Falafel Sandwich in the Castro

In the early days of July, I found myself in San Francisco with a four month old baby and a husband who was busy in meetings all day. My hotel was bang in the middle of the bustling downtown and when the view outside your window is so lively, it is hard to stay in despite the googly eyes of your little one. So I bundled him up in his leopard snuggly and took off to do all things touristy.

And one windy afternoon, the boy and I found ourselves in the metro station, looking for a train that would take us to the Castro. I had read about it in the various travel guides as a suggested place to checkout culturally. For the uninitiated, the Castro is currently the largest gay neighborhood in the US. Having lived in Asia all my life, I am genuinely interested in checking out the flavor of a gay neighborhood where people can proudly be themselves.

As I stepped outside of the Castro metro station, I found myself on the Harvey Milk Plaza erected in memory of the first openly gay person to be elected in the US office.

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As I walked down the Castro street, I spotted San Francisco’s premier movie house Castro Theater. And as luck would have it, the black and white movie fest was on. However, there are some things even an adventurous new mother must not do, and entering a movie theater with a little one tops the list. Nevertheless, I stood there admiring not just the movie posters but also the Spanish influence on the architecture, which apparently tries to copy the older Castro theater.

ImageBesides the popular landmarks, the neighborhood also catches ones eye for its vivaciousness.  The bars and cafés are all so full of character, some in tongue-in-cheek way, and some just boho as the people who were sitting inside sipping their drinks. And as I walked slowly taking in whatever came my way, I overheard snippets of conversations of people passing me by. Yes, I was paying special attention. No, it is not really eves dropping unless I follow a specific person to make sense of the entire conversation. So yes, those snippets and some of the specialty stores gave me a feeling that many artistic people also live or frequent this neighborhood. For I heard someone talking about a book they were writing, and I saw a man with his oil paints and half-finished work on the roadside. All of this just adds more and more character to they anyway beautiful and vibrant neighborhood. Of course, the rainbow flags that are on every street light and most shops and houses help a lot too.

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Of course, I did witness the obvious as well. There were people clearly in love and happy about it, and there were people having arguments over finances, and there were people walking their dogs. There were also people walking around naked for they felt like it. I especially remember this one gentleman who wore his handsome hat, stylish scarf and boots but nothing else. However, none of this was in your face and no one, not even the kids coming back from school, seemed to notice anything. And for that, I will always remember Castro. For that and for the best falafel sandwich that I have eaten in my entire life.

PS: If I ever in San Francisco again, I will definitely go back to Castro for that big fat falafel sandwich full of salad and topped with super hot sauce. Also, for the genuine smile the huge guy at the counter gave me along with the sandwich.

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