The next morning, The Mann went shooting and then we set out to find breakfast. I had found Pat’s Cafe on trip advisor and loved its colorful exterior. It was a short walk from the hotel and near where we needed to be next so off we went. It was THE BEST BREAKFAST I’ve ever had. I rarely get French Toast, but wanted something warm and comforting and different and I’m so happy I did. It was made with some type of magic bread and served with eggs, bacon and watermelon (and mimosas). SO GOOD!! I couldn’t tell you what the Mann had because I was so obsessed with my dish (I have since been informed that it was Huevos Rancheros).
Happy, full and a little tipsy, we walked around a bit, checked out murals in the area and met our new friend, Pearl, of Painted Ladies Tour Company, another trip advisor find.
We were greeted by Josh, the owner of the company and his new driver, Abby. We immediately hit it off. Painted Ladies is a tiny, owner-operated business. No huge busses, no microphones or follow-the-leader flags. Just cool people with tons of great knowledge about the history and facts of SF. We chatted while we drove over to pick up the other group that would be touring the city with us. Oh, the best part: Pearl! Pearl is a ’68 VW van with gorgeous eyelashes. People would smile as we drove by. When we got out to explore, we’d come back to tourists posing and taking photos with her!
The tour lasted 3 hours and we covered a lot of ground: Union Square, The Mission, The Castro, Haight-Ashbury, Presidio, Painted Ladies (aka the street from the opening of Full House), a touch of the Tenderloin, Palace of Fine Arts, Lombard Street, Twin Peaks, Lucas Films, the gorgeous mural at the Women’s Building and I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting. Josh knows the city like the back of his hand and Abby handled the VW bus like a boss (the hills of SF can be tricky for a brand new car with all the bells and whistles, Abby was dealing with a ’68 manual transmission, no power steering, no power breaks and had to negotiate traffic while interacting with us: impressive!). We were able to get out of the bus a bunch of times to explore and take photos. To top it all off, there was beer. Painted Ladies also offers extended SF tours that include Sausalito and just added wine country tours to their offering. Check them out, you won’t be disappointed!
Sadly, the tour ended and we had a few hours before the red-eye flight home. We walked around a bit more and then decided to go back to some of the places we touched on during our time with Painted Ladies. Josh had told us about the infamous Mission Burritos, so we started at La Taqueria. The line was out the door so, with regrets, we passed on the experience, but will make it a priority for our next trip. In the meantime, we’ll get out burrito fix at Anna’s in Brookline which is said to be modeled on SF’s Mission Burrito joints.
We spent a while walking around the Mission, especially in Clarion Alley, a socially themed mural project. We loved that there were so many murals all over the city. Some are political, some are angry, some are happy, and almost all are quite beautiful and moving. We’d love to see more of them around Boston.
We also popped over to the Castro, to check out Hot Cookie, a bakery that also sells signature underwear. We heard that if you wear just their underwear you get your cookie for free and loved the novelty and fun of the concept. And that spirit reigns supreme in the Castro, one of the oldest gay neighborhoods in the country. The manicure place is called Hand Job, there are plenty of sex and fetish shops and museums (one with Barbie orgy sculptures in the windows-awesome!) and there was a general atmosphere of pride, openness, freedom, acceptance and beautiful shamelessness that I wanted to be in forever and have tried to carry with me.
We drove up and down the hills of San Francisco (the steepest being Filber Street at a 31% grade… meaning you can’t see the road directly in front of you and the street has steps cut into it for pedestrians) just checking out the various neighborhoods. I am somewhat fascinated with the Tenderloin, the city’s run-down downtown area, and we found ourselves touching the edges throughout our drive (yes, I was the navigator). San Francisco has more social services than I’ve noticed in other cities and the visibility of homelessness, drug addiction, mental illness and the services that exist to help the people affected by these issues inspired me to think more broadly about my place in the world.
And just like that, it was time to head for the airport. Our overall impression of San Francisco is that it is a laid-back version of NYC. The hills are impressive, the fog is a presence, the proximity of massive green space is enviable and the personalities of the neighborhoods are wonderfully varied. We’ll be back, until then…