It had been a lot of years, about 7, since I had last been in San Francisco. And other than a week or so holiday here about 10 years ago, all previous trips had been “in and out” work trips. Then in the space of 5 months came here twice, once for work and once for holiday.
I have a number of observations of this very popular and traditionally quirky city, famous for its liberalism and home of hippies on the 1960s and the gay community through the 1970s and 1980s.
(1) The relative quietness
My previous trips were during the internet boom days. The city now seems much more quiet and less vibrant than I remember it. Even considering there were supposed to be 19000 delegates in town for the conference, the streets, bars and restaurants seemed easy to get into and less throbbing.
I guess the whole silicon valley turn down has made a huge impact.
You did see closing down sales and empty shops but not on a massive scale. The most noticeable was the huge Virgin Megastore closing down.
(2) Hobos and homeless
I do recall this image from before, but there seems to be a lot of hobo and homeless people on the streets in the centre. Not that you feel threatened or scared, but you see a lot of them all over. More so than I feel you see elsewhere. Is this a heritage of San Francisco’s hippy days and Mecca to attract bohemians and the such?
(3) Coffee Shops
I don’ t know what the stats show, and it may have been a function of being in the financial district and centre, but I don’t think I have ever seen so many coffee shops ever.
There are not only Starbucks after Starbucks it feels like every time you turn round, but also other chains like Peets and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, some of which I think come from the city originally.
(4) Not American
Maybe it is because most of my trips to the USA are to the East Coast (New York/ New Jersey), but it always strikes me that San Francisco is American but does not feel as American. This is party the architecture and style of the city, but probably the more laid back and less frantic approach
(5) Weather and micro system
San Francisco is its own city. With an almost bizarre weather system that bears little to what is going on even 10 minutes drive down the motorway.
The bay sucks in fog that in summer often completely obscures the Golden Gate Bridge and can hang about for days. It is always cooler on the city than nearby. Even crossing the bridge into Sausalito will see temperatures move upwards.
This strange weather and the fog is something locals talk about all the time. They also talk a lot about moving to warmer place.
Maybe it is a California thing, or maybe a hangover from the hippy heritage and glory days, but people from San Francisco really do seem to be “of a type”! They are chatty, effusive and enthusiastic – but overall service and detail seems lacking. They seem to confuse friendliness with service!
(7) Beautiful from other side
Most visits to San Francisco seem to entail staying and being in the city and the most people venture to is perhaps walking across the long Golden Gate Bridge to the viewing area. Some may venture to Napa. But staying or visiting Sausalito on the other side of the bridge is a must. You get stunning views across the bay to the city, great views of the Golden gate – and also a quirky laid back town. It is really easy to go on the ferry for example. I have a whole posting on Sausalito: click here
(8) Things to do:
– visit Alcatraz
– cycle or walk over the Golden Gate Bridge. Best to cycle as then can free wheel down into Sausalito
– get the ferry to or from Sausalito and explore the shops at the ferry building
– visit the huge and impressive Golden Gate park with Japanese Gardens
– go to the Castro
– get a tram
– do an open air bus tour