Tag Archives: chinatown

Top Ten Tips for the San Francisco Traveler

Click to read past installments of this trip journal … 

Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 – Day 4 – Day 5 – Day 6 – Day 7 – Day 8

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(1) If you’re going to San Francisco, book your tour to Alcatraz in advance … or you will not get in. I am still way disappointed about this one. Yes, we did take a narrated boat tour around the island … but I wanted IN. I wanted to see the cells, the dining hall, the common shower area, the “Hole” (solitary confinement). I’m just curious (weird) that way. And I’ve promised myself I’ll get back there to see it.

(2) Leave any high-heeled shoes at home, even if it’s your wedding day.  The slope of half the streets you’ll be navigating will make you want to chuck them into the nearest trash can. Which brings me to my next point …

(3) Trash cans are not always easy to find. When you do find them, you’re likely to see multiple cans with labels like recycle, compost and landfill … and you quickly learn the sorting process. (Nicely done, California.) The problem is that you can’t always find them. While in Chinatown one day, I searched three or four blocks to find a receptacle in which I could discard a wad of chewed gum until I finally came upon this one on a busy city street.


Yes, that’s a padlock.

(4) If you have a hankering for cheese, check out Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building Marketplace. I recommend basically everything in the place and give two thumbs up to their signature Mt. Tam cheese. (There’s a reason it looks just like butter.) And be sure to tell them ODNT sent you. But don’t expect it to get you anything … as they have absolutely no idea who I am.

(5) Try to knock out #4 on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. That way, you can also check out their killer Farmer’s Market. There won’t be something you seek  that you can’t find there. Seriously, they have every vegetable and fruit imaginable. Did I buy any? Nah. I bought cheese, bread, wine-soaked figs, toffee, honey and other non-produce.

(6) While you’re traipsing all over town on foot, try to work the Filbert Steps into your walk. They run from the east slope of Telegraph Hill (coincidentally right where we were staying) all the way down to Sansome Street. The hills of San Francisco are sometimes so steep that stairs need to be put in for pedestrians. In this case, 378 stairs to be exact. (For reference, the Statue of Liberty has a mere 364.) And this long and winding staircase actually serves as a street for the houses along it, many of which are only accessible via this wooded and beautifully-landscaped climb. (Can you imagine? … “Hang on. I think I left it in the %$&#ing car. Be back in an hour!”)

(7) When in Chinatown, be on the look out for New On Sang Poultry (also known as San Francisco Poultry), located at 1114 Grant Avenue. A writing friend of mine turned me on to it but she could neither remember the name nor the address of the place. Melissa, telling me to find the “You Pick It, We Kill It, But No Pictures!” place in all of the 24 square blocks of Chinatown just wasn’t specific enough. (Yes, I realize the irony of not Googling the name and location of this place until I returned to New Orleans.) Anyway, Melissa dared me to take a picture of the ‘old world charm’ that occurs at New On Sang. And, for the record, I searched to see if anyone else had ever tried … but found nothing. So, maybe it’s best that I didn’t risk Chinese prison for the sake of what would likely be a very disgusting photograph.

(8) Allow time on your drive back from Carmel to stop at one of the many fruit stands and take advantage of things like TEN avocados for ONE dollar …. TEN ears of corn for ONE dollar … TEN artichokes for ONE dollar. Seriously. And then send them to me. I’ll pay you back.

(9) If you don’t want to give up a whole day to the wine country … or, like me, you’re not high brow enough for it and are afraid the kid you’re dragging along will be bored to tears … consider the San Francisco Half-Day Wine Country Tour. It’s the lazy wine lover’s dream. The tour doesn’t even start until noon and gets you back just in time for dinner. And, in only five or so hours, we managed to taste 18 different vintages. That’s good enough for the likes of me. I had to get back to town for some valuable t-shirt shopping and oxygen bar testing.

(10) If you get the chance for a foot massage in Chinatown (or any massage of Asian descent), take it. They aren’t all hung up on propriety like the tightly-wound Americans. Clean water in the foot basins? Fancy towels? Privacy from other patrons? Screw it all. Close your eyes. There’s your privacy. What you get with the Asian massage experience is someone working their small hands and/or feet to the bone for you … using practices, in some cases, that are older than the Earth itself. And you’ll leave loose as a noodle for a very fair price.

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Thanks, San Francisco. We had a blast!

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ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 8


Last full day in San Francisco. Boooo. Man, am I going to miss this brisk, non-oppressive climate.

We headed out as a group (aka seven-headed monster) to see Lombard Street but my mom, Dave, the kids and I wound up splintering off to eat at Melt!, a European cafe and wine bar in North Beach. We had cheese in pure form (goat & Brie) as well as in fondue form. We couldn’t decide and, you know, it’s vacation. (If we weren’t walking SO much, I swear I don’t think my pants would still fit.)

After lunch, we continued on to Lombard Street, billed as “the crookedest street in the world,” to catch up with my dad. The street is famous for a steep, residential, one-block section consisting of eight tight hairpin turns. We took pictures from the bottom, climbed all 253 stairs (the Statue of Liberty has 354, by the way) and then took more pictures from the top. Though, to appreciate this street fully, you really need an aerial view. And, since renting a helicopter for this blogpost was just not in the ODNT budget, please enjoy this google image provided free of charge.


Navigating this street would make a very effective drunk driving determinant.

Oh, and we lucked out. At the top of Lombard was, not surprisingly, a cable car stop. So we pooled our cash and hopped right on one of the first ones that came by. And remember the old Rice-a-Roni commercial that gave the impression you could hang off the cable cars? Well, you can’t. The driver was very explicit about the rules of who could sit where and, while I totally get his need to ensure safety, he was kind of an ass about the whole thing. Whatever. Cable car. Check!


Did she love it? Well, sure she did. She’s 10.

We rode the cable car to the end of its line and disembarked to see Ghirardelli Square. Honestly, I was hoping for a chocolate river and some spray-tan-orange little men, but no such luck. I did see this little contraption though.


Dare me to drop something into this large vat?

It was an arm’s length from me and completely unsupervised. I considered dropping something into the chocolate like my car keys but then realized how ridiculous that idea was … because my car keys were back at the condo. Duh. And, just as I was starting to consider other options, my family called me to order ice cream. I’m not a huge fan (which I know makes me a freak in the eyes of 95% of you) so I sat and drank my complimentary water and dreamed of the baked good dessert I would have later when they were all still full from their lactose feast.

When everyone was done, my girl and I went off on our own again. We were surrounded by shops, food stands, street performers and other forms of entertainment so, naturally, we went to an oxygen bar. Honestly, it was her idea. Here’s what happened. First, they put us in the water massage coffins for about ten minutes while I crossed my fingers they weren’t stealing my wallet which was “safely secured” in a black leather box on the floor. Then, they hooked us up with oxygen masks.


I don’t think I’ve ever looked better.

Of course, much like with yesterday’s herbal foot bath experience, my girl asked the inevitable hygiene question again. “Mama … do you think these things they put in our noses get thrown away after we use them?’ (Shudder.) “I sure hope so, dude,” was all I could get out.

Now the massage and the “oxygenation” came at a low price for the two of us because she “liked our smiles” … but I’ll let you in on the racket. While she had me trapped there … literally by the nose … that aggressive little witch demonstrated no less than eight different relaxation products on my body. Microwaveable aromatherapy pads for the shoulders as well as for the lower back, two different vibrating scalp massagers, lavender eye masks, TENS units, handheld massagers, eucalyptus packs and more. So, I just sat there tethered to the oxygen and said no over and over again until she grew bored with me and descended on someone else. It was fun, I’m glad we tried it, but I’m good. Another pathetic bucket list item done.

Determined not to get sucked in by any more aggressive salespeople, my girl and I weaved through the crowd like dolphins in the wake of a ship. And we didn’t stop until we got to the sea lions at Pier 39. There were a few more today than earlier in the week.


Here we have some sort of small ad-hoc committee meeting led by one obnoxious blowhard …


… and here we have a loner sea lion who was sunning. (Gosh, I hope he was sunning.)

When we were done with the sea lions, my girl really wanted to get in a little more Chinatown trinket shopping before the end of the trip. So, we took the one-plus-mile walk to get there and, after perusing a great number of shops, she settled on the classic Chinese Panda Bear and I got a few cheap bracelets plus some fireworks (just snappers that pop when thrown at the ground) for my boy.

Satisfied and completely in love with her new bear who may or may not soon be named Buddha, my girl and I walked back to the condo to meet everyone so we could all walk to dinner together in North Beach/Little Italy. We ate at Calzone’s and picked up cannoli at a little place across the street afterwards then headed back to the condo … exhausted as usual … to pack and get ready for bed.

It’s going to be very sad leaving San Francisco. I love the city but I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to it. I’ve done nothing but sneeze and tear up since I got here. And I’m totally congested. Stupid fresh air and green living.

Since tomorrow is a travel day, I’ll be sure to write one more post about our San Francisco adventure. It’s been way hard writing about everything late in the night, after hiking up and down hills all day and usually having a little wine with dinner. Here’s your happy picture for the day – The Oakland Bay Bridge.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7


ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 7


Remember how the boys in our group went to Yosemite yesterday to spend a couple of days? Well, that meant the girls were able to sleep in a little today which was nice. We woke up, had a bit of a lazy morning and finally got ourselves together to head downtown. As part of our two-day girl stint, my mom and I promised my daughter we would take her to see Brave. And a quick search with my movie app revealed it was playing at a theater a mile away in just over an hour. Perfect. We’d have plenty of time to get there.

The walk was easy. Not too many inclines. And the weather, as always, was glorious. We did experience a little delay when we got caught up in the excitement of a protest rally featuring thousands of janitors and their families waving signs and beating drums as they marched to take on the man at some unknown destination. There were cops and reporters everywhere. I considered instigating a battle cry I penned for their cause … “COMPENSATION NOW – OR SANITATION NEVER!” … but I had a movie to catch. So instead, I just walked idly by snapping pictures. (It’s apathy like mine that will ultimately lead to the country’s demise.)


Content in my indifference, we headed downtown to the Century Theatres at Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street, grabbing a bite on the way in at their “food court.” It was called La Boulange du Dome … so, as you can imagine, we did a little better than corn dogs and waffle fries. The movie was great, better than I expected. Strong female heroine, the new trend. And a beautiful backdrop set in the highlands of 10th century Scotland. Hats off to these animators. I felt like I was looking at photographs of the actual scenery. Oh, and I know why the movie is rated PG. (Spoiler Alert!!) There is nudity in this movie, people. Grown … male … nudity. Honestly, I’m surprised the movie isn’t giving Magic Mike a run for its money. I’ll bet more guys are naked in Brave.

And when the movie was over, my girl simply said, “Wow. I didn’t know there were going to be two major bear parts in the movie.” I think she was impressed that Pixar actually ponied up for two bear actors. But I’ll bet they had to share a trailer on the set.

We left the cinema and shopped a bit in the luxurious mall where I could barely afford to purchase a pair of socks. We spent most of our time in a little toy store playing with the hula hoops. My mom did it like a champ so my girl and I had to have a go at it, too.


I managed one … and then (pretty spastically) even two …


… so, of course, my girl had to go for three. Little show off.

We left the shopping center intent (for the second day in a row) on taking a ride on a cable car, but found a very lengthy line waiting for us again. So we passed. Again. And, instead, we walked to Chinatown. My girl loved it. I couldn’t believe how much she wanted to shop. Perhaps it was because everything cost less than $10 … and you could haggle it for less than $5.

We checked out dozens of shops and storefronts until we came upon a little massage joint where they could take only two of us. So my mom bowed out (thanks, Mom) while my girl and I went in to have our tired feet pampered. The first thing they did was have us soak our feet in a plastic bag-lined wicker basket full of tepid water. Personally, I would have preferred that it be hotter or colder than body temperature, especially in light of my girl’s next question.

“Mama, why is the water brown?”

Trying to convince both of us, I said, “It’s herbs, baby. Remember? The massage said it started with an herbal foot bath?” Which was true. So, I comforted myself into thinking we were soaking in tea. Foot tea. Foot tea made freshly for us when we walked in the door.

After about five minutes, our therapists came over. A tiny woman who couldn’t have weighed more than my girl started on her feet. I got the dude, which was fine with me because he was likely to be a little stronger, even if he did have the stature of Prince. He dried off my feet with rags that looked suitable for wiping oil off a dipstick, then he got down to business.

He spoke not a word of English so my countenance would be his guide for my tolerance of pain. Now, I love massage, especially deep tissue. When asked of my pressure preference, I always say that there is “no amount” that I will resist. And, while that’s still true, I did involuntarily flinch three times during his massage today. (What a wuss.) And it’s not like I could just tell him I was fine. So, I smiled, no doubt catatonically through the pain, as I did not want the man backing off on his efforts. When he was done, my legs and feet were jelly. The whole experience was just what I needed. Foot fungus water and all. So, we slid out of our chairs and melted down the stairs to meet up with my mom again for dinner.

We found a great place where everyone could be accommodated. And that was a tall order considering my girl and I wanted sushi for dinner… in Chinatown. My mom was the only one who actually ordered Chinese food for dinner. Our table was an Asian smorgasbord of miso soup, spring rolls, California rolls, lemon chicken, shrimp rolls, steamed rice and spicy salmon rolls. With California wine. And fortune cookies. My stomach was very confused. Happy but confused.


Anyone want to interpret my fortune for me?

Following dinner, the men in our group (Dave, my dad, my brother and my boy) came to meet us to walk the area a bit until we were all too tired and cold to stay out any more. So, everyone returned to the condo and pretty much passed out. Everyone, that is, except me. I’m like the stupid mouse in the Night before Christmas poem. The one who really should’ve stopped all that ridiculous stirring and gone the hell to bed. Stupid, stupid mouse. Go to bed!

See you tomorrow. Oh, and before I go, here’s your happy picture for the day. It’s the Sentinel Building in the heart of North Beach, the Italian part of town.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6


ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 4

1:15 am

Pertinent ODNT trivia … Over the years, I’ve worked as an extra (also known as “meat”) on different movie sets for kicks. Kicks plus $100. It’s not proud work. It’s usually me, the unemployed and, in one case, even homeless people. But it’s interesting and different … and I’ve gotten to meet some pretty cool people like Hillary Swank, Anna Sophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Lloyd, Nicholas Cage, January Jones, Guy Pearce, Forest Whitaker, Madeline Zima, etc. along the way. 

Enter today’s installment.

When I began writing tonight, I was immediately reminded of a song. And I was looking for a You Tube clip for the post when I remembered seeing the original performance of this one. It was sung by Renee Zellweger for a movie I “meated” for called My Own Love Song. Nick Nolte was in the scene, too, playing the ‘Nick-Noltiest’ character I’ve ever seen. And … if you look carefully (like super carefully with your finger poised over the pause button and some high-tech enhancement software to illuminate the background) … you just might see me around 2:15 and 3:15. Honestly though, I’d be impressed if anyone actually spotted me as it took even me a few times to find me. Anyway, here’s the clip:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me


  1. California – CHECK! (now Northern AND Southern)
  2. New York Island – CHECK! (Though, personally, I usually omit the ‘Island’ or just call it Manhattan)
  3. Redwood Forest – SEE BELOW!
  4. Gulf Stream Waters – CHECK! (I live in the Southeast so I’ve known these waters on a first name basis for years)

We rented a car today and drove as a group (battling four sudden cases of car sickness, myself included, thanks to some pretty winding roads) to Muir Woods National Monument to see the famed Redwood Forest. And I’ll be the first to admit that they modeled the Eva Gabor character on Green Acres after me. Even still, these trees are magnificent. Case in point.


The picture gets hazy at the top because the trees are actually scraping against the sun.


Two kids in a tree. (Great children’s book title. Or maybe the name of a yo-yo trick.)


How cute is this little hiker? #biased #hashtagsoutsideoftwitterarecool

If you are a nature lover (I am insomuch as cows, goats and sheep all live on farms and give me precious cheese), this stop is a must on your trip to San Francisco. It’s an easy walk, there’s a restaurant on site and even a place to purchase necessities like this stuffed chipmunk. We saw scads of them in the forest.


Why is he wearing a paper bag you ask? Apparently, ‘Herve’ is a homeless chipmunk. (My girl‘s been exposed to San Francisco’s large population here. Don’t blame me. I just bought some pretty silver earrings.)

We trekked back to the car and drove from the park to Sausalito for lunch, shopping and general sightseeing. It’s a cute little town. But, honestly, the whole time I was there, I could NOT get this stupid song out of my head. Warning: Do NOT click unless you want to be afflicted with the same problem. I’ll bet Sausalitans (if in fact that’s what they’re called) have been saddled with this unwanted spokesperson for years. Or maybe they just embrace it as with the whole ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ phenomenon.

After stocking up on candy and Dramamine, we drove back across the Golden Gate into San Francisco again. Parking the car was a little challenging on the 45-degree angle street on which we’re staying but we got it done. Everyone was pretty much in for the night but I really wanted to see Chinatown, located only a few blocks from the condo. So, I took the short walk on my own, made a mental note of all foot massage joints for later and snapped a few pictures.



Then, I called my family for their dinner order … springs rolls, fried wonton, crispy chicken, miso soup, etc. That’s when I confirmed the microphone on my iPhone was completely dead. What that means is, when I’m on a phone call, I can listen but I just can’t talk. Can you imagine how frustrating that would be for a verbose person like myself? It’s a good thing I can text with the dexterity of a teenager.

Anyway, if you need me … don’t call. Unless you just want to tell me off and not have to listen to any of “my lip.”  Stupid iPhone. And on vacation, too.

Until tomorrow, here’s a nebulous view of San Francisco taken from the heart of Sausalito.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1Day 2Day 3