What better antidote – not that one was needed – to a day spent in hippie heaven than a morning in San Francisco’s Union Square. Now I’ll confess that it is one of my least favoured parts of the city, even more so since the demise of the large branch of Border’s Books, only to be replaced by the Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) store (which my wife, by the way, adores).
But, in the right light, and provided you don’t actually have to go into any of the designer stores, I can endure, if not quite enjoy, a couple of hours there.
I stepped across the threshold of Macy’s for only the second time, and even then only to take the escalator to the eighth floor to experience the outstanding views of the entire square from the outside seating area attached to The Cheesecake Factory.
The predominance of grey and supporting cast of green contrast dramatically with the garish hues on display on Haight Street less than 24 hours before, but the austere layout, especially of the the Kremlin-esque Westin St Francis Hotel (below), whilst not conforming to “my” idea of San Francisco, is not disagreeable when the sun co-operates.
We could almost have been in any European city as we sat outside the Emporio Rulli café on the Stockton Street side, though the huge Macy’s frontage soon disabused me of that fantasy.
Fortified by her latté fix, Janet was ready to take on DSW whilst I sought photo opportunities that had escaped me before (just how many pictures of cable cars cruising down Nob Hill can one man take?). Hearts, beefeaters and Betty Boop provided satisfying alternative subjects – but no, I couldn’t resist the full to bursting cable cars as they stopped in front of me almost pleading to be photographed.
Janet’s re-emergence from DSW was uneventful – apparently this was merely a reconnaisance trip – and we settled for lunch and more people watching in the Bancarella café on the Powell and Geary corner of the square.
Union Square still doesn’t figure in my top 20 San Francisco locations but I learnt to appreciate, if not love, it a little more after this visit.
I might even summon up the courage to shop in Macy’s before this vacation is over.