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The 5 Best Sunset Views in SF + Sunset Color Vocab

June 21, 2017

California sunsets are one of the best things about living in this beautiful state. When you’re studying English in San Francisco, be sure to enjoy the sunset each evening! These locations offer the 5 best sunset views in SF.

How amazing are the sunsets in California? Take a look on Instagram and you’ll see! Each of these photos were posted within the last day, which shows how amazing the California sunsets are.

The 5 Best Sunset Views in SF

Twin Peaks

Wear comfortable shoes and grab a jacket: the wind at Twin Peaks can be strong, and the hike up is a bit of work! Once you’re at the top, you have stunning views of San Francisco. Stay after sunset and watch the lights of the city come on: this view is beautiful any time of the day.

Twin Peaks: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

Lands End

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Lands End is a park in San Francisco that has many hiking trails, including the famous oceanside California Coastal Trail. San Franciscans use this trail to run and hike, but they also take a moment to stop and enjoy the sunset from the beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Mile Rock Point and Mile Rock Beach.

Lands End: 680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA

Bernal Heights Park (and Summit)

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Bernal Heights Park is built on a hillside, and its park and trails provide stunning 360 degree views of San Francisco. Enjoy the trails and the view past San Francisco: on a clear day, you can see surrounding cities in the Bay Area such as Daly City.

Bernal Heights Park: 3400-3416 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

Corona Heights Park

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Corona Heights Park is next to the Castro and Corona Heights neighborhoods in SF. The views, which are unobstructed, allow visitors to see Twin Peaks, Downtown San Francisco, and beyond. Be careful: the steps leading up to the top do not have handrails, so it can be a little scary!

Corona Heights Park: Roosevelt Way & Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

Alamo Square

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This park has views of the most famous houses in San Francisco: the Painted Lady Victorian houses! Alamo Square Park was just renovated and re-opened in May, 2017. In addition to enjoying the architecture of the mansions surrounding the park, visitors can see San Francisco City Hall, Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge . . . and beautiful California sunsets! 

Alamo Square: surrounded by Webster Street (east), Golden Gate Avenue (north), Divisadero Street (west), and Fell Street (south)

Best Sunset Views in SF

Sunset Color Vocab

How do you describe the beautiful clouds, the amazing colors, and the effects of the ever-changing sunset over the Pacific Ocean waters? These colors will help you


Definition: the intensity of a color (whether it has more light or dark to it).

Example: Look at the many shades of pink in tonight’s sunset!


Definition: a color or shade (similar to the word “shade” . . . although an artist could explain that they are different! For learning English, think of “hue” as a synonym for “shade” or “color”).

Example: Last night’s sunset had so many beautiful hues.

Color + ish (blueish, pinkish, etc.)

Definition: a color similar to the one used in the word, but not exactly the color. (Use this word when you don’t know the exact color you’re describing.)

Example: The sky was a blueish, purplish color: it was so lovely.


Definition: very beautiful.

Example: What a stunning view . . . and sunset.


Definition: on fire.

Example: The sky was ablaze during the red and orange sunset.

Cast (verb)

Definition: to cause light or shadow to appear on a surface.

Example: The sun cast its light on the clouds and created a stunning sunset.


Definition: the streaks/lines of light (from the sun).

Example: The sun’s rays were shining through the clouds as it set.

Best Sunset Views in SF


Definition: bright.

Example: The radiant sunset was impossible to capture in a photo. You had to be there to really see  it.


Definition: a shade of red (often used to describe the sky).

Example: The crimson sky turned into a deep blue.


Definition: to shine brightly.

Example: It looked like the sky was glowing.


Definition: a hint of something; a touch of something.

Example: I could still see traces of orange in the sky an hour after the sun set.

Share your California sunset photos to Facebook and be sure to tag CISL and add #CISL to your photos!

Photos from Pixabay. 

California Life Featured Grammar San Diego

Omitting “That” in Relative Clauses + 10 Fascinating Facts about SD

June 1, 2017

We all know that San Diego is famous for its stunning beaches and amazing weather, but the city is also impressive for many other things! Before studying English at CISL in San Diego, check out these 10 fascinating facts about SD. They give you a fun look at what makes America’s Finest City so great!

1o Fascinating Facts about SD

#1: San Diego produces more avocados than anywhere in the U.S.

Maybe this is why we put avocado on everything? Especially burritos! Make sure you have the city’s famous California Burrito while visiting: read about California’s burrito culture before chowing down!

Fascinating Facts about SD

Not all burritos were created equal: a San Diegan wouldn’t touch this burrito until they added guacamole to it!

#2: Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan was the first person to drive across the Coronado Bridge when it opened  in 1969.

Today, the bridge is a famous landmark and the entryway to beautiful Coronado . . . although you can also take the Coronado Ferry from the Embarcadero for a more fun way to arrive on Coronado Island!Fascinating Facts about SD

#3: San Diego has over 7,000 farms (more than any other city in the United States).

Maybe that is why our farmer’s markets are so great! CISL San Diego students who live in Little Italy are just one street away from the incredible Little Italy Farmer’s Market; students can also visit the Hillcrest Market on Sundays and the Ocean Beach Market on Wednesday evenings.Fascinating Facts about SD

#4: San Diego’s Embarcadero is home to the Star of India, the world’s oldest sailing ship.

The ship was built in 1863 and still is an active sailing ship! Visitors can check it out (and even ride on it)!

#5: It’s against the law to swim in any of the lakes in San Diego.

But they’re still worth a visit: the lakes are beautiful and you can still kayak, canoe, and fish. Check out our Guide to San Diego Lakes for more information.

Fascinating Facts about SD

Lake Cuyamaca

#6: The Hotel Del Coronado is the country’s largest wooden structure.

It also was home to the first electric-lit outdoor Christmas tree in 1904. These days, it’s located on the #1 Beach in the U.S. and the hotel is still a popular Christmas destination thanks to its outdoor (beachside!) ice skating rink.Fascinating Facts about SD

#7: San Diego was known as the Tuna Capital of the World from the early 1930s through the late 1970s.

Many of the fishermen were Italian, and their charming homes can still be seen in Little Italy, which is now one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the United States.

Fascinating Facts about SD

The murals in Little Italy celebrate the neighborhood’s Italian history. 

#8: San Diego was home to famous children’s author, Dr. Seuss.

His real name was Ted Geisel. Would you like to read more in English? Check out our Guide to Novels in English for some suggestions.

#9: The San Diego Zoo is a large part of the Will Ferrell movie “Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy.”

However, the scenes were actually filmed at the old Los Angeles Zoo, not at the San Diego Zoo. Check out our list of Movies Set in California for some more famous locations on the big screen!

#10: San Diego’s Museum of Man (in Balboa Park) houses one of the most important collections of Ancient Egyptian antiques in the country.

The museum has real mummies and seven painted wooden coffins! One of the coffins, the Ptolemaic child’s coffin, is one of only six in the world. Balboa Park is an excellent place to explore: read our Insider’s Guide to Balboa Park for some ideas.Fascinating Facts about SD

To read the full list of San Diego facts, visit Movoto.

Relative Clauses: Omitting “THAT”

Each of the above facts can be rephrased as a question in order to ask someone if they know a fact.

Did you know . . .

  • that San Diego produces more avocados than anywhere in the U.S.?
  • that Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan was the first person to drive across the Coronado Bridge when it opened  in 1969? 
  • that San Diego has over 7,000 farms?
  • that San Diego’s Embarcadero is home to the Star of India, the world’s oldest sailing ship? 
  • that it’s against the law to swim in any of the lakes in San Diego?
  • that he Hotel Del Coronado is the country’s largest wooden structure? 
  • that San Diego was known as the Tuna Capital of the World from the early 1930s through the late 1970s?
  • that San Diego was home to famous children’s author, Dr. Seuss?
  • that the San Diego Zoo is a large part of the Will Ferrell movie “Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy?”
  • that San Diego’s Museum of Man (in Balboa Park) houses one of the most important collections of Ancient Egyptian antiques in the country?

Each of these sentences has the word “that.” However, this word can also be omitted and each sentence will still be grammatically correct.

Did you know . . .

  • San Diego produces more avocados than anywhere in the U.S.?
  • Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan was the first person to drive across the Coronado Bridge when it opened  in 1969? 
  • San Diego has over 7,000 farms?
  • San Diego’s Embarcadero is home to the Star of India, the world’s oldest sailing ship? 
  • it’s against the law to swim in any of the lakes in San Diego?
  • the Hotel Del Coronado is the country’s largest wooden structure? 
  • San Diego was known as the Tuna Capital of the World from the early 1930s through the late 1970s?
  • San Diego was home to famous children’s author, Dr. Seuss?
  • the San Diego Zoo is a large part of the Will Ferrell movie “Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy?”
  • San Diego’s Museum of Man (in Balboa Park) houses one of the most important collections of Ancient Egyptian antiques in the country?

Why is this? THAT in these sentences is not necessary. Let’s see why.

These sentences have two parts. The main clause and the relative clause.

  • Did you know + that + subject + verb 
  • Did you know + subject + verb 

The main clause (“did you know”) is the main part of the sentence. It has a subject (you) and a verb (know). All clauses have a subject and a verb.

These relative clauses begin with a relative pronoun (“that”) and include a subject and a verb. (Relative clauses can also start with other words, such as “who” or “which,” but we are only focuses on relative clauses with “that.”) The relative clause works in relation to the main clause. In this case, the relative clause is the thing we are asking if the other person knows.

Why can we remove the word THAT from these sentences? Because the relative clause already has a subject and a verb.

  • Did you know San Diego produces more avocados than anywhere in the U.S.?

(“San Diego” is the subject and “produces” is the object.)

There are times when we cannot omit the relative clause (“that”). This happens when the word “that” is the subject.

  • Did you know that man who said hello to you?
  • Do you want that piece of cake?
  • Does she need that set of keys?

As you can see, these questions are different: they are not asking a person if they know pieces of information or facts.

What did we learn? We learned (that) we can omit the word “that” from questions about facts or information. And, as you can see from the last sentence, we also learned (that) we can remove the word “that” when reporting about things we learned!

For more information on relative clauses, check out some of our article on Defining and Non-Defining Relative Clauses.

California Life Dining Featured Idioms and expressions San Diego

SD Beach Barbecue Guide + BBQ Idioms

May 7, 2017

San Diego is famous for its beaches, but few students take advantage of the many facilities the beaches offer! Did you know that you can have a barbecue on many of San Diego’s beaches? Some even have barbecue pits for you to use. Check out our SD beach barbecue guide before organizing a trip with your CISL friends. Cheers!

SD Beach Barbecue Guide

Choose a beach

Which beach will you choose to BBQ? Coronado? La Jolla? Read our Guide to San Diego’s Beaches for an idea of the facilities each beach has (and to learn the personality of each beach). Make sure that you research the beach’s facilities and hours before planning your trip: the San Diego City website lists all of the offerings for each beach, including if it’s accessible by public transport, if there are public restrooms, and if barbecues and fires are allowed.

Grab some friends

Who is coming with you? Make sure you plan in advance so that you know how much food you will need! When planning how to arrive, consider all of your public transportation options: read our Public Transportation in San Diego article for useful information.

Buy the supplies

What will you need to buy for the perfect barbecue? For a BBQ, you are going to need the following:

  • Coals
  • A lighter (to set fire to the coals)
  • Utensils for grilling (thongs and spatula)
  • Plates, napkins, cups, forks, knives, etc.
  • Food! Sausages? Burgers?
  • Condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.)
  • Drinks
  • A cooler to keep the drinks cold

Be sure to research if the beach has picnic benches; if not, grab a blanket to sit on while you eat!

Plan the rest of the day 

What will you do afterwards? Maybe play some beach volleyball? Perhaps you’ll go swimming? Check out our article for some Beach Activity ideas (and vocabulary). Make sure you come prepared . . . and don’t forget the sunscreen!

BBQ Idioms in English 

When we think of barbecues, we think of burgers, fire (and smoke), and good times! These idioms are related to the foods and items you might have at a beach BBQ.

After meat, mustard

Definition: a phrase emphasizing that something has come too late to be useful (like mustard after meat has already been eaten).

To be in a pickle

Definition: experiencing a difficult situation.

Can’t cut the mustard

Definition: not satisfactory or right for the situation

To go up in flames

Definition 1: burn up completely.
Definition 2: [for value or investment] to be lost suddenly and totally.

To grill someone (about something)

Definition: to question or interrogate someone intensely and relentlessly (about something).

Holy smoke!

Definition: what a surprise!

To rake someone over the coals

Definition: to scold someone.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

Definition: a saying meaning “there’s always some reason for a rumor.”


California Life Featured Grammar San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Student Activities Student Life Suggested student activities

The Word ‘ALSO’ in English + Places You Should ALSO Visit While Studying in SF

May 1, 2017

Do you know how to correctly use the word “also” in English? It might be a small word (just four letters!) but it is used quite often. Today we are looking at how to use the word “also” in English; then we will look at this word in action by learning about some places you should “also” visit while studying English in San Francisco!

The Word ‘ALSO’ in English

We use the word “also” to add an agreement to a statement.


  • Yesterday I went to Little Italy. I also went to Mission Beach.
  • I tried surfing and we also tried kite-boarding.
  • I took the TOEFL exam. I also took the IELTS exam. I know, I’m crazy!

Placing “also” in a sentence

The word “also” is placed in the sentence in relation to the sentence’s verb or verbs.

Use #1: With a “be” verb

The word “also” comes after the BE verb.


  • My teacher is a Cambridge instructor. She is also an IELTS teacher.

Use #2: For all other verbs

For all other verbs, “also” is placed before the verb.

  • I tried fish tacos. I also tried a shrimp burrito.
  • My teacher taught us how to use phrasal verbs during the Cambridge Speaking Module. He also helped us learn how to naturally incorporate idioms into our speech.

Notice that these verbs are one-word verbs: in the examples above, we use “tried” and “helped,” which are in the past tense. What about verb tenses that are more complicated?

Use #3: For sentences with more complex verb tenses

For verb tenses that use two words, “also” goes between the two parts of the verb. Examples include the Present Continuous, Past Continuous, or Present Perfect. This also includes verbs that are used with modals.

  • You’ve been to the theater in SF? I’ve also been there!
  • I was also working out last night at the gym.
  • We could go check out Haight-Ashbury tonight. We could also explore the Mission District.
  • When you’re living in SF, you should definitely go to Dolores Park. You should also see the cool Comic Museum!

Places You Should ALSO Visit While Studying in SF

You’re probably going to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square, and Alcatraz. Chances are, you’re going to check out Golden Gate Park, ride a cable car, and explore neighborhoods like Haight-Ashbury and the Mission District. But we also suggest that you leave the city on occasion: there is so much to do and see outside of SF! The following suggestions are for day trips or weekend trips for SF residents. Have you visited these really great cities and locations?


Cross the Golden Gate Bridge and you arrive in Sausalito, a charming seaside town with beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay. The city is famous for its houseboat community (almost 500 in total!) and is a lovely place to explore: check out the Marinship neighborhood’s waterfront and beach (you can rent canoes and kayaks!) and walk down Caledonia street for some excellent shopping. The city is filled with excellent restaurants and adorable cafes.

To most fun way to get to Sausalito is by ferry. Check out our post on Sausalito and the Golden Gate Ferry for more information.


The city is famous for many things: its prestigious university, its liberal community, and its hippie culture are just a few! Berkeley is considered the intellectual heart of California by many: you might feel smarter just walking along its streets! (We are joking . . . but we really do recommend walking down some of its streets, particularly famous Telegraph Avenue and Solano Avenue.)

Berkeley is easily accessed by public transportation: the BART station in Berkeley is located on Shattuck Avenue (very close to UC Berkeley).

Napa and Sonoma Valley

The most famous wine region in the United States is just a short trip from SF! Napa is the most popular of the two regions, but Sonoma also offers award-winning wines and beautiful scenery. Check out some of the tours you can book if you’d like to have a guide, or rent a bike for a closer view of the grapevines! The area also has charming towns to explore such as Yountville, Oakville, and Rutherford.

Before taking a trip to Napa, read our article on Wine Tasting Vocabulary.

Santa Cruz

The beach boardwalk, beautiful parks, and downtown are heavily influenced by California surfer and hippie cultures; these locations are some of the many reasons to visit Santa Cruz. Walk down the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and ride the famous Giant Dipper roller coaster, check out the beaches and watch the surfers, and then go hiking in the beautiful mountains and see the gorgeous pine trees.

The Highway 17 Express bus will take you from San Jose to Santa Cruz in about an hour. Check out the Santa Clara Valley Transport Authority for more information.

Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay’s beaches, water sports, fishing, and hiking make it a popular destination for many Northern Californians. Explore one of California’s most charming seaside towns (and be sure to enjoy some of the Pacific Ocean’s fresh seafood)!

The best way to get to Bodega Bay is by car (it’s less than 1 1/2 hours driving). For information on how to rent a car, read our post on Renting a Car as an English Student. With public transportation, the bus takes about 3 hours: take Bus 72 towards North (from the Perry Street stop) to the Santa Rosa Transit Mall (Second St. and B. St. stop). From the Santa Rosa Transit Mall, take Bus 95 towards Point Arena (Northbound) to the Highway 1 and Tides Inn stop at Bodega Bay.


California Life CISL San Diego Featured Idioms and expressions San Diego San Diego Travel Tips

English Expressions with “Warm” + San Diego’s (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

April 18, 2017

San Diego is warm nearly all year, but as the temperatures increase, we are reminded just how perfect the SD weather is! This month we are looking at some expressions with “warm” to celebrate the coming of summer. We are also looking at San Diego’s yearly weather temperature averages to show SD’s ideal weather.

Expressions with “Warm”

English Expressions with Warm

Housewarming (party)

Definition: a party to celebrate when someone moves into a new apartment or house.

Example: Are you going to Sarah’s housewarming party? She just moved to a new place in Little Italy!

We can also use housewarming + gift/present to talk about the present we give someone at a housewarming party.

Example: I bought her a new cheese plate as a housewarming gift.

Warm body

Definition: any person; someone needed to be present in order to be counted.

Example: The movie director needed a few warm bodies for the scene, so he asked the people at the beach if they wanted to be in the movie.

Warm the bench/bench warmer

Definition: to be a part of the team but not play.

Example: He warmed the bench for most of the game.

We also can the person who warms the bench a “bench warmer.”

Example: I played baseball when I was young, but I was not very good. In fact, I was a bench warmer most of the time.

Warm regards

Definition: a polite way to end an email or letter.

Example: Warm regards, Sarah

For examples of ways to begin emails or letters, check out our article on Beginning an Email in English.

Warm up to (someone/something)

Definition: to begin liking someone or something when you didn’t at first.

Example: He’s warming up to the idea of getting a dog.

Warm welcome

Definition: greeting someone; being very happy to see him or her.

Example: What a warm welcome from my host family! They had a big BBQ for me and I got to meet all of my neighbors.

English Expressions with Warm

San Diego’s (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

How good is the weather in SD? It’s pretty amazing! Holiday Weather provides excellent statistics on the yearly temperature averages for San Diego. Let’s take a look at the temps on land and in the water.

While the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is freezing in the winter, San Diego is enjoying not only warm temperatures, but many sunny days; it’s not uncommon for people to be at the beach several weekends during January and February!

San Diego's (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

In this chart, we can see the average high and low temperatures. San Diego stays consistently warm in the winter months, so although you need a jacket at night, it doesn’t have to be a huge parka!

San Diego's (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

The Pacific Ocean gets significantly warmer in the summer months, but with a wet suit, San Diego’s surfers are in the water all year.

San Diego's (Very Warm!) Yearly Weather Averages

To see more statistics about the San Diego weather, check out