By Linda Bottjer
Lucky you! You have vacation time and your passport is in order. Where are you off to – Paris, the Italian Alps or perhaps a sunny beach in Mexico with a hot nightlife scene? Wait, what’s that sound? Oh, it’s your wallet screaming….”you can’t afford this.”
Good fortune is still smiling. Plenty of local places offer the chance for San Francisco staycation with a foreign flair. Happy traveling.
The Istituto Italiano di Cultura of San Francisco on 814 Montgomery Street is dedicated to spreading the cultural wealth of Italy. There are numerous exhibits such as modern Venetian glass artisans, and the great fashion houses and events honoring Italian cinema, complete with subtitles and culinary classes.
The country that inspired Raphael and Titian is celebrated at the Museo Italo Americano. With a collection of Italian and Italian-American artists paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other mediums this museum is a must see. Along with their permanent collection and ever-changing exhibits the museum features art history classes and low-cost lectures.
Surrounding North Beach is the traditional Italian neighborhood. Floral laden public places like the Michelangelo Playground and Community Garden on Greenwich Street are perfect places to sit and dream. Cafes and restaurants offer dishes from Rome, Naples and Florence and other Italian cities and districts.
Ooh-la-la Belden Place
If you are longing for Paris then a meal along Belden Place is required. Al fresco dining occurs throughout the seasons on this pedestrian only block located in downtown between Pine and Bush Streets. Bistros, such as Plouf, specialize in classic French seafood entrees like mussels.
Bastille Day is celebrated in grand Gallic fashion every July 14. Continue your Francophile fascination by seeing sculptor Louise Bourgeois’ “The Nest” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
A Mexican Vacation
Let the Mexican Bus help you salsa, mambo and meringue on your staycation nights. Brightly painted and festooned, inside and out, with paintings and holiday lights the bus offers regular nighttime tours of Latin dance clubs.
On Sundays their arts’ tour first stop at the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center and continues to view murals like the “Mission Celebrations/ Celebraciones de la Mision” off Cesar Chavez Street in the Mission District. Also in the Mission is the Casa Lucas Market at 2934 24th Street. Your mouth will say “gracias” from the fresh produce, cheeses, spices and most things needed to cook Mexican foods including gear like a tamalera (steamer used for making tamales). Complete the fiesta feeling by bringing home a piñata.
Be ready for your future German trip by learning the language now through courses at the Goethe Institut at 530 Bush Street.
Then practice at the annual Oktoberfest by the Bay, held at Pier 48 or by eating at Suppenküche. The restaurant, in Hayes Valley, specializes in Bavarian food and is authentic with its varied soups, salads and pork dishes like grilled chops with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. A beer garden will be opening soon.
A Wee Bit of Scotland
Free weekly lessons are offered on Wednesdays by the San Francisco Lawn Bowling Club in Golden Gate Park. The organization was formed by the St. Andrews Club in 1901. Take lessons and the dance with a Celtic charm with the Royal Scottish Dance Society’s monthly parties. A stop by William Glen and Son on Union Square for your clans’ tartan or jewelry like a claddagh necklace will bring the aroma of heather closer.
Linda J. Bottjer is a full-time writer who loves to navigate San Francisco’s culinary trails. Follow her adventures at Words 4 Sail.