I feel like I’ve known San Francisco for my whole life, it’s probably Uncle Jessy’s fault (I used to watch Full House when I was a kid). I’ve only heard ecstatic reviews about this city made in California. I admit that I am puzzled by all this enthusiasm… Will I like it too? I wanted to see it through my own eyes, and walk there with my own sandales (unfortunately I had to wear sneakers). And so… I can’t say so many things after only 3 days. We discovered the main attractions (except for Alcatraz), I found the place very baba-cool and very foggy (some of us liked the chilly weather for August). Neighborhoods have different atmospheres, some are very quiet, others are cool and somehow crazy. Anyway, we need to come back and spend more time in the city…
Here’s the video of our 3 days spent in San Francisco…
Tune: Sitting on the dock of the bay, Otis Redding (I know, it’s an easy one…)
Golden Gate Bridge. I start with my favorite place, even if this photo is pretty sad. We saw tons of impressive bridges in the US, and this one truly deserves its reputation. The bridge comes out of nowhere between 2 hills and the fog. We crossed it, completely frozen by a chilly wind.
Castro. It’s the gay neighborhood, famous for its flag, the politics (as Harvey Milk) and naked guys walking in the streets (perfectly tanned by the way). The main street is very pretty, there’s an original pastry shop where you can buy cookies with provocative shapes, and a theater where Brockeback Montain is still played.
Mission Dolores Park. After a walk in Castro, we literally had to climb toward the Mission ; we saw very pretty houses (Armistead Maupin should live there and just had sell a house – non verified information). We finally reached the park, with a nice foggy view of the city.
Chinatown. I didn’t really want to go there, didn’t want to be in some kind of Disney Land full of red dragons. It would have been a mistake… To be honest, it’s a bit like Disney Land, but well, it’s fun. We went first by the big Dragon Gate and then wandered on Grant St. This neighborhood was built in 1848, and it’s supposed to be the home of the biggest Chinese community outside Asia.
Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies. A must-see of the city, on top of a hill, where we can see these Victorian houses and the Downtown. There are tons of houses like that in SF, but these ones are nice together, and it’s a true postcard-like sight. We stayed 10 minutes, the fog floating in front of us.
Hayes Valley. Do you know what a “bobo” is? this kind of cool but rich Parisian as I could say. We can see that this aera is very “bobo”. So to honor this, we eat a natural ice cream and drink fair trade coffee in front of a trendy sculpture.
The Haights. Hippie movement was born there, there was freedom in the air in the late 60’s! We missed the tattoo museum (I had temporary tattoos on my arms during the vacation, love them, thanks Tattly). We had a great burger and we wandered in Amoeba (the world’s largest independent record store), like if we were looking for old discs or even tapes.
Golden Gate Park and Japanese Tea Garden. Dr Martinet tried to convince us to go to the Academy of Science (earthquake simulation room, small rainforest, dinosaurs, blah, blah, blah), but we resisted and we eventually visited a Japanese garden (oldest in the US). Strange but nice.
City Lights Bookstore. We arrived totally by chance in front of the famous bookstore in a hot neighborhood. Even if I haven’t read anything of the Beat Generation yet (Kerouac, Ginsberg…), I’m glad we found this place.
Lombard street. We walked a lot to get there, and we really had to climb the street. Once there, it’s a very pretty view, despite millions of tourists.
Cable Car on the Embarcadero. On the embarcadero, signs told us to be careful with tsunamis. All right. We went in the first cable car we found, we thought there was just one, the famous one, but the one we took was not that good, and we didn’t see the bay from there. Too bad!
Fisherman’s wharf and the musée mécanique. I loved seeing our first sea lions (we saw tons of them afterward – spoiler), but we weren’t fond of the wharf (too many tourists and cheap stuff). We only liked the musée mécanique: old mechanically operated instruments, antique arcades machines. We spent many quarters to try the games!
Japantown. We only saw the mall, its outside was not very nice (massive concrete building). Inside however, it was full of places to eat and cute shops with Totoro and kawai stuff (I bought some Pandas stickers, who knew what was gonna happen during these vacations). We found a nice restaurant, with sushis floating on boats around the bar. It was the best day of my life when I ate a fish-shaped waffle with red bean paste inside.
Civic Center and the City Hall. We were told to go to the Asian Art Museum, which could have been great. Instead we jaywalked in a strange neighborhood: extreme poverty and official buildings (among others, the City Hall where Harvey Milk was assassinated, and where Marilyn married Joe Di Maggio – not the same day ; the shape of the dome is inspired from les Invalides in Paris).
San Francisco has the reputation to have the best restaurants in the country (saying my new favorite magazine, Bon appetit), but unfortunately, we didn’t take the time to look for good addresses so this is only a few spots we liked…
- Brunch at Squate and Gobble it does crêpes, but we had a burger and a croissant stuffed with too many things ” Remember it’s too big”, my friend Léonore warned me.
- Blue Bottle Coffee: good coffee and very good pastries!
- Smitten Ice Cream: the ice creams are made from scratch, to order, in a machine which smokes a lot. Loved it.
- In n Out, a good fast food, at last, that we don’t have on the East Coast. I was glad to try… and it was worth it.
- Foreign Cinema, the place is great, it’s an old theater, they played movies on the wall (Internal affairs the night we were there), but the food was ok, and it was pretty expensive.
As this post looks like, my feeling about San Francisco is like a “patchwork”, I don’t really know what to think about it, if I really like it, what’s the “spirit” of the city. It’s tough to make up my mind after only 3 days. There was a lot of “must see”, we should come back.
To be continued with Yosemite…