“The first impression counts…”! Indeed, it’s not easy to question your first impression, but sometimes it is worth it. When we entered San Francisco the first time, we had a hard time liking it. It’s already dark when we arrive by train in the middle of the city. We had to give back our loved rental car. It was hard. UN-Plaza is the station we have to go out and the lights aren’t that bright, so we can barely see something. We turn around and even if we like dogs this one is very aggressive, he is barking at us. At least he is on a leash. His owner is a homeless and grinning at us. But it is not a welcome grinning, more like a “you shouldn’t be here at this time looking like tourists” grinning. Yes, that’s what we think. We don’t really know where to go but we know that we need to go somewhere else. Finally our orientation is back, it’s another three blocks straight. We are passing around 150 more homeless people lying on cartons, old mattresses or the cold concrete sleeping, discussing with each other, playing some music or taking drugs.
“we didn’t expect our first time with a city to be that…awkward”
“an unexpected and awkward ‘first time’ with this city”
We didn’t expect our first impression with a new city to be that…awkward.
Even in front of our hotel a few homeless people are waiting. Not for us, we hope. At least we are finally there and the lady from the reception explains us that we don’t have to be scared by them, it’s a part of San Francisco, it’s normal. Most of the people don’t do anything, just pass them she keeps telling us. She should be right. Anyway, every time Simone needs to go to the toilet, Tobias has to follow her until she is inside and locks the door (it is a shared toilet if somebody is wondering). Safety first.
On our first day we start walking to the north and end up at Union Square which turns out to be a huge shopping area. Simone feels in heaven and is just about to start shopping like a maniac – if she would be alone. First she keeps telling herself that Tobias is enjoying this as much as she does, but after a while it’s just too obvious that he is not We are entering China Town, which is not hard recognizing since it has this special smell and you can buy those cheap souvenirs everywhere.
We are nearly reaching the famous and curvy Lombard Street, but first we want to eat breakfast at “Mama’s Café”. It is supposed to be a Insider tip for the best breakfast in town. At least that’s what we read on the Internet. But that’s the problem with the Internet, everyone can read it. And obviously some people did! In front of “Mama’s Café” there is a 40m line. Two cliché hippie women from San Francisco are laughing at the other side of the street. It’s just too funny observing all those stupid tourists waiting at least one hour to get in. But not only tourists, the women tell us that frequent visitors buy a coffee at Starbucks first to get some coffein while waiting. This is just too crazy! We decide to leave and get a breakfast at the recommend place from the hippie ladies.
The Lombard Street is very neat and a great tourist spot. A lot of them are driving as slow as possible down the curvy streets to take as many pictures and videos as possible!
Next stop is Fisherman’s Wharf at the harbor. From there you have a nice view to Alacatraz. The only prison in the U.S. where no cold water was allowed while showering. So that the prisoners couldn’t get used to it and be prepared when swimming through the cold Pacific during their escape. While Tobias is dreaming from the Hollywood movie The Rock where Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage are saving the city, Simone is wondering what the hell he is thinking about!
Finally at Pier 39, five young Breakdancer want to start with their show and therefor make some noise for the audience to come. A few buckets, a rope and a non working CD Player – that’s all they got for their show. But they still nail it. It’s hilarious – they get bro’s with the Afro-Americans, making fun of the serious Germans and their non existing feeling for music and rhythm and laughing at the Chinese people and the way they are taking pictures. We see many of talented artists located in this area who are trying to make some money with their passion and finally quit their boring jobs.
The sun is shining and we keep going along the harbor till we get to the baseball stadium of the local heroes: the San Francisco Giants. Unfortunately there are no games going on this week – which is a shame since Simone bought many Giants merchandising articles. But you can imagine the passion and atmosphere for this team when you look at all the boards, statues and read the stories of their heroes.
Seeing all the beautiful things of San Francisco we can’t stop thinking about all the homeless we meet during the day. We want to know why there are so many and start researching a bit. Obviously there are a few different reasons and theories.
- The climate. A lot of the homeless are moving to the west coast because the winters are warmer than in the east. Maybe it is a legend, but they say that New York brings them in buses.
- Compared to other cities in the US, the social system in San Francisco is much higher. Furthermore there are many private institutions that try to help the poor. That is true, the San Francisco residents do a lot and we even experience that once when a businessman buys a homeless man something to eat and drink.
- San Francisco was and still is the main city of the hippies and not everyone recovered from their LSD trips in the 60ies.
America is not for everyone the “land of opportunity”. From the old mattress of a homeless in the center of the city until the house of a billionaire in Silicon Valley it is just about 39 miles or one hour driving. This big distance between the poor and rich is crazy to see in this modern world.
The next day we decide to rent a car – we got tired of walking around the whole day. We are lucky renting at Golden Gate Rides – Bike Rental (highly recommended!) because we are getting those brand new, ultra light sport bikes of Cannondale. The perfect way to cruise easy and comfortable to Alamo Square and to have a glimpse on the five famous painted ladies.
On our way to one of the hippest areas in town Haight Ashbury we pass the very first icecream shop of the famous “Ben & Jerrys“. Wow, this is history.
In one of these typical Hippie Cafés in this area we get the power for our big bike tour the next few hours. It starts in the recommended Golden Gate Park. But we don’t get it. People told us that we are going to see something similar to London’s Hyde Park or the Central Park in New York. They say it is even more fascinating. But not for us – at least we can’t find this thing which makes the park so special. It’s more the opposite. A lot of weird people again, nothing special, we don’t have the feeling that someone takes good care of the park. And which makes it even more annoying is this strong and icy wind we have to deal with. We already heard that the summer in San Francisco can be very uncomfortable, but we didn’t expect it to be that uncomfortable. But to concentrate on the good thing: the most exciting we find are all the old men being the happiest men in the world with battling each other with their radio controlled sailing boats!
We are reaching the west coast of the city which is the end of the park and from the city also. There you have an amazing view on the cold Pacific with its huge waves and the foggy atmosphere. We are riding our bikes from the Ocean Beach, passing Sutro Baths and finally reach the Golden Gate Bridge.
A very nice route for a city bike tour and a good workout as well. In the richer area Tobias is spotting a dark gray Lamborghini Diablo SV from 1995 which definitely makes his day. Simone is super excited as well – at least this is what Tobias is thinking.
There are many ways and perspectives to look at the legendary Golden Gate Bridge. It feels like we are seeing all of them. And of course we are crossing the bridge. Back and forth with this very strong wind which makes it hard to control your bike and not crash into one of the other tourists. Definitely something you will never forget!
San Francisco is full of hidden lovely places…and while we are happy being here and are amazed by all the details we see, we finally stop at the steepest street of the city: the Jones Street. We don’t know that until a nice lady in her 60ies comes and can’t believe what we are planning to do: driving all the way up. Tobias just ignores her – damn, he is used to the mountains living his whole life in South Tyrol and Simone gives up after – let’s say 30 seconds. Because she knows very soon: this is not gonna work. The nice lady offers her to help pushing the bike. Simone refuses. Maybe she can’t drive up the hill, but with 29 she should be able to push this bike by her own. But no chance, the lady helps her anyway…
Just so you know, Tobias didn’t make the whole way
Our third and unfortunately last day we do all the classics: the big shopping street, the Transamerica Pyramid, Financial District, Washington Square, little Italy with the famous Café Trieste where all the artists, directors, actors and musicians got to, to drink the best Espresso and to feel the inspiring atmosphere.
Francis Ford Coppola wrote parts of “The Godfahter” in this Café.
We don’t want to leave the city without taking one of the famous cable cars, that’s why we decide jumping on one of that in the end.
And that’s it. There are so many different sides of San Francisco and for sure we haven’t seen all of them. You need to take your time for this city to fall in love with it. That’s the feeling we had. But now we know that we want to come back one day!
Because of a family emergency we had to interrupt our trip here. We skipped a few places and countries and now started again in Costa Rica!