Honeymooner’s Tour

Imagine headlands that sneak upon a cool glistening bay, and waves that rock toward the coast crashing one after another; cable cars that surmount hills painted by rows of charismatic Victorians; sunshine that feels soft and warm like a lover’s embrace; or a brisk chill that glides inland from the Pacific, breathing heavy mist on to aromatic Eucalyptus, Pine, and Cypress trees. Such a place encompassing all this illusory may seem to exist only in fairy tales or in the sweetest of dreams.  Yet such a place exists and will allow you and someone dear to your heart to experience pristine and artist inspired beauty.

We begin at Clarion Alley in the Mission District.  Clarion Alley is an enchanted gallery featuring bohemian artistry and will give you insight into the culture of San Francisco as well as the political signs of the times.  The best way to arrive at this destination is to take the underground BART train at either the Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell, or Civic Centre stations.  Travel outbound to 16th street, head one block west to Valencia, and travel south to 17th Street.  You’ll encounter Clarion Alley shortly after crossing 17th Street.  Turn left onto the alley and enjoy a nice stroll down to Mission Street.

At this point, head north back to 16th and take BART to Powell station.  The next site on the agenda are the beautiful Yerba Buena fountains.  After exiting Powell station, head north to 4th Street and turn right.  Continue south-east to 4th and Mission, cross the street, placing you right in front of the AMC Metreon Theatre and head north-west.  You’ll stumble upon an entrance that takes you on a path across the Espanade directly to a fountain that appears to be more like a waterfall. This structure is a part of the Martin Luther King Junior memorial and makes for a nice place to frolic in the water at the base of the fountain, but be sure to take the path closest to back of theatre and head to the top of the waterfall.  From this vantage point, you can see many of the city’s skyscrapers looming over the green urban park. If you continue on the walkway at the top of the waterfall, and head back down to the lower level, you will come across another path that takes you to the park’s east garden and another spectacular fountain that shoots thick jets of water about three feet into the air, made luminescent by underwater lights.  This is surely a site to be revisited after the sun sets.

After you have enjoyed the splendour of the gardens, head north back to 4th and Market and west to 5th Street. Along the way, you will encounter the main entrance to the West Field Mall.  Regardless if you want to shop or not, head up the escalator until you get a good view of the dome.  Architecturally, no other mall compares to the Westfield.  The dome is one of the most prominent features.  Also, feel free to walk around the mall.  Its vast and has many interesting shops.  Though everything is pricy.  This is a great place to grab lunch, by heading to the food court at the bottom level.  Here you’ll find cuisine ranging from Vietnamese and Thai to American burgers and an Italian buffet.

Once you are through with the mall, it is time to head to Union Square.  When you leave the main entrance of the mall one level above the food court, cross the street and head up Powell.  After two blocks, cross Geary and you will find yourself at Union Square.  There are many photo opportunities here as it is adjacent to the Westin St. Francis and Sir Francis Drake Hotels as well as Macy’s which is usually adorned to match the season.  If you are lucky enough to visit during the Christmas holiday, you would have the opportunity to see the amazingly huge Christmas tree in the centre of the square.  The Square is also romantic because it is a reprieve from the busy downtown centre and offers many spectacular sites, including the cable cars rolling on by.  It is also highly recommended that you obtain an even better view by taking a ride in the Westin St. Francis elevator.  Take it to the top floor and look outside, as the elevator shoots up behind a glass wall.  The view at the top is truly a sight to behold.

When the fun is over, be sure to head back down Powell and Market and take a ride ($5 round-trip) on the cable car and head to Pier 39.  You will want to take the Hyde Street cable car to get to Pier 39.  Once you arrive, you will be in an area referred to as Fisherman’s Wharf where you can catch an amazing view of Alcatraz and the barking seals.  Simply take the cable care to Hyde and Beach, and walk one block north to Jefferson Street.  This takes you on to the main strip. Head east and you will pass amazing shops and restaurants with fresh seafood and other goodies. The west side of Fisherman’s Grotto also offers a good view of the seals.  Another option is to head west from Hyde and Beach, taking you to the beautiful Ghiradelli Square.  Be sure to head in to Ghiradelli, looking as inconspicuous as possible.  Why you ask? Well, at the entrance next to the Ghiradelli ice-cream parlour, you will be given a free piece of Ghiradelli chocolate.  I generally head in-and-out about three times.  Before leaving the square, be sure to catch your breath at the fantastical fountain and perhaps have a smooch as the dusk approaches.

Next on the agenda is the Italian district known as North Beach.  Surely, the Italians know how to set the mood right.  To get there, head to the south-east corner of Ghiradelli Square, at the corner of North Point and Larkin Street.  Board the 30 and take the bus headed inbound to Townsend and 4th.  You will want to get off at Columbus Avenue and Union Street.  From here, it is a short walk via to Washington Square, directly to the east of the bus stop or continue walking south-east on the left hand side of the street until you encounter the candy shop Z. Ciocolato.  This shop is special as you can sample the fudge for free and help yourselves to as many free samples of the saltwater taffies that you can handle.  Just do not leave with a tummy ache!!!  Also, feel free to explore this area.  There are a number of great restaurants and shops to explore.  Perhaps coffee at Tosca Cafe between Vallejo and Pacific or Cafe Trieste between Vallejo and Broadway.  A really nice and affordable place to east would be Steps of Rome.

For those of you on a Friday tour, you are in luck.  Every Friday at 10pm at the Shelton Theatre, 533 Sutter Street, between Powell and Mason, there is a live sketch comedy show called Big City Improv.  This is a witty, fast-paced, and un-scripted show that puts the actors on the spot and it is interactive.  The show is fueled by audience participation and suggestions.  This is definitely a fun way to end the night, in a close, cozy and friendly theater.  Then again, Yerba Buena fountain is close by, and the east fountain at night will make your pulse race and body temperature rise!!!

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