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San Francisco’s Neighborhoods

February 2, 2015

by CISL SF student,  Cornelia Ineichen

Growing up in a Swiss city with 80,000 habitants, moving to San Francisco was quite a big thing. When you’ve never lived here before, this venture can be confusing. This town is kind of weird if you have no idea what’s awaiting you. All in all, San Francisco is an amazing place and you can’t go wrong even if not every place is perfect for you.


Cow Hollow once supplied the majority of milk products for San Francisco. Dairy ranches occupied much of the area from 1860 to 1880, when the city decided it would be better to move the milking to a place with less people.


Where did the Cow Hollow dairies go? Many of them relocated to what is now Glen Park. But to SF people in the 1880s, the area was known as Little Switzerland. This is due to the similarity of this area to the common image of Switzerland: Steep hills and dairy products.


The kids who lived in the Russian Hill neighborhood in the 1850s used the graveyard, which was then located near the top of the hill, as a playground. Most of the graves belonged to Russian sailors or soldiers. The children began calling it Russian Hill, and soon everyone else did too.


The Nob in Nob Hill is probably a nickname of the word “nabob”. Nabobs were governors in India. When the British colonized India, they borrowed the word, broadened the definition to mean a rich or important person, and eventually shortened it to “nob.” The San Francisco nabobs built extravagant mansions on the hill, all but one – the Flood Mansion – were destroyed in 1906.


The Mission is named for Mission Dolores, the oldest intact mission in California and the oldest intact building in San Francisco. What you may not know is that the mission’s official name is not Dolores, but was dedicated the Mission San Francisco de Asís in 1776. However, a small lake or possibly spring (no one knows for sure) somewhere nearby had been named the Laguna de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores earlier that year. So, the church was never really called by its given name.


The Castro was, from the 1930s through the 1960s, known as Eureka Valley. In the 1910s and ’20s, the area was called Little Scandinavia because residents of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark heavily populated it. All of those names changed when the newly liberated gays of the 1970s came to the neighborhood, made it the epicenter of the gay rights movement and renamed it after a movie theater.


Some neighborhoods are named after locations elsewhere. The SF Tenderloin, unfortunately not the best region in the city, was named after New York City’s Tenderloin. It got its name because police working the area got hazard pay, as it was very dangerous, and could therefore afford a better cut of steak than their colleagues.


George Marsh was one of the first settlers of the Richmond District. He gave it that name because the dunes reminded him of the dunes where he grew up in the Australian Richmond.


Moving along to natural boundaries, the name North Beach descends to the earliest days of San Francisco in the 1850s. The city’s northeast shoreline only went to Taylor and Francisco until it was filled in during the latter part of the 1800s. There was once a beach where today there are strip clubs, Italian restaurants, cafés, and the City Lights Bookstore. After the quake in 1906 everything changed. The neighborhood attracted many Italian Americans; therefore sometimes we call it Little Italy.


The Fillmore district was created in the 1880s to provide new space for the city to grow in an effort to address overcrowding. After the 1906 earthquake, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe settled in the Fillmore. Jewish-owned businesses opened on Fillmore and McAllister streets to serve the community. During the 1910s to 1930s, sections of the neighborhood became home to thousands of Japanese immigrants as that area became part of Japantown.

Later, vacant homes in the Fillmore attracted African Americans migrating northward to work in the shipyards, as part of the Great Migration, as well as musicians, and artists.

Soon, many nightclubs were opened, bringing major musical icons to the neighborhood including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday.

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Roman’s Favorite San Francisco Bars!

October 26, 2014

By CISL SF Student, Roman

If you study English at CISL San Francisco, it will be easy for you to make a lot of new friends from all over the world. You spend time with them in class and also maybe after class in the school activities. Today, I will recommend some places for to go out to with your friends at night. Unfortunately, you can only participate if you’re 21 or older.

Vesuvio Cafe (Columbus Avenue and Broadway)

The name “Vesuvio Cafe” is definitely misleading, because this place is a typical Bar and it is full of history. A lot of pictures of famous singers, actors, and other artists adorn the walls and some of them were frequent visitors in previous decades. This bar has two levels: a first floor and a mezzanine level on the second floor, but it isn’t very big. If you’re going to the Vesuvio Cafe with a large group, you shouldn’t go there during peak hours on a Friday or Saturday night.

The View (Fourth and Mission Street)

This is one of the rooftop bars in San Francisco and it offers a breathtaking view of the skyline of downtown San Francisco. The bar is located on the top of the Marriott Marquis Hotel just next to Market Street. Of course, the drinks are a bit more expensive than in other places, but you don’t have to pay an cover charge (entrance fee) like in a lot of other roof top bars. Even if they don’t have a bouncer, make sure that you don’t wear old shoes and your worn jeans because this place looks kind of fancy, and you don’t want to feel out of place.

Vertigo (Polk and Sutter Street)

Named after the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie, which was filmed in San Francisco, this place welcomes you to drink and dance. It’s best to go on a weekday, because you don’t have to pay a cover. Please be patient with the bartender, most of the time she is alone behind the bar, but she works faster than you ever could. Later in the night, they usually have a DJ, so you can dance.

Zeitgeist (Duboce and Valencia Street)

The name of the bar is a German word, but it’s not a German place. Zeitgeist consists of a big bar inside and an even bigger outdoor seating section in a backyard. Its located next to the freeway, which isn’t ideal, but the atmosphere is very relaxed and you can meet a lot of local people there. You can choose between many beers from all over the world, and you must try their hamburger which is made fresh on their open grill in the backyard.

San Francisco may have a lot of other great bars, but if you visit these places, I promise you will have a lot of fun with your friends. And if your friends don’t have time – try to explore these place on your own because you will easily meet a lot of new people.

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A Drink with a View: San Francisco’s Best Rooftop Bars

January 22, 2014

Would you like to take a break from studying while you are a student at CISL San Francisco? The following list includes some of San Francisco’s best rooftop bars, as suggested by locals. Grab a drink at one of these locations and enjoy a view of the beautiful city skyline! Cheers!


Best Rooftop Bars in SF


355 Santana Row
San Jose, CA  95128
(408) 551-0010

Located above the four-star Hotel Valencia, Cielo offers stunning views of San Jose and the Santa Cruz Mountains. The hotel also features the restaurant Citrus and trendy VBar; during the summer, guests can enjoy cheese and appetizers along with their cocktail or glass of wine. Oh, and there’s a POOL!


cielo cielo2



620 Jones St.
San Francisco, CA
(415) 496-6858

Sophisticated, trendy, and a favorite among professionals because of its location near Union Square, Jones is a much-loved bar in San Francisco. Jones prides itself on its inventive cocktails, so be sure to try one! Heat lamps on the terrace make the rooftop bar accessible in the winter months. Note: the bar is cash only.

Jones Jones2


Top of the Mark

999 California Street at Post

Classic, classic, classic. Classic cocktails, classic decor, classic service: everything about Top of the Mark is exactly what you would expect for an upscale night. Check them out for brunch, too!


Orchard Garden Hotel 

466 Bush Street at Grant


The word “garden” does not just relate to the bar’s beautiful palm tree decor: the Orchard Garden Hotel is a completely eco-friendly establishment! From 4-7 pm, guests receive an appetizer when they purchase a cocktail at the Roots Bar. We’ll drink to that!


Need some dinner ideas after grabbing a cocktail at one of these great locations? Check out our list of great Fusion Restaurants in SF or join the food truck revolution!

Each photo is from each bar’s prospective Facebook page.

CISL San Francisco Student Life What's Up San Francisco

CISL SF’s Beginning Summer Picnic

July 4, 2013


CISL San Francisco students, staff and teachers enjoyed a wonderful “Welcome to Summer Patio Party” on the rooftop terrace this past Friday.The weather in San Francisco has been significantly warmer than usual so it was a great opportunity for everyone to enjoy some time outside.

Lunch consisted of both vegetarian and meaty pizzas and students had their choice of a refreshing soft drink. The lunchtime was a nice way to unwind after a challenging week of studies.

After enjoying the pizza and drinks, several students stayed around to hang out on the rooftop and discuss upcoming plans for the weekend. Even an exciting game of Koi Koi (a Japanese card game using Hanafuda cards) was enjoyed by several CISL students and Derrick, our Client Services Coordinator. There were smiles all around and everyone’s spirits were high as the Friday weekday ended and the Friday evening weekend began.

How do you enjoy Friday afternoons in San Francisco or San Diego?

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San Francisco Food Truck Adventure

May 11, 2013

San Francisco has so many different restaurants that a person could eat at a different restaurant every day for a year, and still not even scratch the surface of the diversity of restaurants available. Now this list of eateries has gotten even longer because of the delicious food available on wheels. That’s right, FOOD TRUCKS!

foodtruck1Our newest activity at CISL San Francisco is “Lunch with Derrick”. Derrick, one of our Client Services Coordinators and DSO, has a sincere dedication to all things delicious. He often is the first staff member to try the latest restaurant in town and report back on how tasty the food is (or isn’t).

Derrick’s food adventures often include food trucks as they are an exciting opportunity to try various types of cuisine in a convenient and casual atmosphere.

He often visits the “food truck of the day” during his lunch break, and has recently begun inviting students at Converse to get out of their comfort zones and have a uniquely San Francisco experience. The website gives daily information about the location and genre of food available each afternoon.

This past Tuesday, Derrick and 12 students from CISL San Francisco visited The Chairman and had the exciting opportunity to wait in line with native English speakers, and choose from a unique menu. Popular items include Taiwanese bun sandwiches filled with tender pork belly, Muscovy duck confit, or spicy chicken with toasted sesame puree. The Chairman was voted “Best Food Truck” by San Francisco Magazine, so the CISL students had the opportunity to sample flavors that are inspired by the original street food of Asia.

The San Francisco Food Truck scene is amazing! When you visit San Francisco, eating from at least one food truck is a must! Happy Eating to all of you, whether from a stationary San Francisco restaurant or one on wheels!