About 3 years ago, a distressed tourist driver asked me the way to Golden Gate Beach. I was on Lombard Street by Laguna and told her I’ve lived in San Fran for about 4 years and never heard of Golden Gate Beach. She said it was a global landmark, known around the planet and she was now incredibly confused. I said again, very firmly, that I have never heard of this place and I know this city like the back of my hand. As she was driving away, mortified, lost and thinking ‘Am I going nuts or is she?’ I realized that she had asked me for directions to Golden Gate Bridge! I was running up the street after her saying “I know it, I know it, I’m an idiot, it’s huge and it’s ½ mile away. I can even see it from here! It’s a global phenomenon – it’s massive!”
Since then, I’ve been trying to compensate this mishap towards any tourist by literally driving those barmy with options to their Plan A, providing Plan B thru D for them and even requesting I escort them as a tour guide. I did this yet again last week. A couple who know the city well (visiting from Florida – well someone has to live there) were heading to Golden Gate Park Tea Garden. I tried to coax them into visiting Mountain Lake Park and seeing the ducks (I’ve named all but two of them now). They told me three times they were set on GG Park and 5 times I gave them every reason to go to Lake Park instead. They told me it was not necessary for me to raise my voice on the bus. I told them it was vital they listened to my expertise! The poor couple then got off 2 stops early to avoid listening to my jabbering while I was talking so high, at one point I think only dogs and dolphins could hear me. Well, if they fall down a tiny ditch in the park, that was my doing. I needed some soil for my plant, couldn’t find a local gardening store so literally grabbed a shovel, big bag and stole soil from the park. I’m sorry, I can’t promise it won’t happen again and all the soil in my dog’s paw is now clear of evidence, thanks to a sneaky hose down.
But on the other hand, two weeks earlier I had a scoop, a kudos and a self-pat on the back. A Swiss couple had two more days to tour around San Fran and I gave them the real deal of two full days of agenda. I really hope they took my advice so I can finally lay this ‘get lost with a new plan’ non-local obsession. Here’s what I told them:
Day 1: Go to Golden Gate Park and visit De Young. Then walk to Inner Sunset and stroll around the cute stores in the area. After this, head down to Upper Haight Street and see the hippy kids do their thing. From there, have dinner in Cole Valley and then make your way down to Castro for a mid-evening drink at StarBelly before you mosey to Lucky 13 and end up at… ‘never a dull moment’ Mint Karaoke for some good old fashioned tone deaf singing.
Day 2: Pop over to the Fortune Cookie Factory (my favorite place in the city. BTW, fortune cookies are great for dogs!) in Chinatown and then head to Coppola’s restaurant for a snack and glass of vino. Make your way up to Coit Tower and then head back down to the Piers where you can down a loaf full of clam chowder and overdose on carbs (if you eat it fast, it’s half the calories – I heard that once). Then walk back down North Beach to City Lights and mosey around to find a scoop book by which time you’ll then want a late night snack and sit outside (rain, shine) at Rose Pistola. Keep room for garlic somethings at the Stinking Rose (best and worst first date place ever) and finish off at Specs before you have a finale brandy hot chocolate at Toscas.
I never tell tourists to go to Union Square or anywhere downtown – everyone knows to do this. I prefer to have tourists see San Fran through a local’s eye, even if it includes mildly bloodshot eyes from booze the next day. Which means you really are then a true local!