Get Out Of Town!
The Real San Francisco Treats
June, 2018 - Issue #165
courtesy of Shutterstock
courtesy of Shutterstock

Our foolproof plan to explore a city is simple. Book a well-appointed hotel. Then walk and see what we discover along the way. We followed that plan to perfection for a recent weekend in San Francisco.

Let's start with the hotel. We booked a two-night stay at Hotel Nikko, which more than lived up to its reputation as an Asian-inspired sanctuary of modern elegance. It has all the amenities you'd expect from an upscale hotel, and more - like a complimentary selfie stick in the room.
"And for good reason. Besides booth after booth of fresh produce, the array of handcrafted FOOD FOR SALE overwhelms normal decision-making processes. Farmstead goat cheese. Lox sandwiches. Hand-crafted pasta."

Just off Union Square, Hotel Nikko is the perfect base from which to explore the city. After breakfast in the Imperial Club Lounge, we headed out Saturday morning on what promised to be an intense walking tour of San Francisco.

We spent almost eight hours walking six miles, and still there was so much we didn't see. But here are the highlights that made the day memorable.

"I Want to Buy Everything"
Our first stop was the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, where the thrice-weekly farmers market was in full swing.
"I want to buy everything," April announced. And for good reason. Besides booth after booth of fresh produce, the array of handcrafted food for sale overwhelms normal decision-making processes. Farmstead goat cheese. Lox sandwiches. Hand-crafted pasta.

The Smell Zone
Pier 39 is known as the most visited destination in San Francisco, which makes the resident sea lions probably the most observed marine mammals anywhere. We watched dozens of them lounge on floating docks. Their collective mass gives rise to a funk that wafts across the water. It reminds visitors that while the sea lions are cute, they're definitely not domesticated.

What the Belly Dancer Does on her Day Off
The Musee Mecanique at Fisherman's Wharf features working vintage arcade games and attractions, some of which date back more than a century. A quarter will let you peer into an old photo display machine that promises to let you "see what the belly dancer does on her day off." I resisted the temptation and saved my quarter.

More Wildlife
Turning from the water, we headed up Hyde Street. We used our CityPass discount to catch a passing cable car and save some steps on the way to our next landmark, the iconic Coit Tower. We laughed at the numerous signs ominously warning of coyote activity. The urban canines proved elusive. But we did catch the overlook's panoramic view of the bay, stretching from the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge.

A Piece of Italy
Descending from Telegraph Hill, we found ourselves in North Beach, aka San Francisco's Little Italy. The pie at Tony's Pizza looked too good to pass up. We shared a slice of California vegetarian at a sidewalk table and savored the rich sauce, gooey cheese and fresh veggies. The 3:30 bells from Saints Peter and Paul Church across Washington Square tolled, signaling that it was time to keep moving.

The Beat Goes On
City Lights Booksellers opened in the 1950s and helped make the Beat poets famous. Regarded as one of America's best independent book stores, it's the type of place that overwhelms you with possibilities. You could spend hours browsing titles and skimming dust jackets, to the point where indecision would lead you to say, "I want to buy everything."

Off the Path
Sometimes you make your own discoveries in a new city. We found ours Sunday morning. The line outside a Yelp-loved breakfast eatery was too long, so we opted for Cafe de Lucchi in North Beach. There was no line, just a wonderful little neighborhood cafe that knows how to do breakfast. A sidewalk table. Prompt service. Splendid cappuccino. And a delicious brunch bruschetta.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic.

Do It!
Hotel Nikko
Walking Tour
City Pass
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