Monday, March 31, 2008

Did I leave my heart in San Francisco?

I sit listening to the song by Tony Bennett entitled"I Left My Heart In San Francisco" searching for inspiration to describe my sentiments on the "city by the bay". I found San Francisco to be another busy city with people’s aim to get here and there. While not completely smitten by the city, I found pleasure in the surrounding areas. I solicited advice from friends before leaving on my trip so that I could be “in the know” about Frisco's hotspots. That was one of the wisest things that I could have done. Along with my Insight Guide book on San Francisco I sought out to enjoy what some have called a romantic city.

I enjoyed the obvious tourist sights such as Union Square, Golden Gate Bridge, North Beach and the like. I also challenged myself to find my own special interests apart from what I’ve been told. Here is a look at what I enjoyed.

Sausalito – I enjoyed the beach town of Sausalito and found it to be tranquil and charming. It is just far enough away from the city to be in another world. A slower pace and less crowded, Sausalito has mom-and-pop-owned restaurants (although disturbingly there is a Starbucks) and shops. We took advice from friends and hit the restaurant simply named “Hamburgers”. We ordered a cheeseburger, which is served with cheese from Finland. This hamburger was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. No trip to Sausalito can be complete without a stop at this burger joint. The line was out the door but orders came fast. This burger alone made the town of Sausalito a winner with us.

Golden Gate Park – Seeking more refuge from the busy city we sought out quiet spots in the Golden Gate Park. We walked around small ponds and took advantage of the photo opportunities in the Japanese Gardens. Since we thrive on beautiful parks and botanical gardens our day in the park was a Frisco highlight.

Cable Cars – Our first experience on a cable car came near the end of our trip. I am glad that we saved something that we had been in anticipation of for the end of our vacation. Jumping onto a crowded cable car and holding onto the side railing was one of the moments where we were able to appreciate and enjoy the character and history of this crowded city. Going up and down the steep hills of Frisco on this unique form of transit is one of the most exhilarating of ways to view the city.

Dining Out – One can spend years trying to visit all the restaurants and cafes in Frisco. There are a few restaurants that stand out in our mind as being the type of dining experience that you would expect in San Francisco.

400 Dewey Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94116

You will feel like you just walked into a Paris café when you enter Chouchou, with a twist of San Francisco sophistication that is. You will be greeted by a former Parisian in the typical French fashion, with a kiss on both cheeks. The menu has your appetite holding its breath until the food arrives at your table. All the senses are touched at Chouchou. We started with a spinach asparagus soup puree and a cheese plate. Holding on for the main course I had the Grilled Angus Flank Steak. Other guests in our party had the Baked Vegetarian Manicotti “Provencale” and the Duck Leg Confit. Each dinner was delicious-as we all tasted each others dinner. I would definitely return to this petite trendy restaurant, it satisfies both your craving for gourmet food and for France.

Panta Rei
431 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133

This ultra chic Italian restaurant in North Beach is the place to be seen at night. We however opted for a quiet lunch. We loved our dish, penne pasta filled with gorgonzola in a tomato sauce and fresh basil. Mama Mia! The service was quick and friendly with a little bit of Italian warmth.
The Crepe House
429 Gough Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

With three locations in Frisco it’s hard to miss the Crepe House. It is warm and cozy with a relaxing atmosphere and great prices. The Crepe House offers plenty of choices besides crepes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were directed here by frequent visitors to the bay area and were pleased to enjoy yet another quaint café. The portions were generous and tasty.

Understanding San Francisco
After contemplating my first experience in San Francisco I’ve reached the conclusion that it is a truly unique city among those in California. It differs greatly from Los Angeles, Monterey, San Diego and other beach cities in California.I enjoyed the diversity of Frisco and the endless dining options. I took in with ease my bay view from my hotel room. While I wasn’t inspired to poetry I am happy to have seen a part of California I have never seen before.

I confess that San Francisco did not steal my heart (apologies to Tony Bennett). My heart still belongs to Europe and more specifically France.What can I say? Enjoying a view, eating great food and exploring an unknown city is just another day in a European style life.

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