By Lee Foster
(Update Note: My ebook SF Travel & Photo Guide: The Top 100 Travel Experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area has been released for $3.99 on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2qS9QtG. The ebook parallels my app on this subject available for $3.99 from Apple http://apple.co/2ow44IC and Google http://bit.ly/2o9sWKJ. See an announcement of the ebook on my website at http://bit.ly/2qXg8Zf. The app has also been announced on my website. I have answered some questions about the app. The app works on smart phones and tablet devices, but not on laptops or desktops. The ebook can be read on all devices.)
I am releasing here the content in this new travel ebook/app in ten alphabetical “clusters.” Each cluster will have 12 sections of the total 120 in the ebook/app. This is alphabetical release 5 of 10. Other clusters released now include: cluster 1 cluster 2 cluster 3 and cluster 4.
This release on a website will not have the full functionality of the app structure, including its Google maps showing you contextually all the subjects around you. The ebook version is convenient because you can carry the content around with you in one small package and not require connectivity. The 10 releases on this websites will show the text and photo of all the items, the full “SF A-Z” content listings, but will not be able to present, as the app and ebook do, all subjects in a clickable Table of Contents menu as grouped in an area (such as Embarcadero) or in the themes/subjects (such as Culture/Museums). However, after the 120 subjects are released, I will post the Table of Contents Outline and will post each of the 120 items individually to give a “website ebook” approximation of the app and ebook.
So, here is the fifth release:
SF A-Z, Alphabetical cluster 5 of 10:
When you’ve explored San Francisco to your satisfaction, what are the options if you want to discover the world beyond The City?
There are three directions to consider: North to Marin, and beyond to the Napa and Sonoma Wine countries; east to Oakland/Berkeley; and south to the San Mateo Coast, the high-tech richness of Stanford and San Jose, and beyond to Santa Cruz and Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur.
Each of these three directions is a section, with detailed sub-sections, in this presentation.
East to Oakland/Berkeley is the most approachable next area to discover.
How will you get there? Your own car or a rental can take you across the Bay Bridge. The under-Bay metro, the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), can transport you quickly and deposit you in downtown Oakland or downtown Berkeley, both good options. I use BART all the time. Another intriguing possibility is the ferry from the Ferry Building to Oakland’s Jack London Square. The ferry ride allows you to see the grandeur of the Bay and pass underneath the western section of the Bay Bridge, boating into Oakland through the robust Port of Oakland, the brawny California trade connection to the Orient. I love this ride in the early morning when the sun shines on the SF skyline, the Bridge, and the huge container ships you pass close to in Oakland.
From the downtown Oakland 12th St BART station, the blockbuster attraction is Oakland’s Museum of California. You can walk there through Oakland’s Asiatown, maybe stopping for lunch. From the 12th St station, there is a shuttle or a taxi or a short Uber ride to Jack London Square, where a seafood meal at Scott’s, looking over the harbor, is fun. Within Oakland, peruse Old Oakland, the historic area around Broadway, such as Ratto’s Deli, and the landmark Paramount Theater, an art deco masterpiece.
Berkeley is a few further stops beyond on the BART train. Berkeley is a world unto itself, accessible from the Downtown Berkeley BART Station. A cultural entity of great interest here is the Berkeley Rep, an award-winning theater. It’s a 15-minute walk to the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, where you can do a tour and see Sather Gate and the iconic campanile tower. North from the downtown BART station along Shattuck Ave is the famous Gourmet Ghetto, with Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant as the cornerstone. A taxi or Uber ride can take you to the Bayside Cesar Chavez Park for a fresh-air hour on the circular path around the watery perimeter of the park.
Several of these East Bay subjects are subsections in themselves in this presentation.
San Francisco’s famous hands-on science museum, the Exploratorium, resides on the Embarcadero at Pier 15. It is dedicated to exploring the world through science, art, and human perception.
Just about everyone in your travel entourage, from a child to adults, will find something intriguing at the Exploratorium.
The child might be fascinated with looking into a distortion mirror that can turn you upside down. An adult might be delighted to look into a microscope, seeing plankton, and learning that these small creatures produce half of all the oxygen we breathe.
Your Best Shot: A photo or selfie in the distortion mirror will amuse anyone. Outside, a re-creation of fog at the San Francisco Fog Bridge is an intriguing exhibit for a still or video, with you or your party as the cast of characters emerging from the fog.
“Museum” does not begin to describe this wonder-inspiring facility. Science appreciation and engagements is the purpose. Interactive and imaginative experiences are the means.
The creator was a Berkeley physicist, Frank Oppenheimer. He desired a facility where critical thinking and curiosity could be inspired by tactile engagement in an informal setting.
More than 600 exhibits await a visitor in six galleries. The gallery Human Phenomena covers thoughts, feelings, and social behavior. Tinkering is thinking with your hands. Seeing and Listening considers light and vision. Living Systems is about the living world. The Bay Observation Gallery projects the local ecosystem. An Outdoor Gallery portrays the bay landscape.
There are always demonstrations going on. In Living Systems the dissection of a cow’s eyes may be taking place.
The Exploratorium also sponsors a robust range of programs for kids and adults. There is an adults-only After Dark party every Thursday. Adults wander around the exhibits while enjoying drinks, conversation, and sometimes live music.
The institution has a fine-dining restaurant, SeaGlass, overlooking the Bay, and a more modest takeout Seismic Joint Café at the entrance.
All practical details, such as admission fees and hours, are on the website.
If You Go:
Address: Pier 15, The Embarcadero & Green St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Price: Admission charge, moderate
The robust Farmers Markets at Civic Center on Wednesday and Sunday or at the Ferry Building on Saturday (with smaller events Tuesday and Thursday) are delicious happenings that a local, visitor, or traveler may enjoy.
The independent, farmer-operated Civic Center event calls itself the Heart of the City Farmers Market. One large audience it serves is the low-income world of folks in the SRO (single room occupancy) hotels in the nearby Tenderloin.
There is a lot occurring, on many levels. In morning hours the selection will be greatest. In the closing minutes some bargains can be snapped up. See the website listing for details.
Your Best Shot: The cornucopia of food at Farmers Markets San Francisco may entrance the designer eye in you. The entrepreneurial characters who are the stars on this stage may also intrigue you for a still photo or a video, if you engage them in conversation. You among the peaches can be a salubrious selfie.
Farmers Markets show the genius of American competitiveness at its best. The entrepreneurs here assert they can produce more interesting, healthier, tastier, and fresher food than the corporate supermarket, at a competitive price. Customers are won or lost one at a time.
Cultural ideals are on display. The ideal of decentralized, local food production and distribution is one issue. Whether the growing culture should be “organic” or not is another matter. How the seed may have been modified, by horticultural selection or genetic manipulation, is yet a further concern.
The Farmers Markets highlight the wondrous climate and soil of California. In the Bay Area cultivators can grow food all year, with some caveats. The diversified truck-farm produce from Sonoma County and the specialty products from everywhere, such as Harley Farms goat cheese from the San Mateo Coast, may be on display.
The great corporate farms of the Central Valley help make the state of California the “Farmers Market” to the world, contributing to the reality that California is the sixth biggest economy on the planet today. Much of the product created by skilled Northern California farmers, from the almond nut growers of Modesto to the rice producers south of Redding, ships out to the Orient from the Port of Oakland.
If You Go:
Area: Civic Center
Address: United Nations Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94102
Price: Free to peruse, market price for purchases
The Ferry Building, on the Bay at the foot of Market St, hosts a robust Farmers Market on Saturday (8 a.m.-2 p.m.) and a more abbreviated market on Tuesday and Thursday (10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
As many as 25,000 people patronize the Ferry Building Farmers Markets each week. The Saturday event attracts about 100 vendors. Sometimes celebrity chefs do food preparation demonstrations.
The range of ingredients available directly from suppliers is astonishing. Vegetables, fruits, herbs, fish, meat, eggs, cheese, breads, jams, and olive oils are some of the categories. Organic is the likely certification word.
Your Best Shot: The cornucopia of food at the Farmers Market will entice you to get visually sensual images of tomatoes or peaches neatly presented.
The market is managed by an organization known as Cuesa (see website below), which dedicates itself to the complex educational and political issues with which Farmers Markets and American society currently grapple. They have a newsletter, The Varietal, which welcomes subscribers from the public.
San Francisco’s food culture is especially energetic for some obvious reasons. All of these advantages come together in the Farmers Markets.
The mild climate in the region allows for year-around growing. Boutique truck-gardening farms of Sonoma are less than an hour away to the north.
The bread-basket Central Valley farms, starting at Modesto, an hour-and-a-half east, contribute significantly to the world food supply and to U.S. food exports (through the Port of Oakland in the Bay Area).
Add to these factors the progressive San Francisco culture that started with the Gold Rush, the new food energies flowing in from immigration (especially from Asia), and the relative prosperity (boosted with dot com windfalls).
The Farmers Markets meet an audience of people who love food, desire the best, and can afford it.
If You Go:
Address: Ferry Bldg Marketplace, 1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111
Price: Free to peruse, market price for food
The Ferry Building, foot of Market St, is where a network of ferries passes constantly back and forth to Larkspur in Marin County and to Oakland/Alameda in the East Bay, plus to some other locations.
The Ferry service is gradually expanding, with Richmond in the East Bay an upcoming addition. See the website below for the exact locations of ferry routes.
Your Best Shot: You can get some unusual views and put yourself in them, as you wish, from the ferries. Two of the best are the San Francisco skyline, as seen from the water, and the Bay Bridge western section, viewed from below, on the water. The two concepts can be joined together on the ferry over to Oakland.
For residents, ferries can cut commute times considerably and provide a far more pleasant option than driving a car. The evening commute home sometimes becomes a floating cocktail party.
For a traveler, ferries also provide an excellent opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Bay, the San Francisco skyline, the port of Oakland, and some iconic structures, such as the Bay Bridge western section, seen from below.
Beyond the ferries, the main option for getting out on the Bay for most visitors will be the tour boats organized by the Blue and Gold Fleet, the Red and White Fleet, and Hornblower Cruises. The Blue and Gold Fleet boat to Sausalito is itself a dependable ferry, leaving from Pier 41.
The ferry schedule can be readily seen on the website listed below. Keep the ferry option in mind as you explore the San Francisco area. There is some service to unusual locations, such as Vallejo in the North Bay.
Ferries also deliver fans to AT&T Park for San Francisco Giants baseball games. Alameda Main Street, Harbor Bay Alameda, and South San Francisco are among other destinations served by ferries.
If You Go:
Address: Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111
Price: Varies by distance
The Ferry Building Marketplace is an upscale shopping, dining, and office space in the iconic and historic building at the foot of Market St along the Embarcadero.
The interior of the building is a long and stately hallway with about 110 boutique purveyors of fine food, drink, and assorted retail goods on the ground floor. The upper floor houses law firms and investment companies.
Your Best Shot: For that only-in-San Francisco photo suggesting the good culinary life, make a photo of your platter of Tomales Bay oysters at the Hog Island restaurant. The oysters alone or a selfie of the shellfish and your entourage are the concepts, perhaps even with a glimpse of the Bay in the background.
The Hog Island Oyster Co. restaurant (https://hogislandoysters.com/) epitomizes the Ferry Building food scene. These oysters are hand-raised at Point Reyes, in Tomales Bay, just north of The City.
Many parallel specialty food providers will be present at the Ferry Building Marketplace. Consider the Cowgirl Creamery for cheese. Olive oil, wines, meat, fish, California nut products, and vegetable produce are some of the categories. One specialty shop, at my last visit, sold only its farmed mushrooms.
Among the retail shops is Book Passage (http://www.bookpassage.com), one of the finest book stores in the Bay Area. The bookseller also has outlets in Corte Madera and Sausalito in Marin County, to the north. Book Passage creates a community of authors and readers with its lavish programs. You can sign up for their free monthly newsletter, which reads like a who’s who of what’s going on in the book world. If you’re an author, as I am, you can arrange a book announcement program at the store for each new book in your repertoire.
Add to this all the other activity going on simultaneously at the Ferry Building, such as ferry departures and Farmer’s Markets (on selected days), and you will conclude that this is a happening place. See other subsection write-ups, such as Ferry Building Ferries and Farmers Market Ferry Building.
The Ferry Building might be seen as the pulsing heart of the Bay Area in a parallel manner to Union Square being the heart of San Francisco.
If You Go:
Address: Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111
Getting out on the Bay can be a magical aspect of travel in San Francisco. There are things you can see only from the water, such as the lovely skyline of San Francisco, especially in early morning.
The ferry between the Ferry Building and Oakland’s Jack London Square in morning light is an excellent and economical option to see the view and take photos.
Your Best Shot: Savor the scene and record visually as you pass through the Port of Oakland, where giant container ships will be loading and unloading. This is California in its brawniest expression, as food goes out and manufactured goods from Asia come in.
The watery highway across the Bay may be invisible, but it is real, and it takes you to new worlds. One such world, best seen from the water, is the Port of Oakland. The ferry moves slowly down the estuary, passing the giant cranes loading and unloading the huge container ships. There can be drama, especially if the ferry moves aside to allow one of the mammoth ships to proceed in or out of the har-bor.
The ferry lets you see the commercial vitality of Oakland and California today. California is one of the major food-producing regions in the world. Oakland is the main point of export. A hungry Asia begs for this sustenance. As long as free trade persists, the Port of Oakland will prosper.
When you get off in Oakland, seek out the statue of the favorite native son, author Jack London, in Jack London Square. You can see a cabin he stayed at in the Yukon. Heinolds First and Last Saloon is the place for a drink, recalling that young Jack hung out there because they had a dictionary that would help him learn his words. Jack was a poor boy who had to steal a few oysters from the local fishermen to survive.
Jack London had the street smarts to survive, competing with others who had more resources. He is a kind of metaphor for modern Oakland, as compared to San Francisco.
If You Go:
Area: East to Oakland/Berkeley
Address: San Francisco Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111
Price: Moderate, tickets can be purchased on the ferry
Shoppers flock to Fisherman’s Wharf partly because of the extensive amount of stores, mainly at two complexes, the Cannery and Ghirardelli.
These buildings are brick shells from a former era of canning and of chocolate processing.
The shopping scene continues to be dynamic, changing with the times. The Fisherman’s Wharf website listed below keeps track of all these details.
For example, one of the interesting newer stores in my experience is Mike Pollastro’s Vom Fass shop in Ghirardelli Square. This is a tasting place, replete with platters of olive oils, vinegars, wines, cheeses, and fruits.
Your Best Shot: A cornucopian photo of what’s tasting at Vom Fass today could become part of your California cuisine collection. Maybe put yourself in the image as the taster for some shots.
I left Vom Fass with a small container of olive oil, as any visitor could. Pollastro had numerous California and European olive oils for tasting, and you could buy a small glass container of whatever oil, vinegar, liquor, or wine you enjoyed. He has drop-in tasting for free or a modest price, available to the typical traveler, and special tastings announced on his Meetup page.
Then I meandered through Ghirardelli and wound up at Peter Chouinard’s Bluxome Street Winery, where you can taste delicious Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs for a moderate price. This is the serendipity of prowling around the Wharf area.
The Fisherman’s Wharf organizers host annual events that attract the visitor. The October Wharf Fest with its chowder cook-off, engaging all the local restaurants in a competition, is a fun day.
More details from me on how Fisherman’s Wharf renews itself, as every tourism entity must, can be seen at https://www.fostertravel.com/fishermans-wharf-renewal-in-san-francisco/
If You Go:
Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39
Address: Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133
Price: Free to browse, moderate for tasting and restaurants
Hang gliders present a lyrical side of San Francisco travel to a visitor at Fort Funston, on the southwest edge of the city, along the ocean.
Fort Funston is a park with a cliff perch over the ocean and a walkable beach far below. Some of freshest air on planet earth blows in from the Pacific.
In earlier times, the military grabbed this choice ocean location to protect San Francisco. Now the public benefits from National Park Service control over this terrain, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Your Best Shot: A hang glider passing by you up close can be an engaging still or video image from this location. From the elevated viewing stand on top of the bluff, you can even put yourself in the image.
Hang gliders amount to an enduring main attraction here. The gliders launch off the cliff and catch the same thermal updrafts as the regal raptors and the more lowly sea gulls. Birds drift effortlessly in unending updrafts.
The Park Service has built a handsome wooden viewing platform over the cliffs. This is one of the choicest views in San Francisco of the ocean, the beach, the clouds, the setting sun, and some hang gliders who have jumped off a few yards south of the platform.
It is known that a glass or two of wine has been consumed on this lovely deck in celebration of life.
While you are there, it is likely that a hang glider will zoom by within shout-out range. The Park Service even has a sign to alert you, and reduce their liability, to the potential crash of a hang glider onto your person. However, the odds of your car getting hit as you drive to Fort Funston are exponentially greater than a hang glider crashing into you, trust me.
A pathway down the cliff to the ample beach beckons. Dogs jaunt happily on the beach.
The hang-gliding subculture is managed by a club known as The Fellow Feathers of Fort Funston (http://www.flyfunston.org/). Their website has a webcam that allows you to see how conditions are at the moment.
If You Go:
Area: Northern/Western Oceanfront
Address: Fort Funston Rd, San Francisco, CA 94118
Chef as artist, chef as personality, and chef as entrepreneur is arguably the story of many restaurants, but San Francisco raises this concept to a high level.
The City has culinary academies and culinary journeymen paths, well known to those in the trade. The pedigree of one’s past associations often launches the new chef forth into the taste stratosphere.
Your Best Shot: It is likely that a photo of the artistic culinary effort immediately in front of you, alone, and also with you or your entourage will be the visual goal here. One is reminded of a New Yorker cartoon in which the waiter approaches a table and says, “Is something wrong? No one is taking photos of their food.”
Gary Danko’s restaurant is one such operator. I have never met Gary Danko, but I have enjoyed eating a lamb dinner at his restaurant. And I know of acolytes who have volunteered their time, bringing this own knives, for the privilege of cutting up in the prep line at his establishment. See his restaurant’s contact info below.
The restaurant scene is dynamic and changing. Mourad (http://mouradsf.com/) is a Moroccan restaurant in SF. Chef Mourad Lahiou has spiced up the Moroccan menu with dishes such as small turnips with sunflower seeds.
Women entrepreneurs are much in evidence. Salisa Skinner is a Bangkok-born chef who opened up Tamarind Hall Thai (http://www.tamarindhall.com) in North Beach, featuring dishes such as her eggplant salad and crab meat curry.
Sometimes the quest to perfect a method of food preparation becomes the passion, such as: How to prepare and cook the perfect steak. For visionaries Jerry and Jennifer Dal Bozzo behind Osso Steakhouse (http://www.ossosteakhouse.com) the goal starts with “bone in,” hence the word “osso.” The hope is the highest quality 4- to 6-week aged prime beef, ready to deliver maximum tenderness. The steak is pan-seared, for perhaps two minutes on each side, in its own natural juices, along with a hint of garlic and rosemary.
Those of us who enjoy food should be thankful that celebrity chefs have internalized their high-art ambitions. That surely helps them weather the brutal reality that running a successful restaurant requires overtime attention to detail 24/7/365. It is also not easy to make money with a restaurant. One might cite the joke often mentioned in the California wine industry. Question: “What is the best way to end up with a small fortune in the California wine business?” Answer: “Start with a large fortune.”
The info below is for Gary Danko’s restaurant.
If You Go:
Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39
Address: 800 North Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109
The Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco is a major expression of our current cultural diversity.
Your best opportunity to experience (and photograph) the gay scene is this yearly extravaganza.
Those on parade are pleased to flaunt their preferences, sometimes the more flamboyant the better. It is understood that anyone in the parade will not be camera shy.
Your Best Shot: You never know what will be appearing before you and your camera in this parade, but anticipate that unrepressed sexuality will be the theme.
The event is held the last Sunday in June, beginning at the Embarcadero, and marching up Market Street to the Civic Center Plaza.
This happening can only be described as an exuberant expression of gay and lesbian out-of-the-closet joy.
Traditionally, the procession starts with Dykes on Bikes, a lesbian motorcycle contingent. Floats abound with plenty of well-built young men and booming music. Stilt walkers and groups of political activists carrying signs are part of the mix.
Feel free to aim your camera at drag queens in stiletto heels as well as kids of gay couples in baby strollers.
The Civic Center finale amounts to a street party. Each year, the current political climate energizes the parade. For example, the year gays could be legally married there were a lot of couples in wedding garments.
If You Go:
Address: Ends at Civic Center, San Francisco, CA 94102
The Vista Point at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see stop for many. There is so much to consider.
You can walk out on the Bridge and glance back at San Francisco. You can bicycle across the Bridge all the way to Sausalito and return to Fisherman’s Wharf by ferry, using a bike rented at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Your Best Shot: The Golden Gate Bridge may be the most photographed structure on the planet. When you’re on the Bridge, its upright structure calls for a vertical. If you back away a little, both towers can be squeezed into a horizontal. Rare is the traveler who does not want at least of few shots of himself or herself in close proximity to the Bridge, a man-made wonder.
At the Vista Point, glance down and observe Fort Point, a brick fort from the Civil War period. Look east from Vista Point to observe magnificent Crissy Field, a bracing walk available to you via a connecting trail from the Vista Point.
Savor at Vista Point a stature of Robert Strauss, the engineer who built the Bridge. The National Park Service maintains here an interpretive store and gift shop, called the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center.
If You Go:
Area: Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio
Address: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA 94129
Aside from this ebook/app, I publish other books/ebooks about San Francisco and Northern California. One is titled The Photographer’s Guide to San Francisco. My main book/ebook on Northern California is Northern California Travel: The Best Options. Those volumes, including some more on California, can be seen on my Amazon Author Page. My further books on Northern California are Back Roads California and Northern California History Weekends. One of my California books, Northern California Travel: The Best Options, is now available as an ebook in Chinese.