Sunday, 15 September 2013
Many of the main streets are seedy and grubby, with lots of tacky tourist shops and stalls. The famous areas like Fishermans Wharf are jammed with tourists and day-trippers. There are long waits for the cable cars, as there aren't nearly enough of them to meet the demand. Most of the hotels are on busy thoroughfares and quite noisy at night.
That said, if you're willing to dump your inflated expectations and make the most of the city as it really is, there are many interesting and beautiful sights - and people. We visited quite a few of the well-known SF 'hoods, as well as Berkeley, and found all sorts of little gems and treasures.
We loved Castro, the gay district, where we visited the GLBT Museum and Harvey Milk's old camera shop. We loved swish North Beach and Nob Hill. We loved the Golden Gate Bridge and also the Bay Bridge, which is just as elegant and impressive. We loved the wide range of art in the De Young Museum. We loved the sixties time-warp of Haight-Ashbury. We loved the cool and studenty Uni of California campus at Berkeley.
But oh dear, it's such a chaotic and shambolic city compared to say, Vancouver or Sydney. It was hard to get a complete map of the bus routes, there's no direct bus from downtown to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Museum of Modern Art has been totally closed for enlargement for at least 18 months, and there were masses of derelict buildings. Plus the cable car shambles and the ubiquitous street-people I've already mentioned.
It's not a city I would want to live in or come back to. It's not even much fun to walk around because of all the steep hills - daunting even to the fit and healthy - and the crowded and shabby main streets. I'm puzzled as to why so many people are so enthusiastic about it. I guess its nostalgic reputation as a mecca of alternative culture and sophistication is way out of line with the reality, which is rather more prosaic and predictable.
Pic: Castro Street