Under the redwoods in San Francisco
San Francisco, or San Fran as it is colloquially may only stretch for about 14 kms, but it is packed with an assortment of activities that are sure to please the outdoorsy types, foodies, and curious wanderers of all ages. Known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture and landmarks, this city is one of the most important economic and business hubs of the world as well as the epicenter for some of the most important biomedical and physics research happening at the moment. The headquarter for five major banking institutions, it has several nicknames, The city by the bay, Fog city, San Fran and Frisco, as well as some older names such as ‘The City that knows how’, Baghdad by the bay, the Paris of the west, or simply, the City. It is one of the highest ranked cities in the world on livability ratings and is a pleasure to live in or travel to.
Fisherman’s wharf is on the itinerary of almost all the visitors that come to this city. The famous fishing fleet makes for an amazing fish story, and the souvenir shops in the waterfront marketplace and historic ships add to the atmosphere. The cauldrons of steaming crab, family style street entertain and sourdough French bread bakeries about. The historic F-line Streetcar and two cable car lines terminate in the area and sightseeing boats and boat charters link to Alcatraz, the rock island prison, Angel Island and other points around the Bay of San Fran.
Pier 39 is where all the fun stuff at the fisherman’s wharf is. The view of the sea gulls and sea lions, chowder bread bowls and California wines await you. Located on the Beach street and the Embar cardero on the Fisherman’s wharf, this is the postcard perfect backdrop for the Golden gate bridge, and the famous SF skyline.
More family entertainment can be found in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf along Jefferson Street at the Madame Tussauds. The SF dungeon is not to be missed, where history comes alive with live actor shows, special effects and story telling on the grisly, but authentic history of the Bay area. Or walk the opposite way to the Ghiradelli square and factory to sample and buy their world famous chocolate and candy and see what the fuss is all about.
The Alamo square’s famous ‘postcard row’ at Hayes and Steiner streets is a visual treat. A tight, escalating formation of Victorian houses, back dropped by the SF skyscraper littered skyline provides a stunning contrast. The square and the park itself are an ideal midday break and picnic spot.
Far into the skyline of this famous city is the Golden Gate Bridge that was once named as the one that couldn’t be built. And yet, today it stands, one of the seven wonders of the modern world. The magnificent span, the most famous landmark of the bay area opened after relentless struggle against fog, wind and treacherous tides and is a tribute to the grit and determination of the people of San Francisco. Crossing the strait of the Golden Gate from San Francisco to the Marin headlands for over two and a half kilometers is the world-renowned Golden Gate Bridge, easily identified by its International Orange color. The single suspension bridge is achored by twin towers and cables. Pedestrials, wheelchair users and bicyclists can go on the sidewalks of the bridge during daylight hours.
The other thing that SF is known worldwide for, and about two and a half kilometers from the Fisherman’s wharf into the bay is the Alcatraz. The first lighthouse built on the Pacific coast, and then a federal prison and penitentiary for notorious convicts such as Al Capone and George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, this is a popular attraction. The tour of the cell house shows where the inmates lived, and the main prison block with its steel bars, claustrophobic cells, library and ‘dark holes’ are structurally intact and send a chill through the spine. The last of the prisoners wehere transferred off the island in 1963.
San Fran is a city where art, science and culture flourish. World class aquariums, interactive science exhibits and some of the US’ most diverse art collections make SF museums a must for any visitor. There is critically acclaimed architecture and breathtaking vista. The Asia art Museum is home to some fo the most diverse collection of art and objects from across the Asian continent and spans over 6000 years of human history. The California academy of Sciences, home to aquariums, planetariums, natural history museum, research and educational programs makes for a great visit for adults and children alike. From the splashing penguins to the wildflowers on the roof, the building is bursting with life. A four storey rainforest and awe inspiring coral reef ecosystem delights visitors and immersive planetarium transports you through space and time. For families with children, the Children’s creativity museum in Yerba Buena Gardens is a must visit. Filled with interactive exhibits, this museum teaches children about animation, music, digital media and other creative pursuits. The contemporary jewish museum, the de Young museum, the museum of craft and design, museum for the African diaspora, the modern after museum, the Walt Disney family museum and the exploratorium are some other art and creativity pursuits to take up if one has time on hand.
San Francisco has been named the best food city by the Bon Appetit magazine, and rightly so, as it has some of the most exquisite fare, for all ranges, budgets and food limitations.
The city is a heaven for sea food lovers. The Cioppino, an Italian fish stew with shellfish from Woodhouse Fish Co. or the Maccaronara Ragu with Ricotta at A16 for the lover of the Italian food. The oriental food enthusiast must try the hotpot at the Shabu house, the Mochi at Benkyodo, Sushi and Sashimi at the Swan Oyster Depot, or the dry fried wings at San Tung. Garlic noodles at Perilla and the Green garlic pierogi with fried spinach are a delight, for both the vegan and vegetarian, and meat lovers alike. The tea leaf salad at the Burma superstar is truly a superstar. Partake in some irish coffee at the Buena Vista café or the Ike’s place, or perhaps some chocolate with s’mores from Papua New Guinea at the Dandelion Chocolatiers? Custard more your thing, try the sweet pea custard or the lemon creat tart at Tartine and Lazy bear. And when everything else fails, there’s always weed truffles at Dolores Park.
Go beyond the bustling metropolis that is san Francisco. In a 80 sq km radius outside the city, there are things to do, that will delight the nature lover, history buff, foodie, music enthusiast and the beachcomber. The entire bay area is still an oyster, waiting to be explored. Hike through the Yosemite national park. Named a world heritage site, the pristine stretch of Sierra Nevada moutain range is home to angular granite cliffs, the El Capitan, water falls, the giant Sequoia redwood trees and a fifth of all of california plant species. Head along the Merced River canyon, see the half dome, tunnel view, and the piece de resistance, the El Capitan. Partake in a relaxing coffee or a warming toddy at the Ahwahnee hotel or bar. Ahwahnee is the native American tribe after which, the park is thought to have been named. Go back in time in Mariposa, a charming Gold rush eara town and gateway to Yosemite. Enjoy the winter wonderland that is the national park with snow, hikes, ice skating and many other winter and snow activities. Discover the Yosemite water falls, the tallest waterfall in north america and sixth tallest in the world. Check out the zipline and experience the thrill of zipping high above the Sierra forests.
When tired of the hiking, drink in the pinots and chardonnnays at the Salinas valley or the napa valley, for epic view of the wine country, picturesque wineries and countryside, tastings and meals. Then listen to some old fashioned, new era music at the Greek or the Mountain Winery in Saratoga and dance the night away at the uptown theatre at Napa or the Blank club at San Jose. San francisco will never disappoint you.
By Air: San Francisco is well connected to all our major cities in India by most common airlines, which run flights with return fares starting at Rs. 88,000. Most flights have at least one stop, in the Middle East, Europe or the American East coast.
Local: Getting around the city of San Francisco is very easy. The city municipality (MUNI) operates buses, trains, cable cars and the F-line heritage streetcar. The buses remain above ground, and the metro goes underground sometimes. The city’s famous cable cars, operated by the Muni are a more entertaining, albeit a slower way to see the city. They run on three lines, Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason and California St. The F-line runs up and down market St. all the way to the fisherman’s wharf.
To connect from the SF international airport, one can use the bay area rapid transit commuter rail, or use a taxi service. If staying for more than one day, visitor passes; clipper card and city PASS are useful as these will get you unlimited rides on all the MUNI transportation.
Currency: 1 USD = ` 66.70