Last updated on December 29th, 2017
Why you will love San Francisco
As Rudyard Kipling once said:
San Francisco has only one drawback, ’tis hard to leave!
This just about sums up my feelings about San Francisco
Ever since the first time I visited this City By the Bay, it felt like home. A familiar Mediterranean warmth engulfed me as soon as we started approaching its suburbs. I could feel its all familiar climate sipping in through the open car windows, although a world away from the Med.
Dawn was fast approaching and the sunset colours had cast a deep pink hue on the hills of the city that was visible from afar. My friends and I were driving from Reno, Nevada and this was my first visit to San Francisco and the state of California back in the 90’s. I didn’t know what to expect here, but like Rudyard Kipling, I felt it was certainly hard to leave.
Some of the reasons you will also love San Francisco
The Famous Hills of San Francisco
This city is built on 7 hills, though in reality there are over 40 of them. The first 7 hills were named by the founding fathers of San Francisco and remained as such. These are:
Lone Mountain, (or Mount Sutro)
What could be so special about this hills I hear you say?
They give San Francisco a unique architecture that is unlike any other city in the US. Despite the sheer angle they are built with, they still make the city one of the best to discover on foot. When I first saw the famous Trams on my first visit here, I was terrified that they were never going to make it up the steep incline of these hills. I could envision them tumbling back down full of people. You quickly get used to them though, and they become one of your favourite architectural features.
The Hills of San Francisco create a sense of euphoria for me,
They resemble life’s struggles. There are so many and each one with its own level of difficulty. You feel disheartened at the beginning but this feeling quickly dissipates as you start the ascent. It turns into a wonderful optimistic roll once you reach the top and gaze out to the Pacific horizon. Content you have conquered it and ready to tackle the next one.
The Bridges of San Francisco
One of the first sights that come to mind when you think about San Francisco is the famous ‘Golden Gate Bridge’. It is, after all, one of the most photographed bridges in the world. Nothing beats a stroll along the Golden Gate on a sunny day. Taking in the sweeping views of the Bay and the deep blue underneath you. Looking up close at this massive steel structure and the millions of bolts and cables that hold it together.
Feeling the crisp air on your face as it comes through the Pacific and the straights of the Bay. Hearing its heartbeat as hundreds of cars pass through it every minute.
On my second visit to San Francisco, I actually drove our rented car across the bridge, and I would highly recommend this experience. We ended up in Sausalito for some brunch, the quaint seaside town about a 5-minute drive once you drive off the Golden Gate Bridge.
There are more bridges in the Bay area of course, (5 in total). The Oakland Bay Bridge is considered the Golden Gate’s cousin. It connects the Bay area with Oakland and also considered a civil engineering marvel. It is actually one of the heaviest travelled bridges in the Bay with hundreds of thousands of people using it for their daily commute. It is a suspended-double decker bridge and compliments the East side of San Francisco’s skyline. I have driven through it also during a torrential rain. I can tell you it was a thrill doing so, as the rain fell through from the top deck on the windshield in quite a menace. The on-coming cars above reverberated like hungry beasts, adding to the thrill of driving through another famous bridge.
Bridges always cheer me up! Along with the cars they carry, they are also hosting several positive messages. They ‘bridge gaps’ between mountains, they unite people and make their everyday lives easier. They represent modern day advancements and a lot of them are considered ‘modern-day miracles’. Bridges will always push civil engineering skills to the next level. They are one of the many reasons I just love San Francisco.
The neighbourhoods of San Francisco
It is almost impossible to see all the neighbourhoods and visit all districts with just one visit in San Francisco. Wiki alone lists over 100 (!) neighbourhoods. A variety of architectural styles can be discovered in each one of them and many different cultures coexist here. This melting pot of people creates a very liberal community that has placed this city in one of the top, most easy-going places to live.
I have only managed to walk through about 5 of the main 19 neighbourhoods, and I will only list some of my favourites here. This deserves a whole topic by itself that will undoubtedly be one of my next posts. These are:
Fisherman’s Wharf & North Beach
Downtown San Francisco
The Skyline of San Francisco
This city boasts one of the best skylines I have seen in the US. I have filled many memory cards photographing the skyline from different vantage points across the city. What makes it more special is the fact that It is not your typical concentrated block of skyscrapers. It spreads out more evenly, provoking you to use your best photographic skills and capture its beauty.
There are so many beautiful vantage points to enjoy the amazing views, considering the city only spans across 121 km². Some of my favourite ones are:
The Presidio area – perfect for some of the most romantic views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Alcatraz – that’s right! I little ironic that one of the most notorious prisons which housed some of the world’s famous criminals has sweeping-unparalleled views of San Francisco. None of the inmates, however, had access to any of these views here. Only one cell on the 2nd floor had the privilege of looking out towards a very narrow corner of the city.
Twin Peaks – due to its height. It will give you distant views of my beloved building, that of the Transamerica Tower. Resembling a modern day pyramid, this happens to be the most iconic buildings in San Francisco as well.
Coit Tower – an art deco tower with panoramic views of Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay and the Eastern side of the city.
Baker’s Beach – great spot for sunset photography with side views of the Golden Gate.
Battery Spencer – for magnificent views of both Golden Gate and the city in the background.
The Financial District – for close-ups of the Transamerica Tower – yes it is a lot of fun to try and capture this building from different angles. From here you will also have the opportunity to walk around and shoot many more buildings.
The parks of San Francisco
For a relatively small city, San Francisco boasts about 220 parks (!). Here are some of the most noteworthy to try and visit while there:
Golden Gate Park – one of my very favourite places! A rectangle shaped park approximately 1000 acres that has a little of something for everyone. Among many things, it features Japanese Tea Gardens, A museum of ‘The Young‘, ‘ the ‘Academy of Sciences‘ and the ‘Conservatory of Flowers’.
Ocean Beach Park
Alamo Square Park
Edgehill Mountain – offering spectacular views
Corona Heights Park – again killer views of the city from this park.
Holly Park – one of the oldest parks in the city
The Food scene in San Francisco
Even if you tried, it’s hard to have a bad meal while in San Francisco. It has always been about local produce, organic veg markets and way too many healthy gurus per m2 in this city. Add to this, a massive increase of techies in Silicon Valley with an attitude of ‘healthy food equals more brain cells’, and you can now get the picture.
A fusion of worldly cuisines was never rare in San Francisco. You could eat at a restaurant that got its 3rd Michelin star while experimenting with Asian flavours through innovative French techniques. Plenty of choices for the meat eaters, the seafood lovers or the vegans. Great locations and restaurant ambiences to create some ‘food for thought’. Take for example the sweeping Pacific views served at iconic ‘Cliff House’ perched above the ‘Ocean Beach’. Try their Sunday lunch Buffet or their killer ‘eggs benedict’ at brunch to start your day with a clear head and full of energy.
Stroll along Fisherman’s Warf and indulge in some fresh seafood at ‘Fog Harbor Fish House, among many other aphrodisiac sources dotted along the Embarcadero Str. One thing is a given while in San Francisco – its cuisine will never stop evolving. The change of tastes and food trends, like its Silicon Valley advancements, grow exponentially month after month. You will never leave this city with..a bad taste in your mouth.