– Ashleigh Brilliant
It’s sunny, liberal and built on 43 hills. San Francisco has been the site for social revolution for decades, a place which truly belongs to anyone and everything. I was keen to go after reading several of Christopher Moore’s novels which are all set there: A dirty Job, Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck! A love story. I got a real feel for the surreal and misty nature of the city, and after several Facebook chats with my cousin in the golden state, I was convinced.
It all kicked off with a perilous two-day train trip across the Rockies and the barren desert of Utah which provided a great number of hours dedicated to California dreaming (chortle, I insist).
48 hours later and a little bedraggled I was in California. The first I saw of it was San Andreas Lake – a reservoir used for recreation and leisure which eventually flows to the Crystal Springs Dam in San Mateo County.
Now on to Frisco…
First impressions were overwhelming. I stayed at Hotel Monaco on Geary Street – both of which are pretty bustling. The hotel had very cute rooms but still charged for internet. However, I’d say the location was pretty decent. I met up with my big cousin, Jeff, who was kind enough to show me the sites. We started off with the Muir Woods National Monument, which included a drive over the scenic Golden Gate Bridge. These woods are home to the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and the filming of The Return of the Jedi! The national monument protects 559 acres, 240 of which are Coast Redwood. The woods are near the Pacific ocean which means fog is a regular occurrence and vital for the Redwoods which rely on the fog for water during the hot and dry summers.
Whilst on the other side of the Golden Gate, we checked out Treasure Island. Don’t get so excited – it’s a naval base. The drive back, however, provided an excellent photo opportunity with views of the Golden Gate and San Francisco.
Why Golden Gate?
It’s not actually golden; it’s ‘orange vermillion’. The name is actually in reference to the Golden Gate Straight which connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. Construction of the Golden Gate was completed in 1937. Approximately 41 million crossings of the bridge are made annually and at 6 dollars a crossing, that certainly is a money spinner.
Speaking of money, San Francisco’s financial district is particularly notable. The great thing about San Fran’s west coast location is its time zone. Being 3 hours behind New York makes it much more amicable for trade with Asia and for allowing more trading hours. I noticed that the port had many cargo ships transporting goods from Asian companies, so it is no wonder the city has such a famed China Town.
And speaking of transport, of course, I took a cable car.
The use of cable car transport began in the 1870s and it’s still pretty popular now. The cars are operated by ‘Gripmen.’ To become one, you must have great physical strength and hand-eye coordination – only 30% who train to become one actually pass!
Ghiradelli Square – a must for all chocolate and ice cream lovers! I had the delicious ‘Very Berry Sundae’ and I highly recommend the Root Beer floats. We later had lunch around the bay area in a lovely little seafood restaurant.
We tried to find the seals at Pier 39 but there weren’t any. Bit disappointing. In keeping with a character in one of Moore’s novels – ‘the Emperor’ – I did notice that San Francisco has a high number of vagrants. I asked my cousin about this and he explained that one plausible reason was the United States’ lack of a national healthcare regime.
Understandably, a vast number of these homeless people have addictions or mental problems, but simply do not have the means to receive treatment. Furthermore, insurance policies rarely cover mental health services because the cost is too dear, or they place a limit on the number of therapists they will provide per patient. Comparably, in the UK, we have the resources to make sure these people have access to the treatment they need. I find it quite perplexing that a country as developed as the US simply lacks basic healthcare services to deal with such problems. Perhaps this is something Mr. Obama and the administration should be looking into a bit better than so far proposed?
We checked out Coit’s Tower which has an interior painted with beautiful murals and provides spectacular panoramic views of the city and the bridge.
And let’s not forget Lombard Street – crookedest street in the world!
Photos: Charlotte Tidman