I’ve always gotten the best feel for a place by sitting at a bar and ordering a beer. Whether I’m alone or with a group, nothing—really, nothing—sticks firmer in my mind or lets me hop on the plane back home feeling like I experienced what I was there to experience. From a wine cave by the Canal du Midi in Trebes, France to a dusty roadside pub in the Northern Territory of Australia, no views—or moments—can compare to those when you’re bellied up and winding down.
Two Sisters Bar + Books in Hayes Valley SFO, about 800 yards from the Airbnb I was staying in, was a great fit for this mission. I made it in before the locals got off work and came for happy hour, had just enough cash to get the job done, and just enough exhaustion to strike that chord. I ordered a draft beer and house made potato chips with French onion dip and put down my damned phone, took my headphones off, and decompressed after 10+ hours of travel. Those two beers are probably what caused me to get less than two hours of sleep and a massive panic attack around 4am the next morning, but they were worth it. (More SFO recap here.)
I didn’t pick up a paperback and start reading, but I did make a few plaintive calls back to the east coast. Then a group of French guys came in and sat behind me and talked and laughed and really, I could have been anywhere in the world.
If you’re there, pop in and grab the window seat.