Insiders' Guide: Take A Boater's Stroll Through
San Francisco

By Kimball Livingston
Published: June/July 2013

Read more about why San Francisco is so hot this summer. An insider's guide to the bay, to river hideaways and wine country, and the America's Cup races.

Photo of the San Francisco Yacht Club Photo: Kimball Livingston

View of the San Francisco Yacht Club.

One of the joys of San Francisco is a cable-car ride. One of the miseries is lining up at the Powell Street turntable tourist ghetto and waiting an hour — could be more — on hard concrete while being assaulted by alleged musicians and professional panhandlers and meanwhile trying to amuse the kids. Boaters, avoid it. Go very early or very late. Or take a taxi to Fisherman's Wharf and, if there's a wait to board the cable car back downtown, you'll have vistas of water and mountains and a better class of street artists. (The alternative California Street Line at the foot of Market is a nice ride across Nob Hill; not as colorful, but rather fine.)

Me, I hope that's not you over yonder, because I'm walking with blinders past the turntable up three blocks to Union Square where I’m surrounded by opportunities to spend a fortune on designer threads. Soaring above all, reproduced in bronze, art patron Alma de Bretteville gazes down from her perch atop the Admiral Dewey Memorial. Alma had a long career in the arts and created the fine Legion of Honor museum sited high above the Golden Gate Strait. Earlier, in her moment as an (um, er) artist's model, she caught the eye of the heir to the Spreckels Sugar fortune. After eventually marrying — they had to wait for the old man to kick the bucket — Alma had clout.

A stroll down Post leads me past fashion boutiques including our local hot spot, Levi's, to Grant Street, where a hard left brings on the "Gate to Chinatown," as bogus as any display at Disneyland, but then, people like Disneyland. Ahead on the narrow, crowded street are the pagoda-style roofs that define Chinatown, San Francisco — offering trinkets galore, heaps of mediocre jade (some good jade, if you know your stuff), and hubbub.

Photo of San Francisco's Chinatown Photo: Kimball Livingston

Shopping in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

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