For a long time I have wanted to travel to San Francisco again. Finally, in February of 2008, I had an opportunity to visit one of my favourite cities again. For only four short days I would see so many of the things that make San Francisco such a diverse travel destination: a visit to Alcatraz Island was a definite must, and the history and strange beauty of this place left a deep impression on me. One of my most exciting experiences was a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was a phenomenal opportunity to take in the city’s scenic beauty.
My explorations of Golden Gate Park, North Beach – San Francisco’s Italian neighbourhood, the Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill and Fisherman’s Wharf gave me an idea of some of San Francisco’s unique neighbourhoods. A day trip exposed me to the impressive redwood forests of Muir Woods and the scenic beauty and vineyards of Sonoma county. Restaurant visits, shows and stays in one-of-a-kind historic hotels rounded out my all too brief stay in San Francisco. I had only scratched the surface, and I realized that I would definitely have to come back again to this beautiful City by the Bay.
To give you a better idea of this city here is part II of an extensive interview with Tanya Houseman, Media Relations Manager for the San Francisco Visitor’s and Convention Bureau.
1. Architecture lovers have long enjoyed San Francisco for some of its unique structures. What are some of the favorite destinations for architecture buffs in your city?
Since the days of the Gold Rush, San Francisco has been known for some rather palatial homes. The so-called Big Four are: Charles Crocker, Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins and Leland Stanford. Price tags on two of the quartet’s homes atop Nob Hill ran respectively: $2.3 million (Crocker) and $3 million (Mark Hopkins). Hopkins’ home so dominated the San Francisco skyline of the 1890s that it could be seen some 25 miles south and was disparaged, according to one historian, as the product of a “quarreling team of Albanian draftsmen.”
The historic Queen Anne Hotel, my abode for four nights
James Flood, one of the silver kings, built a massive brownstone mansion and encircled it with a $30,000 brass fence. The only mansion on Nob Hill to survive the 1906 earthquake and fire is now the home of the Pacific Union Club at California and Mason streets. Get a closer look at this area on these guided walking tours of Nob Hill: Hobnob Tours, The Vampire Tour of San Francisco. San Francisco City Guides also offers free tours of the area every Sunday at 2 p.m.
Vintage houses open throughout the year include the Haas-Lilienthal House, 2007 Franklin St., south are the fabled grounds of Filoli at Canada Road, Woodside, and the Winchester Mystery House at 525 South Winchester Blvd. In the East Bay city of Martinez, one of California’s original capitals, the 17-room John Muir House is open every Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Guided walking tours with an architectural emphasis include Hobnob Tours (www.hobnobtours.com.), San Francisco City Guides (www.sfcityguides.org), and Victorian Home Walk (www.victorianwalk.com).
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul in North Beach
2. Golden Gate Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world. How can I get there and what will I see?
Golden Gate Park is an oasis for outdoor enthusiasts, and one full day is barely enough to explore its 1,017 acres encompassing free-to-the-public meadows, lakes, rose gardens, an arboretum, a rhododendron dell, music concourse, a children’s playground, a buffalo paddock and the tallest artificial waterfall in the West. Nominal admission fees are charged at the Japanese Tea Garden which is free from 9 to 10 am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Conservatory of Flowers and the beautifully restored carousel in the Children’s Playground. The first Tuesday of each month admission charges are banished at the de Young Museum. On Sundays and holidays, the park is free of cars on Kennedy Drive from 19th Avenue to Stanyan, when bicyclists and in-line skaters bring their own “vehicles” or rent from a nearby shop or stand.
Ready for my bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge
Visit www.511.org trip planner for specific information on how to get there using public transportation.
3. Please give us an overview of some of the museums and cultural offerings in San Francisco.
Any trip to the City is incomplete without an infusion of culture. There is a tantalizing array of options available to art lovers. San Francisco’s collection of museums includes the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, the internationally acclaimed de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of the African Diaspora, and the California Historical Society. The Contemporary Jewish Museum will open in June 2008.
The City’s diversity and cosmopolitan mix of lifestyles are reflected in a liberal and varied mix of cultural experiences such as The San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, the San Francisco Orchestra, and a dozen live theater groups.
4. Please give us an overview of some of the culinary offerings in San Francisco.
Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse said of San Francisco, “You can’t have a bad meal in this town.” It’s easy to see why chefs love San Francisco — it’s 49 square miles of great dining and a Mecca for the mouth. It’s the diverse, distinct blending of cultures and creativity, and its proximity to fresh, sustainable ingredients that attracts great chefs to the City, with a trail of devoted foodies following in their wake.
The City boasts more restaurants per capita than any other cosmopolitan city in the U.S., and it’s impossible to sample every restaurant, therefore, many tours are offered to help visitors find the best places: “In the Kitchen With Lisa Culinary Excursions,” “Chinatown Adventure Tours With The ‘Wok Wiz’” and “Local Tastes of the City Tours” are just a few.
San Francisco culinary treats