The buses will only accept exact change. Oh, they’ll take your $20, even if it only the fare is only $2. Some of the restaurants will only take cash, too.
2. Public transportation is great. It’s everywhere and fairly easy to use. That being said, it’s old and does tend to be delayed. Bus tip: you’ll need to try to figure out what direction the bus will be traveling in so you know what side of the street to be on to catch it. Google maps will tell you what streets you need to be on, but you’ll have to figure out what direction the bus is going in. Note: sometimes the bus stops are only marked by a pole with a yellow mark above it. Be watchful. Even though the cable cars are fun, you’ll have to wait in a long line for a ride and the fare is $6. It’s worth it to do it once, but I wouldn’t do it again.
2. Get ready for your share of crazies. I mostly saw “interesting” characters on the bus. One guy appeared to be totally drug-addled, the other was reading a magazine called Modern Drunkard (with coverlines like, “Go shot for shot with Ernest Hemingway”), I saw a woman with a tiny long-haired chihuahua puppy in her purse (this dog was adorable), and I overheard the most liberal conversation of all time when I was with a friend of mine. Highlights of this conversation included the following, “sperm comes out of a man,” and “animals rape each other, but it’s not like we want to encourage that.” Sigh.
3. San Francisco is the only place I’ve been where I’ve seen so many borderline-looking homeless people. You might see someone in dirty, grungy clothes with dreds and assume they’re homeless, but they might just be a hipster.
4. Haight-Ashbury is so cool and worth your time. It’s fascinating to walk down the street where the hippie movement began, and where it still feels like the 60s–the stores still sell tie-dye T-shirts like they never went out of style and glorify bands of that era including the Grateful Dead. It’s also interesting because it’s surrounded by wealthy Victorian houses that San Fran is known for.
5. San Francisco is a place that feels modern but still maintains its strong ties to the past. Places like Cafe Trieste are the best example of this. Some of the beat writers hung out there, and this is the spot where Francis Ford Coppola penned the screenplay to “The Godfather.”
6. The food in The Exploratorium is horrific. I ate some clam chouder that was more watery than, well, water. Don’t eat there.
7. San Francisco is very, very concerned with everything being organic, local and sustainable. These are all very good things. But it does get old when it’s shoved in your face all the time.
8. They have the best coffee, ever. I fell in love with Blue Bottle was here, and sorry Starbucks, but you just can’t compete. It’s the smoothest coffee I’ve had in the U.S. (the best coffee ever is in Italy). They also put little designs into your beverage which I love. Mocha art, anyone?
I’d say I fell gently in love with San Francisco. It’s a gorgeous city with an artsy vibe, good food and fall-like weather year round.
Above, some coffee art courtesy of Blue Bottle.