reto mag

about the land and the people

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traveling pages: travel guide california

June 18th, 2014 by nina · books, california, review, san francisco, usa

traveling to california i had two travel guides. one for the southwest of the us with california and one for san francisco. before buying one i went to the bookshop and through a lot of travel guides for california, the bay area and san francisco. depending on what kind of traveler you are you can choose between travel guides for moneyed persons, backpackers, tourists and travelers. I chose the national geographic traveler for san francisco and the usa southwest with whole california by reise know-how. both have been very helpful.
since i stayed in berkeley i wanted a san francisco travel guide with more background informations and better maps than a whole california guide could give me. the national geographic guide has a lot of that. you find informations about the districts, historical backgrounds and portraits like the one of the beatniks. further there are some small day trip recommendations to napa, sonoma and others. if you only stay in the bay area i would warmly recommend this guide.
if you plan a road trip the usa southwest guide by reise know-how is a really good choice. it is with 24 euro a bit pricy (and also a bit heavy) but worth it. the reise know-how has all the informations you need. even if it is only a very packed version of everything you can do there is nothing missing. it gives you short informations, maps, recommendations and some suggestions for travel routes.
looking back i probably only needed the usa southwest guide because we did some trips on the weekends and i could have looked up the missing informations on the internet. i am impressed by the reise know-how travel guides. this one has been my second (i already had one for amsterdam) and it will not be my last. the guides are neat, organized and with an easy system. they give all the informations you need and are really compact. the only disadvantage that there is only a german version of it.

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i left my heart in san francisco

June 9th, 2014 by nina · reportage, san francisco, usa

i left my heart in san francisco
high on a hill, it calls to me
to be where little cable cars
climb halfway to the stars!
tony bennett

at this moment i sit at my desk at home in my small village in germany. it is noon and very quiet and way too hot. hard to imagine that a bit over a week ago i still was in the us, at the beautiful city at the bay. i spend 3 weeks visiting my dear friend holly in berkeley california. graduating university in february i thought it’s now or maybe never, so i took time off from work and got on the plane to san francisco. and i have to confess i fell in love. i fell in love with the small berkeley houses with its small porches, with the beautiful variation of flowers in the yards, the big trees next to the walkway and the friendly people of the bay area who always say hello and wish you a nice day. i spend my days walking around, drinking coffee, eating tuna sandwiches and enjoying life.

and i fell in love with san francisco. with the victorian houses, the bay with its sailing boats and kite surfers, the secondhand book and record shops, with burritos and ginger ale, the gentle breeze which cools down the hottest summer day (hot in san francisco means 28°C/ 82°F) and the pacific ocean beach. if people ask what i have seen and done, i have to say nearly everything.

the piers/ fisherman’s wharf
my first day in san francisco i was walking along the san francisco bay. i spent some time at pier 5 which is a very beautiful old wooden pier from which you have a good view at the bay bridge and over the bay.

it felt so good to walk down the piers with a coffee in my hand and the wind in my hair passing by tourists who just arrived with a cruise boat. i went down to pier 39 and fisherman’s wharf which are the most touristy places in san francisco but good for buying postcards and really terrible souvenirs. and of course i didn’t want to miss the sea lions of pier 39.

all after all it is a place you should visit once you are there but you don’t have to go there twice.

at fisherman’s wharf i looked at the small places where you can eat shrimps and fish and visited the famous sour dough bread factory.

alcatraz
alcatraz is my one must do touristy thing in san francisco. the ticket is about 28$. on the boat tour to “the rock” i’ve been told the varied history of alcatraz.
the island is named after the spanish word los alcatraces although the birds it refers to most likely have been cormorants and not albatrosses. the island has been a military fort, a prison and occupied by native americans. today it is a national park and a highly frequented tourist attraction. i was not sure if it would be worth the money but i am absolutely convinced.
inside the old prison building i got an audio guide which was really amazing. former prisoners and guards take you on an audible tour through the cell block. they tell their stories and you hear the sounds of a normal day at alcatraz which gave me shivers. san francisco is so close that you can see and hear the city but there was no escape from alcatraz. it is surrounded by ice cold water which made even the short destination to the city an insuperable barrier.

presidio/ golden gate bridge
starting at fisherman’s wharf you can do a lot of things. one day we rented bikes to ride through the presidio and over the golden gate bridge.
i had no idea that riding over the bridge is possible. we passed crissy fields and parts of the lower presidio until we arrived at the golden gate bridge. seeing the bridge on pictures is nothing compared to actually seeing the bridge. it is one of the most amazing sights i’ve ever seen. and it is just stunning to cross it on a bike. the wind of the ocean and the feeling of being free and wild which only a bikeride can give you.

after riding across the bridge and back we rode a bit through the presidio not noticing that we took the most difficult of all bike routes and the sun was burning our skins. we arrived at the palace of fine arts in the early evening exhausted and with red skin. but this place really compensated us for everything.
the palace of fine arts was built for the panama-pacific exhibition in 1915. the building we see today is a rebuilt of the 1960′s. when we arrived the sun was already low and the whole building was illuminated in the most stunning light. the palace itself is incredibly beautiful and huger then i expected it to be.

lombard street/ telegraph hill
another path you could take from fisherman’s wharf is up hyde street, down lombard and up telegraph hill. and when i say up i really mean up. hyde street is a really steep street and it takes a while to get to the top where lombard street branches off.
a part of lombard is known as the crookedest street in the world. in tight turns it meanders its way down the hill.
walking down lombard street i passed the districts russian hill and north beach and ended up at the bottom of telegraph hill with the coit tower on top.
from the hill i had an amazing view over the city. normally you can also get on top of coit tower but unfortunately it was closed due to renovations. but even from the bottom of the tower i could see the whole city including the crooked part of lombard street.

 

north beach
one day on my way to the beach i met a guy at a bus and he asked me if i would move to san francisco and my answer was “yes, to north beach”.
north beach is also known as little italy. you can find plenty of italian restaurants here which serve really good food. people are sitting outside of the bistros enjoying their lunch with a glass of whine. north beach has amazing small shops and also a lot of second hand book and record shops. it was the district of the beatniks. they went to city light books to buy their books and then read them with a drink at versuvio saloon. walking through the streets i immediately felt home. if i wouldn’t move directly to the beach i would definitively move to north beach.

chinatown

chinatown is a very different and colorful district. there are chinese lanterns above the streets and shops that sell things i’ve never seen before. so many different smells, foods and sounds – i had no idea where to go first. i bought a lot of the gifts for my friends and family here.
the highlight was the visit in the fortune cookie factory where we could watch how they make the fortune cookies and try some (they are so much better then the once we get in germany).

painted ladies/ haight ashbury
alamo square is located in the west of san francisco and at alamo park you can find the painted ladies.
i have seen these wonderful victorian houses in so many movies and tv shows before (like full house in the 90′s) and they are even more beautiful. but the painted ladies are not the only beautiful houses in san francisco. you can actually find them at any street corner. specially at hyde street and the whole russian hill area there is one house more beautiful than the next.

if you walk (or drive) further west you will arrive at haight ashbury which is still known as the hippie district. this is the place where janis joplin lived and where you can find the most amazing clothes at second hand shops. i was that close to buy an original dress of the 50′s and a hat. my favorite place in haight ashbury is the fizzary. a soda shop where they have the best variation of soda pops i have seen.

golden gate park
one of my favorite days was the one i spent with holly at the golden gate park. we started in the morning at the east end of the park, ended up at sundown at the west end and we haven’t seen everything.
we started at the japanese tea garden where we had tea. we chose genmaicha and hojicha. the tea garden is a very quiet and calm place. everything seems to be slower and i got calm and rested after a view minutes walking around and watching at little lakes, buddha figures and temples.

leaving the teahouse we went further west in direction to the beach. we passed by the chinese pavilion at stow lake, some boathouses where you can rent paddle boats, we saw bisons and dutch windmills. but mostly we passed big trees and beautiful meadows where families were having barbecues and friends played frisbee.

 

pacific/ sutro
at the end of the golden gate park we ended up at ocean beach.
there it was the pacific ocean. crossing the great highway and looking at this amazing beach made me speechless. i haven’t been to the ocean for a long while and my instant feeling was i have to be here all the time!!! the sand was so soft that it was hard to get to the water and the water itself was ice-cold. but what should i say? i just love the ocean, the sound of the breaking waves, the wind that dishevels my hair and the scent of salt. i stood there for a long while with my feet in the water and the nose in the wind.
before the sun would set we wanted to see sutro bath which was a bathhouse in the 19th century. it was closed and destroyed by a fire in the 1960′s and only the ruins remained. seeing sutro in the light of low sun was amazing. such a beautiful place.

 

must do’s
there are a view things you definitely should do while staying in san francisco. some i already mentioned like rent a bike and cross the golden gate bridge, drink tea at the japanese teahouse, try fortune cookies at chinatown and visit alcatraz. but there is more…

what would california be without the myth of the californian sun, the endless beaches and the hot surfer boys in shorts. some things are really myths. like the surfer boys in shorts, the water temperature of the pacific ocean is between 14 and 20°C/ 52 and 68°F, so it is more surfer boys in wetsuits. but the beaches are sure beautiful and endless. so get your blanket, some snacks, your best friend and watch the sunset at the ocean beach.


open books – open minds – open hearts
in north beach at columbus ave and jack kerouac alley you find the famous city lights booksellers and publishers, the bookshop where the beatniks bought their books. this wonderful place calls itself a “literary meeting place since 1953″. i could wander between the old wooden shelfs for days and read the small notes with the staff recommendations. so go there and buy a book!

san francisco wouldn’t be san francisco without the cable cars. on my last day at the city i went to drive the powell-hyde-line from powell station till the end at the cannery next to fisherman’s wharf. i happened to be right in the front and had an amazing view down hyde street. it is a bit like a slow roller coaster. i think you could say you haven’t been to san francisco without a cable car ride.

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