San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most spectacular cities of anywhere in the world. Even with its very steep hills, some lovely architecture and a vibrant China Town, it would be impossible to mention the city without mentioning its landmark the Golden Gate bridge. Something which attracted me to the place since my childhood. I will never tire of the bridge.
I have been to San Francisco twice mostly recently for work when I attend the Selenium Conference.
In my free time I took a helicopter tour of the Golden Gate Bridge, having seen the bridge from the group and from a hill seeing it from the air was next for me.

And it was to be of great benefit to have perfect weather.
However I had a little fright. Not the helicopter flight but while on the helicopter I prepared my SLR and took to take picture. No SD card slashed on the screen!! I searched my pockets.. nothing! Not even a spare card. I would see the bridge and have no photos. I resigned myself to having pictures only in my memory. However then I realised something fortunate. My spring with the SD card was loose and there was one in the camera! I tore a bit of the guide I was holding folded and it was working! I felt relieved,
The view from air was amazing but was even better that because of the exceptional good weather the pilot announced he could fly over and under the Golden Gate Bridge.
It was a wonderful experience. From the flight we could also see over Sausalito and the financial districts of the city.
After the flight I went to Russian hill and saw Lombard St or Crooked st.
The rest of my trip was very busy with conference in the late evening I had time to walk the streets around the Financial district and once to visit the Painted Ladies.
A section of beautiful Victorian Houses and also had some time to visit the Ghirardelli Chocolate shop on Ghirardelli Square supposedly the home of modern chocolate.
The chocolate was very nice and the ice cream I ordered was great however getting a seat proved too difficult (too many customers). Anytime I am in San Francisco in future I will try to pay a visit there.
Ghirardelli Square is close to Fisherman’s Wharf which is always nice for a stroll.

My first trip to San Francisco was part of my around the world trip. I was planning on going from Montego Bay to Sydney, Australia via Miami which would have been a crazy flight even for me who likes flying.
I decided it would be best to break the flight. I examined Dallas, Seattle and a few others but the two choices I settled on were LA, San Francisco or San Diego. I then decided against San Diego for practical reasons. A search on the internet brought a clear preference among travellers for San Francisco and after asking a few friends that had been to both and lived nearby and the recommendation was unequivocally San Francisco. So San Francisco it was.

Jinhee and I took the cable cars around and also visited Fisherman’s wharf, Alcatraz and Pier 39.
Pier 39 is famous for its many seals that suddenly appeared en masse in 1989 and without explanation.
However a month before our arrival they disappeared! See (Disappearing sea lions).
We were fortunate some had returned in time for our visit :)

The Alcatraz is best booked in advance and the tour of the former high security prison was very interesting.
It has home to some of the most notorious criminals including Al Capone.
It is often said that one escaped from Alcatraz (if the high security wasn’t enough) then the strong currents in the sea would be enough to drown potential escapees. However at least one escapee did reach the shore (and then caught). In my mind he technically escaped.

One of the more interesting museums is the Musee Mechanique.
It has old video games that are very rare and all available to play. It is well worth visiting on a rainy day.

A great place to stay is the Hotel Des Arts, with many of the rooms decorated by local artists. A nice place to stay although the breakfast was nothing special. It is in a fairly practical location as well.

There are also an abundance of decent places to eat. A nice area to eat is North Beach, the Italian area of San Francisco. On lampposts you can see the Italian flag painted and there are many Italian cafes and restaurants. The two I visited were nice.
By the waterfront I tried sourdough bread invented in San Francisco – See the restaurant here.

Not all is positive about San Francisco though, although the city is pleasant for the tourist and fairly safe (as far as tourists venture). There is a high rate of homelessness and those separated from mainstream society. often out of the way (research Hunters Point) but even near the centre the receptionist at my hotel circled a block of streets to avoid “They don’t like humans there”, he remarked.