History by rail and on foot
Sunday breakfast was bagels and scrambled eggs at nearby Caffe la Piazza ($10.45). Up Mason Street, the Cable Car Museum (free) is command central for the city’s rolling antiques. We peered through underground windows to see the steadily turning pulleys and wheels that keep all of the city’s cable cars moving at 9 1/2 miles per hour.
Naturally, we boarded one ($4 for two) and journeyed to Market Street, where we hopped on one of the city’s sleek, historic streetcars ($2), riding up Market to Dolores Street and walking south to Mission Dolores.
One of the oldest buildings in San Francisco―the city’s first Catholic mass was held in 1776―this is also where we scored one of the weekend’s best bargains: a City Guides walking tour (free). We gawked at the mission’s stained glass and 4-foot-thick adobe walls, and learned the structure was built of 36,000 bricks by Ohlone Indians. Though the tour was free, we left a well-deserved donation ($15).
It was a bit of a splurge, but the nearby restaurant Grub was packed with chic urbanites. We dove into our burgers and homemade chips, ($22.05), satisfied we were in the heart of the Castro’s hipness.
One last trek (cable car: $4) took us to Grace Cathedral (free, but we left a $3 donation), a hulking gray Gothic-style Episcopalian church on the top of Nob Hill. By luck, our visit coincided with a Sunday concert. Though tickets to the small chamber where a harpsichordist and soprano performed Baroque pieces would have busted our budget, at $20 each, the hauntingly beautiful music followed us throughout the massive chapel, drifting up to the 91-foot-high ceiling. We stopped at a side gallery and listened while examining a Keith Haring triptych, the artist’s last work before his death in 1990.
Outside, the sun was beginning to set and the soft light seemed an extension of the cathedral’s eerie melodies. I reached into my pocket for the souvenir snow globe I’d purchased on our walk the first day―at $8.65, it was probably the biggest indulgence of the trip. In its little dome, snowflakes dropped onto the TransAmerica Pyramid.
And knowing we had spent a weekend in San Francisco for just $358.48 seemed pretty sublime too.
Bagel and egg breakfast at Caffe la Piazza: $11 ($59 remaining)
Watching pulleys at the Cable Car Museum: FREE
Hopping a cable car and streetcar: $6 ($53 remaining)
City Guides walking tour of Mission Dolores:
Tip for guide:
$15 ($38 remaining)
Burger lunch at Grub: $22 ($16 remaining)
Cable car, $4, to Grace Cathedral; $3 donation ($9 remaining)
Souvenir snow globe: $9 ($0 remaining)