Sara Godwin

Posts Tagged ‘Valencia Street’

The Insider’s San Francisco …

In Antiques, Baby Boomers, Grandparent, hummingbirds, Kids, Luxury, Parent, San Francisco, Travel, Women's Travel on April 23, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Take an extra day or two before and after your business trip and explore San Francisco, referred to by locals as ‘The City’ as though there were no other. And there isn’t, at least, not another city like San Francisco.  Here’s a collection of (mostly) free stuff to do that you really shouldn’t miss.

 

Wave Organ • The Wave Organ, a natural acoustic experience listening to the sound of San Francisco Bay, is located at the east end of the Marina jetty at San Francisco Marina behind the St.Francis Yacht Club. Built like a hobbit house with benches, the Wave Organ has quirky little nooks and crannies for listening to the sound of the water swirling in and out of   variously shaped pipes, pianissimo or allegro, echoed or amplified. Rhythmic, soothing, it’s a lovely place to just sit in the sun and let the seagulls provide the counter-point. It’s best at high tide, but barring that, try for sunset and watch the sun disappear into the Pacific Ocean behind the Golden Gate Bridge.

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• South Park was the first park in San Francisco. Tucked between Second and Third Streets, not far from AT&T Park, it was originally developed in 1855 as a private park by George Gordon, a British sugar magnate, who envisioned it surrounded by the finest mansions  in San Francisco.  The park itself was accessible only by key, very much like Gramercy Park in New York City.  On April 18, 1906, those magnificent mansions were destroyed when the earthquake,  known locally as ‘the Big One’, struck San Francisco.  Over the next 150 years the park itself had its ups and downs, at one point featuring a bonfire that burned for 40 years, and later as the beating heart of the Dot.com boom and bust.

The entire park underwent a massive renovation in 2017, with new trees, new turf, and new architecturally innovative play equipment,  as well as new benches and picnic tables, all funded by the neighbors.  A small urban island of spreading trees, bright flowers, green grass, and sunny seating, filled with children playing and people walking dogs of every shape and size, South Park is reminiscent of the jewel-like parks that contribute so much to the charm of  Parisian neighborhoods.

It was featured at the end of  Woody Allen’s ‘Blue Jasmine’  in the scene where Cate Blanchett as Jasmine quietly divorces reality by planning which designer dress to wear at a wedding to which she knows she will not be invited. The bench she sat on was at the end of the park closest to Second Street, across from the Mexico Au Parc restaurant.

• Budget time for great budget shopping at San Francisco’s best insider shopping destinations: Both of the best consignment shops are within a block of each other. One is Goodbyes (actually two shops across the street from each other) at 3464 Sacramento Street in Presidio Heights which features both mens and womens upscale clothes and accessories. You’ll find popular brands (Gap, J.Crew, Eileen Fisher, Laundry ), American designers (Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Michael Kors), and the serious stuff: Chanel, Dior, YSL, and Armani as well as a wild variety of boots and shoes.  The vintage selections include designer purses, capes, coats, and furs.

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The other outstanding consignment shop is Designer Consigner, less than a block away in their new digs at 3548 Sacramento Street.  The focus is all women’s, the selection is decidedly upscale, and the prices are unreasonably reasonable.  Designer jeans? Check.  Superb slacks, skirts and sweaters? Check. Ball gowns? Check. Mouthwatering shoes? Yes, absolutely.  Costume jewelry to die for at prices you won’t believe? Yes, and yes again.  And then there are the purses, in every color, size, shape, and high-end design you’ve ever lusted after.   It might be wise to fold an empty duffle bag into your suitcase, just in anticipation.  If you go nowhere else in San Francisco, go here.

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Seriously, these two shops are better than any consignment shops I’ve found in either New York or Paris, both in selection and price.

(Photo credit: Charles D. James)

• Want more shopping?   Uniquely original shops  featuring everything from clothes to home furnishings, from antiques to boutiques, from sidewalk cafes to busy restaurants are found on Fillmore Street. Walk either direction from Sacramento and Fillmore. Union Street between Gough and Divisidero Streets is chock-full of art galleries, interior design shops, luxury day spas, and great local hangouts like Perry’s (1944 Union Street; 415/922-9022) or the Balboa Café (3199 Fillmore at Greenwich; 415/921-3944).

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Do a bit of time travel at  the 1861 Octagon House at  2645 Gough Street at Union Street  (415/441-7512). It’s only open on second Sundays, and second and third Thursdays of the month, from 12:noon to 3:pm, and the house is furnished in period antiques.  Don’t miss the charming park-like garden just behind the Octagon House;  It’s a great place to spot hummingbirds when the fuchsias are in bloom.

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• So far, you  haven’t hit a single mall, chain, or department store. For those, try Union Square, on Post and Geary Streets between Powell and Mason. Make it an authentically San Francisco experience by wandering down Maiden Lane on the east side of Union Square. Check out  the only Frank Lloyd Wright building in San Francisco at 140 Maiden Lane for a uniquely dramatic take on how commercial space should be designed.

• Just a couple of blocks off Union Square is a treasure house of rare books: Antiquarian book dealer Robert D. Haines, Jr.’s bookshop, Argonaut (786 Sutter Street between Bush and Jones). Argonaut houses a superb collection rare books, maps, and ephemera of San Francisco and early California.

Neat note: Argonaut was the inspiration for the bookstore in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’; as Hitchcock himself put it, “This is what a bookshop should be.” Give yourself ample time to browse; once you’re there, it’s hard to tear yourself away.

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• The hottest spot in town  is Valencia Street in the Mission District. It’s a wild and wonderful mix of hot new eateries, pop-up stores, funky second-hand shops (one of which shares space with a bike rental shop called Public), traditional Hispanic markets with outdoor produce displays featuring tropical fruits and vegetables , and the best hot chocolate place on the planet. Go to Dandelion (740 Valencia;415/349-0942), on Valencia at 18th Street, and order the European hot chocolate.   

It’s a mouthful of ecstasy. Serious chocolate occurs in other forms as well, but the European hot chocolate qualifies as an epicurean epiphany. (Photo credit:  M. DeCoudreaux)

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• At the opposite end of Valencia is STUFF (up toward Market Street, at 150 Valencia Street; 415/864-2988), a huge antiques collective with three stories of, well, stuff, from mid-century furniture to name designer costume jewelry to Japanese fishing net floats to stainless steel plated custom office furniture to architectural artifacts, and this description barely scratches the surface. They always have coffee, and often have cookies or cake free for the nibbling. STUFF Jewelry

 

Speaking of eating, San Francisco has some of this country’s best food, bar none. The James Beard Foundation named Chef Charles Phan’s Slanted Door Restaurant at the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street the best restaurant in America.

Use OpenTable.com (http://www.OpenTable.com) to book your table well in advance of arrival; reservations are notoriously hard to score.

For a local neighborhood feel, hit the 102-year-old landmark Swan Oyster Depot at 1517 Polk Street (Open 8:am – 5:30pm; 415/673 – 2757) on Russian Hill. Swan’s offers every type of oyster known to man as well as San Francisco’s native Dungeness crab, shrimp, and a superb clam chowder. Go early: There are only 20 stools at the bar. Lunchtime almost always has a line out the door, but it moves quickly.

• After decades at the corner of Valencia and Market Street, the immense art supplies shop called Flax (415/552-2355) has moved into space at Fort Mason. If you love paper, notebooks, journals, diaries, Filofax, Moleskine, sketch books, water colors, fountain pens, great pencils, and all the other tools and accoutrements of putting your heart on paper, you will fall hopelessly, helplessly in love at Flax. Click on the link for  their website at www.flaxart.com to see the scale of their offerings. If you’re smart,  you’ll take along two friends:  One  to hold your wallet, and the other to carry a crow bar to pry you out of there at closing time.

The visitors bonus they never even mention? The Fort Mason location offers glorious views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and a very good chance to spot sea lions and harbor seals, not to mention seagulls and pelicans.  Just steps away from Flax, dine at Greens, the nationally recognized vegetarian restaurant. With a seat by the window, you can watch  yachts maneuver in and out of the San Francisco Marina, and massive container ships putting out to sea.

You are going to love discovering San Francisco!

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