There’s something about San Francisco which you can’t help but fall in love with. It sucks you into its crazy community of contrasts and contradictions. No wonder the Beatnik kids and other non-conformists flocked to this place. There’s something for everyone: for normals and crazies alike, for foodies, shopaholics, art fanatics, bibliophiles; for jazz lovers, history buffs, sport nuts, wave riders, horticulturists …everyone.
You can walk along the beach in the morning watching gnarly surfers – seriously the waves here are extreme. Followed by a delicious brunch in Cole Valley (the best pancakes in the world are at Zazie).
Then to Golden Gate Park for a stroll around the Rose Garden or a cup of tea at the Japanese Garden.
Go ride on the historic carousel; let your toddler burn off steam in the Children’s Quarter.
Take a drive across the incredible Golden Gate Bridge and view the man made from the hills.
Shop in and around Union Square (if you’re a millionaire). Walk along Haight Street for some hippy, indie culture. There’ll be at least one guy doing reflective dance in a seemingly complete state of meditation!
Go to the heart of the beatnik scene and visit City Lights Bookstore (aka Amanda’s Heaven) and then eat proper Italian pizza in North Beach. Drink where Jack Kerouac drank.
Everywhere is close and easy to get to. We didn’t get lost and we didn’t experience annoyingly inflated city prices. Safe public transport exists (unlike some other American cities).
We weren’t pestered by street vendors or barged by irritable commuters. It’s really not like any other large-scale city I’ve ever been to and I’m trying, but no doubt failing, to do it justice in this post.
Despite San Francisco’s wonder, the extent of the poverty and drugs is sadly surprising; and in such proximity to the wealthy shopping and tourist areas. To step over or meander around the sleeping or unconscious homeless; to hear the screams of a young and dangerously dishevelled woman, walking along a busy street in just shorts and a bra, dragging a blanket behind her. To see an old man crouched down, shivering and rocking, clutching two small knives. To witness people preparing drugs on the pavements. It’s shocking and way more prevalent than anything I’ve ever seen on the streets of cities like London or New York.
But that’s almost part of San Francisco’s charm. The suffering and the extremes inspire the musicians, writers and artists. You can spend a whole day marvelling the murals around the city – street art which is alive and ever evolving.
San Francisco, you seduced me, scared me, amazed me, shocked me & fed me very, very well indeed. I will unquestionably be back.