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San Francisco is America's Brighton, although slightly bigger and bolder. It's known for its arty liberal thinkers and big gay population and from that comes creativity and bohemia. This city by the sea is like no other in America and like New Orleans feels more European than American. Crime is high like any other American city but the pure weight of gay and educated middle-class packed in this bustling and intelligent unique city has pushed the troublesome black and Latino warring underclass out to the twin city of Oakland and so San Francisco not riddled with gang violence like other US cities. When you walk around the city as a tourist you feel safe and detached from that American reality.
It's a beautiful city with the majestic Golden Gate Bridge (which is actually brick red) its welcoming front door and following embrace, almost a sanctuary from the rest of tacky America. The infamous Alcatraz Jail sits in the middle of the bay as you near the city by boat and the city skyline looking like it was designed by the makers of those 1970s Sci-Fi movies.
The downtown area is all about the harbor side with lots of fish restaurants and bars to pleasantly relieve you of your tourist dollar. The tourist harbor area's most famous residents are the noisy seals, which sit around all day eating fish, the laziest seals on the planet by far. It reminds me of the TV show Loose Women.
The bay is full of sharks (and shopping trolleys) to pick off any criminals that tried to escape from Alcatraz, now the cities number one tourist attraction, $10 to get out there and then $20 to get on to the island. It is worth the trip though as the islands tour guides are the old lags that served time there and have some tales to tell. You also get a unique view of the city from the island and surrounding bay area.
The city itself offers all the top hotel chains and the mid budget ones with solid cheap accommodation for backpackers ($20 per night), that hostels mostly situated in the older buildings on the central thoroughfares near the city center, safer than they look at night. The city itself has a cleanish subway system that segway's nicely with the old tram system, the trams screeching and grinding their way up and down the cities many steep inclines like grumbling pensioners on a wet day in Blackpool. They built things to last in those days. A trip on these is a must. If you are not a confident driver then drive on past San Francisco as you need good handbrake control to weave your way through it. Some of the inclines are insane for a modern metropolitan city. The most famous one in town is Lombard Street, the snaking but symmetrical road built for tourists to drive up and down all day, areal Curly Wurly of a road.
Other attractions include the aging and now earthquake cracked Candlestick Park where American football and baseball is still played. It's well worth taking in a game and rather cheap to watch sport there, $20 for a nosebleed seat. Its advisable to check your not sitting in someone special seat as Americans are very big and noisy and will toss you over the side if you don't movie, a rain of popcorn and soda following.
The gay side of the city is mostly in the Castro District and they keep themselves to themselves, a very safe area if you are studying in the city and female. I quite enjoyed staying with friends there,
and always find the gay communities are good company and always up for a party, knowing where all the straight girls are for their guests to feast on. The United Airlines hub stewardess hotel is the place to be! There is also a new AIDS tour there as it was the epicenter for the then unknown virus and claimed 20,000 young men in just 15 years in the Castro.
As far as other things to do in the city it's very much an 'eat and drink' place. There are some wild beaches each side of the bridge and a national park high atop the cliffs if you like walks, a great view of the jumper son the bridge if macabre is your thing, The Golden Gate Bridge still the suicide capital of the world with an average one jumper every week. Rather vainly they prefer to die hitting the water than the rocks below, drowning and then being eating by shark not my idea of fun.
Getting there is a pleasure by car as you can drive up from Los Angles on the glamorous Pacific Coast Highway or by the excellent Amtrak service, that snakes through the ordered orange groves, vineyards and wind farms that absorb ever drop of sun and wind respectively in this part of the world. If you can avoid internal flights in America then do it as the country is so diverse there is always something to see on the road. In fact treat yourself and hire a flash open top car for less than $200 bucks for the day and race up to San Francisco that way. Coming down from Seattle is supposed to be even more dramatic a coast line. Las Vegas is reachable in a day from most Californian cities.
When we first drove into the city from the airport, I was quite surprised by what I saw, as there are lot of small houses built into the hills that look like slums (slums is a bit of an exaggeration, but I can't think of a better word). Then as you get further in you get to all the skyscrapers, which is what I expected to be seeing.
There is plenty of accommodation in San Francisco, so I won't list it all here. I stayed in the Holiday Inn near Fisherman's Wharf, which was a nice hotel. I would recommend staying in this area, as it is a good location for restaurants as well as various other attractions. However, it is very touristy, so might not be everyone's cup of tea.
Things to do:
Fisherman's Wharf - as you walk down by the Wharf, there are lots of artists and street performers about. It is a very busy area with lots of shops (especially tacky touristy type ones) and restaurants. There are some great chocolate/ candy shops. This is also the place to come to get a boat to Alcatraz and for the aquarium.
Golden Gate Bridge - I was quite excited to see this as I am a big fan of Charmed, which heavily features the bridge. However, it is a must-do for any visitor to San Francisco (which apparently is only called 'Frisco' by tourists).
Alcatraz - there are other reviews on this (one that I've written myself) so I won't go into too much detail here, but I would definitely recommend a visit to Alcatraz.
Shopping - head on down to Union Street, where there plenty of shops, all the usuals like Macy's, American Eagle etc.
There is no shortage of restaurants in San Francisco. It is most famous for it's seafood. A particular speciality is clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl; you can find this at pretty much any seafood restaurant.
Alioto's - recommend by the driver on our tour bus. He is a local and says he eats here every year on his birthday. Of course, he could be paid by them to say that, but I ate here, and the food was lovely. I had a shrimp and crab cannelloni, which was amazing.
I would definitely recommend San Francisco to anybody. There is so much to do and see here that there is something for everybody. You could also spend a long time here and be constantly finding new things to do and see.
One of the few places I could see myself happily settling, San Francisco is a great city, whatever you're looking for! To begin with are the obvious attractions, like the Golden Gate Bridge (catch a bus, or cycle there. Wouldn't recommend walking unless you really feel like it! Bit of a distance, as I found out), Alcatraz (prebook your tickets, look on the National Park Service website for more details, this is the cheapest way to organise this), and of course Fishermans Wharf. However, the best part of San Francisco are the small quirky places you find when making your way between tourist attractions. One of my favourites was Chinatown, and in particular the little parks where you'll find masses of Chinese men playing Mahjong. Obiously the chinese food is great as well, and it's a good place to pick up cheap fresh fruit.
Another good place to go is the Ghiradelli factory down near Fishermans Wharf. Although it isn't a factory anymore, they still give out a free sample when you go into the shop, and the ice cream in the cafe bit is pretty darn good! For fatty american food, another good place to head is the Cheesecake factory, which you'll find on the top floor of Macy's. Even if you don't feel like eating the delicious cake, you'll get a great view down onto Union Square, where the department store is located.
The beaches around San Francisco are good for sunning yourself but the water can be a bit chilly! Baker Beach in particular gives you great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Prices in San Francisco are cheap compared to bigger cities like New York, and there are numerous hostels offering cheap, good value beds. Go at once!
I visited San Francisco in July 2005 and immediately fell in love with the city. From the plane window seeing the Golden Gate bridge and the prison island of Alcatraz for the first time was an image and moment that I will remember for a lifetime. Lucky really I suppose to have been flying on a day when the dreaded fog hadn't rolled in.
I booked my trip with my wife through Kuoni and was doing a three stop trip starting in San Francisco before moving onto the hedonistic city of Las Vegas and the grittier city of New York. As every with any Kuoni holiday everything about the flights, transfers and the hotels they picked was first class. In addition to this because we booked our holiday early and
were regular Kuoniers' we were given a free helicopter flights over Las Vegas and New York but more of those when I eventually get round to those Dooyoos!
Our flights were with United Airlines and I would after my experience with them certainly choose to fly with them again. On arriving at San Francisco airport which is around 7 miles to the south of the city we quickly negotiated the oh so friendly American passport control agents and progressed rapidly through the airport to our awaiting transfer, a mini-van that had the look of the A-Team van! Just about perfect! The journey into the city took us along the American favourite 6 lane freeway and within about 30 minutes after a couple of other drops we were at our hotel.
The Handerley hotel postionned just to the west of Union Square itself is a nice comfortable hotel with in truth very basic furnishings. For us though with its central location it was ideal. For those people with a limited time in San Francisco who like us see a hotel as a place to sleep at night rather than a holiday destination in itself the Union Square hotel is perfect. We were with Kuoni on a room only basis so cannot comment on the food in the hotel but would as ever say never eat in your hotel get out and about and make like a native.
To help you with that left me point you in the direction on Lorri's diner. Just around the corner from the hotel this is a real American diner. It could have been taken straight from the 60's with is plastic covered seats and retro styling. Pin ball machines line the walls and a 1930's bi plane decorates the ceiling. The food is typical American diner food. Pancakes with maple syrup the staple taste amazing and are done to American sizes. The milkshakes a meal in itself topped with a glacier cherry. This gives you a real flavour of America. That was breakfast then covered for us for the time we stayed in
So for the city itself then. The first and obvious place to start then for us was Union Square itself. Union Square is the heart of the shopping distict and has some great shops. Macy's is the most notable on the square itself with a massive store on the south of square. At the time of our visit the pound was pretty much worth two dollars (distant memory now!) so it
was definitly and empty suitcase job. I always use clinique products (an American brand) so was able to make massive savings and bought up Macy's clinique counter.
Shopping over then back to the city. The famous old trams run from just around 50 meters south of the square. The trams have two routes but the one we were interested in was the Union Street to Fishermans Wharf. As the tram negotiates the hills of the city you get great views across the bay area which the Golden Gate bridge the obvious stand out sight. It looks even better in real life as thepictures. Against a perfect blue sky it is a magical view. As we left the tram at he wharf my camera was in danger of
overheating. Also Alcatraz and the north side of the bay are stunningly beautiful on a perfect summer day.
Fishermans Wharf and the Pier have two major claims to fame. The first and most obvious from both the noise and the smell are the famous seallions which have basking rafts which they fully utilise. In the summer there are less of them as most of them disappear to cooler waters but the were still around 20 or so to give that fishy aroma. The pier (Pier 39) is also home
to a small fairground with rides from a different generation. Bands often play on the landside of the pier and this area really has a happy holiday buzz to it. The area around the piers has loads of tourists shops and attractions. Claim to fame but I set the new record on the ancient pac-man machine in the old aracdes near the pier.
Another important money spinner around the pier are the crabs. You will see hundreds of Dungeness crabs?? I believe kept in tanks ready to find there ways to the local specialty, crab chouder. We have this in a small restrarant near the pier and can first hand say it tastes amazing but you need to have a liking for seafood as a basic requirement before giving it a go. To get the full pier experience I would recommend at least half a day to amble about and enjoy the sun and atmosphere of the place.
It is also from the area that boats leave to cross the bay to go to Alcatraz island home of the most famous prison in the world. The journey across takes around 20 minutes and can be choppy. If like me you have the sea legs of a camel you might want to consider sea sickness tablets. When we planned our trip to San Francisco one of the things I was desprerate to do
was to go to Alcatraz. I am really glad we went but to be honest I was disappointed with it. From the boat docking point it is about a 10 minute walk up hill to get to the prison proper. The prison has photographs and tales of some of the famous residents of the prison but for me thay could have done more. You also get an audio guide which tries to give the place some atmosphere but again this could have been so much better. The whole tour of the centre takes probable around an hour to complete. You get sights of the prison yard, the cells, solitary confinment and the kitchen area. I'm not sure if I just built this up to much but for me I wanted more.
Back of dry land and mainland America we went back to the hotel to get ready for our nights meal.
As it was our wedding anniversiry we had booked ourselves into the Farallon restraunt just on Union Square to the north west (450 Post Street).
The Farillon was and possibly still is the best sea food restruant in San Francisco. It is a classy place and would suggest that you make an effort and dress up a bit to feel comfortable when going in. The lights are in the form of jellyfish chandeliers. The lighting is subdued and the whole place oozes stlye. The food is supurb and even now I can remember
exactly what I ordered for every meal and remember the tastes. This is to be a honest a fairly pricy by my standard place (say £25 for a main) but the food is well worth the outlay. I would 100% if you like seafood that you make the effort and book a table for the Farillon.
From here we left to meet up with some California friends in an Irish bar Lefty O'Doul's,just off Union Square and then off to bed for our first jet-lagged sleep.
The next moring after the trip to Lorri's diner it was off to see the other must see site, the Gold Gate bridge. This is probably the most iconic and famous bridge in the world (Sydney Harbour included) and was a dream of mine to go and see it.
The best way to get to it is to use the buses getting one in westerly direction as far as the massive Golden Gate park and then taking one north to the bridge. Seeing the bridge is an inspiring moment and being able to walk across the footpath was another remember for ever experiences. Walking across the bridge and looking back over San Fracisco is one of those jaw dropping oh my god moments. From every side and every angle San Francisco is a stunning city. The bay and the pacific framing the compact and cosmopolitan centre.
From the bridge we took the bus back up to the park and took as lazy stroll thtough the park which is massive. We spent most of the rest of the day in the park which has a bison enclosure, a windwill and at the western side the pacific ocean. Nowhere in the world has made me feel further that home than paddling in the shark invested pacific. The water in all honest is as cold as the north sea even in the California summer. What an amazing place though San Fracisco is as a city. In twenty minutes you could be in the city shopping with the biggest names in fashion or strolling over the iconic Golden Gate bridge or like me splashing about in the pacific.
From the beach just across the road is Ocean View micro-brewery and restraunt which does exactly what is says on the tin. The view across the pacific as the sun sets on another perfect California day is stunning. The food is over priced and not the greatest meal you will ever have but the beer is great and what a view. This is the place to watch the sunset over a
couple of lazy beers before taking a cab or the bus back into the city.
Day three in the city then and after the Lorris experience we took a stroll down to the tram stop only to find massive crowds. We had managed to walk into the world premiere gay parade and were greated with all manner of floats and marching bands in all shades of pvc or flesh. The atmosphere though was such a happy one and the show something that I will never see
again so we spent maybe an hour watching this pass.
We then took the tram back up the hill to Chinatown and had a walk
around the mini-country. We eyes are restraunt for a Chinese meal for night and then continued through the city towards Lombard street again on the old trams. Lombard street promotes itself as being the most crooked street in the world and it probably is. We were on foot and walked
down the street talking pictures of the street snaking down the hill. It was shaped this way to stop cars just rolling straight down the hill when ABS breaks were a thing for the future. The traffic queues a few blocks back as people queue for the experience of drving down Lombard street!
From here we took a short walk to the Coit tower which is shaped like the end of a fire hose. This tower is a memorial to the firemen and women of the city. It is possible to climb the tower and from the top as with most places in th city you get amazing views over the bay and to the south east across the Oakland bridge and the city of Oakland.
From the Coit tower we took a wonder throught the financial district with the massive iconic TransAmerica building at its heart before making our way back to Chinatown for an amazing meal at the Empress of China. Situated on the tops floor of the building before eating make sure you take in the amazing views over the city and China Town. The food is amazing here but
don't take my word for it, Mick Jagger, Jayne Mansfield and Sammy Davis Jr have all enjoyed the food here!
Tha tgive or take was my San Francisco experience. Being 4 years ago some ofthe detail from my trip has been lost but the images of the city and my feelings and love of the place still remain as strong as ever. From the plane banking to the ride back to the airport San Francisco is a place that I will always remember. I have always said that I would never go back
somewhere as the world has so many places to see but in the case of San Francisco I would go back at the drop of a hat. I love the place.
It is due to its geography (built on a penisular around 6 mile squared) a compact city with a great array of transport ptions. Surrounded by water of three sides you are never more that 3 miles from the blue stuff. The California weather for us was perfect blue sky every day. The weathermen are all pretty much obosolete! The food (apart from the American sizes
and fat content) was exceptional and the people not your stereotypical brash loud Americans but confident and plesant people.
If I could live anywhere in the world it would be a toss up between Stockholm and San Francisco for me. As a holiday destination San Francisco has plenty for at least a week with the surrounding vineyards and coastline making much longer stays seem really appealing. It truely is one of the worlds great cities and I would recommend it to everyone.
I have been to San Francisco twice now and I can't wait to go back. Put simply- this city is amazing and is truly special. Located on a peninsular with the Pacific ocean to the west and San Francisco Bay to the north and east, it's location is breathtaking. One of my favourite things about San Francisco is the hills. The hills are what makes the city so visually spectacular, from almost every corner you get a different vista and this has the added bonus of enabling visitors to get their bearings. The city has so many things to see and do and so many varied areas to just visit and soak up the atmosphere. Although a detailed list of attractions and their reviews are more suited to a large guidebook these are some of my 'must-dos'. For the first time visitor I would recommend hiring a bike a Fisherman's Wharf and riding across the Golden Gate bridge (there is a path!) and then down the headland the other side to the small town of Sausalito. This ride is easy and nearly all down hill and the views are amazing. Once you have spent some time in Sausalito, a lovely little town on the waterfront with quaint shops and nice restaurants you can take your bike back on the ferry across the bay to San Francisco. I would also recommend taking the ferry to Alcatraz, the self-guided audio tour is available in numerous languages and is very interesting. You really get a feel for the history of the place and the desperation the prisoners must have felt. The downtown area of San Francisco has exactly what you would expect of a major city- many shops, bars and restaurants. These are all fairly close together and you will find all the usual brand names. You must also make a visit to China Town and the fortune cookie factory, North Beach with it's Italian restaurants and cafes, the Castro, with it's gay scene and eclectic range of shops. No visit would be complete without a visit to Fisherman's Wharf with its huge tourist-centred range of shops, bars and restaurants and it's resident sealion colony. This area is also home to many fish restaurants and it is here you can sample the world famous clam chowder served in a hollowed sour dough loaf. The chowder washed down with a cool glass of Californian white while overlooking the San Francisco bay has to be (at least) one of my ideas of heaven. A visit to San Francisco will fill you with joy and I have no doubt that once you go, you will want to return.
I lived in San Francisco for a year and my wife lived there for 6. We just moved to Arizona to get some space for ourselves, but we loved our time there. Here is a little peek into what it is like to spend a good while there, and what to see and what not to.
- The views - are - incredible!!! Simply Spectacular! The hills, architecture and water all contribute to a wondrous sight in most elevated places.
- Each neighborhood has it's own character. North Beach, with it's counter-cultural beatnik legacy is great. Where else would you find a worker-owned and operated strip club right next to a bum passed out in his own fluids next door? People are friendly here and the tourists bring lots of money. It's distinctly Italian. Right next door is Chinatown, where you'll step into another world within the United States. 100,000 people live within a few blocks of each other, making for fascinating street action. Then there are the gorgeous Nob Hill & Telegraph Hill, where the snobs live. They think the city would crumble without them (seriously). Sitting upon Telegraph Hill is the Coit Tower, offering panoramic views across the bay. There is the diverse Castro, with one of the largest and politically strongest gay communities in the world. Twin Peaks is amazing, with two big hills offering more incredible views and a long, hard walk to the top. Golden Gate Park is in the West and ends at Ocean Beach. Full of eucalyptus trees and wonderful landscaping, it is well worth a couple of days of exploring. The Presidio is in the North West, and is the wildest place in SF. A hilly forest, it leads to huge cliffs dropping into the Pacific Ocean and the city's nude beach. Watch out for rip-tides and great white sharks!!! The Golden Gate Bridge spans the bay, departing from the most north-westerly point. Big and beautiful, it is my favorite bridge and can be walked or cycled over. On the other side is Marin County, perhaps one of the most beautiful and serene counties in California.
There are more neighborhoods, but some are better left until you've visited a few times or have an interest in what lies in the seedy sections of town. There is the ugly Tenderloin, with beautiful old hotels now inhabited by crack-head, zombies, "hipsters" (a strange breed of urban young adult) and pimps. The Bayview should be avoided unless you are into danger. The Excelsior and Outer Mission are also more troublesome parts of town. Generally though, the city is fairly safe, especially on any of the hills. Bad-types don't seem to want to climb up them. We have spent many nights (1-3am) walking around North Beach, our old home, with no fear or trepidation.
I must not forget the Haight. Don't go here just for the tie-die, hippie paraphernalia. That side of the Haight is sad and troubled. The Haight was once a vibrant place, full of all that was interesting in the psychedelic scene. Artists, musicians & poets moved here from other neighborhoods because housing was cheap. But in the summer of 1967, 100,000 young kids came on a whim hoping for an incredible time. Things soon turned sour, when many ran out of money, food, clothes...There was no purpose and no direction for a lot of them, and the Haight rapidly deteriorated into a homeless encampment. This is still the case today, as teenagers come and go, looking battered, torn and well out of luck. But the legacy of those who came before remains. The houses here are perhaps the most beautiful in all of the city. Elaborate old Victorians are painted in such wild colours, it is worth the trip up the hill. There are also some interesting clothing stores, some great restaurants and at the end of the road is the entrance to Golden Gate Park.
Burritos, Burritos, Burritos! This California-Mexican food is so good. Rice, beans, cheese, avocado, vegetables and/or meat wrapped in a tortilla. They are HUGE and one is enough for two meals. Much bigger and better than the burritos you might find elsewhere in the USA. By far!! The best places are Taqueria Cancun in the Mission on 24th St or Azteca on Market and Church St in the Castro. Azteca uses brown rice and wholewheat tortillas. We highly recommend getting a burrito from one of these two places if you are in town. Watch out...the quality varies elsewhere but there are some other great places.
- the bay...
...Is Cold and Beautiful. Boats sail in and out under the bridge in the most romantic way possible every day. You can take a trip out on one of many boats that depart down at the Fisherman's wharf, but bring a warm hat, two jackets and three scarves!
- The Fisherman's Wharf
I thought I must say something about this place. It's where all the tourists get dropped off. It is a tourist funnel. It is also not a great place. San Francisco has few corporate stores, and most of them are right here. Most of the big hotels are here, and they are not cheap. It's a clever way of taking your money, putting you on a tour bus and giving you the idea that you "saw san francisco". The only good thing about the wharf is the old port. It used to be a busy place but is now quiet and a great place to spend an evening strolling around. There is also a very cute man-made beach here in a protected cove, "aquatic park", where you can swim with sea lions and relax on the occasional hot day. So my advice is, if you find yourself in the wharf, take a look around, perhaps go to the Arcade Museum then leave. The city has so much more to offer!!
Okay, i've written a 1000 words and feel like I could write an entire guide book with my wife! So have fun if you go, it is a great place and perhaps one of the greatest cities in the world.
San Francisco is a city on the West Coast of the USA, in the state of California. It can be reached from the UK in one flight from major airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick, in around 12 hours.
The city is known as The City on The Bay because of its setting, of course, on the bay!
I took a tour of the city while I was there, and found out such interesting facts as that the temperature of the city varies little through the year, only by around 10 degrees, and I went to see the place that a famous politician (whose name unfortunately escapes me) was killed, and was told about how this led to riots in the city.
Clearly, I thought, this is a city with a lot of history...
And as yet I havent even mentioned Alcatraz! This is a must visit destination for many people that come to San Francisco, and it was one for me too! One piece of advice I will give you- buy your tickets as soon as you can! I did not, and I did not get to go! I was so disappointed. I have heard that it is very interesting. I hope that this advice helps someone!
The city is well known for its gay and lesbian scene, and indeed you see men holding hands with men and women with women, especially in The Castro. There is plenty to entertain the gay or lesbian visitor.
One of the most famous attractions of San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge, and you can hire bikes to cross it! This is something that we did and something which I will never forget! Getting to the other side of the bridge affords a different and spectacular view of the city!
This is a place I liked very much, with a nice climate and a stunning setting.
Located on the western coast of the USA, San Francisco is the country's 14th largest city. It has a population of almost 750,000. The city is named after Saint Francis of Assisi and was founded by the Spanish who settled the area in 1776.
As readers of my previous reviews will know, popular culture is very important to me, particularly music, movies and television, and so it is worth noting the place that San Francisco holds in these areas. There was a psychedelic rock style of music which developed in the 1960s and for which the city is still well known. Bands such as Jefferson Airplane (which later became known as Jefferson Starship amongst other titles) and the Grateful Dead were a part of this scene.
The famous television show THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, starring Michael Douglas and Karl Malden, was set in and filmed in the city in the early 1970s, and the recent Ben Stiller comedy THE HEARTBREAK KID also used the city as a location. In 1968 the Steve McQueen movie BULLITT was filmed in the city and is well known for the car chase around the area.
Other films made and/or set in San Francisco (at least partially) include ZODIAC, HULK, the Eddie Murphy DR DOLITTLE movies, and of course the first BASIC INSTINCT movie, again starring Michael Douglas.
SOME REGULAR SAN FRANCISCO EVENTS
San Francisco International Film Festival - late April/early May. Has been running for over 50 years and focuses on showcasing discovery and innovation within cinema. Filmmakers including Brad Bird (director of THE INCREDIBLES), George Lucas (famous of course for the STAR WARS movies) and Hal Hartley (director of FAY GRIM amongst others) have been recent guests of the festival. It is worth noting that the festival is very popular and there is an influx of around 80,000 visitors during this period of the year.
Fleet Week - October
A celebration honouring those working in the US armed forces. The event began in the early 1980s and includes air shows and ship parades amongst other festivities. My favourite part of Fleet Week is always the demonstrations given by the Blue Angels, which are a military aerial demonstration team. Their flybys are always very exciting.
Fillmore Jazz Festival - July
This is the largest free jazz festival on the west coast of the USA, welcoming over 90,000 visitors each year, even more than the film festival discussed above. It takes place over the Independence Day weekend (which next year is 5-6 July) and offers a variety of different stages offering live music, in addition to many arts and crafts boutiques. Performers who have graced Fillmore Street stages include Dr. Lonnie Smith, Denise Perrier, Lady Memphis, Kim Nalley, Pete Escovedo, Jules Broussard, Big Belly Blues Band, Brenda Boykin and Paula West. I have only been to the festival once but thoroughly enjoyed it and would love to go back again. I would definitely recommend this event to anyone who loves live jazz.
WHEN TO GO
The events noted above are good starting points (in my opinion) for planning a trip to San Francisco. It is worth noting that the climate is surprisingly temperate for California, primarily due to the city's location in relation to the ocean. The winter months (November through to January) can be particularly wet so holiday visits during this time are not advised.
PLACES TO VISIT
There are so many wonderful places to visit in San Francisco so I have listed 3 of my favourites here.
GOLDEN GATE PARK
This park is somewhat reminiscent of Central Park in New York, in that it provides a quiet haven in a bustling city. There are lakes, a windmill, and a Japanese tea garden which are all lovely to spend time in. As a Star Trek fan I love the fact that during the 4th movie (THE VOYAGE HOME) the 'cloaked' spaceship (i.e. it is invisible) lands in Golden Gate Park (although the actual filming took place in another location).
Also known as 'The Rock', Alcatraz is a small island in San Francisco Bay. For decades the island was used as a prison and was infamously known as the prison from which there was no escape (although 14 attempts were made). The island is now a tourist attraction, and was used as the primary location for the Sean Connery/Nicolas Cage movie THE ROCK.
Built in 1933, Coit Tower offers beautiful views of San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Nob Hill [I love that name!] and of course Alcatraz. Parking is difficult near the tower but if you have to park a distance away it is definitely worth the walk and the views are exquisite.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES IN SAN FRANCISCO
Within this review I have detailed a few of my personal experiences of San Francisco. I have visited the city a number of times in the last few years and have thoroughly enjoyed each visit. I must say that the visit to the Fillmore Jazz Festival was my favourite time in San Francisco. The music and food were fantastic, and the people were very friendly. I would very much like to visit the city again and would thoroughly recommend making it a stopping-off point for anyone planning a visit to the USA.
DURING MY THIRD VISIT to the US last summer, I was able to stay longer (for almost 4 weeks) and visited some part of California State. San Francisco is one of them for the very first time.
A month prior to my departure from Britain, I contacted my friend working in San Francisco with an IT firm if I could stay at his place during my short visit. Being a close friend and the godfather of his only daughter, he did not hesitate to answer yes to my request. So, my accommodation for few days at the city is completely ok except that I will be travelling from my cousins place in Menifee (one hour away from San Diego by car) to Los Angeles, and then finally from San Fernando Valley to SF.
To save some dollars during my trip, I decided to travel by bus (Greyhound) which took me more than 10 hours along the road, having a two-day stop in San Fernando Valley (LA) and had a quick visit to the Universal Studios. Well, within that long journey it took the bus more than 6 hours to reach SF from San Fernando Valley. But it was a quick journey from the bus station to my friends apartment in the downtown area using the city underground Muni Metro (light rail) train.
After an hour of chatting/exchanging stories with my friend of not seeing each other for almost 6 years, my ultimate mission to experience San Franciscos hospitality and its tourists-friendly environment begins!
From my friends apartment, it was a few walks to the light rail station and we stopped at the Powell Station where we could catch up with the streetcar going to the Fishermans Wharf to have our dinner. Few minutes later we reached the wharf and proceeded to the area where seafood stalls and restaurants are located. We decided not to dine there, instead we had our appetizer, a 10-dollar (5.50 pounds) fresh fried, hot crispy squid, and we strolled toward Pier 39 area. It was an easy task to choose where to eat at almost past 9pm since only few restaurants were open, so we went inside the popular restaurant, Crab House. As the name implies, one of its specialities is a 2-pound+ iron-skillet roasted Dungeness crab in a secret garlic sauce, together with roasted mussels, and soup. We had it at a very reasonable price and I enjoyed using the crab cracker gadget to remove the crab meat from the hard shell/skin for the first time because I always use my teeth to crack it. The restaurant is situated in Pier 39 where you could have a good and breathtaking view of the bay, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. It is also voted as the Best Crab destination gourmet in SF.
Since my friend is working, we decided to meet after office hours and had dinner outside for the next few days of my stay. Fortunately, during day time I did not encounter any problem looking for quick meals at the city where convenient stores, including pizza parlours and coffee shops are accessible, especially in the popular tourist places around the bay. But if you dont have restriction with your budget, then probably the best places to dine are Fishermans Wharf and Pier 39 for seafood, continental and American cuisines, while at North Beach and Union Square you could find mixed choices from Asian, Mexican, and Italian food.
Fourteen years ago, my friend and I had the opportunity to work in Thailand, and we both enjoyed the food, culture and hospitality of the Thai people. Having that, without any argument we had our next dinner in a Thai restaurant. It was a fantastic menu having tom yum soup, Thai fried rice, and the authentic Thai seafood curry. The ambience of the restaurant gave me a brief reminiscence of my second home, Siam - where I stayed there for almost 3 years. Well, on my last day before heading to the bus station, catching up for my late-night trip to LA, I went to one of the popular shopping centres, Metreon (at 4th St) and had early snacks at Starbucks. The store is located on the ground floor near the entrance of the mall and very accessible for people who want to have quick hot drinks.
A varied type of entertainment could be explored and experience in SF as long as you have time and money to spare. SF is the place where you find various street performances, night clubs, theatres, musical shows, museums, circus, aquariums, arts, and sports. Having a limited time to tour around the city or watch special events, I decided to watch the musical, The Chorus Line at Curran Theatre. It is a two hours non-stop classic musical production about hopeful dancers auditioning for a Broadway musical. Watching this production for the second time at $45 (25 pounds) in the balcony was a remarkable event considering that it was held in one of the oldest theatres and having its first limited engagement in SF before it heads back again to Broadway after 15 years.
Going back to Pier 39, I had a rare opportunity of having a close encounter of splashy sea lions at the piers K dock. It was a wonderful scene looking at these grey/black/brown creatures moving gracefully and having a little splash to the water, including their cow-like growling sounds. There were also street dancers and artists/painters within the bay area which also attract tourists - either you give them extra coins after performing Michael Jacksons dance moves or grab their hand-painted artworks at $5 to 20 (3 to11 pounds) depending on the size and design of the painting.
Talking about sea lions growling sounds, it is interesting to know from the flyers distributed near the K dock that the war screams of the Orcs in the movie Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring were the sounds made by young elephant seals that were recorded from the Mammal Center near Saulito (just across the Golden Gate Bridge). Also, these sea lions love to stay at Pier 39 because it is a comfortable place to sleep, without any threat from predators such as white sharks and killer whales.
My friend managed to get free tickets ($20 each) for the baseball game at the AT&T Park Stadium between the Washington Nationals and the favourite team, San Francisco Giants on the day of my arrival. I love to watch the game live, but unfortunately I can not change my itinerary to catch the game at noon, 6 hours earlier from my expected arrival in SF from LA.
For being a very popular destination in the world, SF has various ways for guided tours in discovering its beautiful sceneries and cityscapes/urban forms, including nearby counties like Berkeley, Sacramento, and Oakland. One example is the City Pass for $49 for adults and $39 for ages between 5-17 (approximately 27 and 22 pounds, respectively) that offers a 7 days pass to use the cable car and Muni transport, including six great attractions: de Young/Legion of Honor, Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure; SF Museum of Modern Art; Exploratorium, and the Aquarium of the Bay. This city pass is an economical offer for visitors who plan to stay longer as more than a week.
Another special tour discount is the Alcatraz day trip at following fares: Adult-$21 (12 pounds), senior and junior - $17 (9.5 pounds). Unluckily, it was sold out on the day that I want to go and it is recommended to have advanced booking (at least one day) to avail the tour. It is not a surprise that this island is getting much attention from tourists considering its reputation as the former federal penitentiary offering self-guided, ranger-led and night tours where service ferries depart from Pier 39 or 41 as early as 930am.
Again, with my limited time and resources, I decided to have the super combo sightseeing tours at $71 (39 pounds) covering a deluxe city tour, Muir woods tour, and the Saulito tour for almost 8 hours to complete the trip. The coach was completely filled having a well-trained driver served as the tour guide that every minute he was telling us the significance of the areas/structures along the way. For example: why Golden Gate Bridge is constructed, where Michael Douglas lives, and where is the popular trendiest neighbourhood, etc. Briefly, the highlights of the tour were as follows: Golden Gate Bridge/Golden Gate Park, Twin Peaks hilltop panoramic views of the city, Chinatown, Fishermans Wharf and Pier 39, Victorian Homes, Muir Woods/Giant Redwood, and Sausalito county and marina.
The Giant Redwoods and Sausalito tours were the most exciting and refreshing part of the trip. Muir Woods National Monument is a place to see the ancient redwood trees and the magnificent coastal forests of Northern California. We stayed in the park for more than 1.5 hour to enjoy the towering leafy redwood trees and had a quick trekking -following a recommended trail just to make sure that we will not miss the coach. The 560-acre park includes six miles of trails, where the main canyon floor trails are paved and mostly level. The park has limited parking areas where vehicles more than 35 ft long are prohibited due to the steepness and winding roads of the area. There is a gift and coffee shop inside the park offering snacks and interesting souvenirs. A bit of information about forest park is that it is covered with redwoods trees of more than 600 years old, and the place provides habitat for a diverse range of plant and animal life that are listed endangered and rare. It is one of more than 380 parks in the National Park system of the US being managed by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Next is the Sausalito area being considered as the California jewel (often compared to the French Riviera) where Mediterranean style and affluent village sits near the bay which offers an amazing panoramic view of SF. We were told by the driver that Michael Douglas (Fatal Attractions star) together with his beautiful wife Catherine Jones live. One of the beautiful spots in Sausalito County is the waterfront where the Cass Marina is located. The marina is where chartering and renting sailboats and teaching people to sail take place for the past 4 decades. It offers a friendly and relaxed setting for people who want to experience sailing on the world greatest natural harbour of SF. Well, unfortunately I dont have the money to do it, but I was able to walk besides these magnificent sailboats and had my monumental photos as if I owned one of them!
Buying souvenirs and gift items is always in my top list to accomplish while travelling. In particular, in my shopping list includes tops/shirts, underwear, books, postcards, caps, shoes, and perfumes. I was able to grab two branded shirts of Abercrombie & Fitch at Nordstrom amounted to 21 pounds. Nordstrom is very accessible at the grand Market Street (near the Union Square) which occupies the four upper floors of the Westfield San Francisco Centre indoor mall. It features a huge shoe department, accessories, apparel, and cosmetics, including the Café Bistro. Also, within the Union Square area, I also bought CK underwear at the House of Blue Jeans. The store is one of the largest selections of Levis brand, including a large selection of sweats, shorts, shirts and jeans designed by Quicksilver, DKNY, Marthe Francois Girbaud, and CK. I also visited a big bookstore name, Book Sense having a full range of book collections. I also found out that the store is distributing a leaflet entitled, Reading Group which features recommended reads, including a brief synopsis of the books, price and ISBN numbers). I am impulsive buyer and it is easy for me to choose books that I want to read especially being recommended by friends. Without hesitation, I bought a book entitled, The Shadow of the Wind: A Novel by Carlos Ruiz at $15 (8.33 pounds) - a story of love and loss, of men and women obsessed of books.
At Pier 39, I was able to visit the popular chain store/restaurant, Hard Rock café. My friend was quite generous enough aside from having free dinners he also grabbed a white shirt for me amounting to $22 (12 pounds) at the store. Hard Rock is very popular around the world where we could find memorabilia of popular entertainers. Two of the important stuffs housed inside the store are: the Saturday Evening Post clipping where The Beatles were dressed up in proper English bowlers; and the glittering cutaway costume of Beyonce Knowles of the Destinys Child group in their 1999 Bug A Boo video. Aside from Hard Rock café, Pier 39 is quite popular for shopping from cosmetics/fragrances, gifts and collectibles to apparel and accessories, and jewellery.
By the way, at Pier 39 (second floor) you can find an internet provider (the one and only accessible facility near the dock area) where you could have quick website browsing and emailing at $10 (5.6 pounds) an hour.
Well, every tag price is being subject to 8.25% sales tax, which is one of the highest taxes in the US; nevertheless, it is still cheap to buy in the US than here in the UK. Or I will put this way: I can buy more stuffs from a British sterling to a US dollar at an average exchange rate of $1.8 for sterling. It also worth mentioning that having a credit card ready for every purchase than carrying cash is quite hassle-free or even applying an ATM card to be used abroad is worth doing especially if you run out of cash.
It is quite easy to travel around SF bay area using the public transport. The Muni (municipal bus and streetcar system) provides a 24-hour service. There is an available Muni passport for one day ($11), 3 days ($18), or seven days ($24) ride to allow unlimited use in all Muni buses, cable cars, metros, and streetcars. The popular historic streetcars run from Castro St Station to Fishermans Wharf via Market Street. It is a recommended to ride in these streetcars to have an excellent view of the downtown area, as well as having an unusual ride in the rugged (ups- and-downs) terrain of the city.
The regular adult Muni fare is $1.50 and for youth/senior/disabled is 50 cents, while the cable car ticket costs $5. Transfers are valid within 90 minutes for two boardings in any directions except for cable cars. Aside from Muni system, there is another public transport option for travelling any location in the Bay area which is called BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). BART connects with the Muni metro trains and transfer stations to reach other destinations on the peninsula, including direct access to San Francisco International Airport. BART tickets are purchased at the ticket vending machines located in all stations with a minimum one-way fare of $1.40 (80 pence). My friend purchased a one-month passport for Muni Metro (subway) at $45 (25 pounds) unlimited rides for both the Muni and BART connections. When I visited the University of California- Berkeley Campus, using BART, it took me around 20 minutes to reach the university. I noticed that the railway lines are laid-out in locations where people have good view of the bay area while inside the train.
FRANKLY, HAVING SPENT THREE NIGHTS in the Bay area was not enough to explore the entire Bay area and the neighbouring towns like Berkeley and Oakland. Nevertheless, I was able to visit some of its popular tourist attractions within that limited time, consequently enjoyed every minute of it. It is also worth mentioning of my half-day visit to UC-Berkeleys libraries (Engineering, Planning/Architecture and Business) as part of my learning experience, and was able to gather valuable reading materials for my on-going research. And surprisingly using my Olympus digital camera, I was able to capture more than 150 shots (equivalent to 4 film rolls) from my three days tour in SF.
OVERALL, SAN FRANCISCO (SF) is an ideal place for young and old, and a place where you always want to be during your next summer escapade!
I love California, to be precise, San Francisco. We are just back from a fantastic week there from the 11th to 18th September. There was amazing weather even though l was warned by everyone that SF is notorious for being cold and foggy. To be honest l saw fog once - on our first morning there l woke up to find the most amazing dense fog l have ever saw in my life - but this disappeared by lunch into a glorious day.
So San Francisco, in Northern California, set on a bay - a more laid back yet cosmopolitan city you could not find. It is a very tolerant city - renowned for its gay quarter in Castro and back in the 60's was a haven for hippies and beatniks. What l did notice and found quite disconcerting was the numbers of homeless on the streets. When l was in New York l didn't see any street people, having been told the city had made a concerted effort to get people off the streets and indeed "clean up" the city so to speak. So when l hit the streets of SF l think l was expecting more of the same yet on every corner in every district there was someone sleeping rough or begging for cash. Apparently because of the mild weather it is a lot more conducive for sleeping rough than the streets of New York.
We got to San Francisco via a flight from Belfast to London and London direct to San Francisco. The flight took a little over 9 hours and we actually arrived half an hour earlier that anticipated. We flew direct with United Airways although others such as Virgin Atlantic and BA both fly direct to the city also. Now the queues to go through immigration were phenomenal - but l would expect that any US airport to have the same queues - a necessary evil we will simply have to endure lm afraid.
We had booked the super shuttle bus before we left the UK for our transfer from the airport to the hotel (www.supershuttle.com) which cost $28 for 2, and picked us up directly from the international terminal straight to our hotel. It should be noted too that super shuttle will cover lots of other US cities too.
We stated in the Union Square area - that of O'Farrell Street. It was the Hilton San Francisco. This opinion is not about our hotel, just a simple by line to say that this is a decent 4 star hotel, large - in fact the largest in the city and international. Our rooms were of decent size - we were on the 34th floor so had excellent views of the city - there was everything you would expect of a hotel of such caliber - hairdryer, TV, towels, business traveller facilities and over priced minibar. I would say that the Union Square area was a great central place to base our stay in SF at, central to shopping, restaurants, cable car turn arounds and bus stops.
So on to the city itself - what does it have to offer?
ALCATRAZ ISLAND & STATE PENITENTUARY
This is the most popular visitor attraction within the city. Once the world renowned and notorious prison known to all as the Rock. Thought to be inescapable - in fact although attempts have been made it is unknown if those actually made it to the free world or drown in the bay. Alcatraz is Spanish for Pelican - and is still today a sanctuary for bird and wild life. The site is now run by the National Park Service and visitors can not only learn about the prison life, but also about the wild life living on the island and indeed the Indian occupation of the island.
To get to Alcatraz l had to pre book tickets - it really is that popular an attraction. To do so go to www.blueandgoldfleet.com - this is the only tour company running scheduled ferries from Fisherman's Wharf to the Island. Our tour cost $16 each and this included an audio tour of the cell house. I would recommend this great tour. You follow the lines of your feet and listen to former prisoners and wardens talk about "The Rock".
The cell house is really rundown and worn, but this really adds to the atmosphere of the place, the spooky eeriness of what must have been hell on earth. Step inside a minuscule cell and image the confinement or pop into solitary and shut the door, try and stop yourself panicicking - they really shut men up in these black boxes for weeks on end. This is really one trip in San Francisco that you cannot miss.
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
The golden gate way and the symbol of San Francisco. Take 2 buses from downtown SF (bus 30 and bus 28) and you will end up at the bridge. No visit to the city is complete without walking this national land mark. The bridge is 1.5 miles in total length so to walk there and back is a mere 3 miles. There is a visitor's centre and gift shop, plus a kiosk selling coffee and snacks. The bus will drop you off outside the kiosk and you are free to walk the bridge. There are great photo opportunities and a monument to the engineer who had the foresight to build such a spectacle, Joseph Strauss.
It took us about an hour in total to walk the bridge - but this included photo stops and a walk and sit down in the view area at the Marin County end of the bridge. Some opted to bike the bridge - hire bikes down by the wharf and bike the bridge - costs around $28 for a bike for a day and groups such as www.blazingsaddles.com can sort you out with the hire.
Golden Gate Bridge Facts:
o Opened to vehicular traffic on 28th May 1937 whilst pedestrian day was the day before
o It took over 4 years to build the bridge
o The bridge is not painted continuously
o 11 construction workers lost their lives in the building of the bridge
o 1,724,438,381 vehicles have crossed the bridge as of May 2002
FISHERMAN'S WHARF/PIER 39 & SEALIONS
If there is one area know for its tourists, then it's the Fisherman's Wharf area of the city. This is where you get the tacky tourists shops, street artists, ferries and boats touring the bay. It is also where you meet your blue and gold line ferry to Alcatraz. The area during the day is a hive of activity - whether it be tour buses dropping off or picking up passengers, street artists singing, thrashing drums, miming or even those darned pan pipes who seem to get everywhere to wandering tourists walking around wondering what to do next! Here you can gain entry to the Aquarium of the Bay (this costs $12 for adults) - which takes around half an hour to walk around - has a few touch tanks with stingrays, sea cumbers and star fish - but really aint that worth it (which we found out!) There is also the Wax Works and Ripley's Believe it or believe it not - neither of which we visited - there's plenty more to enjoy and spend your money on!
Also at the wharf area you will find the really star attraction - which is free and great entertainment - that of the sea lions! These sea lions located themselves just off the main Pier 39 and became instant attractions after they were affected by the earthquake of 1989. Tourists flock to see the sea lions - both young and old alike. The antics are quite amusing and you really can while away some time watching the young sea lions annoy the older ones and watch them laze the afternoon away.
Finally there is Pier 39 - this as l have said previously this is the main Pier for tourists. Here there is shopping galore - any tacky souvenirs you may wish to purchase (although expect to pay through the nose for them here), college shops - get your sweater with Berkley or USC, Dept 59 - a shop where you can by seasonal displays - Halloween was all the rage when we were there! There is also every style of restaurant under the sun - Seafood - clam chowder in a sourdough bowl - fills you up for the day, Italian - a feast of a slice of pizza - your choice, American burger bars, or Mexican - whatever your appetite it will be catered for. At night you will find live music giving the place more of an atmosphere. Also there is the old fashioned carousel which the kids will adore.
Another 2 areas down by the Wharf worth a mention were Ghirardelli Square and the Cannery. Ghirardelli Square used to be a chocolate factory of the same name - this is now a boutique shopping area and restaurant area - try out Gaylord Indian or Louis Diner. Also you got to go get some Ghirardelli chocolate (there was a 2 day choccie festival on when we were visiting - chocolate strawberries and chocolate beer!!) call into the shop and you will be given a free square! There's also an ice cream parlour. The Cannery used to be an old Del Monte fruit cannery - now converted into and pubs and eateries area - live music at nights.
The Wharf is well worth a visit and you can catch the historic street and cable cars down to the beginning and take a walk along. I was quite surprised at night - although it does cool down quite a bit l did think it would be a lot busier and lit up at night.
Catch a Powell and Hyde cable car and jump off at the top of Lombard Street - take the steps down the hill and turn around and watch cars slowly navigate the bendiest and windiest street in the world. It is very pretty with grassy areas and flower boxes. It is actually a residential street. At the bottom lots of silly tourists stand in the middle of the road and play dodge with traffic to try and get a picture of the cars coming down the street. A free attraction which takes half an hour out of your day.
This as l have said before is the area where we stayed. This is the main shopping area in the city. There are plenty to the shoppers amongst us busy. The biggest being the renown US store Macys - this is a huge store a block in size, and has everything under one roof one could need. It's great for clothing, cosmetics or even household goods. Top tip being - those visitors from out of town - take your passport to the visitors centre on the 6th floor and you can get a discount card - watch out though - it's not available to use on cosmetics or fragrances. On the top floor of Macy's is the Cheesecake Factory and restaurant. The cheese cake is nice - not great nice. Paul got a chocolate and peanut butter slice - way to rich, my original was much better. The problem being with the Cheesecake Factory - portion size - they could feed a small family on one portion! The cheesecake is also available for take away - but be warned be prepared to cue!
There are Tiffany's Jewelers. Banana Republic, Nike World - all the usual suspects. Borders book store stays open to 11pm each night and has a coffee shop. There are Starbucks on every corner of every block!
The Nordstrom centre - is a big shopping mall - with the likes of Old Navy, Abercrombie & Fitch, or American Eagle as residents. I must admit l carried out serious card damage in Abercrombie!
The cable cars are world renown in San Fran - a real symbol of the city. There are 3 lines Powell & Hyde, Powell & Market - both leading to the Wharf and California line. We mostly rod the Powell and Hyde line - the other Powell line was closed. It's an experience which costs $3 and you have to be prepared to wait. Head down to the Powell St turnaround and watch the Cable Car guy physically turn the car around. Ride the car all the way to the Wharf - the operators are real characters - they will give you a rundown of the city and help with directions. There is also a cable car museum where you can learn all about the cable cars and how they operate and their history.
The street car is slightly different its not manual but still quite historic - the F line takes you from Union Square area to the Wharf is cheaper than the Cable Car at $1.75 a ride and quicker as well.
A top tip if you are in the city for more than a few days is purchase a MUNI pass - 1 day for $10, 3 days for $15 and 7 days for $20 - you will get free rides on buses, street and cable cars.
San Francisco has a plethora of other attractions to view and visits including a huge Chinatown - visit and check out the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and pick up a bag for around $3, Coit Tower at Telegraph Hill, Alamo Square - Victorian Houses or the Transamerica Building which is the triangular shaped building.
There are also trips out of town - we took a wine country tour - with Tower Towers (www.towertours.com) out to Napa Valley and Sonoma Valleys. We visited 3 wineries - Madonna, Viansam and Cline - none which l had heard off - but l drank and tasted the wines. Lunch was in the town of Sonoma - this is somewhere l would like to visit for longer than an hour - its very picturesque - craft and antique shops, wine shops selling the local produce and lovely restaurants.
In the city itself there are an abundance of places to eat - you are spoilt for choice - there is great seafood, Chinese, Thai, Indian, and of course American - amongst all the other choices for you. There are numerous sports bars and Irish bars - where you will find a welcome. I would recommend trying out the Anchor Beer - mmmmm!
We used a DK eyewitness city guide book of San Francisco to aid us on our way and also a pop up map which l got in WH Smiths (they are available for lots of world wide cities) which we found essential.
I hope this review has given you a flavour of the city - l really enjoy San Francisco and California and definitely want to visit the state again - soon!
As my plane came down to land in a grey, drizzly London and I walked the dull labyrinthine corridors of Heathrow to collect my baggage, the relaxed sunbathed streets of San Francisco seemed a lifetime away rather than the 10 or so hours I had just traveled. Just the day before I had been rattling up Powell Street in an antique cable car exchanging banter with the ebullient conductor, enjoying a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fisherman?s Wharf, admiring the colorful Victorian houses of the Haight-Ashbury and wondering at the size of an enormous dildo in a shop window in the gay district. It hadn?t quite left my heart in San Francisco, but it wasn?t far off. By European standards San Francisco is a young city. Native American settlers have lived from the rich bounty of the land in this particularly lush patch of California for tens of thousands of years, but white settlement is only hundreds of years old. And it wasn?t until the gold rush in the middle of the 19th Century that the city truly took off. In the short space of 150 years a city has sprouted on the steeps hills at the mouth of the bay which has as much charm, wonder and variety as any visitor could wish for. I was staying downtown, just a few steps from Union Square in the heart of the shopping and financial centre of the city. For shoppers it is a paradise. Big American department stores like Macy?s and Saks are surrounded by the usual designer stores and some more unusual shops and the state of the pound against the dollar and the simple fact that stuff in America is cheaper than in Britain make it a real paradise for shoppers. But if shopping isn?t your scene, there is plenty more to excite and amuse you and the best thing is that the city has a comprehensive public transport system means you can explore the city without the inconvenience of a car. In fact the hills and junctions are such that having a car would only frazzle your nerves and your clutch. So, tak
e a cable car. It?s much more exhilarating and only costs a couple of dollars. Cable cars have rattled through the streets of San Francisco for 125 years and in a country where history is at a premium, they have been designated national monuments. Keen public transport nuts should seek out the trolleybuses and streetcars too. There are different models from all over the States making it something of an interactive museum. From downtown San Francisco, you can either trundle round the city and follow the coast from Market Street via the Embarcedero to Fisherman?s Wharf or you can go over the hill via cable car to the Fisherman?s Wharf. Either way, it?s a treat. San Francisco?s two iconic features do not disappoint. The Golden Gate Bridge is moving and impressive in real life towering over the entrance to the bay. Of course, I?d seen it in a million movies but I wasn?t prepared for its dazzling size and breathtaking beauty. It straddles the Golden Gate effortlessly and there is no doubt it is some of which San Franciscans are justifiably proud. I took a boat trip under the bridge and around the bay as well as driving over the bridge and I recommend both. It was on the boat trip that I got a close glimpse of Alcatraz, the famous prison island in the Bay. It does have a certain peculiar appeal and beauty although I didn?t feel the need to go ashore. A circumnavigation seemed more than adequate. Unlike so many American cities or regions, San Francisco is a great place to walk in. Of course there are hills to contend with but the cable cars, streetcars and buses can take the strain there. And there is so much to explore downtown and in the different districts. The echoes of hippydom still reverberate round the Haight-Ashbury, the Mission exudes gay confidence and Nob Hill is impressive if a little impersonal. The pace of the neighbourhoods is relaxed and a trip to a café for a restorative coffee seems de rigueur. Especially at the weekend.
There are also some lovely green spaces in San Francisco. Golden Gate Park is huge and very accessible. There is an interesting Conservatory thing that looks just like Kew Gardens and several big museums and galleries. The Presidio used to be a military base but now exists as a recreation area ideal for picnics. Out by the ocean you can also enjoy the beach life and surfing the big waves of the Pacific. But be warned, San Francisco isn?t necessarily the place to go for the weather. Mark Twain famously remarked that some of the worst winters he?s ever spent were summers in san Francisco. I was blessed by sunshine and warmth most of the time but when the fog rolls in it can get cold very quickly so it?s best to have a jacket or jumper in reserve. I?d recommend a visit to the Museum of Modern Art downtown, south of Market St. It is an impressive building and has an impressive collection to match. Not far away take a trip to the Martin Luther King Memorial: an interesting combination of a waterfall and the great man?s words. Don?t forget to take a look at City Hall and a wander round the civic center too. San Francisco?s blight is homelessness. It is a more obvious and more deeply ingrained problem here than in pretty much any other major city I have visited. Perhaps it is the climate which lends itself to street-sleeping, or the cultural liberalism that allows it to persist. However, San Franciscans seem content to leave it unchecked and signs on lampposts remind us that Jesus gave money to beggars on the streets of Galilee. I reflected that the beggars in the Holy Land were probably not as persistent as those in San Francisco. San Francisco is a very pleasing American city that revels in its own reputation and atmosphere. It has a confidence and allure that is attractive but not arrogant. Its many faces and aspects reflect different sides of American culture but in a sense its attraction is that in this time of Ame
rican impe rialism and President Bush?s reactionary conservative Presidency it represents so many great American traditions and qualities that seem to be lacking. For a lefty European it is easy to feel at home in San Francisco. It is American and unAmerican at the same time. Cosmopolitan, tolerant and intriguing: I nearly left my heart in San Francisco. But not quite. Maybe next time.
Firstly, just in case anyone was wondering, San Francisco is not in the UK or Ireland, so I don't know why it is listed that way on the site. But to get to the point, I love San Francisco. I used to live there before I moved to Stirling Scotland. Now, you may be asking yourself a question I hear quite often..."Why, would you move to Scotland from San Francisco?" It is a fabulous place to visit but it is soooo expensive to live there and the pace of life is anything but calm. That's not to say that for a visitor it isn't relaxing because it can be. San Francisco is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in the US, if not the world. With it's high hills and beautiful views of the bay. I really think everyone should visit it at least once in their lives. I would hope too that if you did visit that you would see more than just the tourist traps...that's what I am here for. When you fly into The Bay area (as it's known around there), you actually have a couple of choices. You can fly into San Francisco or Oakland. Now San Francisco Airport is actually in South San Francisco, a seperate city just, uh you guessed it, SOUTH of San Francisco. It is easily accessable by car, train and then bus connection (not so easy with lots of luggage) and of course taxi. The other option, Oakland is just east of San Francisco, across the bay. It too is easily accessable. I mention Oakland because sometimes you can get a better deal flying there rather than San Francisco and it's only a 20 minute drive or so from San Francisco, depending on traffic of course. Also I think it is a fabulous introduction to the City to come in from the east bay over The Bay Bridge, what a lovely view! There are lots of hotels in the city and a large number of them are centered in downtown or union square. Really, you can find a great place to stay no matter what part of the city you want to be in. San Francisco is divided up into neighborhoods. Y
ou will often hear people refer to these neighborhoods. For example if you asked someone where they lived they would mention the neighborhood vs the street. I used to live between the Marina and North Beach. Some of the neighborhoods are: North Beach: centered around Columbus Ave. and Washington Square park (which is great for a picnic, you might even see the flock of escaped parrots!), Italian area with tons of restaurants, and the area where beat poets used to hang around City Lights Bookstore. Fisherman's Wharf: Check it out if you must but this is tourist trap city. It is where you go to see attractions like the wax museum, pier 39 and buy lots of plastic souvenirs. Could be worth it to see the sea lions lounging in the sun. You may read in guide books that this is the place for seafood, it isn't it's the place for tourists to pay lots of money for mediocre seafood. If you want great seafood check out Swan Oyster Depot. It's a fish market and restaurant. Don't be put off by the que, get in there and sit down to plate of fresh dungeness crab. Union Square/downtown: Great shopping for designer clothes and housewares. There are lots of stores for those with a big budget around here like Tiffany's, Neiman Marcus and Saks. Union Square is actually a square/park in the center which is a great place for people watching. They often have art shows here as well. This is also the main theater district. The Castro: The gay district, lovely victorian houses and a lively shopping area as well as good restaurants and boutique type stores. The Mission: The Latino quarter. This is the place to be for awesome Mexican food. Also Valencia street is hip and happening for the young and cool. It may look shabby but there are some fabulous finds here and it is "real" San Francisco. Also a great place to find the trendy restaurants. My favorite is a little place just off of Mission at 14th street called
Woodward's garden. The Haight: This the famous Haight Ashbury, home of the start of the summer of love. Believe it or not it still looks like it's the summer of love. It a fun place for trendy shops. Hip students and hippies alike flock to the Haight. If you are looking for cheap, filling food that is also yummy you will have lots to eat here. Check out the house where the Grateful Dead lived too. Or, just get your picture taken in front of the psychedelic murals. Japantown: Of course great Japanese restaurants but also great shopping. There is a fabulous Japanese grocery store here called Maruwa (sp?) and a mall called Japan Center. In the mall is a gorgeous little insense shop that sells beautiful things, all wrapped in pretty paper. There is also a great stationary shop which sells all kinds of amazing Japanese pens, pencils, notebooks and more origami paper than I have ever seen in one place. Chinatown: One of the largest in the world and a great place to come for Dim Sum on a Sunday morning. There are lots more neighborhood but those are some of my favorites. Even though as far as American Cities go, San Francisco is actually not that big, it is packed with things to do. It is very easy to get around San Francisco and the whole Bay Area really on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). It's like a subway but goes outside of the city as well. The stations are underground in the city and above ground outside of it, for the most part. You just look for the BART sign, climb down the steps, buy a ticket from the machines on the wall, pop it into the automated gate and hop on a train. There is a decent bus system but it is notorious for breaking down and not coming on time. Also I have found the drivers to often be very rude. Taxi stands are all over the place and you can flag one down in the street as well. However, they are rather expensive and in short supply so depending on the time of day it could take a while to get
one. In my opinion to see the true San Francisco you should do at least some of the following: Ride a cable car. I think if you are a tourist it's the law that you get on one! Actually they are a great way to get from the Marina/Fisherman's wharf area into downtown. They get very bust during the sumer and are easier to get onto in the morning and at night. Grab a seat on one of the outside benchs or cling on, while standing on the edge for the best experience. You do not need to buy a ticket in advance as a conductor will come along and sell you a ticket once you are on. Go to the mission and get a burrito. The best ones (in my opinion!) are at Pancho Villa on 16th street at Mission. Get of the Bart train at 16th street. It is just up from the station. Get in there and order yourself a super burrito and don't forget to try ordering in spanish. Walk around the mission district eating your football sized, foil wrapped delicacy! Go to the farmers market and the new Ferry Plaza food market. If you like food this is the place to be. The Ferry Plaza building which sat for ages doing a whole lot of nothing has suddenly become a food mecca. It now houses an amazing "permanent market" with stalls from Cow Girl Creamery, Acme Baking and amazing chocolate makers-Schafenberger and Micheal Recchiuti. Plus so much more. Go when the farmers market is on and the stalls of produce, flowers, cheese, fish, olive oil, honey, you name it are all outside surrounding the building. Oh and bring an empty stomach! Browse in the bookstores. San Francisco has a great literary tradition and a large number of good independent bookstores, something that nowadays is becoming so scarce. Take a trip on the ferry. There are lots of options here. You could go to Alcatraz, which for a touristy thing is pretty good. Go over to Saulsalito for the day and check out the shops and have lunch looking over the bay or even just ferry a
round and under the golden gate bridge. Check out the east bay. Just hop onto Bart and get of in downtown Berkeley. Stroll over to Telegraph avenue and buy some handicrafts from a street vendor or even a bumper sticker extolling the virtues of pot smoking! Get great pizza from Zackary's or a burger to die for from Barney's. Or get off bart at Rockridge in Oakland and check out the great boutique shopping. Try a free slice of bread from great harvest and check out market hall for gourmet goodies. The weather is almost always decent in San Francisco but it does rain during the winter and can get hot in the summer. The city itself will often be cooler than the rest of the bay area and it is a good idea to always have a light jacket with you. It may be California but it's not L.A.! Also be aware that you will probably encounter some massive hills to climb so wear comfy shoes. I could go on but this is getting long. For some great local info check out: http://www.sfgate.com/
I live in Tiburon, a very small, quaint tourist-y town in Marin County, USA. The town is located just North of the Golden Gate Bridge and is next to Sausalito, also a small quaint tourist town. [Tiburon: http://www.tiburon.org/][ Sausalito: http://www.ci.sausalito.ca.us/]. Visitors usually come to Tiburon and Sausalito by ferry from San Francisco [Ferry Schedule: http://www.transitinfo.org/cgi-bin/sched?C=BG]; a lovely way to travel with lovely views. If you drive, you cross the Golden Gate Bridge and have easier access to what Marin is on the map for; the Marin Headlands, Point Bonita (a lighthouse); nearly the best views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge [Marin Headlands: http://homepage.mac.com/leffert/adventures/PhotoAlbum88.html], the Marin hiking paths, which are worth the journey; [Hiking trails: http://www.bahiker.com/northbayhikes/ggnra.html], and to my favorite place, Mt. Tamalpais; which is the best view offering a 360 of all of the bay area [Hiking Tam: http://www.mttam.net/]. The bay area is very good about public transportation; they have BART (equivalent to the TUBE), ferries and busses to take you just about anywhere you would want to go; including the Marin Headlands and other rather remote places. [Public transportation: http://www.transitinfo.org/] Sausalito is a bit more tourist-y than Tiburon, but has lovely views. Restaurants that have never disappointed me in Sausalito: Scoma’s [http://www.scomassausalito.com/]. Tiburon also has lovely views and access to Angel Island [Angel Island: http://www.angelisland.org/]. As for restaurants; my personal favorites; Servino Ristorante: [http://www.servino.com/contact.htm] and Sam’s Café: http://www.samscafe.com/; both have lovely views and are on the water. Another remarkable view is just before you reach the peak of Mt. Tam. There is an Inn that would fool you from the outside; it has a lovely balcony where you can have wine and cheese and gasp at the view; http:
//www.mtnhomeinn.com/home.html. While I have, in no way, done the North Bay justice, I will hope it will be a place considered for further exploration!
Whenever to hear speaking about the USA, we associate it to New York, California beaches or things like that. Nevertheless, I think, and that's why I'm writing this review, that most of the people forget other destinies that maybe is not so spectacular to talk about them, but they have a lot of enchantment and a lot of things to offer. Without any doubts, one of the best places is San Francisco. Although what we associate to the films that we see on the cinema are things like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State, ...., when you take a walk by San Francisco, you really have the sensation of being at home. Everything is familiar, everything is known. Everyone has seen some police persecution by the hills of this city, or the tv magazine "Full House", or even "Hotel", the film "Mrs. Doubtfire", or alot more movies that have been filmed that have been filmed all over San Francisco. "Look, look, that is the street where that movie was filmed; ah!!! I know that!! I saw it on that movie!!!", and that is very exiting when you to visit a new city, and a lot of things are familiar, and it seems that you already know a lot of things of it. San Francisco is a relatively calm city, the one that I whould choose if I would have to live by the USA. It is forced to take a tram, and going outside of it only griping the outside bar of it like we see on the movies; take a taxi and go all the hills up and down so fast (the taxis that I took went all like crazy people :-)); go to see that famous bridge that we all know; take a look through the bay to see Alcatraz.... Also it turns out interesting to go to the Chinese district (is the greater Chinese community outside its country) or to the Castro (I don't want to comment out more but it is very interesting). Another interesting thing is to visit the forest of sequoias that are those enourmous and centennial trees that deserves to
be seen. Also, if I went back to San Francisco, I wouldn't leave it without visiting the little villages of fisherman around it like "sausalito", it is realy a wonder. Really, I believe that San Francisco is one of the most pleasant cities of all USA. as much to visit as to live.
The City and County of San Francisco is the fourth most populous city in California and the fourteenth-most populous in the United States, with a 2006 population of 798,680 (estimate). It is located on the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula and is the focal point of the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco is the second most densely populated major city in the United States.