Friday, January 8, 2016

San Francisco off season retains its elegance, beauty, sense of fun

The "Painted Ladies" near Alamo Square, San Francisco, California, represent an architecture used for Victorian
and Edwardian houses and buildings painted in distinctive pastel hues. The term is over a century old.


"One day if I go to heaven ... I'll look around and say, 'It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco.'"      Herb Caen, noted San Francisco columnist who died in 1997.

  The late Herb Caen, a symbol of elegance, smiling
and raising a glass to his beloved San Francisco.
THE LATE Herb Caen loved his town like no one else and waxed about it in his colorful newspaper columns for 60 years.
Boats on Fisherman's Wharf await tourists, residents, an international crowd.
Tourists from all over the world have
 their photos taken on Union Square.
 "A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams," he proudly said, of his city, San Francisco. I happened to be in one of my favorite cities when he passed.  San Francisco was Caen's home for most of his life (April 3, 1916 – February 2, 1997) and he was honored by San Francisco Chronicle writers and thousands of readers in the next few days. It was wonderful and touching to follow the tributes.
SAN FRANCISCO truly has vision, and she has always dreamed. Her whimsical cable cars, "crookedest street," unusual architecture (Trans-America Pyramid, one of many), bridges, the bay, the parks, landmark sites such as Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 and Union Square, unique art and gardens, bistros, bars and theaters all speak to what Caen meant when he joked that heaven might be nice, but it wouldn't be San Francisco. Much of the city's charm came from the "rebuilding" after the 1906 earthquake and fire. It re-invented itself in an imaginative, eye-catching way.
In my many visits to San Francisco, I understand Caen's pride in the town he called home.
Nick and Nora join us for sun and people-and-dog watching,
while we enjoy coffee and pastry on Union Square. 
Writer's novel takes place partly in San Francisco, click here
EVEN Off-SEASON, in winter, San Francisco has an elegance about her. And it's dog friendly. My family loves San Francisco.  My sister Peny and brother-in-law Jim settled in northern California in the 1970s, and now a nephew and his partner ranch there. Plus a niece and her family live in Redwood City, so we often visit, always making discoveries. The "Bard of the Bay," Mr. Caen, loved his city for its vibrancy, beauty, variety.  He loved its enthusiasm, daring and fearless embrace of the new, while honoring the old.
Tony Bennett made his name,
with a song about San Francisco.
The Trans-America Pyramid
is one of San Francisco's many
unique, eye-catching structures.
Caen loved the city's famous "Painted Ladies," by Alamo Square, those picturesque, expensive pastel Victorian and Edwardian houses.
HE DOTED ON the fabulous food -- from Indian to Asian to Greek, Italian, French and barbecue -- all befitting the
Pier 35 on the center of the action near Fisherman's Wharf.
culinary mix prepared by and for the town's ethnic melting pot. To gourmands, that makes San Francisco appealing. The clam chowder in sourdough bread bowl withstands time's test.
CAEN WROTE about the city's grand hotels. We love the Hyatt on Union Square, the stately St. Francis, the Fairmont where we heard Duke Ellington years ago, and the "Top of the Mark" Hopkins, now owned by InterContinental. We love Diva for its spirit and recently tried a fun new one, the Zephyr. It thinks big -- like San Francisco -- rising from the old Raddison on Beach Street, to cover an entire city block, all in a nautical theme (some of the rooms look out on the bay through portholes.)
Thumbs up: Bruce Keller and great-nephew James Ganner
enjoy the San Francisco Zoo train. Wee James is a regular.
Caen wrote about that bay -- the ships which sail it, the people who work in the port, the prison on Alcatraz and its long-gone denizens and wardens. He wrote proudly about the many films made in hilly, distinctive San Francisco.
Whoever said "less is more" didn't understand San Francisco's big, bold approach to life where, happily, anything goes.
CHECK OUT CityPASS for San Francisco highlights -- the trolley, cable car, aquarium and other "must see" attractions, at a significant savings. We love CityPASS!
CityPASS info

COMING UP: The San Francisco Zoo is a wonderful place, for kids of all ages.  From giraffes to lions and a fun steam train, it's popular year round. What makes a zoo appealing, and how does the San Francisco zoo rank for our two worldwide zoo watchers? High ratings and a fun ride coming up next at whereiscookie. We look for adventure as we travel the world for food, family, frolic, the arts and the natural world. Enjoy, learn and live!


  1. Lovely. Oh how we miss Herb Caen. Wondering if these two ever interviewed him -- I'm betting the answer is yes.
    Delightful -- as Herb liked to say.Love our town and happy to have return visitors with curious minds.

  2. We travel the world and always remark how "European" San Francisco feels.... We love the U.S., and this grand city has the feeling of an older,more "solid" city -- even though it was largely rebuilt after the 1906 quake and fire (as this team aptly points out.)
    A nice overview of an exciting place, and one of our top destinations.

  3. We just visited this wonderful zoo, which I grew up with. Drove from San Jose and spent a delightful day with niece and nephew who are introducing their three kids to the zoo with a family membership. Looking forward to the article.

  4. This is such fun -- the best explanation of the many reasons I, too, love San Francisco. As these bloggers illustrate, it has it all: architecture, the arts, nature, food, great hotels of every price range, and a sense of FUN!
    Well done.