Have you ever thought about giving someone a hot air balloon ride? How about a flying trapeze lesson, a ziplining adventure, or even a personal chef for the night? Cloud 9 Living allows you to do just that with more than 1,700 experiences available nationwide. Gift certificates can be emailed or sent as a physical package via snail mail.
My digital gift certificate came immediately via email. Included was a certificate number and a direct web address to book my experience. When browsing the San Francisco experiences, 83 exciting options were listed! I had to scan the choices over and over again but finally decided to take the Little Italy Food Tour for Two in San Francisco. After all these years, that’s one area I’ve never really explored. New discoveries and Italian food? Yes, please!
A physical gift certificate was also mailed to me to show what it would look like if it was sent as a gift. I thought it was super cute when I opened the package and saw a folded piece of paper reading, “GIFT RECEIPT ENCLOSED. Opening early will ruin the surprise!” I was impressed by the way the certificate was presented and think anyone would be happy receiving this in the mail. It’s the perfect present and no gift-wrapping is needed!
Before our tour appointment, I received a reminder email with all the information I would need including meeting place and a phone number to call if needed. This came in real handy as we were running a few minutes late and had to catch up with the group. For about 2-1/2 to 3 hours we walked the streets around Washington Square in the vicinity of Union, Columbus, and Stockton streets. You could easily tell we were in the Little Italy/North Beach area with the poles marked with Italian colors.
Our first stop was at Caffé Roma. We got a close look at the coffee roaster that is used here about twice a week, filling the air with freshly roasted coffee. It was pretty cool to see how the beans looked very plain and were odorless when raw. After being roasted, the color and smell was so robust! Sadly, we missed the tasting but we can always do that at another time.
We next headed to the Italian French Bakery. Their bread is made of only yeast, flour, salt, and water and is cooked in the vintage brick oven. Did you know these ovens used no mortar? Careful placement and gravity alone keep the bricks inside in place. They set the loaves of dough on long wooden planks and fire up the flame that is directly fired into the oven.What a feat at 4:00 am, eh?
We planned to return here after the tour since the chocolate dipped macaroons and biscotti (fresh and not hard) were amazingly tasty. That didn’t happen since we were pooped after the tour. Another reason to come back to the area! My husband had to chuckle when he went to take photos of the french bread with the sign reading, “Dutch Crunch”. He’s Dutch, remember?
Our guide gave several bits of history and culture. From the beginnings of the statue and tower by Ms. Coit to the wall of fame displayed in the old hangout, Caffé Trieste. We were told the photos in the lower right corner pictured Francis Ford Coppola at that very cafe while working on the script for The Godfather. Many other famous faces were displayed, many of which likely enjoyed the tunes from the resident jukebox.
As we walked into Z Cioccolato, an overwhelming sweet scent blasted out the door. I told my husband that I could feel my nose getting cavities 😛 We each got a sampling of three fudge flavors, my favorite of which was the “White Tiger”. There were dozens of other flavors but, though the fudge was good, it was so rich that we couldn’t eat more than one bite of our samples. Two other stops led us to a fresh bowl of pasta at Trattoria Pinocchio (delicious and fresh) and anti-pasta at Cinecitta (was okay).
I wish the tour covered more about the neighborhood such as how the Italian immigrants came to settle here and how the food was related to the ever-changing culture in the area. Instead, the guide spent a good hour divulging information on the beatnik era as it was his passion and where he’s been stuck for the past 35 years. We really did not need to know about where the first topless (and bottomless) restaurant was or how the first poetry book featuring obscenities, drugs, and blatant sexuality upheld the first amendment. The family-friendly aspect basically disappeared halfway through.
While we wouldn’t recommend this exact tour with this particular guide, we were happy to get our feet wet in walking the surrounding streets. Both my husband and I hope to do our own Little Italy food tour in the near future but plan on filling the itinerary with more pasta, cannoli, and Italian gestures from old-time locals.
What I would recommend is the service Cloud 9 Living provides. Ordering an ‘experience’ was simple and redemption at the venue was even easier. There’s great communication with the providers and we felt relieved that everything was ready for us when we arrived.
So the next time you are wondering what to get that person that is so hard to shop for, think about sending them on a new experience and helping them cross another thing off their bucket list. In fact, next month Cloud 9 Living will be holding a contest and offering a new prize every day from December 16th to 24th. That’s nine chances to win an experience for yourself! Go ahead and enter here. If you happen to win, you must tell me all about it!