Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Walk for Shoppers

One of the favorite pastimes of visitors to San Francisco is shopping. Here's a walking route that combines two of the City's premier shopping districts, a breathtaking view, a house made famous by a Robin Williams movie, a bit of a workout, and a chance to lunch at a tasty, neighborhood restaurant.

Start your walk at the corner of Geary Blvd. and Fillmore Street. You can get here from Union Square by taxi or by taking the 38 Geary bus on Market Street. Before you start your walk, note the Fillmore Auditorium on the southwest corner of the intersection. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and other greats of rock and roll played here during the venue's heyday in the late 1960s. On the northwest corner, you'll see the Boom Boom Room, once owned by the famed bluesman John Lee Hooker. On the northeast corner are the Sundance Cinemas and Japan Center, which is home to Japanese stores and restaurants, as well as Kabuki Springs and Spa, where you can get a massage.

Now begin your walk by heading up the hill on Fillmore Street. You'll pass many boutiques, coffee houses, and restaurants. You can see a good listing on www.fillmoreshop.com. If you want to have lunch while strolling along Fillmore, try Pizzeria Delfina at 2406 California Street for great, thin-crust pizza. It's my favorite pizza in San Francisco.

The shopping district on Fillmore Street ends at Jackson Street. Walk two more blocks up Fillmore to Broadway for a great view of the Bay. Turn left on Broadway and walk down the hill to Steiner Street. On the southeast corner of Steiner and Broadway is Mrs. Doubtfire's house. This is the home where Robin Williams and Sally Fields lived in the film, "Mrs. Doubtfire."

Then turn right on Steiner and walk three blocks. You'll now be at the corner of Steiner and Union Streets and at the western end of the Union Street shopping district. Rose's Cafe on the northeast corner has good sandwiches, paninis, salads, and pizzas, and is a good lunch spot. Turn right on Union and you can begin strolling among more upscale shops, restaurants, and cafes. A good listing of shops is available at www.unionstreetshop.com. The commercial district ends at Union and Gough, where you will see the Octagon House on the southwest corner. This museum was formerly a home with eight sides. To return to the Union Square area, hop the 45 Union-Stockton bus.

Don't try doing this walk in reverse as you will find yourself walking up a very steep section of Fillmore or Steiner Street. If you would like to take a private San Francisco tour that includes visits to Fillmore and Union Streets, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or at Rick@BlueHeronTours.com.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Inner Mission - Shopping

While you're strolling through the Inner Mission, you'll pass a number of interesting shops. My favorite is 826 Valencia, which claims to be "San Francisco's only independent pirate supply store." After all, who wants to shop at a chain pirate store. Actually, the pirate store is part of a program to help children improve their writing and to encourage teachers to get children excited about writing.

Next door to 826 Valencia is Paxton Gate, an interesting garden store. Just up the street at 766 Valencia is the newer Paxton Gate's Curiosities for Kids.

Independently owned bookshops are an increasing rarity. However, three call Valencia Street home: Borderlands Books at 866, which specializes in science fiction, horror, and fantasy books; Modern Times, a progressive bookstore, at 888, and Dog Eared Books, an eclectic bookstore that reflects the neighborhood, at 900. In addition, Adobe Books, which sells both new and used books is nearby at 3166 16th Street,.

Good Vibrations, the legendary sex toy store, is at 603 Valencia Street.

The area is home to a good number of art galleries. One of my favorites is the City Art Gallery at 828 Valencia.

There are many other interesting shops to stroll in and out of. So take BART to the 16th Street Station. Walk west on 16th Street, south on Guerrero, east on 18th Street, and then north on Valencia Street. You can also walk further west to Dolores Street if you want to visit Mission Dolores or Dolores Park. You can easily spend a half day, if not a full day, wondering around the Inner Mission.

If you would like to take a private San Francisco tour that includes a visit to the Inner Mission, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 or Rick@BlueHeronTours.com.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Inner Mission - Food

I recently wrote about some of the sights in the Inner Mission, one of San Francisco's vibrant neighborhoods. If you're a foody, you'll certainly want to head to the Inner Mission to sample some great food.

You could spend your entire visit eating on the block of 18th Street between Guerrero and Dolores Streets where you'll find Delfina Restaurant, Delfina Pizzeria, Bi-Rite Market, Bi-Rite Creamery, and Tartine Bakery. Delfina Restaurant is one of the best Italian restaurants in San Francisco. The Pizzeria has terrific, thin-crust pizza. Unfortunately, there's almost always a wait to get into the Pizzeria. Bi-Rite Market is home to more gourmet food products per square foot than just about anyplace on earth. The Creamery makes small lots of oh-so-tasty ice cream. Tartine produces some of San Francisco's best pastries. Here too, there is usually a line, and seating is limited.

Range is a small restaurant on Valencia Street producing some of the city's best American food. Little Star Pizza is another great spot for thin-crust pizza. Want to watch on old flick with your dinner? If so, visit Foreign Cinema on Mission Street. Never enjoyed south Indian cuisine? Try Dosa. The neighborhood is full of Taquerias and other small, ethnic places featuring food from Mexico, Central America, India and Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and China. Lastly, there's a coffee shop every 100 yards. For a local roast, try Ritual Coffee Roasters at 1026 Valencia Street.

If you'd like to take a private San Francisco tour that includes a visit to the Inner Mission, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or at Rick@BlueHeronTours.com.