Recent Guests

Some more guests I’ve had the pleasure of showing around San Francisco, and the Wine Country…

This is Libby and Jen at the top of Twin Peaks. They came in from Florida to attend a music festival in Sacramento, and wanted to end their visit with a tour of San Francisco.

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This is Doug and Ann Fleck. They have traveled all over the world, including safaris in Africa and journeys in South America. I took them on a 2 day tour. 1st day–San Francisco with a drop off in Sausalito. Day 2– I took them on a Sonoma wine country tour, where we visited boutique wineries that big buses can’t go.  They must have had a good time–they surprised me with a bottle of wine after the tour!

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These great guests—and all my tour guests–remind me why I have the best job I could ask for. I get to drive around in my MINI Cooper convertible and show off San Francisco with delightful people.

 

Inner Sunset—the hidden neighborhood next to museums in Golden Gate Park

Most visitors to San Francisco make it out to East end of Golden Gate Park. Aside from it being a beautiful place to stroll, there are museums, gardens, and other attractions. The Conservatory of Flowers (a world famous example of Victorian greenhouse architecture, upper right corner of the map), the Academy of Sciences, the DeYoung Museum, and Japanese Tea Garden  (located around Music Concourse Dr.) are most popular destinations.

But unknown to most visitors is that they are on the edge of neighborhood that has a lot of great restaurants and interesting shops. The Inner Sunset is just a 5 minute walk from the museums along Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. to 9th Ave.

MINI Cooper Tour map of Inner Sunset

Along 9th Ave. you’ll find Misdirections (one of the few brick and mortar magic shops left), Ebisu (my favorite sushi restaurant), and Hotei (Japanese noodles). Turn left at Irving, and within a few blocks there is Amazing Fantasy comic books (8th Ave), Inner Fog (great wine bar, between 6th and 7th), the Crepevine (good and inexpensive food, especially for breakfast and lunch, between 7th and 8th) and several coffee shops. If you’re around during lunch, drop into the Wolly Pig for great sandwiches, (at Hugo and 3rd.) Turn right at 9th and Irving, and down the street (between 11th and 12th) is San Tung, where people line up for the amazing chicken wings.

Those are just some of the places to discover in this neighborhood. And after you’re done exploring getting back downtown is a snap on the N Judah.

 

 

Cajun Pacific–on the edge of the city, and worth the trip

I’m always looking for restaurants the will give guests to San Francisco “bragging rights.” By that I mean a restaurant the is off the tourist path of usual suspects (many of which are good–such as Tony’s Pizza and Cafe Zeotrope), and when you talk about your vacation later, you’ll be able to boast you ate a place very few tourists, and even few locals, know about.

Cajun Pacific is just that sort of restaurant. It is only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The menu changes weekly and is posted on Wednesday. It is small, and far out on the

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western edge of the city. Go three more blocks, and you’re in the ocean.

Reservations are highly recommended. And it is an easy ride (about 25 minutes) to get out there on the N Judah, which you can pick up downtown under Market St.

Take the trip and treat yourself to great Cajun food, a San Francisco experience, and bragging rights about finding a hidden gem.

Cajun Pacific Restaurant

http://www.cajunpacific.com
4542 Irving Street @ 47th Avenue, in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset
415-504-NOLA (6652)

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MUNI PASSPORT–THE BEST DEAL FOR CABLE CARS AND OTHER PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

If you’re planning on riding the cable cars, and you should, the best way to ride is with a Muni passport. It is also the best way to get around on all our public transportation.

Public transportation (a bus or street car) cost $2, and is good for 90 minutes of unlimited transfers. A cable car is $6, and is only good until you get off. So a round trip is $12.

Plus, you need exact change on all public transportation. And if you don’t have proof of payment, it’s an expensive ticket.

Save yourself hassle by getting a 1, 3, or 7 day MUNI passport. They cost $14, $22, $28 dollars respectively (the 7 day pass shown is from 2009). Just scratch off the month and consecutive days you want to use it, hop on any bus, streetcar, or cable car anywhere in San Francisco, and ride as long or as short as you like. You can pick them up at many shops (such as Walgreen’s) and MUNI stations.

We San Franciscan’s complain about MUNI, but it actually is a good system, especially Muni Paymentthe streetcars (the F, J, KT, L, M, and N lines), which are speedy.

By the way, don’t drive in San Francisco. Really. You may be a great driver where you live, but San Francisco will have you chewing the steering wheel. Driving and parking in San Francisco is a challenge, even for professionals such as yours truly. We have hills, streets that mysterious become one-way when you least expect it, and confusing maps. Plus parking is a nightmare, and expensive. You’re on vacation! Relax and let someone else do the driving.

 

Muni Passport 2009

Macondry Lane–one of 670 public staircases in San Fransico

San Francisco has omacondry lanever 670 staircases that are public walkways.

 

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Some, like the imposing   Filbert Street steps, are obviously open to everyone. But there are many staircases that appear as if they are private, such as being part of an apartment building or a walkway leading up to a house. Thus these public treasures, which make San Francisco the special place it is, are passed up or unnoticed by visitors and locals.

One of my favorite staircases is Macondry Lane. Tucked away on Russian Hill, it is a block long walkway with beautiful gardens and landscaping, and wonderful views of the Bay. Guests on Small Car Big Time Tours like to be dropped on at the Taylor St. stairs and get picked up on the other side at Jones.

This is a true San Francisco secret and not to be missed.

Recent Guests

June has been busy, which means I’ve had the pleasure of showing many guests San Francisco, Sausalito, and the Wine Country. It is a reminder of why I love this business. I get to drive around in a fun car in a beautiful city with interesting people.

IMG_1475 IMG_1476This is Brian and Karen O’Hair. We had a full day that included Ram’s Head winery in Sonoma (a wonderful boutique winery too small for big tour buses) and visiting the statue of Yoda in the PresidiIMG_1478o.

Carolyne, Celeste, and Stephanie were in town on business for a week. Not only did they see the city, I provided them a list of recommendations for restaurants, and the best route to a Napa Valley Balloon Ride, and advice on a drive down the coast to Monterey, complete with suggestions of where to stop to eat. Caroline wrote:”You are the best resource & I really appreciate your help!”
I always let guests know that the service doesn’t stop when the tour is over. They can call or write for advice anytime.

IMG_1498 IMG_1500Linda and Arlene were particularly interested in the architecture of San Francisco. They read the blog post on the Rousseau House, and had to see them. We also went down Marion Alley, one of the 670 staircases that are public streets in San Francisco.

IMG_1503Cameron, Anna, and Kristi–three southern belles from Alabama in front of Postcard Row. I am promised that when I make it to Camellia State, they will show me around with famous Southern hospitality.

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As I said at the beginning, on every tour I am reminded why I love this business. I get to drive around in a fun car in a beautiful city with interesting people. I had the pleasure of showing Lyne, Christine, and Erika around the city. They ended the tour in Sausalito, and took a ferry back to San Francisco. They also wanted to know about interesting cocktail bars, so I researched and printed out a list of the top most creative watering holes. Wrote Lyne: “We had a fantastic time.”

First Time in San Francisco

I love showing people San Francisco, especially when it is their first time to the city. I had the pleasure of showing Dave and Cindy around. Being music lovers, they were particularly interested in Amoeba Records in the Haight, and the jazz clubs of the Western Addition.

We took a tour of all the major spots (North Beach, Chinatown, postcard row, Golden Gate Park, etc), and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. (This shows the bridge with some fog. However, the rest of the city was sunny. Typical of San Francisco micro-climates.)

Being their first time to the city, they put a lot into a short stay. A Giants game, the ballet, and a day trip north. And a tour with Small Car Big Time Tours. I’m glad I could be part of their first time to San Francisco.

 

 

Dave and Cindy

Ferry from Sausalito: view the city by the bay from the bay.

Riding a ferry from Sausalito is a popular way to end a tour. After seeing San Francisco, many guests like to cross the Golden Gate Bridge (even more spectacular in a convertible MINI), and spend a little time in quaint Sausalito, then ride a ferry back to the city. You get a view of San Francisco surprisingly too few guests experience.

There are 2 ferries. The Golden Gate Ferry drops you off at the Ferry Building, which is also something you should see. The Blue and Gold Ferry drops off at Pier 41, on Fisherman’s Wharf.

Many people bike to Sausalito, and ride on the ferry tired and sweaty. Fine–if that’s your thing. But the other option is to be driven to Sausalito in style, and dropped off in time for a stroll around Sausalito before getting on what has been called the #2 best ferry commute in the US. (And I don’t know what is #1. Reports vary. Suggestions?)

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Nduja—Spicy Spreadable Salami. You want this.

Nduja (“en-doo-ya”) is spreadable salami, and perfectly spiced. If you have never had it, Ndujaand probably haven’t, you should. You can pick it up (and other porky treats) at Boccalone in the Ferry Building. (The Ferry Building is at the foot of Market St. on the Embarcadero.)  In a city known for food, Nduja is a standout. When I serve it as an appetizer at dinner parties, it’s always a hit and there are never any leftovers. Get some with a loaf of sourdough bread or crackers, and treat yourself. Buy some to take back home. As a matter of fact, buy two: one to share, and one all for yourself.

Recent Guests

IMG_1342 I had a great time showing Andrea and Shannon around San Francisco. Their custom tour included a trip to the Castro, up to the top of Telegraph Hill, down Lombard St, and a stop at Amoeba Records in the Haight. We also drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, and I dropped them off in Sausalito. They took the ferry back to the city, and said the views were beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

suzanne from wales and friends

Previously,  I had the pleasure of showing San Francisco to Suzanne, Julie, and Mel, three women from Wales, 2 of whom had never been to San Francisco. They wanted to drive down Lombard St. and go down a big hill, so I took them down Filbert St, which is the steepest street in the city (both things which cannot be done in a tour bus.) Afterward, they said the tour was everything they hoped it would be. Glad I could be of service!

The Mission Murals in Balmy Alley

Block long Balmy Alley is one of the best places to see a collection of murals in San Francisco, and definitely off the usual tourist path. Located in the Mission District, these beautiful artworks contain many different styles and subjects.

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 These are local treasures that even many people who live here don’t know about. So if you visit them, you might see the city better than a local. They are best viewed on foot. Or from a convertible MINI Cooper.

Balmy Alley is located off of 24th Street in The Mission. It is parallel to Treat Ave and Harrison Street between 24th & 25th streets.balmy alley #4

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Storybook Houses of the Outer Sunset

The Outer Sunset is an area of San Francisco unknown to most visitors to the city. Even residents know little about it, other than it is boarded by the Pacific Ocean on the west, Golden Gate Park on the north, and is usually considered as being the blandest neighborhood in the city.

rousseau #1However bland most of the Sunset is, with rows and rows of look alike houses, there are gems. These quirky homes have a variety of fanciful facades, such as a Tudor, a Spanish style, and Parisian Art Nouveau.

These are the inspired idea of architect and developer Oliver Rousseau. In the early 1930, he wanted to build homes for working class people that had a touch of whimsey and elegance. His ideas and designed were later copied by others.

The largest cluster of these storybook homes is along 33rd to 36th avenues between Kirkham and Lawton streets. If you’re in San Francisco and love architecture, you should make a point to venture out see an area that even most residents of the city are unfamiliar with. Big  tour buses can’t take you there. But Small Car Big Time Tours can.

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1 Kearny A Rooftop Oasis, if you know how to find it.

There are many POPOS (Privately Owned Publicly Occupied Space) in San Francisco. They include open plazas, indoor areas with tales and chairs, and, everyone’s favorite, rooftop gardens with great views.1kearny_6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the view from 1 Kearny, a beautiful, and perhaps the least known rooftop POPO. It’s a bit of a chore finding it, but well worth the effort. Though the address is 1 Kearny, enter through the lobby on Geary St. Tell the security guard you want to go to the rooftop garden. Inside the elevator is the only sign that lets you know there is a POPO in the building. Go to the 11th floor. Chances are, you will have these great views all to yourself.

1kearny_7-thumb-76x76-704084If you are interested in discovering more POPOS, go the the SPUR website

http://www.spur.org/publications/library/report/secretsofsanfrancisco_010109

You can download a map, and get the APP, showing where all the POPOS in San Francisco are.
These are your spaces. Discover and enjoy them.

 

 

Tony’s Pizza-Worth the wait

You know you’re in for some seriously good pizza when the front of the menu proclaims “Respect the Craft.” Tony is a real guy,11 time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani. It doesn’t take much searching on the web to find hundreds of raves, so I won’t go into a long review, other than to say my favorite is the Picante (found under Classic American.)

They don’t take reservations, so plan to wait either at the bar or somewhere else (they will take you cell phone number and call when your table is ready. Fortunately, since Tony’s is in the heart of North Beach (1570 Stockton at Union), there are a lot of bars and coffee shops nearby.

http://www.tonyspizzanapoletana.com/index.php

 

Ships under the Financial District

This photo shows hundreds of ships in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Cove 1851. The cove isn’t there anymore. It’s now the Financial District. Most of the ships that sailed into the cove were abandoned during the Gold Rush. Some were used as hotels, or shops, but eventually they were scuttled, and filled in the cove.

 

The map shows the original shoreline, and some of the ships that have been discovered during construction in the area.

So when you walk in the Financial District, remember this: under your feet is San Francisco’s Gold Rush History.

The Best Free View in Golden Gate park.

Here’s a secret few people know about: the observation deck in tower of the De Young museum (in Golden Gate Park) is free, and open to the public during museum hours. Just tell museum staff you want to go into the tower, and they will direct you to the elevators, which take you up nine stories to the 360 degree glass enclosed observation deck. There are amazing views of the park, the Golden Gate Bridge, and western side of San Francisco—all without an admission fee.

Misdirections: one of the last brick and mortar magic shops.

There used to be dozens of professional magic shops in the Bay Area. Now there is only one, but it’s a good one. Misdirections bills itself as “A Real Magic Shop for Real Magicians.” It is fully stocked with dvds, books, tricks, and supplies for the professional, but amateurs can easily find something they can perform with minimal skills. Located at 1236 9th Ave.in the Sunset District close to the Academy of Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden, Misdirections is definitely worth a visit. Not only because it’s fun, but a real magic shop is a rare experience these days.