San Francisco, California, USA
Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become". Arthur Schopenhauer
San Francisco is known for its delightful blend of bohemia, culture and class, however the exponential growth of Silicon Valley has made its mark.
Quirky artist studios have been refurbished into multi-million dollar apartments snapped up by 20-something app developers. Independent cafes are now demographically chic and expensive restaurants. Although San Francisco is now much less ‘hippie’ and a bit more ‘hipster’, it remains a city well worth visiting.
Wander to the outskirts of downtown and you’ll find tree lined streets with beautiful old houses and fabulous bay views.
This is where you’ll find independent retailers and live music with the culture and atmosphere San Francisco is famous for. Old trams still roll past, taking the leg work out of the iconic hilly streets up to the ocean fresh air.
A 5 mile wander goes by in a blink, and if you’re hungry for more, this oceanside city delivers in abundance.
Across the Golden Gate Bridge is Muir Woods National Park. Famous for its Redwood trees up to 258 foot tall, it has winding paths through the woods.
If you’re time limited, a short walk into the woods is definitely worth the trip. For avid walkers there’s even a beach to discover along the shoreline. You’ve got to love a city with such intense nature right on the doorstep.
Just over a mile offshore, Alcatraz Island famously housed a high security prison. Although tantalisingly close to the city, sharks, frigid waters and strong currents made escape almost impossible.
As further punishment, inmates could hear the sounds of nightlife drifting across the water.
Now decommissioned, it’s open as an attraction for visitors curious about the many famous former residents and their escapades.
Back in the city, the waterfront is a long strip of activity. The Ferry Building Marketplace houses independent traders selling gorgeous food, crafts and toiletries produced in the surrounding counties. A bottle of shampoo costs $20 so only rich locals can afford to shop there, and tourists. Bloody good shampoo though!
Pier 51 is a compact shopping precinct by the water. Targeted to tourists, but lovely all the same, this is a great one stop shop for a splurge. New England style eateries sell fresh fish, pizza and ice cream.
The wharf offers numerous waterside restaurants with the latest and greatest in fabulous food and great service. The view from here is fantastic, so it’s worth a visit one evening.
Explore the side streets above the business district for bars and eateries on a budget, with many representing the strong Irish and Asian presence. This is where you’ll find the hidden heart and soul of the city.
San Francisco is a city of two halves. The thousands of homeless are growing in number at the same rate as the nouveau riche, while the bohemian culture is slowly being whitewashed by eye-wateringly expensive design.
But San Francisco’s individualism is what attracted its new residents in the first place, so I have faith its character will remain.