San Francisco was definitely an unexpected and unique surprise.
I didn't have much time and I wanted to live the city directly as much as possible. So I decided to take a small rucksack and walk all around with no plans, no guides and without using public transport. I just had a small map that I had found in a tourist office. I saw nearly all San Francisco in 2 days. At the end my shoes were smoking and shouting "Enough mate!!!".
San Francisco for me represents perfectly the unquestionable dichotomy of the US. On one side of the same street you have multimillionaire houses, very well educated people, huge skyscrapers and on the other you have the thousands of homeless people, lost in their concrete forest, pushing a trolley full of rubbish, occasionally swearing at the sky with their lives burnt to the bone. It's heaven and hell. A bittersweet symphony of colours and sounds that at the end left me with a lot of thoughts in the middle of very thin air.
I know this will sound very trivial but the Golden Gate really struck me. Superimposing San Francisco Bay, it's a jewel of modern architecture and has a special sense of place.
I didn't want to see Alcatraz as I'm not a big fan of prisons.
The Castro is the gay and hippies quarter. I loved it! I saw a man about 55 years old completely naked enjoying the sun, a guy of about 150 Kg dressed like a ballet dancer and happy people kissing each other and holding their hands. Fantastic!
The Mission district is also very interesting. With its late 19th century houses and the Latin quarter is a very cool and particular remark in the history of the town.
I've had great fun walking up and down the numerous hills of the city under a mild sun! With the music of Miles Davis and Ali Farka Toure' in my headphones all this scenery became almost magic and I was losing myself in this corner of heaven. The climate really struck me. It was the end of November and it was like June in Italy!
Then I went to visit all the Marina district and the North Bay area. The only down side of the Marina district is Fisherman's Wharf. My god, what a pile of crap! The whole area is like a big Luna Park. Packed with tacky souvenir shops (next to many homeless people) and tourist's trap restaurants and bars. Said that, on Pier 39 I saw many seals enjoying the sun, I walked all around Fort Mason to end up at the Presidio.
A huge park where I had an amazing stroll on the beautiful beach of the Golden Gate Promenade, where many people played with their dogs and relaxed in the sunshine. I admired the Golden Gate, the 19th century colonial houses, the intriguing San Francisco cemetery and the gigantic Palace of Fine Arts (an imitation of our neoclassical European buildings).
The last night of my visit I slept in a very rough and cheap motel (earplugs and eye bandage it's a must). And I went to eat a lovely pizza (Italian style) and huge gelato at Delarosa. A noisy and hectic restaurant, where the food is delicious but also very expensive.
Remember, San Francisco is a very pricey city that offers a lot of attractions, but I believe that the best way to absorb it is through walking around timeless and with a camera always in your hand.
You never know, you might see things that you will not see ever again....
I will be back soon San Francisco. And next time I want to analyze the wine region!