CALIFORNIA

White Chapel Gin Bar {San Francisco}

White Chapel is a damn fine Gin-Bar nearby Union Square and Market Street in San Francisco. I hardly ever write blog-posts about bars, however if i'm writing a review about it, it's pretty obvious that i had a splendid time and a great night at the café.

The walk from Union Square towards White Chapel will lead you through sketchy corners at night, but it definitely was worth the adventure. Passing by the bar, you hardly recognize it as a gin bar from the outside. After getting the head nod from the bouncer I walked in, as soon as i passed the door I exhaled an inner-wow. The interior design was astonishing! It reminded me of the shapes and forms of a cathedral, so did the low dimmed ambient light.

I took a seat on at the bar and waited for ordering my first drink. While traveling solo, the first order often gives me a weird insecure feeling, because most of the customers are in groups or couples. The bartender Keli, who considered herself as a "ginoisseur", took care of my first gin&tonic made out of "Brooklyn Gin".  To make me even more insecure she asked if i ordered a "brooklyn" or "brockley"gin. Because of the ambient noise I didn't understand what she was talking about. So she showed me both bottles and I picked the right one.  Instantly I was amazed by Keli's knowledge about gin.

After having downed my first drink, another unknown bartender, asked me for another gin&tonic. I agreed, and he filled up a glass with a homemade g&t from the tap. Gin&Tonic from a tap? That was weird and that's how it tasted, weird. I couldn't drink it. So I called Keli and asked her for another drink. She noticed that I didn't like the tap g&t. I opted for an icelandic gin. Kelli told me it's on the house. Considering that most gin&tonics were around 10-14$ , i found it pretty nice to get a free drink.

After that drink Keli taught me lots about gin, and we talked about her travels, her experiences with foreign gins, etc. It was crazy to see how the gin scene had evolved since my last visit in San Francisco.

Later in the evening I got in touch with Andrew and Enoch, two damn talented bartenders, who impressed me quite a lot with their mixing skills. When Andrew added me on instagram, we found out that we had lots of common interests, coffee, music and photography. I was invited to have a coffee at Andrew's place the next day. The roller coaster ride went on and I got served more gin&tonics, port wines, and cocktails. It actually was mind blowing to see how much effort and details Andrew and Enoch put into each cocktail they were pouring out. It looked and felt very artistic.

I had quite a few tastings of several gins. 

I left the bar pretty wasted, but i was really happy that i ran into these people. Actually it was the first time where I had fun at a bar, only because of the staff working at the bar. I wish I had met more locals like Keli and Andrew in San Francisco. Genuine people!

The cherry on top, was the music that night, all soul music!

White Chapel thank you for having me! 


White Chapel

600 Polk St, San Francisco,
CA 94102, USA

website: www.whitechapelsf.com

San Francisco - Trails & Beaches

I just came back home from my 6th trip to San Francisco, and thought I'd get bored of publishing another blog-post about one of my very favorite U.S. cities, but that ain't the case. Once again I soaked up many new impressions and travel memories in San Francisco.

Just before my trip, I put a list together with all the interesting parts & sights I hadn't discovered yet. I pretty well filled up the schedule of my 6 days and planned ahead which parts I'd visit on the specific weekdays.

As my trip came to an end, I sadly realized that I still missed so many things, and that I barely completed my check-list. There's still so much to discover in San Francisco, even after 6 trips to the city. 

This time I really put my focus on its beaches. I was browsing through a couple of photos of the golden gate bridge, which were taken from the Baker Beach angle. I kind of felt ashamed that I never made it to Baker Beach, because you definitely get the best photos from that viewpoint. The typical tourist photos you see from right in front of one of both ends of the bridge, are the least impressive in my opinion. So I was looking forward to get to Baker Beach.

Baker Beach.

As I don't like taking bus-rides in big cities, I decided to start my "baker beach hike" early in the morning at 6am, just before the sunrise, to get a couple of descent photos of the city, just before sun rise. I walked from the union square neighbourhood toward the ferry building very next to the bay bridge, that leads to Oakland. I haven't even been close to the ferry building, on my previous trips, and I felt like i missed a beautiful spot of the city. You can watch the sun rise on the pretty wooden pier, walking through the middle of the lamp-post lane. The cupid-arch is withing walking distance as well. Inside the ferry building you'll find lovely shops selling different kinds of crafts, "french" pastries, delicious coffee at "Blue Bottle". 

I tried to avoid the popular pier 39, which only has tasteless tourist-shop to offer, and almost only restaurants which serve bad and greasy food. From the ferry building, I walked up too many stairs til I reach the beautiful Coit-Tower. It became one of my favorite parts of the city, even though it attracts a lot of tourists. The altitude of the hill gives beautiful views all over the different areas of the city. 

I moved forward through the colorful North Beach, towards the "Ghirardelli Square" at North Point Street, where I stopped for my second coffee in the city. I was impressed how good their chocolate was. Who ever thought Americans were great at making chocolate ? ;) Outside of the Ghirardelli square, you already can witness the beauty of the famous red bridge, and it feels like it's already pretty close, but it's not! It takes another 40-50 minutes to reach it.

After I made it to the bridge, I decided to move on to Baker Beach. Starting from the Golden Gate Bridge, you can choose different trails that will lead you to Baker beach. To get to the trails, you gotta follow the path below the bridge, as I can remember it's the only way to get to the other side without a car. 

You walk past several view points and it felt like forever to reach Baker Beach. I took my first photo shots down at Marshall Beach. There are a couple of paths that lead you down to the shore, but don't forget, that you gotta walk those paths uphill again to move on towards Baker Beach. 

On my way a couple of tourists asked me if I had seen restaurants nearby, but I didn't. I guess those folks, underestimated the distance of the trails, like I did. And of course, it felt like summer! The weather was just great for a november, real t-shirt and shorts weather. I caught a light sunburn, walking all day in the sun.

What I learned after I had reached Baker Beach:

- it's further and more exhausting than I thought it would be.
- it's only a small part of the San Francisco shores.
- once you've made it to the beach, you gotta get back to the city. If you don't have the exact change for the bus ride, can't get a cab in the area, "uber" doesn't work, because you don't have internet-access on your mobile phone because of roaming issues, it's gonna be a hell  of walk to walk back in the city center.

 

Ocean Beach & Sutro Beach.

On my second day, I decided to get back to the beach area. Walking down Powell Street towards Market Street, I took the "#5R-Fulton Rapid" busline, which was only 2.25$ . It takes approximately 35-45 minutes to reach the last bus stop of the route. From the bus stop it only takes a short walk to reach the beach, or to get to the wind mill that is located at the "Golden Gate Park".

Nearby there's a beach house, where I stopped by for coffee & breakfast. It was kind of pricey, but you could enjoy an ocean view while having breakfast. North of the beach there's the popular camera obscura and the famous "Cliffhouse Restaurant". Behind the restaurant, there were several pathes which lead to Sutro Beach, where only ruins of the once public swimming pool are left.

Following the different paths will lead you northbound towards Baker Beach, but it's still quite a few miles away. Nearby Sutro Beach, there's another vista point, which will give you a lovely view onto the Golden Gate Bridge. Besides the view, there's another big circle made out of stone to discover. It's really not a must-see, but while being in the area, why not check it out. 

Before heading back to the busstop, to get back to the hostel, I enjoyed some time on the beach, watching the waves collapse in front of me. The weather was just outstanding for a november. There aren't many cities that would come to mind, if i had to recommend a travel destination for the last two months of the year, except for asian countries or southern american countries.

San Francisco would be one of the cities I'd consider turning back to in november or december months.

Ocean Beach.

Hayes Street (Patricia's Green).

Afer visiting an art gallery which hosted a couple of artworks of Shepard Fairey (OBEY), I was told that Fairey recently painted two new murals in San Francisco. The one I really wanted to see, was a mural of Cesar Chavez, which was located at Hayes Street, nearby the Patricia's Green square. 

I can't remember if i'd ever been to Hayes Street, but I was so impressed by the charm of that lovely and colorful neighborhood. The hood was packed with different coffee bars, art galleries, craft-shops... Once I'll get back to San Francisco, this is definitely gonna be the place where I'd love to hangout or even book a room at a hostel or hotel in that part of the city. 

 

White Chapel (Gin Bar).

More to come about this fabulous place. I will write a separate review about my favorite bar in town. The link to the review will be added soon.

 

Clement Street (and 5th Avenue).

I had my best night at Clement Street (with 5th avenue). I met up with my friend Jessica on a Saturday at Haight Street for a coffee. She decided to take me out the same evening to a show at the venue called "Neck of the Woods". The whole alley on Clement Street was packed with different restaurants, bars, bakeries, flower shops. Somehow it felt totally different than the other areas I've been to in San Francisco. It had the vibe of a little american village. There weren't barely any tourists, and it definitely felt like a local spot. People were a lot more outgoing and easy to talk to. I realized again, that the city has so much more to offer than just the popular spots. Even after my 6th visit in the "City By The Bay" there's still so much left to discover.

San Francisco remains one my favorite U.S. cities, it could even be my favorite. I felt proud again that I had the initials -SF- tattooed on my right arm.

 

 

City of Angels

I apologize for a lack of recent updates, however I had to cancel my 2 recently planned trips, out of personal issues, and lack of finances. 2016 will be another fulfilled year with lots of travels, new stories to tell, and new friendships.

While waiting for my upcoming trip, I decided to write a post about the gigantic city of Los Angeles, California. As I was writing in my previous blog-posts that I used to be a legit fan of California, I've visited Los Angeles too many times. On each trip, there was always something new I could discover.

By the way, my very first trip to the U.S., was in Los Angeles. I instantly fell in love with it. Sadly people don't ever tell anything cheerful about L.A. It's very often considered as a dangerous & filthy city, with too many superficial californians living in a superficial bubble.

Well, in my opinion, there's a lot more to discover, besides the superficial people trying to stay in the perfect shape, or spending money on Melrose.

Here are my favorite spots in L.A., which I'd suggest to anyone who's curious about discovering the diversity of the city.

  • Santa Monica

You got it! It's the very touristic part of Los Angeles, where tourists crawl through "3rd street Promenade", and where too many shots of the Santa Monica Pier are taken. However everbody loves Santa Monica, it gives you the feeling of a summer vacation, and you can reach the beach within a couple of minutes. It's the perfect location for a hotel. And so many delicious restaurants and fancy cocktail bars are just right there in the neighbourhood.

I love the flair, of the old Santa Monica pier, and its amusement park, that everybody knows from the cheesy lovestory-movies. It's a safe area, and a very vivid location for night-walks.

  • El Pueblo

As you could have figured out by its name, El Pueblo, is a hispanic neighbourhood in the historic district of the city-center of Los Angeles. It was one of the last spots that I discovred in L.A. Actually it was very entertaining, still a little bit too touristic, but I totally enjoyed it. While spending a few days in the LA area, it's easy to notice that the hispanic culture has a big impact on the whole city. The buildings, the colors, and latino population all over the city. Lots of spanish words in the streets.

  • Venice

Who doesn't know Venice Beach? Ever heard about Arni's muscle beach? The tv show Californication? The legendary Dogtown, from the 80s legendary skateboard era... There's so much to discover in Venice Beach, too much street art, different music artists along the beachwalk of Venice. The diversity of people: rappers, dancers, hippies, bodybuilders, stoners, ... a whole melting-pot of different nations. 

Venice Beach is the perfect spot for nightlife. A lot better than Santa Monica, if you're staying in that area. People are a lot more laid back than in Santa Monica, where the locals mostly consist of waiters & vallets.

I love observing the people walking by... watching the hispanics play squash with their hands, streetballers doing alley-oops, the skaters grinding all over the skate-pools, the bodybuilders pumping iron. It's a fest for photographers. There are just too many subjects to take photos of.

 

  • Hollywood

Too many times, I spoke out my repulsive thoughts about Hollywood. Once you walked along the Hollywood's walk of fame, you gotta admit, that the streets aren't as glamarous as they're often considered in the medias. Drug addicts, bums, lo-fi comedians, ... annoying the tourists, asking for change. There streets are very filthy, there's trash on every corner. BUT... everytime I visit Hollywood, I bump into new streetart murals, I discovery new lovely shops, and I love passing a couple of hours at L.A.'s biggest record store called "Amoeba". As a music aficionado, you can have a drink at legendary venues, where your dad's favorite band used to play gigs in the 70s. Last but not least, there's the Hollywood letters left in the background. As soon as I discover the Hollywood sign from far out on the highway, I feel like i made it to Los Angeles. :)

  • Beaches

There are far too many beaches you can visit all along the shore of Los Angeles. Malibu, Venice, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Hermosa, Huttington, ... Each of them has its own charm. Sometimes I just expected too much, but actually there's nothing fancy about Californian beaches, except the vivid alleys of Venice Beach.

One year I stayed at Hermosa Beach, because I was on a budget. It takes you approximately 30-40 minutes to get from Santa Monica to Hermosa by car. Hotels are way cheaper in Hermosa. Less crowded streets, and the beachpubs close the the famous surfer-statue leave a much more local impression, than the other touristic spots.

 

Well it's LOS ANGELES! How about watching the Lakers play, the Dodgers hitting a couple of homeruns. Check out a concert in Hollywood, Anaheim, or Venice Beach. Fancy a shopping tour on Melrose Avenue or in Beverlyhills.

I love visiting movie locations in Los Angeles. The old diner of Pulp Fiction's opening scene, the house of "Six Feet Under", the locations of "Californication", LA's China Town where Jacky Chan's "Rush Hour" was shot, Malibu's pier from Liam Neeson's "Taken 3". The search-engine google will help you finding out the exact adress of the different locations.

Rent a car, drive all along the beaches, on Mulholland drive through the Santa Monica Mountains, towards Hollywood. Enjoy the views, the cityscapes, the colours, the people. You will love it!



San Francisco in 24 hours

San Francisco should have been my first blog-post about the U.S. cities, because I admire it a lot. I already visited San Francisco more than 5 times, and it never gets old. It's one of the most liberal, laid back and colorful cities you will ever discover in the United States of America. People always ask me, how many days they should plan on spending in SF. Believe it or not, you can experience the most popular parts of San Francisco within a day, if you leave your hotel very early in the morning. Of course, the ideal time for your visit should be around 3 to 4 nights.

Every time I get back to my favorite city in California, I'm mostly traveling with different people, and I have to introduce them to the beautiful city of San Francisco. Below you can see a map, how I start my journey:

  1. {green} Union Square
  2. {blue} North Beach / Coit Tower
  3. {yellow} Bay Area
  4. {orange} Lombard Street
  5. {grey} Alamo Square
  6. {red} Haight-Street
  7. {pink} Castro

 

UNION SQUARE

I usually try to get a hotel around Union Square, even though it's the less charming part of the city. It's surrounded by the most common shops and shopping malls, that you will find in any other U.S. city. But Union Square is always busy, and mostly very safe at night. There's a big selection of restaurants and bars, and some of those are busy every day, so you don't lose time on finding a right spot to socialise with the locals or other travelers. During my stay in San Francisco, I always get food at The Old Siam Thai, it's cheap, always delicious, and their service is super fast. Try the Thai-Icetea!

NORTH BEACH

If you walk straight up north from Union Square, you will walk all the way through Chinatown, til you reach North Beach, the italian neighbourhood of SF. There's not "that much" to check out in Chinatown, nor in North Beach. But I love having a coffee at the TRIESTE cafe. It's very italian-like, and you can watch the locals getting by and grabbing a coffee. Considering some articles I read online, Francis Ford Coppola wrote much of his screen-play for his masterpiece "Godfather" in that coffee-bar. 

Move up north, and check out the small, but lovely Coit-Tower. You will notice the tower, from too many places all around San Francisco. It's located on the top of a hill. For only a couple of bucks, you can get on top of the tower, to take some beautiful photographs of the city.

"Saint Peter & Paul Church" is located west of the Coit-Tower, the church where Marilyn Monroe, and the legendary baseball player Joe Dimaggio got married. 

BAY AREA

Still head up north, til you reach the beautiful bay area of the city. Check out "Pier 39", do some shopping, grab some delicious sea-food, and take some photos of Alcatraz Island. "Pier 39" is a very touristic place, but you will still enjoy it, if it's your first trip to San Francisco. The sea lions, the Fisherman's Wharf sign, the last cablecar stop, ... there's so much "San Francisco" in the bay area, and of course the straigh view on the Golden Gate bridge [if it's not too foggy]. That's usually the place where I have my lunch/brunch. Visiting Alcatraz will cost you lot a of time, and mostly you gotta wait a couple of hours after you bought your tickets. Sometime it's even soldout and you need to get a ticket for a different day.

After filling your stomach with seafood, walk west towards the Aquatic Cove, and from that point it goes uphill again, til you reach the famous curvy Lombard Street. 

 

ALAMO SQUARE

If you feel like it's becoming a long day already, or if you wanna save some energy for the evening, get a cab for a couple of bucks, and take a ride to Alamo Square. Everybody will recognize Alamo Square from the Tv-Serie "Fullhouse". Sit back, enjoy the view, and drink a delicious coffee at one of the coffee-places around the square.

 

HAIGHT STREET

From Alamo Square, you're only a couple of blocks away from Haight Street and the beautiful Buenavista Park, however it will take you 30-45 minutes to walk through its green area. Follow Haight Street towards Golden Gate Park, and discover the craziness, the hippies, and the creative shops of Haight Street. Love it, or hate it! I love spending some hours in the local clothing shops, book stores, and of course the holy music store called Amoeba. If you love buying records or CDs, Amoeba is a must! It's the biggest music store I've ever been to.

After Haight Street, it's up to you, if you prefer visiting the Golden Gate Park, and its Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, the Botanical Garden, or Stow Lake. The second alternative would be the worldfamous gay neighbourhood called CASTRO.  I'd recommend Castro.  Golden Gate Park is just too big, to walk through it. Save the park-tour for a different day, take a bus ride and check out the peaceful and colorful Castro area. Everybody who visited Castro, loved it... trust me. :)

 

You've made it ! You've seen "a lot" of San Francisco on your first day, but there's still so much to check out in San Francisco. I'd never recommend to visit the city in one single day. It's just too much at a time, and you will not enjoy, nor discover the big heart of the city.

But if you're only having a stop-over in San Fran, i'd recommend following this plan.