Crushing on San Fran [Gal About Town: Fashion and Travel at Your Fingertips]

This week continues the detailing of my love affair with San Francisco. Every time I visit the Bay, I discover something new that I love, and always leave with the want to explore even more. In this blog I’ll tell you about the Palace of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Birthday celebration, and (for all you book geeks) the semi-secret Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour.

Since my husband watched The Rock for the first time, he’d always wanted to visit Alcatraz and the Palace of the Fine Arts. We’d covered thee Rock on our first trip to San Fran, and were never able to make it  to the Palace on subsequent trips. This time, the Golden Gate Bridge festivities were so close to it, we made certain to check it out. San Fran is an architectural gem. It has a mix of every architectural fad in the last 150 years. And then there’s the Palace of Fine Arts. It was designed in the “Beaux-Arts” fashion by Bernard Maybeck and William Gladstone Merchant. It was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition, preserved by the Hearst family, and then mostly demolished and rebuilt to be more structurally sound in the 1960’s.

Today it’s a beautiful park, with even more beautiful architectural structures that can be enjoyed by all. If I lived in San Fran, I can definitely see myself going to the Palace to read scripts, design costumes, or have a romantic picnic. Basically, it would be one of my “zen” places. It had the perfect amount of people in it (not too many, not too little, but just right) and it had wildlife. Ducks, birds, swans, turtles, etc; there was enough wildlife to keep you happily entertained by their antics. As for the indoor structure itself, the theatre can be rented out for events. For the atmosphere you get (and having paid for a wedding within the last two years) it has competitive pricing. Many graduations, seminars, and performances are held here. With the pond, architecture, and views of the bay and bridge, you can’t go wrong. I could see myself easily spending a whole day here just chilling. And if you forget your snacks, just head down Chestnut St. for some cute, and well stocked, neighborhood grocery stores. The bottom line: there isn’t technically a lot to do at the Palace, but you can easily relax the day away reading and eating by the pond.

Being from a city that has a plethora of great bridges and fireworks, when I learned about the Golden Gate Bridge 75th birthday festival (closely coinciding with my birthday), I had to go. Fireworks have become so synonymous with celebrations to us that my husband and I got married on a day when there are sure to be fireworks, July 4th. I’m also quite the snob when it comes to the sparklers, but as long as there is enough “twinkle and spark”, I can be won over. To say I was beyond excited for the Golden Gate fireworks was an understatement. I was as downright giddy as a little girl getting a pony. Just to appreciate the moment, and the city, I made us trek from our hotel in SoMa, down to the bay. We made a wonderfully yummy stop at Ghirardelli Sq. for wine (me) and a sundae (JP). We then hit up the festival at the Marina Greens. They had a great array of food trucks/booths, lots of free swag, and different bands performing. But….we both felt it might be a little too far away, and since we were going to check out the Palace of Fine Arts anyway, we decided to check out Crissy Fields Park. Honestly, we found the best spot, another “not too far, not too close, but just right” spot on the Golden Gate Promenade. The music was a very fun and eclectic ode to the Bay and Bridge. The fireworks display began with, literally, a waterfall of fireworks coming off the bay bridge. It was breathtaking. It was a good 20+ minutes of “oohs and ahhs”, and I was definitely impressed. I’ve seen fireworks around the world, and this display was in my top 10. Fireworks were launched both from the bridge as well as other ships around the bay. Based on this display, I would plan another trip to San Fran around fireworks. For a taste of what it was like, check out THIS YOUTUBE VIDEO. (PS- there are other festivities going on all year!)

On our first night in San Fran, JP & I decided to take a walk around SoMa and Downtown and just stumble upon where we would eat dinner. This usually works out well for us, and this time it was an extra special treat. We came across John’s Grill, made famous in The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett. As of late, we’ve both been a little obsessed with noir. JP had recently finished reading The Maltese Falcon, so we knew we had to check it out. Somewhere, and somehow during our evening there we learned about the little known “Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour”.  The tours are led by the extremely knowledgeable Don Herron (a rather noir name if I do say so) on sporadic Sundays throughout the year at Noon. They are $10 per person, cash. You meet up outside of the San Francisco Library at 100 Larkin Street. Don is donned in the perfect tour costume of Fedora and Trench coat, so he is easy to pick out in the eclectic crowd.

For the next 4+ hours you will walk about 3.5 miles (nothing strenuous) around greater downtown San Fran, and learn more about the noir world of that time and Dashiell Hammett than you ever thought possible. But this is a good thing; it is one of the most intriguing tours I’ve ever been. You not only get a better understanding of hard boiled detective literature, but also San Francisco of that time. This tour is for the literary aficionado as well as the average tourist. It does help to have a little knowledge of Hammett’s popular works just to know what Don is talking about. But Don’s narration helped me remember a Hammett story I read over 12 years ago. So I believe just about anyone can learn from and enjoy this tour. Overall you’ll walk to places where Hammett lived, where his characters lived, and precisely where some of them die.

Next time, check in to see why I love the Intercontinental San Francisco so much, and exactly why it’s my hotel of choice when staying in the area.

Now Boldly Go!