Oh San Francisco (SF), why did we only spend three days together? I would have loved to discover more of your extremes. The city is so rich of contrasts you could never stick SF to a box. After our trip to the Pacific Northwest, we were really looking forward to pulling out our shirts from the depth of our suitcase and hitting the Californian metropolis. It immediately showed us its different faces. So, dear San Francisco, who are you really?
Poor boy or rich girl?
SF has several thousand homeless residents – and it’s heartbreaking to witness the scenes going on in one of the most known spots: Market street. According to the city’s homeless count, around 70 percent of the people on the streets were living in the city when they lost their housing. This situation comes on the one hand from the insane expensive housing market and on the other hand from closing homeless shelters and psychiatric hospitals and leaving the people entirely up to themselves.
Then you walk up Market street and you discover the high-end glossy company signs of Twitter, Uber and Airbnb. They are in good company as Google and Facebook are just around the corner in Silicon Valley. Sure, the tech boom brought many well-heeled people to the city and some of them live in the colorful Victorian and Edwardian houses around Almo Square. You will recognize the famous row of houses from the favorite TV shows.
Hipster or hippie?
If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. And if you don’t, you can still come to Haight-Ashbury, birthplace of America’s counterculture, and enjoy some moments of the summer of 1967. Hippies used to live here, but more and more yuppies have since moved in, buying up all the colorful Victorian homes throughout Haight-Ashbury and replacing some of the head shops with chic restaurants and high-end boutiques.
My favorite district is definitely „The Mission“. A century ago this area was home for working-class immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Scandinavia. Nowadays it’s an authentic and colorful Hispanic district. It’s easy to wander a whole day through the streets of Mission and admire the street art. If you love murals as I do, you shouldn’t miss Balmy Alley, where most of the pieces are an expression of artists‘ outrage over human rights and political abuses in Central America. So when you are done with walking up and down the hill, then still go to Dolores Park (one of the few places, where drinking in public is tolerated) and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and the view.
Bibimbap or Pizza?
Normally I return from a trip and have about ten recommendations for great restaurants for my friends. From San Francisco I took back only two. I don’t know what happened this time, maybe I was tired after traveling for a couple of weeks and always trying to find the hotspots. But luckily we found the „Little Gem“ and so we went there three times. This Californian healthy restaurant had delicious food, a super stylish interior and a great service. I also loved the very simple and alternative pizza place in Russian Hill called „Za Pizza“. You can walk there via the very scenic and steep Lombard Street, be sure that you will be rewarded with a wide range of tap beer and yummy pizza.
Driver or biker?
Still the best way to explore a city is by foot – but SF is quite challenging when it comes to that plan: There are forty-eight named hills throughout the whole city. Then on top SF’s attractions are spread out and aren’t always convenient to reach, so better take an Uber, a Cable car or a bike. Cycling is a popular mode of transportation in the city and you have Ford bikes on each and every corner. And when I heard that an e-bike sharing started in SF a few moth ago, I thought that’s the perfect city for this service.
Beach chick or park poser?
SF is known for its cool summers, chilly wind and the famous fog around the Golden Gate Bridge. We only know these phenomenons by hearsay and enjoyed three days of summer with 24 degrees and a deep blue sky. It was the best weather to explore the many beaches and parks of „The City“. San Francisco’s weather is strongly influenced by the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean, so we only dipped our toes into the sea and had long strolls along the following beaches: Marshall’s Beach, Baker Beach and Ocean Beach. You are not a beach person? Don’t worry, you have countless options for beautiful parks. The Golden Gate Bridge Nationalpark gives you many possibilities to lay in the grass or enjoy the view from Alamo Square or even higher from the „Twin Peaks“.
SF, your character spreads so much charm, you capture the heart of every passionate traveller and are the easiest US city to love. Please stay mysterious and keep your different faces!
© Michaela Blum