"If you're going to San Francisco Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair If you're going to San Francisco You're gonna meet some gentle people there" Scott McKenzie
San Francisco, 2017
The last leg of my USA 2017 trip ended in San Francisco where I had to say goodbye to my Intrepid trip. I was hosted by my lovely friend Cheryl and her partner who so kindly let me stay in their beautiful walk up apartment right in the middle of the Castro! I was so lucky especially since I happened to be in San Francisco smack in the middle of Pride weekend!
Of course I did do some touristy things in San Francisco ... like going to touristy places but not all touristy places. For example my cable car went right past the windiest street in the world Lombard Street. I also gazed at the Alcatraz from afar but did not feel compelled to visit. I did try to go to the Golden Gate Park but it was cold that day and I did not have a sweater on. Don't get me wrong, I did step foot in there but ran back out because I was being wimpy and also crepe on Haight Street seemed more enticing in the summer chill.
Mostly I wandered around the neighborhoods randomly, shopped and ate food with friends, some who lived there, a couple who had flown in and some whom I have met on my travels. It was a relaxing time and I was enjoying having some free moments to sit in a kitchen or hang out in cafes and have hot showers after being on an extended camping tour. All in all I spent about 9 days in San Francisco which felt like a nice amount of time to actually live in the city for a little bit.
Oh I did take a couple of walking tours with some excellent guides who recited poetry or sang songs along the way.
Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39
One of my favourite places to go was to Fisherman's Wharf. It was one of those places that enchanted me when I was 12 and surprisingly still held the same appeal as an adult. Must be the fresh seafood (clam chowder!), lovely views, quirky restaurants and shops and my general unhurried pace. I came here twice this trip and ate seafood both times!
Chinatown and North Beach
The Chinese and the Italian neighborhoods of San Francisco are homes to fascinating history. From the stories of oppression of the Chinese people and their tenacity to survive to the romantic glimpses of the shadows of Jack Kerouac and the Beat generation, this area is filled with interesting characters and tales to last a lifetime.
P.S Don't forget to eat a fortune cookie in Chinatown!
P.P.S There's a carpark with a wonderful view over Northbeach and the city where you can see the Coit Tower and the TransAmerica building. I can't tell you where it is because I have no idea but our guide brought us there at the end of our walking tour and disappeared before I could tip her! What a ninja!
P.P.P.S There is only 1 Banksy graffiti in the whole of San Francisco and it can be found in North Beach!
I spent quite a lot of time in the Castro because that was where I was based for my time in San Francisco.
I loved the fact that everything was rainbow in the Castro. You can buy rainbow slurpees and sit on a rainbow bench and walk across rainbow pedestrian crossings! There are cheeky little memorabilia everywhere and a there was a great little GLBT History museum in the Castro where you can learn about the history of GLBT in San Francisco including some iconic heroes like Harvey Milk.
The Mission District is mural central and and also a Hispanic neighbourhood. There is an amazing Women's Building the centre for Prevention of Violence Against Women. It has beautiful artwork adorning its external walls that were painted by seven women artists. I love how colourful the area is and really appreciated the fine Mexican food we had here.
I enjoyed both equally!
The birthplace of the flower children and home to the likes of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. The district of the Summer of Love still looks its name but isn't quite the same I am sure. There were angry hippies (not the real kind) and drug dealers around the corners but you can't be in San Francisco and not go to Haight-Ashbury! Also, you get to visit the first ever Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop!
Just a side note: much as I loved San Francisco, I have noticed a sense of disgruntlement on the streets. The number of homeless people in the cities of the USA are also increasing rapidly and the reality of social issues in America can be seen everywhere if you are looking for it.
Did I mention how much I LOVE the buildings in San Francisco? Those bay windows make my heart melt. Everything about them I just adore. I tell my friend how much I love her apartment block all the time!
Point Reyes : After all this time in a city I was just itching to get away and back into nature. We rented a car and made a little day trip to Point Reyes. Across the Golden Gate Bridge and just past Sausalito you get to a little slice of heaven. We saw eagles and I swear a whale! Even a couple of deers. The Point Reyes lighthouse was an easy walk up and down. It was such a nice day out and it was surreal watching the fog in the distance sit below the clouds. We ended up driving to Marshall's nearby for freshly shucked oysters by the water. Lots of options here but don't leave oyster eating till too late in the day as the oyster vendors close! We were lucky to find one that was still open.
The Golden Gate Bridge
Of course there is the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco's famous red suspension bridge. I was fortunate enough to have been able to see it from a few different angles. The first was from Marin Headlands looking back to the city, then from Baker beach on the same day (thank you Sarah for adding this last lovely touch to our itinerary from Intrepid). On the day of our trip to Point Reyes we also drove across the Golden Gate bridge twice and then ended the day trip at Crissy fields with a beautiful view towards the bridge. Do visit Crissy fields if you can, it's a lovely place for a picnic and to take some walks!
Downtown San Francisco
I ventured downtown on a few occasions and thought it was great for shopping especially around Union Square. It was also nice for walking around soaking in the vibes of San Francisco city. Downtown is not as hilly as other parts of San Francisco so it was quite walkable. We accidentally wandered into the Tenderloin for lunch and that was an experience in itself. Not recommended for a casual tourist visit unless you like a walk on the wild side.
If you have time, do visit the SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), it is a great way to spend a couple of hours and they also run public guided tours.
San Francisco. City of Love.
San Francisco Pride
Finally, Pride festivities in San Francisco are to be experienced at least once in your lifetime! My friends and I hung out at Mission Dolores Park. We marched along, watched the celebrations happen right below us from the window of my friend's Castro apartment and on the Sunday witnessed the longest parade I had ever seen in my life - the Pride March. We danced down the streets and boogied at the celebration at the Civic Centre Plaza and generally had a rad time!
250 contingents were marching from politicians to little old church ladies to animal rescue shelters and of course some of the largest corporations in the world (ah commercialism, you cannot escape it). Oh my goodness, the costumes, the pumping music, the glitter and the joyfulness was intoxicating! Most of all it was so heartwarming to see people from all walks of life supporting the GLBTQIA!
San Francisco is wonderful in so many ways. It is multicultural, diverse and a very progressive city with something for everyone. I also was impressed with their access to nature and the parklands and trails that are right at their doorstep. It certainly has a lot going for it, not just good looks, and I am so glad I got to spend some time chilling out here as the final stop of my trip to the USA.
San Francisco. Thank you for the memories.