Travels: San Francisco

This weekend, the NFC Championship Game will be decided and either the Seattle Seahawks or the San Francisco 49ers will emerge as Superbowl contenders. In truth, I don't really care about this game and am just hoping that wings and beer will be involved. However, since I brought up the 49ers, I thought it would be an apropos time to share a few highlights from my time spent in San Francisco (go '9ers) last week. This was my second time to the cultured/character-filled/techy/beautiful city and this trip involved a mix of work, visioneering for my emergent small business, and of course, play. My desire was to experience a sampling of the flavors the city has to offer. Taking in a new city is a multi-sensory experience and in taking in the aromas or at times being hit with them as I walked or Muni'd about, there were three that continuously wove in and around each other: 1) deliciousness 2) patchouli 3) urine. Urban life - know 'bout it! Needless to say, I had a fantastic time in the Bay Area exploring and visiting friends and hope to return again. On to the highlights...

Union Made 

Union Made

Union Made sits between the Mission and Castro districts. Voted one of the top 10 independent men's stores in the country, Union Made carries signature made and aesthetically classic goods that strike the chord between polished and put together with West Coast casual. Not to be interpreted in the traditional sense of union made, rather, the store is about "collaborating, uniting and making things together." The space showcases established and up-and-coming brands whose pieces have a certain timeless modernity to it. There is quite a smattering of brands and goods but they are cohesive, complementing one another in form of dress. It is a pricey exchange. Pieces go from $68 to $700. Luxurious knit sweaters, polished Alden wingtips, wooden and welded shaving/grooming products, a wide array of stately pocket squares and woolen ties, and a selection of monthlies and quarterlies compose the space. What I liked most about the store was that it focuses on quality but balances this with accessibility. The staff encourage you to think of what you have in your wardrobe and what pieces in their store can inspire you to pair something formal with something more casual. The staff seemed collectively enthused about the clothes and the customers interacting with the goods. James certainly added some things to the wishlist here. They also have a sister store, Mill Mercantile. Yay.

Tartine Bakery
Tartine Sesame and Flax Oat Porridge Loaves

I've sat on the sidelines of the gluten-free movement reading about it, observing friends shape their meals to avoid it, and adding gluten-free options to any event or conference I've planned where food is involved. All of that gluten free consciousness fell by the wayside during this trip. We arrived to SF on Tuesday afternoon and rented bikes at Golden Gate State Park. Promptly at 4pm, we zoomed via Muni down to the Mission District to visit Tartine Bakery. On foot, we we crossed Guerrero St and lo and behold, we smelled just straight-up grainy and pastry deliciousness emanating from the bakery. Each day, the loaves emerge from the hearth fresh and warm at 4:30pm. We just made it before the line went out the door and around the bakery. Yessss. Within minutes, they sold out of the classic country loaf but we were able to snag sesame and flax-oat porridge half loaves as well as a slice of country bread with butter and apricot preserves. Yum!Now when one reads articles, sees posts, and watches videos about this, suffice to say, it gets hyped. You can't help it. It is now on a pedestal. Considering this and attempting to compensate, I tared my barometer at neutral with a slight lean towards skeptical. Okay, not really, I was excited! The bread was good. It was delicious. It melted on my tongue. And it had a fun mix of flavor eaten by itself or paired with butter and preserves. It wasn't life epiphany good, it was just good. Wholesome. Tasty. And I'm so glad I went. The bakery or the bread doesn't claim to be anything more than a local bakery with a zest for true and finely flavorful bread and pastries. The breads are definitely well-researched and well-loved. Tartine uses grains like spelt, red wheat, kamut, einkorn, quinoa, amaranth, et cetera. The co-owner, Chad Robertson has had a love affair (seriously, he waxes poetic) with bread for over 20 years and has meticulously studied ancient and whole grains; experimented with naturally leavened breads making hundreds of loaves (10,000 hours? check!); and has made a life (along with his wife and business partner) perfecting this centuries old dietary staple. I was pleased to visit a place like this in SF whose devotion, enjoyment, and patience to crafting these ordinary staples doesn't follow the dietary fads but shows that not all gluten is bad. It is in fact wholesome and delicious. Trust me, you won't want the caramelized crusts cut off of this bread.

Karl The Fog


The city is personified. Even their famous fog has a name, a backstory, and even a twitter! The fog is Karl, and although he may seem quite ominous as he descends onto the city bringing cold vapors and slightly blinding drivers, he's pretty beautiful. So much so that there is this stunning video Adrift tracking his journeys through the Cali landscape.Adrift from Simon Christen on Vimeo.

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Karl's mom met his dad somewhere over Hawaii and Karl was born in that tropical paradise. Karl's a modern fog and even has a twitter account @KarlTheFog. My sources confirmed that he's a fan of the microblogging company and feels pretty positive about its future outlook, so much so, that he even applied for a job at twitter. Can you imagine Karl coming to a conference room meeting? Or lunch @birdfeeder? What an entrance!!! (I think the folks at twitter believe Karl needs to keep doing what he do so he didn't get the job. Who knows how long it will take him to get over it. Expect more fog than usual over their Market Street office.

CapitalOne360 Cafe

CofficesSan Fran is a city full of freelancers, tech heads, artists, free spirits, and gourmands. Enter the "coffice" - a combination of full-fledged coffeehouse and office space. There were many in SF that mirror DC go-to's like Tryst, Coupe, Big Bear Cafe, Ebenezers Coffeehouse. I had a chance to experience two coffices firsthand. One was CapitalOne360 Cafe - a three-level building dedicated to freelancers. The coffee and food are offered at very reasonable prices and there was no shortage of outlets and various seating styles. Bean bag? Lounger? Counter height community table? Why yes. It offered a large, open space with lots of light, the pleasure of presence with other freelancers, but enough space for privacy and brainstorming. You could also reserve conference rooms below to hold meetings. Nifty. The other coffice was Workshop Cafe. When you arrive, the friendly staff ask you to check in using their phone app. Each seat is outfitted with its own outlet and they offer 10 hours of free wi-fi. After that it's $2/hour. You can text or email your coffee/food order and the staff bring it to your seat. If you need printing, scanning and larger meeting space - they have it in a collaborative section in the back. Again, nifty. Very helpful to get work done.

WDFM Family Portraits

Walt Disney Family Museum"What if your family created a museum about your life? What would it look like?" A 40,000 square foot space in the former barracks of the Presidio Park is filled with interactive galleries, early drawings, animation, movies, music and listening stations telling the colorful story of Walt Disney's life. Co-founded and curated by his heir and daughter, Diane Disney Miller, the Walt Disney Family Museum is a tribute to the legacy, history, and innovation that Disney built. The walking timeline has recorded audio from interviews, original letters he wrote to colleagues and family, and early sketches.

It's also a warm biographical picture of the family man, which spurred his creative brilliance when it came to classic Disney stories, films, merchandise, and parks. Disney changed the game of animation and brought a level of technology and quality that outdid the stagnant state of cartoons at that time. Also, his desire for Disneyland was to create an amusement park that told a story and thrilled both parents and children alike. He was a big kid with discipline and tenacity and it was an inspirational treat to walk through his life and work.

I was also excited to see the special exhibit featuring Tyrus Wong. Alive and kickin' at the age of 103, Tyrus is a Chinese-American illustrator and artist that broke through many barriers in Hollywood during his time. Hired as an "in-betweener" (someone who draws all the animated sketches from one plot point to another), he created the inspiration portraits for what became Bambi. His artwork creates an atmosphere all around it through his use of impressionistic-influenced watercolors and bold broad strokes inspired by Chinese calligraphy and art. Since his retirement, he lives in the Bay Area and makes elaborate kites and other toys.

Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences 

Oh yeah. Nightclub for hipsters and nerds! We grooved and got our learn on as we made our way through the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate State Park. Each Thursday, the Academy hosts a nightlife evening with a certain theme. The theme for this particular Thursday night: "How To." Partnering with DJs, SkillExchangeSF, and Google, we meandered through a series of stations featuring demonstrations on making fresh mozzarella, urban beekeeping, letterpress, taxidermy, plant id'ing, juggling, ninja skills, Google glass, and 3D-printing. The other exhibits were also open to the nightlife crowd such as the rainforest biosphere, aquarium, and the hottest ticket of the night - the planetarium. A camaraderie permeated the planetarium crew as we all cheered and clapped for nearly everything during "Cosmic Collisions" narrated by Robert Redford. Next, we stopped by the tectonic plates section in time for our test run of Google glass.

We put on these spectacles of the future and began voicing commands to the air while tapping and swiping along with 50 other people in the exhibit. The glass screen is placed in front and above your right eye so it takes some adjustment to see the screen without blocking your vision. If I were to take a snapshot, the room was full of people squinting their left eyes while their right eyeball rolled up, sometimes too much, to get a clear shot of the screen. Google glass didn't like my voice or search queries so it took me to other sites. Strange sites. Oh well. But I did successfully take video and photos. I don't see the way it will integrate into my life currently and I cringe to imagine the day where I'm at dinner with friends and we're all wearing Google glass. This is probably how the conversation would go, "Wait, are you responding to me or are you tweeting someone?""That joke is hilarious, right?! Oh wait, you're on youtube.""Do I have something on my eyebrow? Oh nope, you're searching something." I shouldn't jest too much. Skynet might remember this one a couple years from now.

Muir Woods Main Trail
Muir Stump 2
Muir Woods Awe
Stinson Beach 2

Muir WoodsLocated in Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods is over 500 acres of protected park nearly half of which are covered in old growth Coast Redwoods. These redwoods are monumental. A brownish-red, they provide a cathedral-like canopy over the woods as visitors can choose between a minimum of 5 trails exploring the park. Redwoods take centuries to grow and some have survived a fire or twelve, showcasing hollows where the wood had been charred. Coincidentally, they also make for great photo spots. We found a stump whose center began in 909 A.D. and outer layer ended in 1930. Crazy!These trees have seen a lot of history. You get some perspective on one's smallness standing next to one of these redwoods. For someone that lives in an urban setting, walking through these woods was quite a marvel.That pretty much sums up the trip. At the end of all these highlights, you might be wondering, "But did she see the Painted Ladies and sing the Full House theme song, "Everywhere You Look"? You know I did.“I’m proud to have been a Yankee. But I have found more happiness and contentment since I came back home to San Francisco than any man has a right to deserve. This is the friendliest city in the world.” - Joe DiMaggioUntil next time San Fran!