I always dreamed about living in San Francisco since I can remember. I lived there in my heart for eight years thanks to the Halliwell Sisters (Charmed TV Show) and it always was on top of my city to live list. I didn’t want just to visit. I wanted to live there. It was like the hometown I never had. When I was younger I love my little hometown but I never felt really at home. Like something was missing and for me, San Francisco was missing. With the rising of Internet Industries like Google or Facebook or Twitter, I thought working there would be the best thing in the world. It was like the Gold rush for me.
For some reasons though, I never had the chance to go there before last month. It was like I kept it in my heart so I won’t be disappointed when I will go for real, like San Francisco was only in my heart and not a real city.
When I went to Montreal (three times), the first thing I thought was: Wao. This looks like a mix of San Francisco and New York. And I fell in love with Montreal as I already was in love with New York where I’ve been before and San Francisco where I’ve never been but that I already loved. I fell in love with Montreal with its streets going up and down downtown, its districts with all the little shops and little cafés and little restaurants. I fell in love with the inhabitants of the city that were so nice. I fell in love with the culture too. When I went to Montreal, I thought that I could only love San Francisco more. Montreal was almost what I thought San Francisco would be but a little smaller and with less hills.
When I went to Lisbon (just visiting this time), the first thing I thought was: Wao, This looks like San Francisco and Rio (because of the Christ the Redeemer). Lisbon was the small San Francisco. It had everything SF had: a Golden Gate Bridge, the streets going really up and down, the cable cars, the art culture with so many tags, the sea, the sun. I fell in love with Lisbon too. I found that Lisbon reflected some kind of energy where you feel everything is possible. And I though again that I could only love San Francisco even more.
In December, when we booked our tickets to New Zealand and we decided to make a stop in San Francisco first, I couldn’t believe it was finally going to happen. Even in the plane, I couldn’t realize I was finally going to the West Coast. I was going to the city I knew I belonged. The city I would love and would want to come back as soon as we left. It is almost what happened.
We arrived on the 10th of March in San Francisco. Of course, as usual when I travel, I bring with me my little cloud over my head. It rarely rains in California. Actually, for the past five years, they hadn’t had much rain at all and they were in dry alert. And guess what? Just when we arrived and for the three days we were there, it rained! Yeah! Everybody in California was happy for that rain. I wasn’t. As I don’t have enough rain in Normandy, huh? I first thought it was a sign that San Francisco was not for me but you know, rain is like home so maybe rain in San Francisco was a sign it was my home too?
Bored by the rain but happy to be there, we left our stuff at the hotel (I can’t thanks enough my family and friends for the birthday present or I wouldn’t have been able to have a hotel for three days in the city) and went out to eat diner (it was already 5PM and we were so tired — I have hard time with jet lags). I was so happy walking in the streets of San Francisco, it was like in my dreams: going up and down, nice little houses that looked like just like in Charmed. The hotel was next to the Painted Ladies, seven houses that are quite famous for the view behind them and their representation of the city’s identity.
The next morning and for the few days that followed, we woke up at 5AM, leaving plenty of time to visit the city. The first day, still raining, we walked downtown. We crossed the United Nations Plaza with all the flags and the city hall. Downtown and the financial district looked a bit like downtown in Montreal. Very few high buildings. I don’t have much to say about that area. There is not much to see. There are a lot of shops, traffic. You can take the cable car there too (7$ for one way… They are crazy in San Francisco!).
The thing that stroke us though was the number of homeless people there. They were trying to get dry under roofs in front of the shops. This is where San Francisco started to break my heart. We saw a shop manager kick out the homeless from its porch and put them back in the rain (it was 7AM and the shop opened at 10AM).
We left downtown to visit Chinatown. It is quite a big district also decorated with beautiful tags on the walls. As it was raining only more and more and Alexis didn’t have a rain jacket, we had to head back downtown to find one for him as soon as the shops opened. And it was a good idea as it rained the two days after too.
From Chinatown, we went to the Coit Tower. The part we walked to get to the tower was everything I though San Francisco was. For me, downtown was not the picture I had of the city. I always pictures San Francisco with its little houses. And they were everywhere! The up and downs started to make my feet hurt because I had put on new shoes (big mistake, big mistake!).
The Coit Tower cost around $6. You have a 360° view over the city from up there. We were lucky though because we went for the only hour where the sun was there.
This is where I first saw it: The Golden Gate Bridge. This bridge is in my heart since a long time and it is one of my best memory of the city. It was exactly as it is on the pictures. Even in the rain it is beautiful.
We also saw Alcatraz from there, standing in the middle of the bay on its own. We also so a guy ask his girlfriend to marry him. The employee of the tower told us it happened all the time here. Well, if someone was to ask me to marry me, I wouldn’t want it to be up there. For me, it would be on the bridge. That’s for sure my favorite spot in the world. Yes, in the world.
We went down the tower to go on the sea side. We came across one really strange street that is really famous in the city: Lombard Street. You can’t miss it on a map. It is the one zigzaging.
After going up and down, we walked along the Fisherman’s Wharf to the Fort Mason. At the bottom of the Fort, there is a pontoon going into the water from where you have a view over the city and over the Bridge. It was raining and windy but I couldn’t stop looking at them. The city I loved and the bridge I love.
On the day after, we decided it was time to go see the Golden Gate Bridge. We had a tour of Alcatraz at 3PM so we had plenty of time before. We took a uber to the Palace of Fine Arts Theater. I’m sorry for all the cab driver in France, but in San Francisco, Uber is ruling. Even the cabs switched to Uber. It works very well and if you take a Uber Pool, it cost almost nothing. We took one from the Airport to the Hotel (more than half an hour ride) and it cost only $25! Can’t beat it in the city where everything is expensive.
We walked along the beach to reach the magnificent Bridge. It is painted in the International orange. Huh, no, it was not a mistake, the Golden Gate Bridge is really painted in international color. They painted it that way because the color goes well with the hills behind and the sky color. Well, it goes well with gray too.
If someone (like my designers friends) is interested, here is the “formula”:
CMYK: C= Cyan: 0%, M =Magenta: 69%, Y =Yellow: 100%, K = Black: 6%.
The closest existing color codes to GGB International Orange color are:
PMS 173 (CYMK = 0%, 80%, 94%, 1%), PMS 174 (CYMK 8%, 85%, 100%, 34%), Pantone 180 (CYMK 19.4%, 77.9%, 79.6%, 3.6%)
The funny thing is when I stepped on the Bridge with the wind blowing: I got height fear. Not fear from falling and what was under. Fear from the height of the Bridge Tower. I was scared by just looking up. I panicked. I don’t really know why. Maybe it was because walking on the bridge was like walking on the moon for me. I did cry when I first stepped on it. I know it is a very touristic bridge and everything but it was my dream for a long time to do this and I finally did it. I hope my pictures are reflecting my feelings.
After the Golden Gate Bridge, we walked back to Alcatraz. There was so much rain, I decided to keep my camera inside my bag. We only took pictures with the GoPro. I am keeping the description of Alcatraz for another article. Though you should know it is one of the best things we did in San Francisco !
The day after, was our last day and we were supposed to visit the Golden Gate Park but as it was still raining (and not a little) we decided to head to Alexis’s friends place in order to get our stuff organized for the road trip that was coming up the day after.
Leaving San Francisco, I had my heart aching a little. Having rain for three days didn’t help but even if I loved the city, the bridge, Alcatraz, the spirit, I couldn’t help to be bitter about it. Downtown didn’t felt really safe because of the too many homeless people. We even saw two of them using syringes right at the downtown bus stop. That made me wonder how could that have happened? I thought San Francisco was a city where jobs grew. It was a little Eldorado in my mind. We learned that when the Internet bubble grew, people from all over the world started to come to SF to get a job. More over, they were really well paid and didn’t really cared about how much rent they paid. The rents all around the city went up quickly though “normal” jobs like waitress, cab driver or working in a office didn’t increased their salary in the same curve. That put a lot of people out of their flats or houses and they had to move away from the city, or they became homeless. To give you an example, for a studio, the minimum rent you can find is $2000. The city had been cruel with its inhabitants and is continuing to be. It grew economically too fast for non engineers to survive there.
We went back to SF at the end of our trip and we could see it under the sun for a day. I definitely want to go back during summer to see what the city has to offer when it’s not raining! So, yes, San Francisco I still love you but you broke my heart.