There are not that many places left in San Francisco that speak to the history of The City. Oh, places and landmarks are still there, streets are still there, but the feel of the those places … a lot of that energy has left the room. San Francisco has morphed into something else, which isn’t good or bad, just different than it was.
But there are two places in San Francisco that have held on to the energy that created them, and that is City Lights Bookstore and the Vesuvio bar, which both sit across from each other on the corners of Jack Kerouac Alley and Columbus Avenue on that fine razor’s edge between North Beach and Chinatown.
City Lights is filled with nooks and crannies, upstairs and downstairs, filled with books and poetry and the history of The Beat writers. It is the home of Howl, that enigmatic tome that put City Lights on the literary map. It is full of not only the works of the store owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti, The Beat writers Jack Keroouac, Allen Ginsburg, Gary Snyder but current political and radical and social writers – along with some good fiction.
The bar across the alley, called Vesuvio, is an interesting little place for a drink almost any time of the day. A place where North Beach writers and artists hung out, where their ghosts still sit at their favorite tables. Take a book to read, or grab a seat near a window upstairs and watch life go by for a moment.
Afterwards, take a walk along Grant Street and wind your way through the sights and smells of Chinatown.
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