Can you call it a pencil skirt if the person wearing it is shaped more like an eraser? Shopping really isn’t my strong suit.
Tourism surveys indicate that shopping is a key component of virtually every tourist’s trip. I’m the reason the “virtually” is in there. I’d far rather take in a baseball game than make a run to Saks.
Nevertheless, I decided to shop like a maniac on a recent trip to San Francisco for two reasons: One, I wanted to find out what it’s like to shop in a city that bans plastic bags and two, I needed some new clothes, and major cities’ stores devote more floor space to outfits sized for someone shaped roughly like a fire hydrant.
Thus, I arrived in the city with the clothes on my back and a mission to buy a new suitcase and fill it.
I’m not going to regale you with a list of all the hydrant-shaped clothes I acquired, but please come with me as we rummage through the various shopping areas of an eclectic city where you’re likely to find something you like regardless of your taste or shape.
First, though, a word about bags: When you find your coveted item and take it to the checkout counter, you’ll be asked, “Do you need a bag for that?” The proper reply is, “No, I have my own.”
However, if you do need a bag, you will be supplied with a thick paper bag with handles for a fee, usually 10 cents. My husband had to pony up 50 cents at San Francisco International Airport for a paper bag in which to house his to-go sandwich, so it does vary.
I immediately realized that I should hang onto the big Macy’s bag that I bought for a dime after my first purchase — a pair of short-people jeans — and use it on every shopping expedition. H&M wasn’t very happy about the Macy’s bag and gently suggested I switch to an H&M bag after I bought a sweater there, but I didn’t want to pay another dime.
OK, then. Bag in hand, we go shopping in San Francisco.
First stop: Union Square. This is the epicenter of downtown shoppingdom, presided over by the hovering presences of Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and a Macy’s that takes up a whole block — and that’s only for women; the men’s Macy’s is in another building.
The Neiman’s is worth walking into if only to gawk at the stained-glass dome of its rotunda. The rotunda is part of the building that was there previously — a department store called City of Paris — that was built in 1896 and survived the 1906 quake and fire. The rotunda was preserved when Neiman’s demolished the rest in the ’70s.
Then there’s Macy’s. Why shop at Macy’s in San Francisco when you can shop at Macy’s at home? Because this is a mega-Macy’s. We’re talking half a block of petites. I can actually find stuff in my size. Tourists get a 10 percent discount.
Of course, Union Square is known for its high-end shopping. On Maiden Lane, a gated alley just east of the square, you can find the likes of Chanel, Hermes, Marc Jacobs, Prada and Tory Burch. My wallet can’t handle Maiden Lane, but I like to hang around and hear the opera busker who sometimes favors us with an aria. Then I take my wallet just east of Union Square, where an H&M at 150 Post St. and a Zara at 250 Post St. are budget-friendly.