I never tire of San Francisco. Its weather is always ideal, never too hot and never too cold. It is also as walkable a city as Hong Kong, only with less smokers and less crowds as Hong Kong has been of late.
Staying in a downtown hotel near Union Square is best as it brings you close to being a new tourist in an old city. I chose to rediscover the usual tourist haunts, only this time with a local’s eyes. Yes, let’s ride the cable car, for starters. For a decent fare of $6.00, you hop on at the Powell Street and Market Street “turntable” where all the cars eventually stop. If you wish to end near Ghirardelli Square, choose the Powell & Hyde option, rather than the Powell & Mason.
After the animated commentaries of the cable car conductor, and the ups and downs from Powell to Hyde Street at the end of the line, it is 30 minutes of just sheer tourist moments—taking photos of Lombard Street, or the Golden Gate Bridge. And shooting the “streets of San Francisco” from where you are standing in the car. Yes, they allow standees, just as long as you do not lean out.
At the corner of Beach and Hyde is the famous Buena Vista Café where we stop for a drink it’s famous for—Irish coffee! The bartender can almost do it with his eyes closed but he gamely poses for our cameras, this being the next most visited tourist stop. For $9.00 a glass, it is worth the money and equips you with just enough warmth to now walk the Fisherman’s Wharf area.
Along the street which houses the Cannery building, old warehouses have been converted to seafood restaurants , cafes and even specialty shops like the Pepper Palace. You will also see many casual joints like the famous In n' Out burger chain as well as Bubba Gump’s for those looking for familiar names. The more adventurous could try the Cioppino’s as well as Mc Cormick and Kuleto’s where you can have some fresh oysters and white wine.
The children can never have enough of Ghirardelli Square where chocolates come in all forms and flavors. But I love the Decadent Chocolate Drink -- a bittersweet dark chocolate recipe that’s just right for ending your walking tour on a sweet note.
Leave some time for queing up for the trip back to Union Square still via cable car. The lines can take you as much as 30-45 minutes waiting but stand by for a call for “standing room only” and the conductor can breeze you through the long lines, if you don’t mind standing. It actually gives you a better view of the different streets crossing Powell all along the cable car line.
Back at the Union Square area, you can head to Kuleto’s, an Italian bistro at Villa Florence Hotel on Powell. Start with a sparkling rose or a glass of Pinot Noir while listening to the waiter spew out the daily specials on the menu. Have a linguini or the pizzetta with roasted garlic and cambozola while enjoying your cocktail.
Walking back to your hotel, you can take a look at the contemporary galleries on Geary Street and check your kind of art. Or do more shopping at San Francisco Center on Market Street. It houses Nordstrom and beside it is Bloomingdale’s, New York’s famous department store chain.
For breakfast on your second day, walk over to Sir Francis Drake Hotel on Powell and Sutter. The downstairs bistro called Scala’s serves sumptuous breakfast choices like my favorite Forest Mushroom Omelette with cheese and asparagus. Or the Lox Lux- a smoked salmon and cream cheese platter. Breakfast is served only until 1030am and they take a beak of an hour before the lunch service at 1130 am. Weekends have brunch schedules which stretch from 730 am to 3 pm.
Cable cars, Buena Vista and Kuleto’s. Old haunts that have not changed. Classic and memorable. I always like San Francisco weather and its offerings of food and drinks.
You will always find restaurants that offer organic fare, sustainable food and healthier options. And all within walking distance from any hotel near Union Square. Or just a cable car ride away. No need for Uber this time.