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“If you’re going … to San.Fran.cis.co”… forget the flowers
in your hair, be sure to wear lots of layers! The city is notorious for its
changeable weather, especially during May and June when it can be foggy and chilly.
Locals find it very amusing to see tourists, expecting summer temperatures,
shivering in T shirts whilst they are all wrapped up in high tech duvet
But don’t let changeable weather put you off, it’s a
wonderful city and, no matter what the weather there is tons to see and
experience both indoors and out. Other reviews have mentioned the top
attractions of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Pier 39 all of which are
indeed well worth doing. I’d also recommend the option of a cycle tour across
the Golden Gate to Sausalito (Blazing Saddles) and the Big Bus Tour. We did
them all and the video proves it.
Once you’ve ticked the tourist list though, the real joy of
the city is, I think, in its distinctive neighbourhoods – there are more than
27 of them and each demands time to explore properly giving scope for multiple
visits to this fascinating city.
Getting around is easy, thanks to the super efficient MUNI
bus and tram system – if you plan to cover the city comprehensively a City Pass
is well worth the investment as it gives you free access as well as entry to a
number of top attractions. The famous wooden cable cars are included in that
and are undoubtedly an experience but, one ride is enough – they get very
crowded and the hard wooden seats and precarious standing spots around the
outside are not in the least bit comfortable.
I especially loved the ‘F line’ which runs all the way from
the famous Castro Street area (home to gay rights activist Harvey Milk) down to
Market Street and then along the bay to Fisherman’s Wharf. What makes it so
special are the vintage and heritage street cars unique to this line. They been
sourced from all over the world (there’s even one from Birmingham).
The bus system is also brilliant – they even offer special
stops and hydrolic platform access for wheelchairs (take note London
Transport!). Get to grips with the bus map and you’ll soon be moving round the
city like a local, saving lots of shoe leather and avoiding long, slow climbs
up the 43 hills on which San Francisco is built.
So back to those districts … accommodation in San Francisco
can be limited and pricey – look beyond downtown and Fisherman’s Wharf to save
money and experience other districts. Our hotel, the Kimpton Buchanan, proved a
great choice – from the bus stop immediately opposite we could be downtown in
10 minutes on a number 2 or 3 bus. But best of all it placed us with easy
access both to Japantown (literally on the doorstep), Fillmore which forms part
of both Lower Haight (an up and coming
30 something neighbourhood) and the swankier Pacific Heights. On our first evening, having taken a daytime
flight and struggling big time with the 8 hour time difference, a quick dinner
at one of the many fantastic and great value Sushi bars in Japantown was ideal.
Second night, same problem – how to keep awake past 8pm? Again a wide choice of
restaurants on Fillmore were within a 5 minute stroll and a world away from the
more touristy offerings of Fisherman’s Wharf where many feel obliged to head.
San Francisco’s Chinatown of course is world renowned – its
huge, a warren of tightly packed restaurants, markets, street vendors and
temples. It’s so authentic it’s easy to forget you are in the U.S. Haight and
Ashbury is the area for those seeking to relive the Summer of Love and hippy heritage
and, for a taste of the future, SOMA (South of Market St) is the magnet for web
gurus and urban hipsters.
I guess you could say the hub of the city is the Financial
District, loosely running between Union Square and the Ferry Building. This
showcase of glass and steel skycrapers, is mixed in with classic older
architecture, designer label shops and plenty of restaurants and funky bars.
When we were there, Apple were just opening their new flagship store on the
corner of Union Square – a magnificent uber modern cube of a store with
retractable floor to ceiling glass walls creating an exciting indoor/outdoor
retail space – visions of the future perhaps in this high tech part of the
And more visions of the future at the hugely impressive San
Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or SFMOMA for short. Of everything we saw and
did in San Francisco this to me, was the most memorable. Recently re-opened
after a 3 year renovation, the museum has almost tripled in size by the addition
of a striking new extension. The space alone is a delight, both indoors and out
with fabulous collections of photography, sculpture and modern art. SFMOMA also
has the best gift shop by a mile – my favourite purchase was a cute and kitsch
‘Fog Globe’ of the Golden Gate bridge. Give it a shake and the sparkly fog
catches the sunlight and makes me smile every time I think of inappropriately
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15 people found this feature helpful