24 April 2013

A Day in San Francisco

Last week I was in California for a much needed break. I stayed with my parents and got to hang out with them along with my siblings and nephews as well as a few friends. And after the first couple of days, the weather was lovely, reminding me why so many people flee to the West Coast. 

During my trip I spent a day in the Castro and Mission Districts of San Francisco visiting some friends and walking down memory lane. The Castro is the biggest gay neighbourhood in the country and is filled with restaurants, bars, shops, and one of my favourite places, the Castro Theatre. Since 1922 this jewel of a movie palace has entertained generations of San Franciscans. This was the place where I first saw Louise Brooks on the big screen, where I viewed my first silents in fact accompanied by live music courtesy of the mighty Wurlitzer organ (the song "California, Here I Come" would usually be performed right before a movie started with the audience clapping along), and where I sat through countless foreign films and special screenings. Today it is also home to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which I've flown out to attend in the past. The theatre is an absolute beauty and if you're ever in the city, I encourage you to go see whatever is playing. 

Though many of the businesses were different some things, like the iconic Twin Peaks sign, remained the same. And if you're wondering about all the overhead wires, they are used by many of the city's trolleys and buses.

While I was there, I had lunch with a dear friend during which we chatted for a long time over copious amounts of Thai tea. I got to see her darling new apartment, which is filled with original arts and crafts details and decorated just perfectly. Afterwards I took my time walking over to the Mission, admiring the houses along the way. From small Edwardians to the tall iconic Victorians, the colourful houses light up the city and give a neighbourhood character.

It's the little details that truly make the houses special. Sunbeams both large and small, for example, make multiply appearances while others have their own unique detail like a peacock above an entryway. Even the plants and trees add to the houses' appeal like this cherry blossom tree that looks amazing set against the faded pink siding of a house.

Walking down 18th Street, I spotted the Spanish Baroque style tower atop Mission High School, its design a nod to the state's past. The palm trees that line Dolores Street were another symbol of California while its native poppies were confined to ones found at a flower stand.

When I lived in the Mission many years ago it was largely Hispanic with loads of bodegas and tacquerias (Pancho Villa was my go-to place for burritos). While many of those places remain, they are now joined by bistros and bakeries and clothing shops that I wish had been there when I was a resident. One of which is Tartine, a bakery that I had read a lot about. So with time to kill before meeting another friend, I stopped in for an espresso and slice of chocolate tea cake. It was delicious and with a window seat at my disposal, I sat for an hour writing in my notebook and people watching.

Afterwards, it was drinks and small plates of Southern Indian treats at Dosa with another dear friend who I've known since middle school. All in all, a perfect way to spend a day in the city by the bay.

Photos by Michele.

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