Archive for May, 2010

99th Annual Bay to Breakers

May 19, 2010

What do you call a footrace where the participants dress up in costumes or wear nothing at all, throw old tortillas at each other and drink like there’s no tomorrow?  The beloved Bay to Breakers 12K – a San Francisco tradition since 1912.

I think of it as a “Mardi Gras with a California Fitness twist.”  Tolerance is the order of the day, and people feel more than free to express themselves through their attire (or lack thereof).  Technically nudity is not allowed, and neither is the consumption of alcohol now, but as long as you are discreet (with the alcohol and not the nudity obviously), the police leave you alone.

It’s funny, but instead of asking each other in the week leading up to the third Sunday in May what they are doing for the weekend, San Franciscans ask each other “Are you going to the Bay to Breakers?”  It’s that big an event.  In terms of the actual number of people, we’re talking about 70,000 participants.

So what is the “Bay” and what is the “Breakers”?  Well, the race starts at Howard/Beale, near the Embarcadero, and ends at Golden Gate Park (the western side).   In terms of miles, that just under seven-and-a-half miles (7.46 mi).

A couple of cool factoids about Bay to Breakers?

* It was recently named one of the 101 things every sports fan must do before they die by ESPN.

* It is the world’s longest footrace that has been run consecutively without changing in length or changing course.

* It made the Guiness Book of World Records in 1986, when 110,000 people participated in the event.

Next year is the 100th year of the race, and you can bet that I will be there.  Will you?

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Tripping.com: A New Way to Travel

May 12, 2010

When you live in a beautiful city that lots of people want to visit, like San Francisco, you get a bit jaded.   That lovely park at the top of Nob Hill?  A place where neighborhood dogs love to go and mark the trees and bushes.   Riding  one of the iconic cable cars?  A way to get to and from work that you always pray is not so packed with tourists that you can’t wedge  yourself into a tiny space with someone’s arm in your face and someone’s bag against your back.

San Francisco’s such a great city, but I catch myself often not appreciating it as much as I should.  That’s why I love when my husband and I  have people visiting us from abroad – especially if it’s their first time in the city.  Suddenly I start to see the city through their eyes.  Their sense of wonder rubs off on me, and I get a rush of civic pride.  I want to show off my city, take them to all of my favorite places.

Another benefit of having international visitors is that we get to practice the languages we know other than English.  My husband, for example, has someone with whom to speak Norwegian when friends from his native Norway visit.  I brush up on my interpretation skills when we have Spanish-speaking guests.

For these reasons, I was happy to find an online community called Tripping.  Its website allows for global hospitality exchange.  Here is how it works: You register on the site (takes less than a minute) and then search for members living in your desired destination. You browse through the list of registered users (and their profiles) then explore their availability for hosting.

Hosting means that the local member of Tripping (“Host”) gives the travelers (“Trippers”) a genuine experience of their culture through everything from meeting up for a cup of coffee, to taking them to their favorite restaurant (that most tourists never see), to sharing their home with the Trippers.

For me, being a Host through Tripping would give me the perfect opportunity for re-charging my “Appreciation of the City” battery.   Also, as a Host I would in turn be able to experience part of the Trippers’ culture just by hosting them.

Interacting with strangers who are intrigued by other cultures and genuinely want to experience the country on more than just a superficial touristy level I foresee as being very positive.  I’ve traveled a lot and stayed in strangers’ homes, and I always ended up making friends.  That’s the beauty of hosting a Tripper; then when I want to visit their home country, I will have friends with whom I can stay.

Best Hamburgers in San Francisco: Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers

May 3, 2010

Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers is the best burger joint in town – maybe the world. It’s definitely a hole-in-the-wall, and is very near the Tenderloin District (if it’s not officially considered part of it). I’ve never felt unsafe there, but it’s definitely a different scene from the more upscale Union Square area nearby.

The food is delicious, and the prices are very, very reasonable. The burgers come “standard” with Nieman Ranch beef patties, but you can also order buffalo burgers (buffalo meat is supposed to be even leaner than chicken) or Kobe beef burgers. Pearl’s also offers poultry burgers (chicken or turkey) and vegetarian burgers.

Estancia beef is their latest offering, and it’s actually free-range and grass-fed beef from Uruguay. Even taking the transport required into account, it’s still better for the environment than beef from ginormous-farm-raised cows in the States apparently. It’s “good for people, good for the animals, and good for the environment.”

What really makes Pearl’s stand out, though, is the complete “burger experience.” Along with your burger you have to get some onion rings or sweet potato fries. You don’t even have to choose. They have combinations of fried goodness like “frings” (fries + onion rings) and “springs” (sweet potato fries + onion rings). If you are in the mood for walking on the wild side, order the chili cheese fries. The calories and cholesterol might kill you, but at least you’ll die happy.

Also part of the ultimate Pearl’s experience are their awesome milkshakes. The milkshakes are an absolute must!! They come in all kinds of fruit flavors in addition to flavors such as peanut butter and Oreo. Even if I knew that drinking them definitely caused something like deafness (it doesn’t), I would totally go deaf rather than not enjoy their cold, delicious caress on my tongue. I order a shake even when we get our food to go, and although I live only a few blocks away, the shake is gone before I get home.

Pearl’s burgers are best enjoyed on the spot, however. If you take them home, the burgers and the fries start to get soggy. There is limited seating, but it doesn’t take that long to inhale – I mean eat – a burger and sides, so there is pretty good seating turnover. The bathrooms are nice and clean, so having to pee but not wanting to stay because of a gross toilet is definitely not an issue.

Just so you’re not disappointed, you should be warned that Pearl’s is closed on Sundays. My husband and I found that out the hard way, and we were devastated; we ended up getting a burger closer to Union Square and hated it.  The burgers at the other place were not as good and the shake was twice the price and not even half as tasty. That’s the bad news as far as opening hours.  The good news is, Pearl’s is open ’til 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights/mornings, making Pearl’s burgers what my husband calls the “ultimate [drinking] night food.”