Whenever I ask people to list their favourite cities, San Francisco is often listed. I had a week off between jobs which coincided with my friend going to SF for work so I decided to tag along.
My stay there also coincided with Pride. The SF pride parade was surprisingly small compared to Toronto’s and felt much more grassroots.
San Francisco is chilly and each area has its own micro-climate. It rained a lot while I was there. We saw a comedy show at the Punch Line with John Mulaney headlining and he joked that the emblem of the city should be a man going back to his house to retrieve a jacket.
After checking out the pride parade, we rented bikes at the pier and did the popular route of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into the city of Sausalito. It was interesting how much the climate changed just crossing the bridge. SF was chilly but Sausalito was hot, so hot my friend got burned.
San Francisco is famous for being a place for great cuisine, but we had a mix of good and bad food. We ate an informal Chinese restaurant whose name escapes me. We went to the Stinking Rose where all the food is stuffed with garlic. I had high hopes for the restaurant after it was recommended to me by a friend, but I found the food was perfunctorily done and assembly-lined. Our food was served to us within 10 minutes of sitting, meaning all the food was mass-produced. (Later, a friend from SF joked that it was a huge tourist trap). We went to House, an Italian-Chinese fusion restaurant which was tasty. We went to In-N-Out where the burgers are delicious but the fries are gross. And tried the more upscale Super Burger which had the tastiest garlic fries I had ever tried. YUM!
Unfortunately, because of Pride, all tours to Alcatraz were booked but there was still plenty to see. I saw the amazing Picasso exhibit at the De Young museum. (A kind man offered me a free ticket when his friend didn’t show up). Golden Gate Park, while seemingly sketchy on the side of Haight street was lovely in front of the museum. The Cartoon Art Museum was small but had original cels from The Simpsons and some original Calvin and Hobbes strips. Japantown was cute and the local mall had some great stores that reminded me of the 100yen shops I visited in Japan.
We ventured to the West side, Point Lobos, to check out the Camera Obscura which was neat (and really like a 5 minute stop – it took us an hour to get there!) but the beach was also nice and there were some pleasant walks in the area.
Lastly, we visited Musee Mecanique by the pier which was great! It features the largest privately owned collection of arcades (which ranged from antique to new) and musical instruments. It was fun to see fortune-tellers a la Big and see what the early 1900s idea of pornography was.
I also ventured out to Mountain View to check out the Google campus, where my friend works, and this was quite interesting. The campus is so huge and they make it so you never have to leave. Free meals, on-site laundry, a store where they sell clothes, showers, nap rooms etc. We also went to Palo Alto for a party which is where Stanford University is located. The city feels upper-class and reminded me a bit of Niagara on the Lake. There were Christmas lights wrapped around the trees on the main street.
So in all, San Francisco was great! And I can see why everyone raves about it. The houses are quaint, there is a lively culture and lots to do. But it also felt very image-conscious and divided. Still, it would be a place to potentially consider living in, if the rent wasn’t so damn high!