San Francisco for Less: Day Two

We hit the streets again early Saturday, climbing Telegraph Hill and stopping at Coit Tower to admire the 1930s murals of laborers and the fantastic views (though we skipped the $3.75 elevator ride to the top of the tower). The best part of the walk was passing lovely old gardens as we descended the Filbert Street steps. A hummingbird buzzed past our heads, and above, in a magnolia tree, the hill's resident flock of wild parrots clucked and chattered.

At the bottom of the hill is Levi Plaza, where Lawrence Halprin's inspired landscaping works magic in the venerable San Francisco clothing company's courtyard.

Sustenance was close by at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. We elbowed our way past the sporty young couples sipping lattes to investigate our options―baked goods, burritos, all kinds of fruits and produce, and grilled sandwiches. Several local restaurants have booths here, serving inexpensive samplings of their menus.

After agonizing over so many good choices, we settled on a cakelike pain au chocolat from Miette Organic Bakery ($3) and scrambled eggs and tomatoes on a baguette from Hayes Street Grill ($4).

Ambling south along the waterfront, we joined the parade of seagulls and in-line skaters cruising the Embarcadero, pausing to read the historic markers along the route. One line that seemed written just for our quest was from a 1917 poem by Guenivieve Taggard: To sit together and drink the blue ocean/And eat the sun like a fruit.

Back in North Beach, we stumbled upon a great deal: Caffe Trieste's weekly opera performances. The gifted Giotta family offers rousing musical shows weekly in their cozy cafe, a North Beach institution, all for the price of the city's best espresso―or, in our case, two yummy focaccia pizzas, $6.90.

Gallery and boutique browsing took up the rest of our afternoon. One stop we couldn't miss was City Lights Bookstore. Founded in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin, this literary landmark is where Beat poets such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg gathered to spark a literary and cultural revolution.

Dinner was another discovery: Down the semiseedy strip of Broadway, the Helmand is an elegant, white-tablecloth Afghan restaurant with an outstanding menu and moderate prices. Cost for homemade pasta with ground beef, cardamom-spiced rice, a salad, and appetizer was $41.Afterward, we took another long walk (though in retrospect we'd recommend a cab, about $12) to see a quintessentially San Francisco production. The Audium sound-sculpture performance off Van Ness Avenue has been running for 27 years, but the show―an abstract melange of hundreds of recorded sounds played in varying rhythms, tones, and volumes from 169 speakers―was born of the Beat era. Sitting in the dark with a bunch of strangers was somewhat claustrophobic, but the tones eventually induced a dreamlike state. Tickets for two: $24. DAY TWO BUDGET
$149 in pocket

Hiking Telegraph Hill for views and murals at Coit Tower: FREE

Late pain au chocolat and scrambled egg breakfast at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market: $7 ($142 remaining)

1917 poem by Guenivieve Taggard: To sit together and drink the blue ocean/And eat the sun like a fruit: FREE

Opera and focaccia pizzas at Caffe Trieste:
$7 ($135 remaining)

Meet the Beats―poets, that is―on the shelves of City Lights Bookstore: FREE

Afghan dinner at Helmand, $41, followed by sound sculpture performance at the Audium:
$24 ($70 remaining)

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