Excellent museum - in new building by Herzog & de Meuron - brings together arts of the americas through the ages - tremendous art and the building is fabulous inside and outside. Afterwards you can stroll through Golden Gate Park, go to the Japanese Graden or walk all the way through to Sunset and the Pacific. The Beach Chalet at the end - a depression project with some excellent murals - is now a microbrewery. A short walk south takes you to Judah and you can ride the N-tram back to Market Street.
For a very Californian experience go to the Audium. A 60s style professor creates a soundscape in a room filled with 150 speakers. You troop through a darkened corridor and then sit in a circle in complete darkness. Then the professor plays and mixes strange sounds – supposed to be 3d and sound sculptures but there’s a lot of running water and what sounds like a band of monkeys playing Hammond organs. Bizarre.
1616 Bush Street; performaces are at 8.30 on Fri and Sat only (arrive by 8pm); tel: (415) 771 1616;
OK, it's tacky and touristy, but it's fab. Hang on to the side while you race down toward the Bay, or better still, late at night shooting down California Street. Better than a fairground ride.
There are cable car turnarounds at the bottom of California Street and at the bottom of Powell Street;
A small park on Russian Hill with fabulous views over North Beach, Financial District and Bay Bridge. Peaceful and quiet, you'll usually share it with a few folk up from Chinatown doing their Tai Chi. Just over the hill - between Vallejo and Green (for those who know their Tales of the City) is supposed to be macondry lane - complete with wooden steps. Named after a poet.
At intersection of Vallejo St and Taylor St
Amoeba Records is quite possibly the best music and video store in the whole wide world.
As you enter the shop by its dingy front door in the hippy Haight Ashbury district of Cisco you will not believe your eyes. It’s vast - almost football-pitch sized, and it's full of used CDs, cassettes, LPs (including 12"s and 45"s) and DVDlLaser/beta/VHS.
Most of the sections are labelled - mainly the new and mint (used) - but there are sections which you can search through for hours on end lusting over those hidden gems. If you persevere you will find long lost tunes that you've been yearning for since being a geeky collector. I spent a few hours in there but had to go as a whiney mate was bored. You could easily spend a day or two in there and I reckon it's worth a trip to San Francisco alone for this one shop.
Prices are exceptionally good but beware! Do not take plastic with you as you will max it.
1855 Haight Street, San Francisco;
tel: (415) 831 1200;
This cafe is situated in the North Beach area of the city which is renowned for its profusion of Italian cafes and restaurants. Famous musicians have visited and played there in the past and you can see photos of them on the wall. It has a proper Italian coffee machine and a relaxed atmosphere where you can while away a pleasant afternoon people watching the interesting and varied customers.
I discovered it whilst working in California and applying for a job in Trieste. A strange coincidence that I got the job and one of my
colleagues was the daughter of the original owner!
601 Vallejo Street
Tel: 415 392 6739
Walk around the Mission District, the heart of the Latino district. Eat at any place (I miss the food so much), and go into a few supermarkets for special treats. At night there are many good bars (Divas for their mojitos), movie theatres and clubs. Check out the area during the day first to familiar yourself with the streets if you are the easily-scared type. Some people think the area is a bit unsafe. This petite female never had any problems.
Around Valencia, 16th and 24th streets;
If you're going to visit make sure you bring warm clothes. It's in California but it gets very cold there, particularly in the evening when the fog rolls through the Golden Gate bridge. This is especially true in the summer when fog covers the city most of the time.
Go for Sunday brunch in one of the city's most beautiful rooms: the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel. Refurbished and charming with fabulous light, the setting is perfect for not-at-all-your-typical buffet. There are choices from generous American specialties to a Japanese section from the hotel's A-1 restaurant, Kyo-Ya and Chinese food as well as seafood and, well, it must be experienced (with champagne, of course).
Inside the Palace Hotel: 2 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105;
tel: (415) 546 5089;
The world's campest review, packed with silly songs and jokes, climaxing with enormous automated hats, while gorgeous waiters bring champagne to your seats and you laugh yourself silly at a delightful topical show sitting half between 'Spitting Image' and a pantomime. Brilliant and unmissable.
Club Fugazi, 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard (Green Street - In the heart of North Beach);
tel: (415) 421 4222;
Muir Woods National Monument, thirty minutes or so north of San Francisco, is an absolute must on any visit to the Bay Area. The sheer scale of the redwood trees, some of which are over a thousand years old, is almost overwhelming. Film fans will also recognise it as one of the locations used by Alfred Hitchcock in 'Vertigo'.
Mill Valley, CA 94941;
City Lights Books, in North Beach, is sacred ground for fans of the beat movement. Still run by the octogenarian poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, it retains something of the bohemian charm of its heyday. When you've finished browsing its impressive array of titles why not head next door to Vesuvios - Jack Kerouac's watering hole of choice - for the authentic beat experience?
261 Columbus Avenue;
tel: (415) 362 8193; fax: (415) 362 4921;
Open daily, 10am - midnight.
Such a restful place in the city. With beautiful landscaping and sculptures, this place is a real haven of peace and quiet. We only wished we'd got there earlier in the day (we arrived about 20 minutes before closing) so we could have taken green tea in the cafe, although it was more sparsely populated late in the afternoon.
Modern American cuisine with international influences and classic cocktails. The dishes are small and it is recommended to order 3 or 4 each (like tapas) from the menu and share with your partner or party, so you get to sample most of the menu. Definitely more on the quality of the food and not quantity, Friendly staff and quick service, or just pop in for a drink.
1085 Sutter St (& Larkin), San Francisco (next door to Hotel Carlton); tel: (415) 441 4232;
A great film by Judy Irving, a Sundance and Emmy Award winning filmmaker. It's about, well, the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. They are cherry-headed conures, also known as red-masked parakeets, an indigenous species from Peru. They have been also spotted farther east on Embarcadero Plaza.
To escape the bustle of the city, take a day trip (or longer if you are able) to Yosemite National Park. It's a long day but one of the most sensational days I've ever had. The memories of this astounding place live with me every day and I'm planning my next trip to do some serious hiking! Awesome - the highlight of our trip to the city.
Driving distance from San Francisco is approximately four hours;
Hotel Diva, just off Union Square, is a fantastic place to rest after a hard day's street pounding. Really helpful concierge service, no restaurant but so close to the centre that it isn't a problem, and beautifully designed rooms like a 1920s ocean liner (with magnificent headboards).
440 Geary St; tel: (415) 885-0200;
I'm almost reluctant to share this one in case it gets too popular - but the seafood here is out of this world. Tadich is a San Francisco institution. Reputedly the oldest restaurant in the city. Check opening hours as it's in the financial district so may close earlier than expected.
240 California St, near the Embarcadero Center, between Front and Beale Streets;
tel: (415) 391 1849
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