Tuesday, 21 August 2012

San Francisco - Foggy and Friendly

This week I went to San Francisco for the first time.  Everyone I know who has been there told me I would love it, that it was a wonderful place so I was really looking forward to the visit.  And I did find it wonderful but probably not for the reasons others had told me.

San Francisco is rather strange in that although it is known as the city on the bay the central city area is cut off from the sea on one side by the very steep hills which the picturesque cable cars labour up and down all day, carrying mainly tourists and by the financial district on the other.  It is also very hard to find an area which you could call the heart of the city...is it where city hall stands?  Is it Market Street where the good shopping is?  Is it famous Union Square where artists display their work and which is surrounded by high end retailers?  Is it  Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf where seals bask on floating pontoons and locals and tourists alike flock for meals and recreation?  And there are other unique areas too...like the financial district, China Town and Little Italy.  During my time there I couldn't decide where the heart of the city was but I did decide that the people of San Francisco are the friendliest, most obliging, helpful people I have met in a long time.  For me they were the heart of San Francisco.

And I was fascinated by the stunning architecture of the city.  My sister in law and I stayed in a beautiful Personality Hotel, Kensington Park, just off Union Square.  The hotel is from the Art Nouveau era and is decorated authentically.  The staff were outstanding, rooms lovely, view over Union Square excellent..  This is definitely a hotel to be recommended and not just for the free sherry served in the lounge each early evening! But all over San Francisco there is beautiful architecture. I had heard of the painted ladies..a row of pretty wooden houses on a hill above the city but everywhere there are chocolate box three story houses with lavish and flamboyant decorations.  They look like something out of a Macy's Christmas catalogue...too cutesy pie to be real and decidedly charming for it. The towered green building from the art nouveau period which belongs to Francis Ford Coppola juxtaposed with the tall needle building behind makes an exciting visual statement...here is a city which values all styles of architecture.

So then the famous Golden Gate bridge...I crossed it twice but never saw it.  It was completely shrouded in thick fog however I did love the authentic Japanese Gardens in Golden Gate Park and was gob smacked by the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the art gallery although I found the nearby Academy of Sciences rather light weight.

So...San Francisco..what do I think?  A very pleasant city with a lively cultural scene, interesting architecture and truly lovely people....that has to be pretty good, doesn't it? And good enough reasons to visit.

p.s. I have photos to go with this but cannot put them up for some reason.  I will insert them at a later date.