San Francisco – City by the Bay

San Francisco, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the cultural center and a leading financial hub of the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California.

The only consolidated city-county in California, San Francisco encompasses a land area of about 46.9 square miles (121 km2) on the northern end of the San Francisco Peninsula, giving it a density of about 17,867 people per square mile (6,898 people per km2). It is the most densely settled large city (population greater than 200,000) in the state of California and the second-most densely populated major city in the United States after New York City. San Francisco is the fourth-most populous city in California, after Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, and the 14th-most populous city in the United States—with a Census-estimated 2013 population of 837,442. The city is also the financial and cultural hub of the larger San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland combined statistical area, with a population of 8.5 million.

With only 3 days in San Francisco it was a huge task to try and cover this wonderful city. Our hotel was right downtown very close to Chinatown so a good location to be based. A short walk from the hotel and we were in Union Square and got our first glimpse of the iconic cable cars running up Powell Street.

The Dragon’s Gate to Chinatown on Grant Avenue was right next to our hotel so it was an easy walk up the hill and into this vibrant and colourful district and made us feel right at home coming from Asia. There were a vast array of Chinese shops and restaurants with colourful wall murals. In amongst the Chinese shops and restaurants was the wonderful Old St. Mary’s Church.

Walking through Chinatown and on up Grant Avenue brought us to the Italian district with many authentic Italian restaurants. One building at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Broadway Street stood out with a beautiful jazz-themed mural on the walls.

Going down Columbus Avenue I came across my name on a junction betweenTaylor Street and Francisco ….. rather appropriate I thought.

The business district was clean and organized and with cable cars, trams, buses and a metro was extremely well set up for commuters. This area had some wonderful architecture including the unique Transamerica Pyramid building.

I took the opportunity during this brief visit to San Francisco to visit the Storehouse offices in 2nd Street. Being a big user of Storehouse for my photo stories it was an opportunity to meet the dynamic team – many thanks to Jenna Pirog for the kind invitation. It was great to chat to the team in person and see what they were working on. The office is a modern, open concept plan and has a relaxed and collaborative feel to it.

Touring the rest of the city we covered the famous Haight Ashbury district. Haight-Ashbury is a district of San Francisco, California, named for the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets. It is also called The Haight and The Upper Haight. The neighborhood is known for its history of hippie subculture.

The mainstream media’s coverage of hippie life in the Haight-Ashbury drew the attention of youth from all over America. Hunter S. Thompson labeled the district “Hashbury” in The New York Times Magazine, and the activities in the area were reported almost daily. The Haight-Ashbury district was sought out by hippies to constitute a community based upon counterculture ideals, drugs, and music. This neighborhood offered a concentrated gathering spot for hippies to create a social experiment that would soon spread throughout the nation. The opening of the Psychedelic Shop on January 3, 1966 offered hippies a spot to purchase marijuana and LSD, which was essential to hippie life in Haight-Ashbury. With the Psychedelic Shop located in the heart of Haight-Ashbury, the entire hippie community had easy access to drugs which was perceived as a community unifier. Thus, groovy and beautiful relationships could be formed by the binding experience of drugs. The neighborhood’s fame reached its peak as it became the haven for a number of the top psychedelic rock performers and groups of the time. Acts like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin all lived a short distance from the intersection. They not only immortalized the scene in song, but also knew many within the community as friends and family. Another well-known neighborhood presence was The Diggers, a local “community anarchist” group known for its street theatre who also provided free food to residents every day.

Waking the streets of San Francisco certainly keeps you fit and climbing up behind Chinatown to Nob Hill was no exception. From here however you got a good view of the Transamerica Pyramid building and the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge in the distance.

At the top of Nob Hill I visited the beautiful Grace Cathedral which had a tremendous visual display of ribbons suspended from the ceiling on which church members had written prayers, hopes and wishes. Also at the top of the hill there were some high class hotels such as the Fairmont Hotel and the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.

Along the waterfront there was much to see from the classic Ferry Building, Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill and of course Fisherman’s Wharf. We took the opportunity on Saturday morning to visit the Ferry Building where there was a farmer’s market and was surprised to see a statue of Ghandi here right behind the Ferry Building.

Looking out from the waterfront we could see the infamous Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) offshore from San Francisco. Often referred to as “The Rock”, the small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison (1868), and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. Beginning in November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of Aboriginal peoples from San Francisco who were part of a wave of Native activism across the nation with public protests through the 1970s. In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Further along the waterfront past Fisherman’s Wharf in the Marina District we visited the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District of San Francisco, California, is a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art presented there. One of only a few surviving structures from the Exposition, it is the only one still situated on its original site. It was rebuilt in 1965, and renovation of the lagoon, walkways, and a seismic retrofit were completed in early 2009.

In addition to hosting art exhibitions, it remains a popular attraction for tourists and locals, and is a favorite location for weddings and wedding party photographs for couples throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and such an icon that a miniature replica of it was built in Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim.

No visit to San Francisco would be complete without seeing the two famous bridges; the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge.

The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge (known locally as the Bay Bridge) is a complex of bridges spanning San Francisco Bay in California. As part of Interstate 80 and the direct road between San Francisco and Oakland, it carries about 240,000 vehicles a day on its two decks. It has one of the longest spans in the United States.

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate strait, the mile-wide, three-mile-long channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the U.S. city of San Francisco, on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, to Marin County, bridging both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. The bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, California, and the United States. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Frommers travel guide considers the Golden Gate Bridge “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world”. It opened in 1937 and had, until 1964, the longest suspension bridge main span in the world, at 4,200 feet (1,300 m).

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