Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 18, 2021

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San Francisco

New beginnings in the City by the Bay

San Francisco is a city that celebrates itself in the spirit of that great poetic forefather of the Beat Generation, Walt Whitman. A bastion of sexy liberalism, it’s a nonstop celebration of difference and eccentricity, not to mention innovation and design. Exquisite in size and resplendent with natural beauty, it bears the ephemeral air of the legendary city of Atlantis before it was swallowed by the sea. To visitors it whispers: enjoy me while you can and don't hold back!

Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge ( and the city commemorated the event by opening the much-lauded Golden Gate Strauss Plaza where visitors can learn about the bridge’s history, purchase bridge merch and even use green-screen technology to have their picture taken “atop” the bridge when fog threatens to spoil regular photo ops (two 5 x 7s cost $20. All prices US dollars). For a more up-close GGB experience, travel the three kilometers to the other side for incredible views of the Bay and city.

April sees the opening of the new Exploratorium (Pier 15;; adults $25), a popular museum with a quirky mix of art, science and tinkerings that’s widely recognized as the prototype for other participatory museums. The move, from the Palace of Fine Arts to Piers 15 on the Embarcadero, will give the museum 25 percent more exhibition space and permanent outdoor exhibits for the first time. It’s a great place to bring kids if you have them; if you don’t, you’ll be won over by the museum’s folksy-science vibe and fascinated by its exhibits.

One of the largest museums of natural history in the world, the California Academy of Sciences’ (55 Music Concourse Drive;; adults $29.95) new $488-million facility opened 2008 with an acclaimed “hobbit modern,” domed living roof and natural lighting in 90 percent of its public spaces. Inside, you’ll find a coral reef, rainforest, swamp and Claude: an albino alligator. For a more adult experience, go on a Thursday night between 6pm and 10pm for personal introductions to snakes and penguins.

If you want to visit more than a couple of museums, consider taking advantage of the new City PASS (, which saves you 46 percent on admission to five must-see attractions including the Exploratorium, the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young (fine arts) Museum. Passes are valid for nine consecutive days of use. It also gives you seven days of unlimited access to MUNI transport, which includes buses, streetcars and even the city’s legendary cable cars (otherwise $6 one way). At $84 for adults and $59 for kids, it’s a steal.

Walk to the beat — or not

Conferences are, for the most part, concentrated in or near what’s referred to by guidebooks (but not locals) as the “SoMa” district or South of Market. Once a tougher, scruffier ‘hood, the area is now home to a plethora of art museums. The wondrous cube of the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, the GLBT Historical Society Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) are all a few blocks from each other. After June 3, don’t plan on visiting the SFMOMA; its doors will be closed for expansion, not to re-open until 2016. Visit their website ( for announcements on a range of “wandering” installations around the city.

Walking SF is a dreamy, lush experience, if not a little frustrating when it comes to gauging the temperature and required clothing. Bring a sweater and light raincoat at all times, even in summer, when fog can overtake the sunshine in a blink of an eye. North of Market Street, a wealth of visual, cultural and gustatory experiences await you. If you like independent venturing, walk or hop on the city’s classic cable car up Powell Street to California Street. Then, for a hilly, view-soaked ramble, go two blocks west to Huntington Park through the fancy Nob Hill neighbourhood, before veering north up Taylor Street until you reach the famous zig-zagging Lombard Street.

You’ll find Chinatown and the Beatnik stomping grounds if you take a right on California Street instead. Head north (left) after a couple of blocks and wind your way northeast over to Columbus Avenue, home of City Lights, a bookstore owned and run by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. There’s also a Beat Museum around the corner and Caffe Trieste, one of Jack Kerouac’s famous hangout joints.

Or consider a guided walking tour. Social geographer Elizabeth Vasile of Genius Loci Tours ( offers a three-hour Bohemians, Beats and Beyond stroll for $45 per person Saturdays, May through October. Or go for a free historical or architectural tour with volunteers from the SF Public Library (

Inn the red

You probably won’t want to leave the city, but magical naturescapes await on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The “woodsy and chic” town of Mill Valley at the base of Mount Tamalpais is nestled in redwood groves and is the starting point for hundreds of miles of hiking, biking and horse-riding trails.

For a real treat, stay at the Mountain Home Inn (810 Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley;, which just observed it’s 100th anniversary. The romantic and airy inn is 305 metres above the valley, but only a 20-minute drive from the GGB. During your stay, visit old-growth redwoods at Muir Woods or drive the 11 kilometres to Stinson Beach near the tiny, artsy town of Bolinas. Room rates ($195 to $345) include a full, made-to-order breakfast and many rooms have wood fireplaces or whirlpool tubs.

For more on travel to the region:

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Showing 1 comments

  1. On April 26, 2013, Alexandra Greenhill said:
    I have stayed in San Francisco lately and your article is spot on! I also liked the weekend market at the Embarcadero and of course, Chinatown. Congrats on the good write up, Dr. Alexandra T. Greenhill

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