5 things to do in SF
I totally understand why people fall in love with San Francisco. I stayed in Mission with my dear friend Tennille and it was so damn good. All the houses are these funny little 1950s walk-ups in coral pastels. You can buy a burrito the size of your arm for USD$7.50, there are dive bars galore and the whole neighbourhood feels multicultural and edgy.
I was lucky to have a local host who knows her way around the MUNI and the BART (aka the trams, trains and buses for the uninitiated) so we were able to whizz around the city for roughly USD$2 per sector with the minimum of fuss.
I loved the whole experience of being in San Francisco – a city of only one million people and some truly exceptional food, architecture and progressive thinking – but here’s what I loved the most:
1. Buy stuff at Bi-Rite and have a picnic in Dolores Park
Bi-Rite sounds like a normal old supermarket but no, it is a thing of beauty. The aisles are stocked with locally grown and produced food that is high quality, delicious and reasonably priced. Lurking in these aisles are bearded men with big smiles offering you samples of sheep’s milk yoghurt with muesli, cranberries and peaches.
Bi-Rite also has an icecreamery and bakery up the street so if you forget dessert, you can rectify the oversight within 100m.
Dolores Park is a lovely, sloped park with expansive views over the city. San Francisco residents come here to bask (and make out) and walk their dogs.
2. Check out the bar scene in Oakland
Oakland is officially the most violent place in the US but to go there, you wouldn’t know it. The bars are understated, fun and cheap and the architecture is off the hook. Think Boardwalk Empire era gradiousity. We ate at Kingston 11, a Jamaican restaurant that is classy but not expensive, and went to The Layup for a dance. It was friendly, eclectic and in no way intimidating.
3. Visit Muir Wood National Monument
I love me a big tree and there few trees bigger than the Californian Redwoods in Muir Wood. These ancient giants have an air of stillness and peace that is hard to describe. The forest is cool and fragrant, the, sunshine is dappled and there are plenty of trails to lead you through the maze of whopper trees. It costs USD$7 to get in and during the summer months, you can catch the ferry to Sausalito and get on a shuttle bus that will drop you off on the doorstep.
4. Catch the ferry past The Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz
If you don’t have a lot of time (or money), the best way to see these two icons is to jump on a ferry at Embarcadero. For around USD$22 return, you can catch a ferry to Sausalito that goes past Alcatraz and the bridge, affords a great view over the other bridge – the Oakland Bridge – and drops you in the boutiquey little village of Sausalito where you can grab lunch or go shopping.
5. Go to Chinatown for dinner
San Francisco’s Chinatown is right in the heart of the CBD so you get an accidental tour of some of the gold rush architecture that characterises this city’s skeleton. There’s cheap, cheerful dumplings, handmade noodles and spicy soups that will give you the energy to keep exploring.