Good Day Sunshine

My first five years in San Francisco were spent in the Inner Sunset. People joked that living in the Sunset wasn’t actually living in San Francisco. They joked about the weather in the Inner Sunset, the unstoppable fog that rolls in off the ocean and settles over the Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods.

It’s true that the Inner Sunset isn’t as central as the Castro and it isn’t buffered from the fog by Twin Peaks like the Mission, but it still has its charms.

Mr. WholeHog and I return to our old neighborhood on warm SF days. We fall back on a favorite ritual: stopping by Arizmendi Bakery for breakfast and heading to the Arboretum.

This Sunday was clear and sunny, and the weather gods predicted 66 (!) degree weather, so we packed a thermos of coffee and the Sunday New York Times and went to the Inner Sunset.

arizsm.jpg Photo from http://www.arizmendibakery.com

Our current neighborhood, the Castro, is more well known than the Inner Sunset, but there’s nowhere in the Castro like Arizmendi Bakery. Arizmendi, like much of the Inner Sunset, is low-key and neighborhood-y. You serve yourself, putting whatever muffins or scones you want in a brown paper bag. Then you go to the counter and let the person know what you selected. It can get crowded at times, but it’s never the scene you’re likely to find at Tartine.

Arizmendi’s baked goods are terrific, but rustic. This isn’t the place to find a perfectly executed French croissant, but rather the place to get craggy scones full of seasonal fruit, unexpectedly delicious combinations like their corn-cherry scone, and things you won’t find anywhere else like their amazing brioche knots.

What Arizmendi lacks, however, is seating and this is where the Arboretum comes in. (The Arboretum is now known as the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, but it will always be the Arb to me.) It’s just a few steps into Golden Gate Park from the Inner Sunset, and just 2 blocks from Arizmendi.

arb-bench.jpg

You’ll find benches in the sun or in the shade, looking at flowering plants or grassy meadows, or you can sprawl out on the grass or find your own little dell, tucked away off the beaten path.

The Arb is one of my favorite places in all of San Francisco. It houses plants native to different geographic regions so you can travel through the plants of the world in one afternoon stroll. You can start in California, wander through the shady redwood glen, and then cross over into the New World Cloud Forest. Or start in Australia and New Zealand and make your way to the formal Japanese “moon viewing” garden with its reflecting pool.

Sometimes we walk through the Arb and look at strange and beautiful plants, other times, like this Sunday, we simply find a quiet bench and enjoy our Arizmendi breakfast and read the paper. You’re in the midst of the City, but you feel like you’re away from it all.

The Arboretum is worth a visit any time of year, but it’s particularly nice now, as the magnolia trees begin to bloom.

magnolia.jpg
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