There are a great many things about the Bay Area that I love. I’m not the first blogger to say that, I’m sure. I’m also not the first to make a list. But I don’t care, I’m in a misty, listy mood.
Highly Underrated Touristy Bits
I was faced with that perfect San Francisco view coming in to work today, and once again, I was reminded how much awesome this place holds. When a vista that you’ve seen a million times in person, and on postcards a million more, can still move you, you know you’re in the right place. I’m heartily tired of the phrase, “Oh, I liked that too, when I first came to the city.” Well, f* you, mister too-cool-for-anything hipster. I was born here, and I don’t give a dang, I’m still going to enjoy these.
1. The Golden Gate Bridge
Ah, The Bridge. I tend to forget about it, living on the East Bay side. In fact, my sister and I were referring to “The Bridge” in mixed company the other day, and it took me a moment to realize that our Massachusetts friends were naturally assuming we meant the GG. The trials and tribulations of the Bay Bridge tend to take up the whole “thinking about bridges” part of my brain. That’s not necessarily bad, as it means I can fully appreciate every time I’m visually jolted back to awareness of the superior bridge. As Beth Spotswood so eloquently wrote, the Golden Gate never lets us down. Prettier and more reliable is a hard combo to beat. Plus, I have a big soft spot for anything featured in Vertigo.
2. North Beach
I think my love for this place dates back to when I was six years old, living on an island with only one Christian radio station, and only my parents old vinyl to sate my musical lust. I became addicted to The Kingston Trio’s “Live From the Hungry I” album. Mostly because I was six and there was a song about beheadings. Later, when I realized the Hungry I was still there, I was thrilled. A pilgrimage was planned. Yes, there was some disappointment when I realized that instead of Village-y folksingers and live bongo concerts it now featured… well, boobs, but the disappointment was quickly overcome by afternoons in front of St. Peter & Paul, profiteroles, and the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had in my life (Cafe Puccini, if you were wondering). Puccini quickly became my favorite spot in the city, as I recognized a true neighborhood cafe in a city whose neighborhoods are so often overrun with invaders.
3. Fisherman’s Wharf
I know, this one’s a little bit hard for even me to understand. Mostly I love it for the bush man. And it is nice to ride a bike through there, early on a drizzly weekday morning.
4. Golden Gate Park
O, the infinite variety to be found! Though I rarely venture to the panhandle side of the park where all the annoying drum circles are, it’s somehow comforting to know that it’s there. I personally love the rambley, wild, sandy west side of the park, with nothing but slightly menacing jogging paths and random ponds. And the landmark windmills. But then there’s the spots to practice drunken softball, to listen to amazing free bands, to sniff a rose… I’m sorry, but I’m never going to tire of it. Again, someone referred to “The Park” in a conversation with me the other day. Slightly shocked, I had to gently school her when I realized she was talking about Dolores. No. That shall never be. They can renovate the hell out of it, it ain’t never gonna be The Park.
It’s hard not to love a floating prison with such awesomely shady stories surrounding it. I’ve only gone once in the past 10 years, due to cost and the fact that I forget I love it, and I’m not sure it really deserves the insane amount of memorabilia and t-shirt shops dedicated to it, but it’s a great place. As evidenced here. And it’s tied in closely to number
6. Any Ferry
I feel truly, truly blessed that my home and work right now are in such perfect alignment that the cheapest, greenest, and most reasonable way for me to get to work is by ferry. I get to ride my bike down an easy flat stretch to Jack London, then float gently practically to my work’s doorstep near Pier 41. On the last jump, from the Ferry Building to Pier 41 I am generally the only commuter, so I feel confident placing this in the touristy section. Although if you ask me, there’s no need for the crazy pricy “Explore the Bay!” boats that run you around. Just hop on the commuter one, you get the same views for a fraction of the price. Sometimes you even get to ride the Emperor Norton, a behemoth of a boat that’s crap for bike storage, but makes you feel like you’re in a 60s spy movie, sipping out of a flask while sitting on a cold fiberglass bench, waiting for your contact to whisper the code phrase in your ear. And it’s really the best people watching spot I’ve ever found. As evidenced here.
I was going to do my best to include some East Bay locations, since that’s actually where I was born and still live, but that side ain’t heavy on the iconic tourist spots. So they’ll have to wait until my next post: Highly Underrated because-no-one-knows-about-them Bits.