Carried Away in San Francisco
22.12.2012 - 22.12.2012 14 °C
Blog warning.. This post will be huge compared the any of our previous ones, so you've been warned!
The saying goes something like "saving the best for last", well today we did exactly that. Today was our last full day in San Francisco and also the US. For this trip anyway. To celebrate our respective birthdays this month, my Mum and I went on a 5 hour tour with the wonderful ladies from Carried Away. I had decided some months ago that wanted to go on a more intimate tour of the diverse districts in the city and experience the different atmospheres and cuisines. So the sights and bites tour it was.
Mum had a knee replacement operation earlier this year and walking up and down stairs or the hills of San Francisco all day wasn't an option. With Carried Away, they have a little groovy car that is comfy, has cool moon roofs and can access all the narrower and steeper streets of the city that your legs or other tour buses can't get too. It's also private and you get to choose what you want to do. If your not sure what it is you would like to see, Diann and Vikki will make suggestions and tailor a itinerary to suit your tastes or desires.
Or first stop was the nearby Chinatown. Carried Away took us to the community areas rather than the tourist haunts. We saw a florist getting ready for a Chinese funeral (huge beautiful wreaths), the Fortune Cookie Factory where you pay 50c to take a photo but get a delicious fresh and warm sample to eat, past the schools, shops and bakeries that the locals use to shop daily. During our visit we came upon a Chinese funeral procession that was lead by a small brass band and a small convoy of cars that threw paper out the window. Diann went and got some lovely steam bun samples for us to eat at the Good Mang Kok Bakery. They were delicious and a 100% on anything I had eaten back home.
We moved onto the neighbouring Little Italy (North Beach) and got out of the car to stroll around. From Washington Square we moved to explore the shops, deli's and cafes that line the streets and love the corner locations. He we saw the San Fran locals line up for an egg bunch sometimes for up to 90 minutes. Lining up for tables in this city seems compulsory and they are very patient at doing it. They also line up at the very famous bakeries and deli's for the delicious products. Diann went to the 100 yr old Liguria Bakery that only bakes a certain amount of focaccia everyday. When they sell out they close. We missed out by a couple of people.
The Molinari Delicatessen is amazing. Established in 1876, the walls are lined with pasta, olive oils, cheeses and salami's of every variety. The smell engulfs you as you walk through the door. The locals take a number from the little red dispenser on the counter and line up. Those who come for a sandwich go the the bread bin and select a baguette. The gents behind the counter then slice you chosen salami etc, directly onto your bread roll. And the serving is huge. I watched a gent get his sandwich made, then got sucked into watching a few more customers. The deli is famous for having the best salami and for sending some to the Pope.
We wandered across the road and up to the next street corner to Caffe Trieste. This is a famous cafe for the creative clientele that have sat and enjoyed the espresso(they have their own brand) and worked on their craft. Some of the walls are lined with photo's of these people such as Francis Ford Coppola whom like to sit and write scripts there. He has a home down the street. The decor is the same as it was in the 1950's and now looks very worn in and comfortable. A mural on the back wall dated 1957 looks fabulous and the original phone booth is still in place, except now it is the home of an ATM. The coffee is fabulous and is only surpassed by the macho mustache on one of the barrista's. It was here that we got to try some of the smooth but tasty salami from Molinari. I bet the Pope waits for it to arrive every year, because I would!
Across the corner we were taken to a bespoke shop called Al's Attire (drapers, clothiers, hatters & bootmen. At Al's Attire you can have a coat (fabric or leather), hat or shoes handmade in whatever fabric you desire. You get to choose your buttons the type of seams, right down to the personalised label. This is a shop that everyone would be fascinated by and I just wished I lived in a climate that could justify having a coat made just to my desires. The fact that I didn't purchase anything here was more about being overwhelmed by the choices rather than self control. That self control totally evapourated at a nearby store where I purchased a lithograph of the Golden Gate Bridge. Can't wait to get it home and hang it on the wall.
That self control totally evapourated at a nearby store where I purchased a lithograph of the Golden Gate Bridge. Can't wait to get it home and hang it on the wall.
Our next stop was Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. This tower was built as a monument to the fire fighters of the city as a bequest of Lillie Hitchcock Coit. The tower resembles a fire hose nozzle. The views of the bay are sweeping.
From here we moved onto Filbert Street. This street is a single staircase comprising of 383 steps. The residents here have to carry everything up or down. The homes are old and come from a time when the rich lived on the lower slopes so they didn't have to walk far and the workers further up the hill. There are lanes or in reality walkways where other homes move horizontally across the hillside. The stairs weave through a jungle of gardens. Lots of different types of plants and styles, and we even saw a banana plant. I wasn't expecting that. In this street people don't just live closely together they live on top of each other. It is quiet, with the exception of us tourists and highly sort after. I really liked it and would enjoy living there.
We jumped back into the car and headed to the Presidio as I have never seen the cross section suspension cable from the Golden Gate Bridge at the bridge visitors centre. I had been dying to see it and it met all my expectations. Sure it's not everyone's cup of tea, but the bridge is such an icon and this just a gives a little insight into the engineering involved. Di and Vicki took us up to a new photo op where the bridge towers are in alignment. From there you can appreciate better the camber (curve of the deck) and the volume of traffic that travels over the bridge everyday.
As we moved to Russian Hill the main attraction is the very steep streets and the fabulous local architecture. The Victorian houses are breath taking. While I am very much a fan of the classic Queenslander, these homes take it up a notch. From here we headed up to the poshest suburb in town, Pacific Heights. The houses here are gigantic and have sweeping views. Billionaires Row (because that is who lives and can afford to live their) was an eye opener. I will leave it to the photographs to provide you with the details, because I was gobsmacked. Being in a small car meant we could easily invade these cloisters and watch the gardeners, etc working on the perfect gardens.
We continued looking at the houses as we made our way to The Castro. This would be the most famous of the neighbourhoods in the city. This was no more so than in the 60's and 70's during the heightened political activism and the LGBT Community. It was here that we tasted our next cuisine in Argentinian empanadas at El Porteno. Oh my! They were little parcels of heaven. El Porteno also brews boutique beers. This would be Paul's dream come true.
Our final hour we drove around Liberty Hill, the Mission and Hayes Valley. Liberty Hill is full of the gorgeous Victorians that we have been adoring. Following the 1906 earthquake the neighbourhood was saved from fire, so today it contains examples of not only Victorian architecture but also Italianate, Stick and Queen Anne.
Presently both the Mission and Hayes Valley seem to be going through an urban renewal not just in the transformation of living space, but also in the movement of other residents in what was traditionally a Latino area(s). Today it is full of all sorts of families and jam packed with restaurants. It was here that we tasted the most divine tacos ever. Nothing like the mass produced stuff we are used too. Very healthy and flavoursome. My favourite part was looking at all the murals that cover the entire neighbourhood, each with their own story.
We had a jam packed day and one that will remain with us in our memories for quite some time. If your ever in San Francisco, give the ladies at Carried Away a call. You won't regret it. They were absolutely wonderful ambassadors of the city and great fun. Can't wait to do another tour with them. Thanks so much Diann and Vikki!