A Weekend in the City

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I am one lucky girl.  I don’t work in the summer.  I get to spend time with my kids having some summer fun; my husband and I try and squeeze in some time for the two of us.  A few weeks ago, we had a weekend together in San Francisco.  San Francisco is not a new place for us.  It is a short 2.5 hour drive for us to get to the City.  So, we find ourselves going there often.  Fortunately for me, I also have family living in the City and have spent time there since I was a young child.

When arriving in San Francisco,  I always park my car in the Sutter-Stockton parking garage, and I leave it there for the duration of my stay;  parking is a premium in SFO, and I have found this garage to be one of the best deals in town.  One of the fun things about San Francisco is that it is a very walkable city.  Yes, there are the famous hills that you have to go up and then down, but the hills are part of the charm of the city.

On some visits, I stay with family or friends; on this trip, we decided to stay in Union Square.  I have stayed in numerous hotels in this area.  It is a nice, central place to be.  As usual, we parked our car and left it until Sunday.  Upon arrival, we decided to walk to Valencia Street, in the Mission. My husband and I weren’t very familiar with this area and we wanted to experience something new; I had been there once before and liked the feel of  it.  I  recently read that this area hasn’t been gentrified, but hipsterfied.  There are a wide array of restaurants and cafes to choose from and interesting boutiques to browse.

To get to Valencia from Union Square, we found ourselves walking through the Tenderloin.  This area is well known for its crime and drug problems, but it also has an interesting history of art, music, and culture.  It is home to amazing street art, numerous theaters, and wide array of restaurants.

Another fun adventure we had was the Union Street Festival.  We hadn’t planned on attending this event, and it turned out to be a great time…..especially for people and puppy watching.  Of course, we didn’t drive, but walked to Union Street, from Union Square.  This was a fun walk, as we found ourselves going up and down the famous hills of SFO, through the Russian Hill neighborhood.  It was a particularly beautiful, clear day and we could see the entire bay and Coit Tower, fog-free.  We stumbled upon a mini-neighborhood park, called Molinari Mana Park.  Typical of our adventures, we stopped and chatted with a man that was tending the gardens of this little gem of a park.  He told us to walk down the steep stairs for an amazing view of the bay…..and what a view it was…….

A fun time is had by all at the Union Street Festival.  The festival has been going strong for almost 40 years.  The street is closed off for about 6-8 blocks, with tents set up.  There are many different vendors, selling their wares and numerous places to taste wine and beer and eat a multitude of different foods.  All the bars and restaurants on the street are in full swing.  It seemed like an excuse for many to have some drinks; every bar had a long line going out the door.  My husband and I found ourselves at one such establishment, watching people.  It was great, as this is one of my all time favorite past times.

We ended our day with dinner in the North Beach neighborhood.  This neighborhood is historically the Little Italy of San Francisco.  This is also the area where I have many fond memories of my childhood; my great aunt and uncle lived here and were part of a big Sicilian family.  One of the many interesting things about the North Beach is that you can go from Italy to China in a few footsteps, as the two areas overlap.  You can have great Dim Sum for lunch, walk a few blocks, and have amazing Italian food for dinner.  The North Beach is also the area where some of the famous characters of the Beat Generation hung out in the 1950’s and 60’s.  Vesuvio’s Cafe and City Lights Books were the places to find them.

Chinatown in San Francisco is the oldest and largest in the country.  It dates back to the Gold Rush era in California.  When walking through the streets of Chinatown, I feel as if I am in Hong Kong (where I have spent a lot of time). Every time I am in Chinatown, I have to go to the Eastern Bakery to buy Char Sui Bow(steamed pork buns) for my kids.  On this particular visit,  there was Mexican music playing loudly and the usual Chinese lady was there to help customers.  She doesn’t speak much English and she is often a bit grumpy.  I think that she is starting to recognize me and we had a little chat.  I even got her to smile….

Next time, I need to take my husband to the great cinnamon toast/coffee shop my daughter and I found last year.  The nice thing is that I know the next time is soon and there are so many new places to explore in San Francisco.