Tag Archives: San Francisco

If You Are Going to San Francisco…



The famous 1967 song from Scott McKenzie always gets me in a reminiscent mood.  I start thinking about my time as an Au Pair, when I was living so close to one of the most fascinating cities in the world.  But at the beginning of October, I didn’t have to reminisce no more. I was actually going to San Francisco to meet two of my longtime friends from Germany.

I haven’t seen them for two years, and I sadly missed out on their big wedding this summer. Luckily for me, they decided to spend their honeymoon in the states and invited me to tag along.  I didn’t have to think twice to announce that I would be on board and counted the days till October finally came along.

For our stay we had rented an apartment in the Russian Hill area, which was walking distance to the piers. From our living room window we could see the Alcatraz Island, which was extremely spooky at night with the fog and the prison building lights shining through the clouds.  Just thinking of it now really makes me miss this place and the city. Except the steep hill we had to walk up every day to get home.

On our first night together, we walked towards Fisherman’s Wharf to grab dinner at Nick’s Lighthouse.  A great spot for seafood lovers with some decent vegetarian offers and a cozy atmosphere, we celebrated the first night of our reunion. After some good food, we worked off all the calories from dinner by climbing our way up the steep hills towards home. This was definitely a great alternative instead of hitting the gym.

The next morning, our culinary excursion took us to the Buena Vista Café right down the street.  I have been to this place many times, and since it was only a two minute walk from our apartment, it was a no-brainer to have our first breakfast at this location. The Buena Vista Café is well-known for its Irish coffee. I have to confess that I have never tried it and am not intending to, but it is sure interesting to watch the baristas fixing it for thirsty customers.

For me, the best part (besides the really yum food options), is the view onto the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. I could stare all day at this beautiful piece of construction, wondering how it is able to hold tons of cars and people crossing it each and every day.  The cafe is located right across one of the cable car starting points, in case you’d like to catch a ride right after.

If you do consider visiting the Buena Vista Café, I have one tip: If you can, avoid going on a weekend.  There is no “Waiting to be seated” agenda, and the restaurant gets VERY busy. People literally wait till one spot opens up and then rush over to claim it theirs. It doesn’t matter who sets foot in the restaurant first. Weekdays are much less crowded and strenuous to your nerves.  Trust me, I have tried both weekend and weekday and I would never consider visiting this place on a Saturday or Sunday again.

For the remainder of the day, we checked off a couple of mostly touristy activities on our list.  We visited the seals by pier 39, wandered around the area, and then headed over to Powell Street for some shopping, followed by then devouring the cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory at Union Square.

To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of the tourist spots in San Francisco.  Of course, you have to visit them if you have never been before, but I personally prefer the less-overcrowded-by-foreigners areas, such as the Haight and Ashbury district with all its funky and unique stores.

One of the days, we decided to visit the Golden Gate Park and see what it had to offer. We took a stroll around the Japanese Tea Garden (cost: $9 per person for non-residents) and relaxed in the Zen atmosphere.  We totally forgot for a moment that we were residing in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the U.S. and rather focused on the beautiful trees, plants, and ponds.

Afterwards, we decided to walk the more than three miles towards the end of the park, where two giant windmills were located.  We did feel like being in the Netherlands for a second until we crossed the street and found ourselves at Ocean Beach.  Unfortunately, the fog had taken over and so we didn’t witness a breathtaking ocean view.  That is another thing I am sure many of you know: the weather in San Francisco can be unpredictable.


Another spot we discovered during our time was Za Pizza, a very small pizza joint located in our neighborhood.  The pizza is amazing, and the restaurant is located in the midst of residential complexes.  No tourists, no noise, no overcrowded streets.  This was what I was looking to find during our trip: A hole-in-the-wall kind of ambiance that turned out to be a total gem. We went two times while being in town, and I miss this place dearly being back in Southern California.


Throughout our stay in the city, we mainly traveled around by bus.  It was really easy and cheap to go from point A to Z by public transportation. And, as weird as this might sound, it made me feel being more one of the locals than a tourist. We also happened to be there when it was Fleet Week. We got to witness the streets being crowded with sailors and watched the incredible air show, the highlight being a performance by the amazing Blue Angels.

The only real downside during our vacation was the bad air quality we experienced during the second week in the city. Due to the heavy fires in Sonoma County, smog was laying all over town.  It started on Monday night when we acknowledged a smokey smell in our apartment. We first thought it must have come from a barbecue, but the smell got stronger by the minute.

It was when we turned on the news that we got informed about the cause of it: the outbreak of the horrendous fires up in Napa Valley and the surrounding areas. The next morning, when we pulled up the blinds on our windows, a big cloud of smoke was hanging over Alcatraz. It consisted of the remainder of our trip. Even at the airport, the air quality was so bad that some flights experienced delays.

We made sure to still make the best of our time despite the impact of the fires. We visited China Town and took a tour through Madame Tussauds. Spending time in this city never gets old, and I am already looking forward to my next trip. Until then I will keep listening to Scott McKenzie’s tunes.

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Images: Anne-Kathrin Schulte

Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.






Beethoven Night at the San Francisco Symphony – Ticket Special for all CaliforniaGermans

Beethoven wikipedia

Beethoven and Haydn – in San Francisco, April 20 & 23, 2016

Don’t miss a wonderful opportunity to experience two of Germany’s celebrated composers, Beethoven and Haydn. Beethoven’s Symphony Nr. 2 as well as Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D will be on the program with the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall next week on April 20 and 23, 2016.

CaliforniaGermans teamed up with the San Francisco Symphony, which is offering a 25% discount on regular tickets to all our CaliforniaGermans readers for these exclusive nights of classical music.

To purchase tickets at a 25% discount please click on the following link:


the “Beethoven Night” Program

The concert on April 20 and 23 , called Beethoven Symphony Nr. 2, includes the following program as well as Pre- and Post-Show Events:

Rameau – Suite from Pygmalion
Haydn – Piano Concerto in D
Biber – Battalia á 9
Beethoven – Symphony No. 2
Conductor: Pablo Heras-Casado
Piano: Ingrid Fliter

Pre- and post-show Events

Inside Music, an informative talk by Laura Stanfield Prichard, begins one hour prior to concerts. Free to ticketholders. Learn More.

Guest artist signing: Pianist Ingrid Fliter will be available for autographs following the April 22-23 concerts. Signing takes place in the orchestra lobby, near the Symphony Store.


When ordering tickets please keep a few things in mind:
1/If people want to sit next to each other they need to book tickets in a single order
2/in order to get the discounted ticket you need to select ‘Group”
3/Each order will only carry a $5.00 dollar service fee instead of a $10.00 regular service fee thanks to this discount.
4/Tickets are first come first serve, no hold on tickets has been placed.
6/Tickets are usually mailed to the address you give when purchasing the tickets but they can also choose Will call or print at home, no E-ticket.


Image : Joseph Karl Stieler (1781–1858)  – Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven when composing the Missa Solemnis.



BMW Brings Its Premium DriveNow Service to the United States

Have you been wanting to drive a BMW around town without paying the premium price tag of buying one from your local BMW dealer?  If you are living in the San Francisco area, you finally have the chance now that BMW is bringing their premium DriveNow car sharing service to town.  70 BMW electric ActiveE cars will be available at 9 San Francisco locations by this September (many are actually available now) and ties in with the companies ParkNow service that allows drivers to reserve a specific parking spot near their destination.

While BMW isn’t the first company in the United Starts to offer a car sharing service, what sets them apart from competitors such as ZipCar is the fact that you can pick up the car at one location and drop it off in another.  As an added bonus, users of the DriveNow program will receive the ParkNow service for free at the 14 nearby locations and will be also able to recharge the vehicle for free at any approved charging stations.

So how much does it cost to drive around in the electric ActiveE BMW?  To signup you need to pay a $39 activation fee which is common with all car sharing services, and then $12 for the first 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, drivers pay 32 cents per minute of driving time and 13 cents per minute if the car is parked.  That comes to $21.60 for the first hour and $19.20 for each extra hour of driving.  To compare, driving a gas-powered BMW 328xi with the ZipCar service would cost $15.25 per hour.  BMW is obviously being very competitive with their pricing for what they are calling a premium service.

The price actually gets better if you plan to rent the car for an entire day.  For $109 using ZipCar, you can drive up to 180 miles before paying an extra 55 cents per mile.  DriveNow is actually cheaper for the same 180 mile daylong rental.  For $90 you get the same deal with all the added benefits of the parking and charging stations.

If you want to experience the luxury of driving around in a premium BMW, you now have a cheaper alternative if you live in San Francisco.  The service initially launched in Germany back in June 2011, and BMW is quickly expanding the service to cities around the world.  If the popularity is anything like that in Germany, you can expect to see BMW expanding to more US cities in the near future.

Source: Forbes
Photo by BMW 
Article Source: German Pulse

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‘Exploratorium’ in San Francisco – A Modern Version of the ‘Deutsches Museum’


Exploratorium (Photo credit: rvr)

Having spent a lot of time during my childhood at the “world’s largest museum of technology and science”, the Deutsches Museum in Munich,  I had memories revisit me when I saw my son exploring and investigating at the San Francisco Exploratorium, named “ Best Science Center in the World” by the 4th science center  world congress in Rio de Janeiro.

Located within San Francisco’s historic Palace of Fine Arts, close to the Golden Gate Park this “…museum of science, art, and human perception was founded in 1969” by physicist Frank Oppenheimer, brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer (known to some as the “father” of the atomic bomb)

The Exploratorium is an absolute treasure for young and old, and just makes you want to go ahead and explore by touching and interacting with the “…475 interactive exhibits, displays and artworks that are currently on view”. The various hands-on exhibits study the fields of biology, physics, listening, cognition, and visual perception in a very unique way and in captivating presentations.

Even if one is not born with the ‘science gene’, a visit to the Exploratorium might just awaken your natural sense of curiosity and make you not want to leave this interactive museum. We spent almost a full day here and still felt there was so much more we needed to see.

And there will be even more to explore, learn and see in the near future. The Exploratorium is moving and will have a new home by spring 2013. The new space on Pier 15 will house a nine-acre campus right on San Francisco’s historic Embarcadero.

Information for your next visit:

  • Tickets are $25 for adults, $19 for youth and children under 5 years of age are free.
  • First Wednesdays of the month are free.
  • Location: 3601 Lyon Street, San Francisco,  CA 94123

Goden Gate Bridge – 75th Anniversary in 2012

English: Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco ...

Image via Wikipedia

January 5th in 1933 marked the day when construction for the Golden Gate Bridge began. Five years later on May 27, 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge opened to pedestrian traffic and became a world known landmark.
“May 27, 2012 marks 75 years for the Golden Gate Bridge and a wonderful opportunity to recognize the history, beauty, and ingenuity of this famous span…” (GodenGateBridge75.org) San Francisco is getting ready for the 75th anniversary celebrations.
The two-day Golden Gate Festival, from May 26-27, 2012 will recall and tell the story of the bridge. If you like to see what kind of activities are planned or want to read up on the Golden Gate history, or read about some fun facts, check out these links: Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary & Golden Gate Bridge Research Library.

Take a virtual walk over the Golden Gate, in case you are not in San Francisco…