I Didn’t Leave My Heart in San Francisco but I Did Lose Part of My Mind
Ok, so that may not sound so great as a title but in all fairness, when coming from a city like New York, it takes a bit of time and a lot of patience adjusting to the West Coast. Sometimes I am thankful that I don’t own a gun because I don’t know how many California drivers would survive my rage. I am even impressed that the horn on the car still works.
All seriousness aside, San Francisco is likely one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, in my opinion. It is a relatively small city with a population of around 812,000 people but keep in mind, it is a far larger population during the work day when many in surrounding bedroom communities travel in for their jobs.
The city by the Bay is considerably clean and offers an accessible city center where you will find the financial district, Union Square, Moscone Convention Center, SFMoma, the Ferry Building, Chinatown and the SOMA district (where many of the start-up ventures or digital companies are situated). Of course, the city has other areas which are a bit further out (and where public transportation is a necessity) including some of the famed 1960’s areas like the Fillmore and Haight-Ashbury. Beautiful residential areas are found in Pacific-Presidio Heights, Cow Hollow/Marina District, the Presidio, Sea Cliff, Golden Gate Park, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, the Castro, Noe Valley and the list goes on.
For me, there are a few things which make San Francisco as unique and breathtaking. It is surrounded by water-with the mighty Pacific Ocean on one side connecting to the Bay on the other. Due to this lovely relationship of the deep blues, there is a BIG fog problem. I call it a problem because I love heat. Mark Twain was definitely not joking when he made mention that the “coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”.
Temperatures can span 30 degrees in a period of a day sometimes reaching 80 degrees but always going down to 40-50 degrees by night. Don’t travel here without lots of layers of clothing because you will need them. Or just bring a lot of money in order to purchase jackets, sweaters and scarves. Look at it this way, the state of California is in bankruptcy so consider it a donation to the local economy!
I recently mentioned the color blue in relation to the water. Let us move on to the color green. Californians, especially Northern Californians consider themselves environmentally advanced and friendly. Anyone living here, whether granola, tree-hugging people or the 1% are all in favor and go out of their way to ensure that the environment is a top priority. If on the topic of colors, the hues of the varied recycling bins which line up the streets is a perfect example of how deep the passion is to keep the earth “green”.
However, that is not the only green I am talking about. San Francisco is filled to the brim with parks and trees, flowers and bushes. Anywhere and everywhere you look, you see nature…even if smack in the middle of the city. I definitely would not call myself a nature fan but I must admit that everywhere you look, green and blue colors are very prominent. Oh and white and black: white for the tons of sailboats in the Bay and black for the sea lions which are aplenty.
SF and its environs are known for its varied star-rated restaurants and Wine Spectator awarded wines, its young and out of the box thinking Silicon Valley minds, an impressive biotech industry, top level universities, cultural activities and one of the largest and most wild Gay Pride parades this side of the Atlantic. Harvey Milk would be proud!
So…what is my beef with San Francisco? Not that many here are big meat eaters…healthy and organic is the way to live out here. After all, July 1, 2012 was the beginning of the new foie gras ban and that is just fine with me. After all, these ducks deserve a chance to audition for the next Aflac commercial.
But I digress.
My issues with SF tend to mainly stem from the fact that it is not NYC. Or London. The energy is missing. It is far removed from the rest of the world or perhaps it just seems that way. Sure, there are people who reside here from all four corners of the earth (much of that is in thanks to the hi-tech world) but for some reason, you don’t really feel it (except maybe in Chinatown where everything is in Chinese).
The city falls asleep around 11pm. If you do happen to go to an event at night which ends around that time, good luck in locating a café to sit down and relax before heading home for the evening. In fact, SF is a day city. People here tend to do most of their activities during the day due to many industries following East Coast hours and people who are sports-minded taking advantage of the daytime weather (sailing, jogging, rollerblading, biking…).
Many of the people who reside in SF are what I consider a casual folk much preferring outfits of comfort. It is understandable why Lululemon has been so successful…now if only Chanel could follow in their shoes…literally. If climbing the insanely steep hills of the city, it makes sense. International and national affairs tend to be less significant to San Franciscans than are local issues such as that of gay rights, the environment and the homeless. Vacation travel mostly consists of going to Hawaii, Tahoe, Carmel-Pebble Beach or Mexico (Cabo). Discussions will likely focus on who invested in what start up, what new software and hardware idea is on the horizon, what new restaurants are opening, what 49ers or Giants game is coming up and new wines which have hit the market. It often seems that anything beyond the borders of San Francisco are non-existent.
However, if putting the social agenda aside which is likely not going to be an issue if coming as a visitor, SF is a pretty nice place to visit and a great break from the insanity of the big apple. You can definitely get some great R&R here, take in the scenery at your own pace and even enjoy sitting outside at a restaurant or café without being rushed.
If you are a tourist, you will be plenty busy with all the sights throughout the city by the bay. One thing to keep in mind, don’t limit your time to just the city of San Francisco. Remember, there is plenty to do and see in the surrounding areas such as wine country, Marin County, Palo Alto, Santa Cruz, Carmel, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite etc.
A few side trips will be written with accompanying photos so stay tuned!
To read about Palo Alto, click here.
Places to Visit:
Candlestick Park (49ers)
PacBell Baseball Park
SFMoma, Yuerba Buena Gardens, Moscone Center-all in the same area
California Academy of Sciences
Asian Art Museum
Place of the Legion of Art
Civic Center (home of the SF Symphony, SF Ballet, SF Opera and City Hall as seen in James Bond’s “A View to a Kill”)
The Ferry Building
The Marina and Pacific Heights area (includes Cow Hollow, Fort Mason)
Palace of Fine Arts
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Bridge
The Castro area
A few choice restaurants in SF: