If your guilty holiday pleasure is having time to linger over a lager or two, then San Francisco could be your perfect city. Darrin Ratajczak explains why it’s so easy to get to know this famous USA metropolis from the comfort of a local bar stool…
“I’m just going to come out and say it: I love San Francisco. But it’s not the San Francisco that you so often hear about. What I love is that it’s a city of stories and story tellers. Every neighbourhood, every street, every corner, every bar has a story and someone who is more than willing to tell it to you.
To me, just the names of the neighbourhoods alone are filled with stories – The Mission, Haight-Ashbury, The Castro, Union Square, Russian Hill, The Presidio. Even better, the city is so compact you can get almost anywhere on foot without using up too much shoe leather.
One of the places that sum it up best for me is Bar Vesuvio in the neighbourhood of North Beach. This tiny shop-front bar and the City Lights Bookstore next door are Beat Generation institutions, and then became shrines to a new generation in the Summer of Love in 1967.
Little has changed at Vesuvio since Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg tossed around ideas and more than few beers at the bar. Before that, Dylan Thomas was a regular closer. So you can imagine, sitting at the bar with a pint of San Francisco’s local brew, Anchor Steam Beer, is like living literary history. As you leave, check out the names of the famous Beats kicked out of the place engraved in the footpath.
Then there’s all kinds of choices. Just a couple of streets up Columbus Avenue and you’re in Little Italy. A couple of streets down Columbus is one of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Pyramid Building in downtown San Francisco, and literally around the corner you’re smack bang in the middle of one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world. Just think of the stories!”
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* photo by Sue Elliot, Intrepid Express editor, sitting in Bar Vesuvio, San Francisco.