"San Francisco--Always a favorite as a tourist destination"
by The Editor

San Francisco consistently is a top tourist destination each year. Certainly it was for the sixteen million visitors it hosted last year. There are many reasons for this popularity. From it earliest beginnings many of the country's most renown authors have written about it. Think Richard Henry Dana, Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Jack London and Peter B Kyne to name just a few.

For better or worse it has always been in the limelight. It was the port of entry for the Gold Rush and 1906 earthquake and fire which were events heard around the world. Then its reputation for the cosmopolitan makeup of so many ethnic groups and their neighborhoods have achieved fame of their own. Who hasn't heard of San Francisco's Chinatown or Italian influence of North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf. Recently one can add the Thai and Vietnamese sections of the city adjacent to Van Ness and the Latin dominance of the Mission District.

The San Francisco Travel Association provides some interesting facts. Where do all these visitors come from? One and one half million came from Europe last year with United Kingdom first, Germany second, and France third. Asia sent almost one million visitors to San Francisco last year. Close to the top of any list of visitors is Canada and Australia.

Three fourths of the visitors to San Francisco arrive for leisure and vacation and one fourth arrive for the first time. Leading attractions for visitors are Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park.

On our most recent visit we started with a trip to Golden Gate Park. It had been several decades since we had visited de Young Museum and the Steinhart Aquarium. We knew all of this had been changed dramatically. The weather that autumn day was classic San Francisco. It was foggy when we arrived at the Park, two hours later brilliant sunshine and a cloudless day. By the time we left in late afternoon the fog had returned.

We turned into the de Young parking structure off Fulton Street and left our car for the day. One can enter the museum from the garage which we considered a wonder. The new de Young building is most dramatic with its commanding tower. Inside the galleries are spacious inviting a casual, leisurely approach to the displayed art. We were soon engrossed in the extensive collection of art from Oceania and New Guinea and intrigued with the workmanship displayed in the wood carving. Adjacent is a exhibition of African art.

Of special interest to us was the portrait collection of people from late 1700s and early 1800s as well as the landscapes from the early part of the 20th century. We also noted and appreciated the extreme courtesy of staff members who were always eager to help and answer any inquiries.

Our good fortune continued when we discovered the cafe located at the museum offering both indoor and patio seating. The de Young Cafe showed a most interesting menu and style of dining. Orders are placed at the counter and paid but the food is delivered to the table. My partner ordered the Tagliatelle and Shrimp Pasta with broccolini and a white wine sauce. I decided on the roasted pork shoulder sandwich with ham, gruyere cheese and a black bean salad. Both were promptly served and excellent in quality and generous in portion.

McCalls operates restaurants at three San Francisco museums, de Young, Academy of Sciences and Legion of Honor with Jason Smith as executive chef. We chatted with Manager Mauy Gil and complemented him both on the menu selection and the polite competent staff. The Cafe has an international selection of wines including labels from Lebanon, South Africa and Spain.

After lunch we strolled across the square to the California Academy of Sciences which now includes the Steinhart Aquarium. It has been completely transformed since our visit so long ago. We liked the 'Rainforests of the World' exhibition with climate control so one can watch butterflies in their natural surroundings. The earthquake exhibit is of interest to anyone living in California. Maps and diagrams outline the lines of the North American and Pacific Plates and how they interact in California with distinctive fault lines. One can also be shaken by a simulated quake.

We enjoyed our show at the Morrison Planetarium which is all digital and the world's largest. We also watched a movie on the Academy's early exploration of the Galapagos Islands. This is the first of a new series of Vittles stories on how we explored San Francisco with dining experiences, places to go and things to see.

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Last Update:11/3/13

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