Look­ing: San Francisco

GT (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS LUKE SMITH

San Francisco is one of those iconic Amer­i­can ci­ties made fa­mous and fa­mil­iar to mil­lions by pop cul­ture. Tales from the City, Ar­mis­tead Maupin’s en­dur­ing chron­i­cles of the place and its char­ac­ters; Bul­lit and its leg­endary car chase through­out the un­du­lat­ing roads; hell, even a sur­pris­ing num­ber of episodes of Mur­der, She Wrote lo­cate them­selves in the Bay Area. So when you first ar­rive, as with New York, you re­ally feel as though you al­ready know the place.

HBO’s su­perb Look­ing, how­ever, presents the city in a dif­fer­ent way to its for­bear­ers, with San Francisco as a liv­ing, breath­ing character and not merely a back­drop or a study in nostal­gia. So given the chance to ex­plore the place from the point of view of cen­tral char­ac­ters Pa­trick [Jonathan Groff], Agustín [Frankie J Al­varez] and Dom [Mur­ray Bartlett] to mark the re­lease of Look­ing – se­ries one on Blu-ray and DVD, who were we to de­cline? Sure, this was a trip that didn’t take in Al­ca­traz, that didn’t dwell on Ghi­rardelli’s fa­mous cho­co­lates and that cer­tainly didn’t fo­cus on the more an­o­dyne shop­ping Mec­cas like Union Square or tourist traps like Fish­er­man’s Wharf, of­fer­ing in­stead a far more per­sonal in­sight into what must surely be the west coast’s – if not Amer­ica’s – friendli­est city.

Look­ing for food and drink San Francisco is widely known as per­haps the culi­nary cen­tre of the USA. Dom, try­ing to get in on a bit of that in Look­ing, sets his sites low by es­sen­tially at­tempt­ing to in­tro­duce Nando’s through the medium of the pop-up restau­rant. The Naked Kitchen – a rather classier pop-up af­fair – in­stead showcases tal­ented lo­cal chefs through flaw­less mul­ti­course cel­e­bra­tions in beau­ti­ful pri­vate homes in the Mis­sion Dis­trict area of the city. If down and dirty bur­ri­tos are more your thing, fol­lowed by in­cred­i­ble mar­gar­i­tas,

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then start at Pan­cho Villa, also in the Mis­sion. But if for­mal lunches in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge are up your street, then the for­mer mil­i­tary en­clave at Cavallo Point Lodge will also do you proud. While Look­ing un­der­lines the hor­rors of try­ing to find a de­cent man – amen – San Francisco at large re­minds you it’s hard to go hun­gry in this town.

Look­ing for Castro Ev­ery­one should know the im­por­tance of the Castro Dis­trict – the place where Har­vey Milk be­gan a cru­sade that would trans­form him from ‘guy who owned a cam­era shop’ to a true icon of gay his­tory. The area, and gay cul­ture in gen­eral, owes a huge debt to this great man, so it’s fit­ting that Castro Street it­self reg­u­larly crops up in Look­ing, with the Castro Dis­trict in gen­eral also break­ing up some of the angst with some in­cred­i­ble par­ties. At The Mid­night Sun we met the inim­itable Honey Ma­hogany – drag artist, chanteuse and mixer of the most lethal half pint ‘shots’ in the north­ern hemi­sphere. She also crops up in Look­ing, which serves to un­der­line that the show is as much about the city and its res­i­dents as it is scripted drama. The Stud, buried deeper in the Mis­sion Dis­trict, of­fers a more ready ‘charm’ to the Mid­night Sun’s pol­ish but you don’t need me to point out that what­ever you’re after, San Francisco’s gay scene has it all and wel­comes all. Hell, we even found a bar that only played sin­ga­long Dis­ney tunes. Un­til 3am. On a Mon­day.

Look­ing for more Even if the reg­u­lar tourist traps hold no in­ter­est, and you just want to hang out and feel as though you be­long in San Francisco, there is still a huge amount to see and do. Dolores Park – the site of Dom’s 40th birth­day party in Look­ing – is fea­tured in the se­ries as it re­ally is the meet­ing point and melt­ing pot for lo­cals. With in­cred­i­ble views across the city and the smell of freely smoked weed

It serves to un­der­line that Look­ing is as much about the city as it is the

drama

heavy in the air, it’s a must-sit kind of place – but buy a brownie at your own risk! The Academy Of Sciences in Golden Gate Park is a breathtaking di­ver­sion thanks to its liv­ing roof, a res­i­dent al­bino al­li­ga­tor and an in­cred­i­ble plan­e­tar­ium show. Or go a lit­tle fur­ther afield and pre­tend that you too are about to snog Rus­sell Tovey aboard the USS Hornet Mu­seum. If that floats your boat.

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