Yes, my holiday to San Fran was officially LIGHT YEARS ago but this is the very last batch of photos. Josh insisted we go to the Exploratorium – a museum squarely aimed at children, with tons of interactive displays about science, perception, illusions and so on. OK, I admit it, it was actually pretty fun for grown-ups too. (But wow, it was busy, I think we accidentally managed to go on some kind of public holiday.)
Another must-see for Josh was the Musee Mecanique, a huge collection of vintage and retro arcade games housed in a warehouse at Fisherman’s Wharf. I mostly watched and took photos :)
Would you believe I still have a ton of photos I haven’t blogged from San Francisco, back in November? I’ll start with these crazy colourful ones taken on my Olympus OM10 with Lomography special-effects film (the red ones are Redscale and the pink ones are Tungsten).
Not forgetting the now-customary ruined multiple-exposure films, thanks to my OM10 jamming instead of advancing.. into the repair shop he’s going.
We got pretty lucky with the area of SF we stayed in: it was near lots of lovely streets full of shops and restaurants, as well as being adjacent to Japantown and not too far from both the coast and downtown. A little map I drew above, and here are snaps of some of the shops in the area.
Fillmore Street is lined with pretty boutiques, with homewares, paper goods and ladies’ clothing featuring heavily (and many, many pet boutiques: this city loves its doggies). I spent far too long in Jonathan Adler, Paper Source and Nest sighing over things that wouldn’t fit in my case back home.
Right at the top of Fillmore is Williams-Sonoma, a foody heaven with jars of readymade pie fillings, cake decorations and bakeware. From there, turn onto Chestnut Street for some bigger stores like American Apparel, and wander back down Polk for more cute boutiques.
Japantown, off Sutter Street, has a large Daiso (Japanese pound shop) and a smallish mall with a great English bookstore: heavy on design goodies and comedy pet books. Excellent.
Alemany flea market
And a few more favourite shopping spots in other parts of town. On the first Sunday we caught the bus down to the Alemany flea market. It’s a decent size with a fair bit of nice vintage Americana amongst the usual tat. Afterwards we walked across 24th Street and the charming Noe Valley area, then turned onto Valencia Street to take us through the Mission district.
Valencia has a host of cool shops, including vintage, bookstores and little boutiques like the gorgeous Bell Jar. I loved San Fran’s bookstores too, which are usually cosily lit and a little ramshackle, with wooden shelves piled high and plenty of places to sit and browse.
Anthropologie, Market Street
If you follow Valencia right the way up, you’ll reach the main shopping drag, Market Street. I wasn’t all that impressed with the range of shops, but it did have Anthopologie and Urban Outfitters, and a slightly bizarre hybrid Westfield-Macys-Nordstrom megamall which had a cute Japanese stationery store as well as cool US brand Madewell.
Over to the east, the farmers’ market in the Ferry Building is a foody treat.
My favourite shop visit in SF had to be popping into the HQ of letterpress studio Hello Lucky and seeing their lovely team at work.
We saw the huge vintage letterpress machines in action downstairs…
…before heading upstairs to see the in-house design and customer service team at work. We were shown some of their wedding invitation commissions and perused the rest of their gorgeous stock. Isn’t their studio pretty?
Hello Lucky work with loads of illustration partners including my favourites Tom Frost, Kate Sutton and Lab Partners. I brought home one of these darling prints by Julia Rothman as well as a couple of Christmas presents.
I also didn’t realise until now that they have a London office (though all the work is done in SF) so if you’re in need of stationery or invitations, give them a bell or check out their wares in Liberty.
Back to San Fran posts, even though the holiday feels like a long time ago now…
A large part of our reason for visiting SF was the food and drink – it’s known for great Mexican food as well as a thriving microbrewery scene and of course the local Napa Valley wines. All my favourite things! Luckily we were not disappointed…
First stop, Tacolicious on Chestnut & Fillmore. A fantastic friendly laid-back Mexi-eatery with brilliant heavily-stuffed tacos, tasty sauces (killer pico di gallo) and lovely mocktail mojitos.
A tasting flight of beers at Rogue Ale‘s brewpub – a mere sampling of their 40 beers on tap!
I loved Fat Angel, a tiny, cosy local place with a charming barmaid and delicious rustic sharing food – flatbreads, cheeses and even flavoured butters. They also had the longest and most impressive beer menu I’ve ever seen (sorted by taste, from Smoky through Sour and Malty), and delicious wines to match. If this was in London, I’d be hanging out there quite a lot.
Oooh, dirty oozy nachos. At the hipper-than-thou (it’s in a converted launderette, to give you an idea) Brainwash Cafe in the SoMa district.
Great Japanese bites at Nojo – mayonnaised roast potatoes, soft sesame tofu and lemon & vegetable tempura. Almost like being back in Kyoto.
Farm Table‘s tiny (when they say ‘table’, they really mean one table) but adorable eatery. There’s a new menu every day of comfort food done proper, from meatball-stuffed challah sandwich to silky potato soup. – and great coffee.
More beer at Social, very fresh from their on-site brewery. Super sweet potato tempura fries, too. We then bar-hopped to Magnolia around the corner, where I had an amazing rose-flavoured brew.
The holy grail of West Coat eating: FOOD TRUCKS! We went along to the Haight evening eat-up organised by Off The Grid, which comprised about 15 trucks serving everything from Mexican tamales to Korean sliders, Chinese steamed buns to American mac ‘n cheese. It attracted a diverse crowd including lots of families and an awesome dude with his pet budgie on his shoulder (who he shared all his food with, aww).
I had an amazing paneer tikka burrito from Curry Up Now followed by a salted caramel cupcake from Cupkate’s, and was then sad to be too full to eat any more. I also dropped and broke my camera in all the excitement, boo. Worth it, though.
We cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge on a delightfully sunny day, with no sign of the famous fog.
Photos taken on OM10 with Lomography Tungsten film
We picked up the bikes at Fisherman’s Wharf, which would be a lovely scenic spot with its piers and still-active fishing boats, if it hadn’t been overridden with tourist tat.
The ride to the Bay side of the bridge took us through Fort Mason, a former Army post turned scenic national park, and along the coast, with a steeply-uphill puff to the bridge’s mouth at the end.
Bonkers-coloured photos thanks to Lomography Redscale film!
It was a pretty tough cycle for one as unfit as me, and the wind was quite rough even on a calm, sunny day. But there’s regular places to stop and soak up the lovely views, which helps somewhat.
At the other side, you’re rewarded with a gentle, quiet downhill ride into the pretty town of Sausalito. It was less touristy than I was expecting, with lots of art galleries and ice cream parlours. We had some tasty (if slightly overpriced) Mexican food and strawberry lemonade at the Sausalito Taco Shop for lunch as a reward for all the cycling.
Sundown on the ferry back (no chance I was cycling back as well!)
Where better to start talking about San Francisco than with breakfast? There’s a real brunch culture in SF, with nearly every cafe on our nearby Fillmore Street full to bursting with chatting couples or people on their laptops come 9am (for some reason our body clocks became attuned to getting up pretty early every day, which was novel). I think it’s my first holiday where breakfast has been the most varied and exciting meal of the day. I didn’t even miss my usual Marmite on toast too much. Here are some of the choicest noms:
The BEST toasted sourdough egg, cheese and roast tomato sandwich, at Jane on Fillmore. Not ashamed to say we ate this twice in a week, and popped back to Jane a few times more for its pretty monochrome decor, good coffee and huge cream-cheese-frosted cinnamon whirls.
A lovely – huge – bowl of granola, yogurt and fresh fruit at La Boulange (they have branches all over town). I’ve been craving granola ever since getting back; must make my own some time.
My healthy option of tofu garden scramble and fruit cup, and Josh’s face-sized pancakes with a ‘side’ of bacon and egg, at Sweet Maple. This place is famous for a concoction called ‘Millionaire’s Bacon’ – i’ll let you guess what that entails…
Black bean cakes, corn bread and potato hash at the legendary Dottie’s True Blue cafe, where I met the lovely Bee for a late lunch. Pro tip: get there just as it’s closing at 3pm (or opening at 7, if you’re an early bird) to avoid the queues. And say no to the constant free coffee refills, my stomach did not thank me afterwards!
Myriad yogurt toppings – and the perkiest service ever – at Fraiche on Fillmore.
Huge (sense a theme here?) French toast and an egg bagel at The Grove on Fillmore.
Not strictly breakfast, but Loving Cup‘s specialty is frozen yogurt, freshly churned in a choice of mix n’ match flavours and toppings (including gummy bear!). They also have a sideline in rice pudding for the colder weather.
SF is also known for a good coffee culture, and we weren’t disappointed here either. Check the latte art porn!
Here’s a first few photos from San Francisco. I always think the best way to get to know a city is to walk its streets, and even though everyone said ‘Hire a car!’ I’m glad we didn’t. If nothing else, we walked off all the pancakes and tacos hiking up and down its steep streets, and I think you spy little things that you’d pass by in a car. Plus SF is a pretty pedestrian-friendly city (once you get used to the traffic system) and the crisp, sunny weather of our visit was perfect for strolling.
Coming up, a billion more photos and posts about SF’s food, shops and neighbourhoods :)