nischewitz Cook Off at the nearby Hilton. Had I missed a potential scoop? “Naw,” she responded, “South Western kugel won… and it didn’t rate.”
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on Third Street is a must, with visiting exhibitions and permanent work including Matisse, Brancusi, Braque, de Kooning, Duchamp, Kahlo, and many more vying for attention in this palatial five-floor building.
And, within a stone’s throw, on Mission Street in the heart of the downtown Yerba Buena cultural district, the finishing touches are being put to the new Contemporary Jewish Museum. This $80-million masterpiece, designed by Daniel Liebeskind, and due to open on June 8, has been created within the landmark Jessie Street Power Substation, built in 1907.
The design for the 63,000-squarefoot building retains many features of the substation, supplemented by a modernist steel structure, partly clad in blue steel panels. It will house a range of permanent and temporary exhibits, plus music, film, lectures, discussions and workshops for children.
Try to explore the recently built de Young Museum in the Golden Gate Park, the largest man-made park in the world. Enter across the meandering cracks, representing the city’s fault lines and created by Andy Goldsworthy, to view the beautifully displayed exhibitions that include American painting, sculpture and decorative art, as well as collections from across the world, and then take the lift to the top of the nine-storey tower for a magnificent view of the city and ocean.
The contrast between modern buildings and those from the Victorian era which survived the 1906 earthquake — in particular the gorgeous “Painted Ladies” terraces — are what give San Francisco its unique landscape.
The city’s neighbourhoods each have their distinctive characteristics, too. Forget Haight Ashbury, which clings unappealingly to its hippie past, and head, instead to North Beach, which still retains a little of its “Beat” atmosphere with bookstores displaying old posters of Martin Luther King (“Free the Press from the Corporate Press”), its tarot and palm-reading stores and its Peachy Puffs girls, clad in very shortskirts carrying trays of candy and cigarettes.
You can have a great night out at North Beach, as you can anywhere in this lively city. After a heavily garlicinfused meal at the aptly named The Stinking Rose, we found Jazz at Pearl’s, one of the few remaining jazz clubs.
With its red-draped walls and a candle on each white-cloth’d table, it has an ambience straight out of the movies which can be enjoyed for the price of two drinks. All that is missing is the haze of cigarette smoke — San Francisco prides itself on being America’s first smoke-free city.
This is also a great city to dine in. While Fisherman’s Wharf is no longer a fishing port, it retains excellent fish restaurants. Allioto’s has an exotic street stall and a three-storey restaurant, with the dishes becoming pricier the higher you go to dine. The view of the Bay, and occasional sighting of seals and dolphins are a reward for
paying top price — around $18 (£9.50) for the Petrale sole — on the top floor, though not all the fish is kosher.
Around the corner, the Boudin Bakery, famed for its sourdough bread, offers a tour of the bakery and museum while you sample its fare. Save a little space for the renowned Ghiradelli chocolate sundae.
So venerated is this chocolate that nearby Ghiradelli Square is now an official city landmark — and also trans- formed into a pretty shopping centre. La Scala, next to the Sir Francis Drake hotel near the square, is another restaurant that supplied excellent grub at reasonable prices.
From here, you can take day trips to Lake Tahoe, Monterey or to the spectacular Yosemite Park, or explore more widely in California.
But whatever you do, after just a few days, you will understand why Tony Bennett left his heart here…
San Francisco’s new Contemporary Jewish Museum due to open June 8
Two of the trams which ply the vertiginous streets of San Francisco