Photo Of The Day: End Of The Line

Photo of the day - Graffiti bus
Public art can take many forms: a mural, a street performer, even a tank as “sculpture.” Then there is the many forms of graffiti. How do you differentiate between art and vandalism? This photo of a broken down Muni bus was taken by Flickr user JRodmanJr in San Francisco‘s Dogpatch neighborhood, presumably in the junkyard. It’s hard to say when the bus acquired all of its “artwork,” perhaps some of it while in service and the rest after it reached the end of the line. Do you think it’s art, or just some spray paint?

Share your artistic travel shots with us for the Photo of the Day. Just add them to the Gadling Flickr pool or share on Instagram with @gadlingtravel and #gadling.

[Photo credit: JRodmanJr]

Budget Guide 2013: San Francisco

san francisco
San Francisco has a well-deserved reputation for being expensive, but that’s not to say you can’t enjoy it to the fullest on a budget. The joy of this compact, walkable city is that you don’t need your own transportation. Remember, though, that food is the soul of San Francisco. That means loads of pop-up restaurants, street food, food trucks, farmers markets and ethnic bites for cheap. The cultural and multi-ethnic focus of the city also means there’s no shortage of art exhibits, festivals and parades, many of which are inexpensive or free.

The number one thing to do on the cheap? Walk! San Francisco is one of the world’s great strolling cities, with dozens of hidden stairways, garden walks, parks, narrow streets and bay views. There are even books devoted to the subject. If you want more of a historical, architectural or culinary focus, spring for an affordable walking tour of specific neighborhoods. Tip: If your feet are tired from all that trudging, one of the city’s best deals is the 60-minute “foot” massage – which includes head, neck, shoulders, back, arms and legs – at Delightful Foot Massage on Polk Street. And yes, it’s a reputable place.

If the weather is cooperating, take the ferry from Pier 41 to Angel Island ($17) and hike to a picnic spot (everything you need for lunch is right there; more on that in a minute). Since this is San Francisco, though, there’s a distinct possibility of crappy weather. No problem – hit the city’s plethora of museums or the Exploratorium (the latter is a must if you have kids with you). Most have free days. Check here for listings.

The way locals prefer to pass the time? Eating! Great food of almost every imaginable ethnic persuasion is so readily available in San Francisco. You can graze your way through the day for less than the cost of a mid-range dinner. Not hungry? Linger over a cup of exceptional – try Four Barrel in The Mission, and don’t forget a Bacon-Maple-Apple donut for later – and a good book. Used bookstores abound nearby.

Hotels

San Francisco has loads of scuzzy motels, but there are plenty of great places to stay, from hostel to boutique, that won’t bankrupt you. Avoid the depressing youth hostels located on sketchy side streets off of Union Square, the main shopping district, and the sad little motels in the Tenderloin (although there are some pleasant exceptions). For a little bit extra, you can have a more secure, peaceful and cleaner place to lay your head. Tip: Lombard Street just off the Golden Gate Bridge/101 is jammed with motels, most of which are decent, and usually offer parking – a precious commodity.

Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel at Fort Mason: This ain’t no ordinary, janky hostel. Situated in the historic waterfront buildings at Fort Mason, this attractive property with a cool, vintage nautical vibe straddles the border of the Wharf and Marina (which has a glorious green for strolling, kite-flying and soccer playing, as well as a beach). Dorm beds and private rooms provide wallet-friendly accommodations for all types, from young backpackers to older couples. There’s a free continental breakfast; clean, attractive rooms and airy common areas; loads of discounts and activities on offer; and a location that can’t be beat for views and convenience. From $28. sfhostels.com/fishermans-wharf 240 Fort Mason

Casa Loma Hotel: This sweet, 48-room, Euro-style hotel is centrally located in Alamo Square. The clean, spare rooms have a Scandinavian, modern aesthetic that gives off a hip IKEA vibe. Close to the park and famed “Painted Ladies” houses (think: title sequence of “Full House”). From $65 standard/shared bath.
casalomahotelsf.com 610 Fillmore Street

Hotel Des Artes: This swank, modern art hotel, a block off Union Square, is decorated with the current works of local artists. The special “Painted Rooms” are all unique (literally, the walls are murals) by emerging global artists, while standard rooms feature washbasins with shared baths. Seekers of San Francisco’s modern Boho scene will feel right at home at this kaleidoscopic boutique property. From $79.
sfhoteldesarts.com 447 Bush Street

Hotel Diva: Describing itself as, “sexy, modern, and fresh from a facelift,” this Union Square boutique hotel reopened last June. And it’s indeed seductive, from the gray and white color scheme with violet accents, to the sleek modernist trappings. Think the “W” with SF flair: nightly sake hour, fitness center, dog friendly and on the fringe of the rapidly hipsterfying Tenderloin. From $140 deluxe Queen.
hoteldiva.com 440 Geary Boulevard

Eat and Drink

Farmers Markets: You’re in Northern California, birthplace of the modern local food movement. That means year-round farmers markets, the most famous of which is the massive, Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on the Embarcadero (there are also smaller Tuesday and Thursday markets). Hit the market by 10 a.m., before the swarms arrive, and snack your way through the stalls. The Embarcadero itself has undergone a major renovation in recent years; it’s safe day or night, and populated with art installations and trendy cafes and restaurants. It’s also an ideal place for a long, bayside stroll or run on a sunny day.

The Ferry Building is a concentration of farmer- and artisan-owned shops featuring everything from estate olive oil to certified humane meat. Tip: Plan on buying a late breakfast or early lunch at the market. Top picks are the porchetta sandwich at Roli Roti’s stall (get there early or go hungry), anything from La Primavera’s stall, or a sit-down brunch at Boulette’s Larder in the Building (not served on Saturdays). If it’s oysters you want, hit Hog Island’s Raw Bar at the far end of the main hall. Then go stock up on edible souvenirs from Cowgirl Creamery, Miette (pastry), McEvoy Ranch and Recchiuti Confections.
ferrybuildingmarketplace.com One Ferry Building

Off the Grid: Every Friday from 5 to 8 p.m., a fleet of the city’s best food trucks arrives at Fort Mason, down in the Marina. Up to 40 sweet and savory vendors may appear on a given night, featuring street food as creative, multi-culti and adventurous as only San Francisco would have it. There’s music, views of the bay, Golden Gate and Alcatraz, and a seriously local vibe – this isn’t a tourist attraction. It’s simply a raucous, joyous, festival of flavor, San Fran-style. offthegridsf.com

Go Ethnic: Between the Asian restaurants of the Sunset and Richmond Districts (locals know better than to eat in Chinatown) to the diverse ethnic dives of the Tenderloin, you can indulge your inner glutton for less than a ten-spot. Best of all, adventurous eaters have almost every style of cuisine to choose from, as well as menus that boast authenticity (frog legs or sea cucumber, anyone?) Some of the best: Brother’s Korean and King of Thai Noodle on Clement Street (I don’t know why, but this is the only location that does it for me); Wing Lee Bakery and Burma SuperStar (Inner Richmond); and Shalimar, Pakwan, Turtle Tower and Osha Thai (Tenderloin).

The Mission: If you love Latin flavors, you won’t need to venture beyond this Hispanic neighborhood, where you’ll find excellent everything, from El Salvadorean to Peruvian. But the Mission is also the newest hipster ‘hood for craft foods, from coffee and chocolate (such as Dandelion’s “bar to bean” aesthetic) to modern Korean food. Check out the latter at Namu Gaji, or the insane happy hour deals at Wo Hing General Store ($6 craft cocktails to die for, and $5 for a bamboo steamer of shiu mai or plate of pork dumplings, 5:30 -7 p.m., daily). Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the baked goods at Craftsmen & Wolves (yes, you’ll pay $7 for a muffin, but it will have a soft-boiled egg encased within, as well as cheesy, hammy bits and it will fill you up for hours) or Tartine Bakery. Get there early to avoid a wait, and let go of guilt. One look in the pastry case, and you’ll understand.

Get Around

If walking isn’t an option, the bus, MUNI, will get you anywhere you need to go. Sure, it’s a crowded mobile petri dish and full of freaks, but do as the locals do. San Francisco is an easy city to navigate, since it really is a giant grid. Google maps makes things a snap on your phone or computer.

There are also the cable cars, which are just $6 a pop and always fun (they may not admit it, but locals love them, too), the trolley down in the Embarcadero/Market Street area, and BART, which covers the East Bay. It’s also the fastest, easiest way to traverse the Downtown, Financial and Mission districts of the city; otherwise the bus is your cheapest bet.

Budget Tip

One way to save a chunk of cash is to take BART to and from the airport (it services both SFO and Oakland). It will run you around $8, instead of a $50 cab ride, or $17 for a shared van, which can take well over an hour if you’re not the first drop-off. Even if you’re too far to hoof it to your hotel from the BART station, you’ll still save time and money, unless you’re staying out in the hinterlands of the city.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Trodel]

Photo Of The Day: Meanwhile On Muni

Photo of the day - San Francisco Muni
Whether you are traveling in an exotic city, or just commuting to work, public transportation is always a rich source of photography subjects. Flickr user (and PotD favorite) davitydave is a frequent photographer on San Francisco‘s Muni, adding his favorite shots to his Flickr page with the title “Meanwhile on Muni.” This shot particularly captures the range of human expression, from suspicion to sleep.

Add your best transit shots to the Gadling Flickr pool for a future Photo of the Day.

Muni: A Noob Does Public Transportation in San Francisco

SF<br />
Muni

If you’re familiar with taking trains, the subway, and the bus, then you can ignore this post (or you can
read it and snicker at me). If not, and you’re going to be traveling to San Francisco any time soon, then here’s how
you use the Muni. That’s San Francisco’s city bus.

This isn’t a backhanded
way of bragging with my nose up in the air that "Oh mah gawd, I’ve hardly ever taken public
transportation." I grew up in the Midwest where the only bus I ever rode was bright yellow and went from my house
to that horrible place called "school." Now, I live in LA, and we know about public transportation in LA
(wait, we have public transportation in LA?!?!?)

So traveling in San Francisco, I learned how to take the bus.
The Bay Area public transportation system is extensive,
efficient, and very friendly to the likes of me – a newbie to buses and a traveler.

You should know where you
are and where you’re going. You can either use the href="http://transit.511.org/tripplanner/index.asp">Muni’s Trip Planner to type in starting and ending
points to find out which line(s) to take, or you can be brilliant and href="http://www.sfmuni.com/php/routelist.php">use a route map or schedule. We ended up asking out hotel concierge
(we’re not very brilliant), who told us we needed to take the F line to get to the Ferry Building from Union Square. A
one-line trip is easy. If you need to use multiple lines, well, that’s the advanced class and I haven’t gotten there
yet. Okay, actually, it’s easy. That’s where the transfers will come in later.

border="0" align="right" src="http://www.gadling.com/media/2006/05/sfmuni_stop.jpg" alt="SF Muni" />

Muni stops are
obvious. Just make sure you’re on the right side of the street and when a bus rolls up, make sure you’re getting on the
right one. Lots of buses stop fairly often at the same place. If you’re obsessive like me, you can ask every person
waiting at the stop, and confirm with the driver when he opens to door to let people on. F? Does it go to the Ferry
Building? Is this the F Line?

src="http://www.gadling.com/media/2006/05/sfmuni_moneybox.jpg" alt="SF Muni" />

Muni costs $1.50 for adults. If you
have ID, then you can get the senior, youth, or disabled person discount, which means a ride costs you $0.50. You have
to have exact change to put into the money box because the drivers don’t take money or provide change. When you board,
you also get one free "transfer."
We’ll get to the transfer later.

Some of the Muni buses look like they’ve been airlifted from another time and
place. Thats because they have. Apparently, the bright orange one that we took is from Louisiana. The way it
was rattling and shaking along the rails sure felt like it was from the 1800s.

At rush hour, the Muni gets very
crowded. Actually, even when it’s the middle of the day, the Muni is crowded. Just pray that everyone used
Dial.

You got on through the front door, but don’t try to exit that way otherwise you’ll be fighting against all
the riders who are trying to get on. Use the middle of back doors.

align="right" src="http://www.gadling.com/media/2006/05/sfmuni_transfer.jpg" alt="SF Muni" />

Your
"transfer" is a slip of paper that lets you get back on any Muni before the time that’s marked on the paper.
If you’re using more than one line to get somewhere, the transfer lets you get on that second bus. If you land at your
final destination, then it gives you about an hour and a half. If you’re efficient in your shopping, sightseeing, or
whatever you’re doing in the City, you could get back to homebase for free! Unfortunately, I got carried away at the
Ferry Building Marketplace, so the transfer expired.

Oh well, $1.50 to get back is cheap.