All posts tagged san francisco

  • tour san francisco: walking tours

    During our last months in San Francisco, we made a point to do something new every weekend. We didn’t want to leave San Francisco telling each other, “I wish we would’ve done [x]…” We went whale watching, hiking in Land’s End, ate at various restaurants, visited museums, and went on a series of walking tours. I always assumed that walking tours were rather corny, but once I took one in my own neighborhood, I got hooked and signed up for three more.

    The prices listed below are the full charge prices, check Yelp, Groupon, and Groupon-esque clones for discounts. I didn’t pay full price for any of the tours.

    FYI: if you’ve never been on a walking tour before, most guides will accept tips at the end of the tour. Cory and I rarely carry cash and it took us a couple times to remember to have some extra money on hand.

    haunted haight

    Haunted Haight walking tour – $25 // official site // Yelp – As a kid, I surrounded myself with ghosts. Living in an old house, every unexplainable creak and crack were the spirits of the house’s former residents. I was an only and sometimes lonely child, and would weave together elaborate stories in my head about all the ghosts in the house… and scare myself with them. When I moved out of my parents’ house, the ghosts didn’t follow me and every rational part of me no longer believes in ghosts, an afterlife, or the paranormal. But I still love scary stories and have been known to waste entire evenings reading creepypasta.

    When I discovered that there was a haunted tour in my very own neighborhood, I jumped on it immediately. The tour guide is Tommy Netzband, the president of the San Francisco Ghost Society. He’s a charming and affable Chicago-native, who truly loves San Francisco and the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. The tour starts at 8 pm every Saturday, rain or shine. Regardless of what you heard Eric Burdon say in that one song, bring a thermos full of hot cocoa or tea. It’s going to be chilly. The tour lasts about 2 1/2 and really flies by.

    Touring my own neighborhood was such a treat. I never knew that I passed Jim Jones’ former residence on a weekly basis on my way to get groceries. Besides tales of the paranormal (which are always backed up by as much historical information as Tommy has been able to gather), the tour includes lots of information about the history of the Haight Ashbury neighborhood and architecture. Once the guide discovered we were locals, he was quick to divulge more secrets of our neighborhood’s past. I regret that we hadn’t taken the tour sooner, I would have loved to shared certain stories and landmarks with family members who had visited us over the years.

    I didn’t manage to take any decent photos during the tour, but Tommy did mention the two places pictured above — the Mission Dolores Church and Cemetery, the oldest building in San Francisco and the Columbarium, the largest repository of human ashes in the city. We ended up visiting both places a couple weeks later… on my birthday. It turns out I’m still a 15 year old goth at heart.

    victorian homewalk

    Victorian home walk tour – $20 // official site // Yelp – Do you know what a Queen Anne is? Or an Edwardian shoebox? I didn’t and it turns out I lived in an Edwardian shoebox. Our tour guide was Jay, a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan (the little town we currently call home!), who moved to San Francisco in the 70s. He purchased and restored a Victorian home of his own in the 80s and started the Victorian Home Walk tour in the 90s to share his love and knowledge of local architecture to others.

    For me, the highlights of the tour included a walk through of the Queen Anne Hotel, located in Lower Pacific Heights. The hotel is a former finishing school, and is of course said to be haunted. I was considering staying there for our wedding night, but ended up choosing another boutique hotel, so I was really glad to have seen it in person. Other highlights were information and remaining relics of the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair. Oh, and at the end of the tour you get a couple fridge magnets. Hell yes they’re on my fridge!

    Before the tour began, a man dressed in strange period clothing approached our tour guide and chatted with him a bit. I assumed he was just some colorful eccentric, but he was actually the tour guide of the Emperor Norton Fantastic Time Machine, a walking tour we took a couple weeks later. Oops. I’m glad he approached Jay, otherwise I might not have heard of the Emperor Norton tour.

    emperor norton walking tour

    Emperor Norton’s Fantastic Time Machine – $20 // official site // Yelp – If you live in San Francisco or you’re at all familiar with San Francisco history, then you most likely know who Emperor Norton is, the failed businessman turned beloved eccentric. The tour is led by the Emperor himself and highlights various landmarks (the birthplace of the city, the former red light district, the Barbary Coast, remaining remnants of the great fire/earthquake of 1906, etc) and notorious figures from San Francisco history, including Lotta Crabtree and the gift she left to her beloved city, Lola Montez and her erotic Spider Dance, and of course lots of information about the Emperor himself.

    The tour spans a lot of walking ground – Union Square, Financial District, SoMa, North Beach, and Chinatown. My favorite part of the tour was the excursion into the Palace Hotel, which I had walked by hundreds of times on my way to and from work. It’s such an unassuming place on the outside, and from the looks of it you wouldn’t have ever guessed that it had a bit of a macabre past and an absolutely beautiful tea room (pictured above). I was so taken with the tea room, I ended up having afternoon tea there a few weeks later with some friends. Not sure if I’ll ever pay $50 for tea and scones again, but having an old money San Francisco experience was a lot of fun.

    The weekend we went on our tour was a very memorable one for our guide, it was his last week at his day job and he was taking on his walking tours full time. Emperor Norton mentioned he had another tour in the works, set in Alamo Square. If you’re not really familiar with that area, that’s where the “Full House” houses are located. I do hope we’re able to take that tour someday and I certainly hope part of it includes a tour of the Chateau Tivoli, the bed and breakfast where Cory and I spent our wedding night. We stayed in the Luisa Tetrazzini suite, named after the opera singer who would frequent the hotel and was mentioned frequently during the tour.

    haunted chinatown

    Haunted Chinatown tour – $48 // official site // Yelp – Chinatown is not my favorite neighborhood. Besides going there for the occasional cheap eats during lunch hours, Chinatown was always low on my list of destinations – it’s crowded, full of kitschy shops that sell the same things, and catching a crowded a bus home is an ordeal in itself. I always wanted to like Chinatown more than I actually did and the walking tour helped give me a new appreciation for the neighborhood. The tour starts at the Four Seas restaurant. Sadly, I’ve forgotten our tour guide’s name but the tour was very personal for her, relaying several stories from her family’s past.

    Some of the highlights and information in this tour had already been included in the Emperor Norton tour and more time was spent talking about Hollywood films than I thought necessary. It was still a really entertaining tour, though. Not only did it cover local paranormal legends, but history about the 1906 earthquake, history of Chinese immigration, information about underground tunnels, and feng shui.

  • i got married!

    Paper flower bouquet and boutonniere by Floral Loft in San Francisco

    On April 2nd, I married the love of my life! We purposefully kept things quiet. We married on a Tuesday, but only told our parents the Saturday before. They were all incredibly excited (and secretly wondering when we’d be getting married anyway!), but my dad was so excited he booked a last minute flight to San Francisco to spend the day with us. Neither of us wanted a big wedding, so we went to the beautiful San Francisco City Hall to make it legal. It was just my dad and two of our friends in attendance. Our friends, Maggie and Josh, were kind enough to spend the day as our paparazzi. They ended up taking 1,700 photos for us and video of the ceremony itself, which our parents will certainly appreciate.

    San Francisco City Hall Wedding

    San Francisco City Hall Wedding

    Ice Cream Bar, San Francisco

    After the ceremony at City Hall, we shared champagne and lunch at Cafe Zuni, which was followed by old timey sugar-filled goodness at The Ice Cream Bar. Dinner was devoured at a neighborhood favorite, Nopa. Cory and I then spent the night at Chateau Tivoli, a wonderfully creepy Victorian mansion converted into a bed & breakfast. We stayed in the Luisa Tetrazzini suite, named after the 19th century opera singer who frequented the mansion. The bed we slept on once belonged to Charles de Gaulle. Weird, but cool! We had an absolute blast, and were very thankful that our friends and my dad could share our special day with us.

    Chateau Tivoli, Luisa Tetrazzini Suite

    I’ve managed to dwindle down the 1,700 photos to 286. That’s still a lot, but feel free to take a look at the album on Flickr. Although our wedding was a very small affair, we still did a fair amount of planning. Here’s a breakdown of many of the details that went into our wedding day. I highly recommend everything, especially the paper flower boutonniere and paper flower bouquet from the Floral Loft and Susie Chhuour’s make up and hair wizardry.

    Paper flower bouquet – The Floral Loft
    Paper boutonniere – The Floral Loft
    Suit – Banana Republic
    Wedding dress – Dolly Couture
    Dinner dress – Anthropologie
    Mustard kitten heels – ModCoth
    Pearl necklace – Ruche
    Gold leaf bobby pins – Etsy
    Hair and makeup – Susie Chhuour

    Zuni Cafe – I love snobby pizzas.
    The Ice Cream Bar – everything is good. Bring a camera for excellent photo ops.
    Nopa – book reservations at least a week in advance.
    Sweet Maple – morning after breakfast. Get the deep fried french toast and millionaire’s bacon.

    Chateau Tivoli

  • a birthday surprise

    I’m a notoriously bad surprise spoiler and secret keeper. That being said, I have no idea how I managed to scheme behind Cory’s back for months, all for the biggest birthday surprise of his life.

    It all started with a fanciful daydream back in February, “what if I flew out Cory’s parents and brothers to San Francisco for his birthday?”. I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind, so I asked Cory’s brother Casey what he thought. Casey loved the idea and got his parents on board, too. Before I knew it, plane tickets had been purchased, hotel rooms were being booked, and I had already planned out a daily itinerary.

    On the eve of Cory’s birthday, we left work together as usual. When we arrived home, his parents and brother were hiding in our kitchen. Cory was absolutely stunned when he saw his family. After Cory’s initial shock came the questions, “how long are you all here? We have to think of plans of what we’re going to do!” (don’t worry, check out my itinerary), “what about my work? I have to tell my boss!” (don’t worry, I already told him you’re taking days off a month ago), and “how the hell did my parents get into our apartment?” (don’t worry, they didn’t break in! I had copies of our keys made and sent them to your mom). When I tried to tell Cory the hints I’d been dropping him for months about the visit, he hadn’t picked up on any of them. Shiii-et, I could get away with murder.

    His family was here for about five or so days, and I think it’s safe to say that it was the best birthday Cory has ever had. The trip was filled with fun and food, and if you’re into looking at other family’s vacation photos, lucky you! There’s a Flickr album waiting for you.

    Also, if you’re in San Francisco and you have family visiting OR if you’re visiting San Francisco, I highly recommend buying CityPasses if you intend on doing anything touristy. It’s $69 bucks – which includes admission to the California Academy of Sciences (my favorite place to take visitors!), SF MoMA, Aquarium of the Bay, a 1 hour boat tour that takes you under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz, and unlimited use of public transportation (this includes Cable Cars. Cable Car fare is $6 a pop if you’re a tourist, so don’t be a sucker).

  • turning 27: gluttonous birthday escapades

    My 27th birthday was last week, and for me that was an excuse to embark on a week of gluttonous escapades. A couple days before my actual birthday, Cory was going to surprise me with something. Unfortunately, I guessed what it was pretty quickly once he gave me a hint:

    “Look deep into your heart and you’ll know the answer.”

    “You’re gonna buy me a CINNAMON BUN!”

    It was an easy guess. When we were shopping for groceries, I was gazing longingly at the cinnamon buns next to the checkout. Once we arrived home, Cory was yelping it up and wouldn’t tell me what he was looking at. Turns out, he was indeed on a quest for the finest cinnamon bun in San Francisco.

    So we went to Jane on Fillmore. We walked the nearly two miles there, partly because San Francisco public transit sucks and partly because it made me feel better about eating a cinnamon bun larger than my face. There were only three cinnamon buns left when we arrived and I ordered two (one to go). The guy behind the counter gave me an “are you sure?” look when I ordered two. Hell yeah, I was sure! I figured if I’m going to eat one of the best cinnamon buns SF has to offer, I may as well OD on one.

    See this photo? Those are the cinnamon buns in the back, blanketed with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. Heaven. Cinnamon buns aren’t a part of my weekly or monthly diet, so of course it was the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had.

    For some strange reason, I also ordered a bowl of their homemade granola with yogurt and fruit. I’m sure it was delicious. By the time it made it to our table, I was already in a cinnamon bun heaven and ready to unbutton my pants. I managed to soldier on and finish much of the fruit bowl out of guilt, but my taste buds were numb after the cinnamon bun sugar explosion.

    On the actual day of my birthday, we went to Brenda’s French Soul Food for breakfast (beignets! chicory coffee! watermelon tea!) and Farmerbrown for dinner (fried chicken! mac ‘n cheese! kale! mint julep!). Between meals, we boarded a cable car on Van Ness and California to Nob Hill.

    It was my first time on a cable car – and yes, I’ve lived here for over three years now!

    We spent much of the afternoon scoping out Nob Hill, a neighborhood where the rich elite built their mansions in the 19th century. It’s still pretty ritzy, and it’s the neighborhood Cory and I want to move to this fall. I very much fancy the idea of living in “old San Francisco”, walking to work, being close to Chinatown (cheap produce), and being within short walking distance to the Tenderloin (a neighborhood with a bad reputation, but home to my favorite restaurants).

    I’ve been monitoring apartment listings like a hawk, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to find a quaint little place (we don’t need more than 500 sq feet) within our budget that allows dogs. Our future dog is going to have a blast sniffing and pooping in Huntington Park. Next step? Telling our current landlord we plan on leaving, and making the move a reality…