San Francisco-based tour company Painted Ladies is brightening the Bay area’s streets with its fleet of colorful vintage Volkswagen buses, each vehicle equipped with a flirty set of eyelashes above the headlights.
The company, named after the colorful row of Victorian houses in San Francisco’s Alamo Square, was started by a husband-and-wife team of Josh Armel and Virginie De Paepe.
“Painted Ladies Tour Company is a company that started out as a dream,” the couple shares on their website. “My wife and I wanted to share the city we both love so much with others in a way that deepen connection through a unique and intimate experience.
“Every tour we provide, we share, we laugh, we think, we get silly and serious and create long lasting memories together.”
As a fully licensed charter and sightseeing business, Paint Ladies Tour Company gives tourists a ride in one of their VW buses, showing them the city’s most popular attractions such as Union Square, Chinatown, Lombard Street and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The company also operates a Sonoma Valley wine country tour, taking tourists to award-winning vineyards for wine tasting.
The compact size of their vibrant VW Type 2 Transporter buses makes it easier for tour guides to get closer to city sites that most tour busses can’t.
All the buses in the fleet have names with California connections:
- Pearl: 1968 model named after a Janis Joplin album recorded in California
- Poppy: 1975 model named for California’s state flower the Golden Poppy
- Skye: 1971 model inspired by California’s big blue skies
- Buttercup: 1974 model named after the California Buttercup
“Before joining the active fleet, each Bus gets a makeover typically involving a new engine and transmission, along with upgrades to tires and brakes if need,” Volkswagen says in its story about the tour company. “To enhance safety, each vehicle gets lap belts for every seat, plus shoulder restraints in front.
“Add a new sound system and convenient USB charging ports – which weren’t standard in 1968,” Arnel noted with a laugh – and the result is a unique roadgoing experience that blends classic and modern.”
He has also replaced a few of the bus’s vinyl headliners with birch wood panels that he then covered with fun wallpaper prints.
To learn more about the Painted Ladies Tour Company and its VW buses, visit its website.