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;
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 a foodie, find the ultimate deli: Valvonna and Crolla. This is for the serious gourmet. Squeeze past each other in the narrow tiled aisles and avoid the hanging salamis and hams overhead. Sample the succulent fat-laden mortadella. Be tempted by the transparent shavings of prosciutto freshly cut. Indulge your baser instincts in the creamy soft blue St Agur that slowly melts on the tongue to the gentle persuasion of Graham’s Vintage Port. And for a present to bring home? An estate bottled olive oil from Umbria? Some bulbs of roasted garlic from the Languedoc? And as for wine...
When the finest Italian food shop in the country only sells one fresh sausage, you know it's going to be good. Valvona & Crolla's Fonteluna doesn't disappoint. This is a solid, semi-cured sausage flavoured with chilli and fennel. As it is semi-cured it can be eaten raw as a salami or cooked. It can be cooked by either frying or grilling. As it is a dry sausage it really needs a wet sauce - I like it diced in a tomato sauce, thinly sliced and used as a pizza topping or with peppers.
It's not cheap at £4.95 for 265g but this is concentrated, strong tasting sausage with no water or cheap filler. Highly recommended! It would be a hard soul that would not come out of here the richer in taste and the poorer in pocket. Worth visiting on a Sunday morning, especially for their imported Indian peppercorns, or just to sit and have tea in their restaurant while the world muses and peruses. Blue Mountain coffee or green tea? Jalapenos peppers or habaneros?
Valvona & Crolla: 19 Elm Row, Edinburgh EH7 4AA
VinCaffè: 11 Multrees Walk, Edinburgh EH1 3DQ;
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.
This street is an easier environment than Chinatown with comparable Asian markets and restaurants, as well as orthodox Russian residents and a scattering of lovely small bistros like Clémentine. A great flat street for walking, shopping and eating.
Clémentine: 126 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94118;
tel: (415) 387-0408
This is a small and perfectly formed pirate supplies shop down in the Mission District. More installation than retail, though you can buy glass eyes, wooden legs, doubloons, flags, eye patches, loaded dice and, er, lard. Treasure troves hide under the floorboards, there's an aquarium theatre and funny writings on the walls. You can barter drawings and poems for treasure, and buy the books of bartered drawings. It's actually the front for a literacy project and is the dreamchild of writer Dave Eggers. It's SO cool I could hardly breathe...
826 Valencia St (between 19th and 20th Sts) in the Mission District;
tel: (415) 642-5905;
Last summer (August) we were in SF and were taken by surprise with how cold it was. We bought good waterproof and warm anoraks for about $20. They're great for here in the UK.
Lots of souvenir shops on Pier 39 and around Fisherman's Wharf. Available in many colours.
Recife's main city centre is a baffling and confusing place but I grew to love it there; it's not a conventional place to hang around but since when did travel always have to be about things that are beautiful in an obvious sense? Olinda and Porto de Galinhas are mainly idyllic, beautiful locations, of which Pernambuco state has no shortage, but Recife's main central islands have a strange charm.
At night, you need to be a bit streetwise, but there are the clubs and bars in the Recife Antigo area and the Patio de Sao Pedro and it's a great night out, but in the daytime, Recife city centre's more mundane sights are something that for some reason captivate me. It's not one thing in particular - it's the whole place. At certain times of the day, you get old men selling decrepit vinyl albums lined on the walls of the square to the side of Avenida Dantas Barreto. Near Igreja do Carmo, you'll find men singing Embolada, a mesmeric poetic duel that'll make you wonder how the hell they can summon the power to make you lose sense of where you are using just their voices and a pair of tambourines. You'll find people barbecuing meats and cheeses in unlikely corners and men fishing for crab off the bridges.
The oldest law faculty in the Americas is here, cheek by jowl with some of the best and cheapest lunch restaurants you may ever find; there are some faded Deco-style buildings and plenty of Portuguese colonial-style architecture too, with wrought iron British-designed bridges connecting the three islands, as well as a former prison that doubles up as a craft centre.
Among the narrow streets, men use makeshift sound systems to promote the clothes or radios or cutlery their shop is trying to sell you. This sort of thing would be considered noise pollution in most developed countries, but it makes for a strange sort of music in Recife; "Clothes shop MC on the M-I-C", said my friend.
Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.
This market just off La Rambla is under an enormous lofty wrought iron roof resembling a Victorian railway station. Here can be bought just about every fruit and vegetable that can be thought of – and more. And everything fresh, every day – and unbelievably cheap. A kilo of tomatoes, ripe and bursting with flavour, for 39 cents.
Being a Mediterranean port, this is where fish reigns supreme. Every sort of fish – whole, gutted, filleted, dried, smoked, cooked, salted. Fresh and glistening in beds of glittering ice. From the lowly mackerel and sardine – unbelievable grilled over a hot barbecue, to octopus and langoustine. There can be no smell that is more evocative of the Mediterranean than that of shells of giant prawns roasting over charcoal. This gigantic market of food covers an area the size of a football pitch and is packed every day with shoppers till early evening.
Wine is so cheap. And not just those Spanish wines that everyone knows. There is a wine shop near the Picasso Museum that sells every conceivable wine up to expensive ones. But best of all is the wine that comes from several huge barrels in the cavern at the back of the shop. Here, Senora Duran, whose grandfather opened the shop after the Spanish Civil War, will fill empty litre bottles that the customer brings in, for a Euro.
Take the ferry across the bay (passing Alcatraz on the way!) to the pleasant town of Sausalito, which, with its restaurants, antique shops and galleries, seems to be the place where San Francisco's artists end up when they find the city too hectic. Then if you can, hike past the bridge to the Marin Headlands on the Pacific - it's great for walking or dirt-biking, and has a nature reserve and a small museum dedicated to the Portuguese fishing community that used to live there, and even an abandoned nuclear missile silo!
The Ferry Building farmers market must be the best way to spend a Saturday morning in San Francisco. The produce looks and tastes amazing and there are plenty of try-before-you-buy opportunities – and you will buy! Sit at the outdoor tables to consume your purchases while you listen to live music and admire the Bay Bridge.
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111;
tel: (415) 693-0996;
City Lights is a great bookshop in North Beach, founded and owned still by beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti – quite rightly it is a literary landmark, stocking some real gems.
261 Columbus Ave (between Pacific Avenue and Broadway Street)
San Francisco, CA 94133-4519
A long, narrow, cobble-stoned alleyway with everything from small commercial galleries, to little old men selling their own paintings. Original oil paintings are very cheap, and make a nice, unique and authentic souvenir that'll hang on your wall forever.
Beware - some of the shops lower down sell low quality fakes. These are usually the places that sell other souvenirs too.
To the right of the cathedral, up the hill.
Although there are around 450 bridges in Venice, only four cross the Grand Canal. The most famous is the Rialto, the district around it once the most important financial centre in Europe when the Republic was at the height of its power. Although the banks and bordellos of the renaissance have gone, what makes the Rialto worth visiting, apart from the bridge itself, is the market concentrated around a few tiny alleys and on the quayside. For a thousand years, housewives, servants and chefs have bought their daily supplies here, from a handful of scampi from the lagoon to fresh fruit from the Veneto. This colourful and animated spectacle has to be the best free show in Venice and is open every morning apart from Sundays and holidays.
Great morning out - lovely, fresh and in-season fruit and veg (the peaches and corn are especially good in the summer). So much good stuff!
Oh and the fresh pasta is delicious - gorgonzola and walnut. Yum!
At the ferry building; For directions on how to get there see www.ferryplazafarmersmarket.com/markets/transport.php
What isn't there to do here? Take the cable car on the Powell/Hyde line. Get off, walk through Ghiradelli Square to try and blag free choccy samples, take lots of pics of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate, grab some clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, maybe some crab too, trek over to Pier 39, shop and wave at the sea lions. Find a bench and watch the perfect sunset over the bay.
The amazing 170m tall viewing tower in Portsmouth has fantastic panoramic views over the harbour and out towards the Isle of Wight. It also has Europe's largest glass floor on its first viewing deck ,which kids and adults alike can't get enough of... so long as you've got the nerve to take the first step on it!
Located on the fab development of Gunwharf Quays with is bustling bars and restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating in the summer and great shops to keep mums quiet too!
Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, PO1
A gem of a shop. Gorgeous vintage pieces in a treasure trove of a shop with lovely staff. I cannot walk past without going in (and always leave with something truly special).
31 Sydney Street, Brighton;
tel: 01273 675 222
In a town with more clothes shops than I can cope with this place stands out for a couple of reasons. The selection of labels includes hard to find bits from Silas, PAM and more affordable brands. But what really makes this store stand apart for me is the inviting relaxed atmosphere, a rare thing amongst streetwear orientated stores.
27 Sydney St, Brighton BN1 4EP;
01273 571 145;
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org