With our house on the market this summer, taking the time and money to have a real vacation just wasn’t going to happen. So instead, we took advantage of living an hour away from one of the most scenic cities in the country to make trips into San Francisco and act like tourists for a day.

No Passport Needed

Our criteria for what makes a good vacation is pretty simple: park once for the day and then walk, plenty of opportunities to stop and have a snack, a wide variety of people for people-watching while we’re enjoying our refreshments, and window shopping that isn’t the typical mall merchandise.

San Francisco Centre has given us many successful outings that filled the bill for everything we want in a vacation day. But today, our daughters were interested in going back to North Beach, an area of the city that we had briefly visited once before with them. I think it was the smell of pizza that permeates those few blocks of San Francisco that was drawing them back.

I’m not the superstitious type, but it always seems to be a good omen for the day when we drive into the San Francisco and overcome one of the major hurdles of every visit to the City: finding a place to park. True, it wasn’t free and wasn’t on the street, but happening upon a parking garage that charges less than your mortgage for the day, seems like a gift. We found a great one just off of Columbus on Filbert.

Steve snapped a photo of us in front of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral on Washington Square. Hey, we could be anywhere in Europe in that photo, right? But even better, we speak the language and we don’t need to worry about the exchange rate.

The highlight for the girls was spending time in City Lights Bookstore. Steve explained the significance of the store that is now an official historical landmark. I know my daughters who are steeped in popular culture would disagree with me, but the 1950’s beatniks look a lot like today’s hipsters. Skinny pants, black horn rim glasses and definitely an attitude of “cooler than thou.”

One of the reasons for going back to North Beach was so Jennifer could check out “Therapy,” a boutique on Grant Ave. that she had gotten some earrings at the last time we were there. She was so happy today when she found a couple of back-to-school tops that she loves. I’m old, but I remember the feeling when you know you look cute when you see that hot junior guy in your math class the first week of school.

For me, the best part of the day was the food. A really great latte in Café Trieste, yummy pizza at North Beach Pizza, followed by a cup of gelato that Steve and I shared; half coffee flavor and half whisky. I don’t even like whisky but somehow when you add enough cream and sugar, even gasoline probably tastes good.

Steve declared it a perfect day. Perfect weather, shopping, eating and strolling. And everyone we encountered along the way was so friendly. It may have been a short vacation but it was a great one.