Five Things You Didn't Know About San Francisco

1. Wild parrots live on Telegraph Hill

As popularized by the 2003 indie film, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” there are wild parrots that live on Telegraph Hill. They hang out in the trees by the Filbert Street Steps, where a whole neighborhood of houses sits hidden by trees on the side of the city hill connected only by this set of a long set of steps running through a forest in the middle of the city. If you walk along these steps, you can spot them.

2. They weren’t kidding about the hills.

It’s a hilly city. But so are a lot of cities. These hills are different. When parking on a hill anything more than a 3% grade, it is legally required that you curb your tires. This means that you turn your front wheels into the curb so that if your car rolled, the curb would stop it. What might look on Google Maps like a brisk stroll a few blocks is actually more like climbing a mountain.  

3. Actual San Franciscans don’t ride the famous cable car trolleys

Despite what it might look like in photos, the cable cars that run up and down city hills are almost entirely used by tourists. Commuters in San Francisco don’t use them for a couple reasons. First, they’re more expensive than city buses. Unless you’re someone who has a pass to ride them, it’s not cost effective. Second, there are always lines of tourists wanting to get on, and cars passing by are often completely full with them. Third, they’re slow compared to the bus. Expensive, crowded, and slow? I’d take the bus, too.

4. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest enclave of Chinese people outside of Asia.

Yes indeed.

5. It claims to have the “crookedest street”

For one block, Lombard Street, still right in the middle of a city grid, becomes a winding, twisting turning, zig zag. And, surprise! It’s on a hill. It’s picturesque, surely, but extremely impractical. Because it’s also become a huge tourist attraction, and because cars have to go so slowly on it, there is often a traffic officer stationed on either side trying to mitigate the disruption the street causes. And some of the residents are getting sick of the daily commotion.

Five Things to do in Leiden

Although typically overshadowed by neighboring cities such as Amsterdam, Delft and The Hague, this small Dutch municipality can stand on its own two feet. Home to the oldest university in Holland and to a charming network of canals, Leiden is a postcard-worthy city ideal for a day trip or even a longer stay.

Keep your schedule packed by doing these five activities:

1. Tour the canals

If you look at any city map (either those available in hotels or the ones on signs scattered throughout the town), you’ll see a suggested route marked in red. If you follow it, you’ll pass by the city’s most picturesque spots, including beautiful brick churches and two traditional Dutch windmills.

2. Try Indonesian food

Though its influence is not commonly found in other countries, because Indonesia was formerly a Dutch colony, its cuisine definitely has a large presence in Dutch life. The best place to try a wide array of rice dishes, meats, and vegetables is at Bungamas: centrally located, it’s great for both takeaway and eating in.

3. Visit the Botanical Garden

Experience the famous Dutch tulip in the place where it was first planted: Leiden University's Botanical Garden. A walk among the carefully tended rows of plants is a must for any nature lover and a much-needed respite from stuffy museums.

4. Eat Dutch pancakes

Dutch pancakes are more similar to crepes, and the options for fillings are endless. You can choose from a lemon squeeze, butter, powdered sugar, and even whipped cream and fresh fruit. What never varies, though, is the size: they are typically the size of the large dinner plate they come on. Head to Oudt Leyden, near the central train station, for an authentic pancake experience.

5. Order drinks at a bar terrace

Early on a warm evening, you can see the terraces—often on rafts moored next to the bar—fill up with locals going for post-work drinks. That’s probably the best part of Leiden: no loud, marauding tourists, just regular people going about their day. Of course, just like in Amsterdam, they won’t hesitate to run you over with their bikes.

5 Great NYC Ice Cream Spots

Today’s Tompkins Square Park looks nothing like the Tompkins of the past, notorious for its syringes, punks, and the cardboard box where neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat used to sleep. Ray’s Candy Store, however, hasn’t changed since 1974. For over 40 years, Ray’s has served up classics, like fried oreos, beignets, hot dogs, and malt milkshakes—but no candy, believe it or not. Upon entering Ray’s Candy Store today, you’ll be greeted by the somehow comforting stench of grease, and the octogenarian store owner, Ray Alvarez. Ray, originally Ashgar Ghahraman, entered the US from Iran in the 1950s and posed as Ray in order to hide his undocumented status. Although Ghahraman is now a naturalized American citizen, Ray will stick around as long as his namesake continues to feed Alphabet City. Enjoy the gigantic portions of greasy, sugary food in one of Tompkins’ lush meadows across the street.

Try the strawberry and pistachio frozen yogurt in a wafer cone with rainbow sprinkles. It’s way too big and way too artificial in all the best ways.


2. Soft Swerve

Soft Swerve’s fame extends far beyond the Lower East Side—tourists and locals alike line up to try the iconic ube ice cream. Ube purple yam (very similar to taro) is often used to flavor Asian deserts. If you’re suspicious of potato ice cream, don’t be so quick to judge. Ube tastes like a gently nutty vanilla. It’s simultaneously familiar and exotic, which is probably what makes it so appealing. In addition to ube, Soft Swerve serves less popular, but equally delicious flavors, like almond cookie, black sesame, and matcha green tea. The store pays homage to its New Yorker heritage with NYC-themed sundaes—from the Woodside (named after the Queens neighborhood) to the Division Street (named after the Chinatown street).

Get the ube purple yam and almond cookie swirl in a black chocolate cone with marshmallows. They use crunchy Lucky Charms-type marshmallows to contrast the smoothness of the soft serve ice cream.


3. Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain

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Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood feels like home, no matter where you’re from. While slurping down your old-fashioned New York egg cream at the family-run Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, you’ll be surrounded by families from near and far—older generations reminisce about the days of poodle skirts and nickel buys, while young kids discover the beauty of malted milkshakes. Although Brooklyn Farmacy stays true to the 1920s apothecary it’s housed in, it updates these vintage classics with creativity and 21st century portions. Just be prepared to pay the 21st century prices.

Sip on the Pink Poodle ice cream float, a scoop of ice cream melting into bright magenta hibiscus soda.


4. The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

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Stationed blocks away from the iconic Jing Fong Restaurant, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory has established itself as a mandatory post-dim sum treat. This family-run “unofficial NYC landmark” is one of Chinatown’s oldest businesses, open since 1978. Chinatown Ice Cream Factory may look like any other ice cream parlor with its glass display of multicolored ice creams. However, this display spans the length of the store: there really is something for everyone. If you want, you can get vanilla or chocolate, but classic Asian flavors are this store’s speciality.

Don’t miss these unique flavors: zen butter, an overwhelmingly nutty sesame and peanut butter blend, and pandan, a fluorescent green Malaysian leaf that tastes like taro.


5. Uncle Louie G Italian Ice & Ice Cream

Rockaway Beach used to be an unpretentious summer destination for New Yorkers, but the hipsterification of Riis Park and Fort Tilden has left much of the area obnoxious and overpriced. If you find yourself in need of unflashy icy refreshment after spending the day getting knocked around by Rockaway’s rough waves, walk down to Beach 94th Street for some good, old fashioned Italian ice with a fun twist. You could always just buy from the lady who pushes her cart along the beach, ringing her bell to announce her arrival, but she offers the same flavors you’ll find on every street corner: cherry, mango, coconut, rainbow, and maybe lemon-lime, if you’re lucky. Meanwhile, Uncle Louie G’s boasts almost 100 flavors. Stick around for the punny (and often accidentally euphemistic) flavor names.

Try one of these aggressively New York flavors: Holi Cannoli, Rainbow Cookie, Coney Island Cotton Candy,  FDNY Red, or NYPD Blue. Though, beware, the ices inspired by Italian desserts are quite chunky.

Three Bizarre Museums and Why They're Worth Your Time

Three Bizarre Museums and Why They're Worth Your Time

I spend a lot of time in museums. They’re exciting and inspiring and always make the top of my to-do list when I visit someplace new. And while you might first think of finding paintings and sculptures inside a museum, that’s of course not always strictly the case. In fact, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that many of my favorites are those that are less traditional. Below are four I believe should make it onto your to-visit list!

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