Information / Sources, San Francisco
Go to the corner of Market & 2nd Streets...there you will find a Rand McNally
Store, you know maps, books, etc, very serious travel info...anyway ask for a copy of
Rand McNally' San Francisco Cross Street Directory. The Bible for serious Bike Messengers, Cabbies, and other Delivery type persons...never, leave home (your hotel, hostel, friends house etc) without it. Now you're ready to ROCK...SF unlike most American cities, is easy in terms of size to navigate, ( traffic permitting) by whichever means you choose...Apprx 49 m2, or 126.90 km2 in area...
View on San Francisco
Fondest memory: History of San Francisco
A Spanish writer at the end of the 15th century wrote a made-up story about a far land, he called California. The streets are paved with gold and jewelry. This fable gave the Spanish great spirit to find such a place and to exploit it for the next two hundred years. The Spanish never found any gold along the Northern Coastline the name is still California.
San Francisco became an important trading post for the Spanish and afterwards for the explorers. Its Bay is one of the biggest natural harbours of the world and is protected on three sides by land. In 1848, it was still a very small town of about 800 inhabitants, but after the “gold rush” of 1849 San Francisco grew fast from 800 to 340,000 inhabitants in the next few decades. The city was built on money, bribes and corruption. Opiumhuts flourished in Chinatown and brothels along the north beaches. Unstable wooden buildings spread over the hills in a disorganised way.
In 1906 San Francisco was struck by the famous notorious big earthquake. The fires destroyed the town. After this designers were gathered for a meeting to recreate the town as we know it today.
San Francisco covers the tip of a 30 mile (50km) peninsula in Northern California, with the Pacific Ocean on its western side and the San Francisco Bay to the north and east. San Francisco is just one of many cities in the Bay Area; others include Oakland (east across the Bay Bridge), Berkeley (just north of Oakland) and San Jose (an hour's drive southeast of San Francisco, near the southern tip of the bay). Marin County and the Wine Country lie to the north, across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The most touristed part of the city resembles a slice of pie, with Van Ness Ave and Market St making the two sides and the Embarcadero the round edge of the pie. The steaming toppings of this homebaked slice are the classy shops around Union Square, the highrise Financial District, the classy Civic Center, the down-and-out Tenderloin, swanky Nob Hill and Russian Hill, Chinatown, North Beach and the epicenter of tourist kitsch, Fisherman's Wharf. To the south of Market St lies SoMa, an upwardly mobile warehouse zone of clubs and bars that fades in the southwest into the Mission, the city's Latino quarter, and then the Castro, the center of gay life.
The vast swathe from Van Ness Ave west to the Pacific Ocean encompasses upscale neighborhoods like the Marina and Pacific Heights, ethnically diverse zones like the Richmond and Sunset districts as well as the self-conscious timewarp of Haight-Ashbury. Three of the city's great parklands - the Presidio, Lincoln Park and Golden Gate Park - are also in this area.
Making a circuit of the 49-Mile Drive is a good way to check out almost all of the city's highlights. The route is well posted with instantly recognizable seagull signs, but a map and an alert navigator are essential. Do yourself a favor and allow a whole day to complete the circuit.
The Bay Area has three major airports. San Francisco International Airport is on the bay side of the Peninsula, 14 miles (22km) south of the city center. The city of Oakland, at the eastern end of the Bay Bridge, has its own airport 8 miles (13km) south of downtown. San Jose International Airport, at the southern end of the bay, is a few miles north of downtown San Jose and an hour's drive from San Francisco.
Greyhound is the only regular long distance bus company operating to the city - all bus services arrive and depart at the Transbay Terminal in SoMa. Amtrak's rail network connects the Bay Area with the rest of the continental US and Canada. Its main stations are in Oakland and Emeryville, both in the East Bay. CalTrain links San Francisco with the peninsula and San Jose; its depot is in SoMa.
I started our roundtrip through the western part of the USA in San Francisco I stayed here for a couple of days before we went on. I am not a real city person but San Francisco has stolen my heart!
I picked a hotel near Fisherman's Wharf. This turned out to be a very handy starting point. The cable car stopped just 1 block from our hotel. This is a very easy and fun way of traveling around in the city. It's mainly for tourists, but local people use it too. There is a time schedule, but the cable cars don't stick to it very well. But there are a lot of them around and we never needed to wait for a long time.
There is a lot to see in this city and this is what I did :
China Town is amazing. Don't forget to go to eat in a chinese restaurant. Good food and good prices. But look out for one that the local people go to.
Alcatraz An absolute must! You can't visit San Francisco without going to Alcatraz!
The Golden Gate Bridge is so famous, you don't want to miss it.
Pier39 : I loved it! All those sea lions making all that noise in the middle of a big city... amazing!
Fisherman's Wharf This a real tourist attraction. It is not my cup of tea, to touristy. All kinds of tourist shops and attractions packed together.
And there is so much more to see and do in this city. Just look at all the great buildings and fantastic Victorian houses. Just go there and take a look for yourself!
Background on a city is always helpful when traveling. Take note of the following as you discover and re-discover the magic of San Francisco.
Surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, San Francisco's compact 46 square miles (125 sq. km.) crowd the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula.
'The City' has a population of 723,959; nevertheless it looms large in the imagination as the hub of the greater Bay Area. The nation's fifth largest metropolitan region registers a population of 6 million and hosts over 16 million visitors, conventioneers and business travelers each year.
The San Francisco Bay Area has some of the best weather in the nation. For year-round temperatures and a comprehensive five-day weather forecast.
Another thing that says something about the people of San Francisco, apart from the better known things like that the Haight District is where the whole hippie movement started [local columnist Herb Caen invented the term 'hippie' as a bit of a slap to what he saw as young punks trying to use the Beat Generation's (also an SF thing, centered in North Beach) definition of 'hip' as an excuse for lazing around, thus 'hippie', sort of like a small hip person)(Haight Street actually declared itself a seperate republic for a short spell, but when the authorities did nothing about it everyone must have felt they lacked something and just sort of forgot about it) and other things, are in one event and one old personage.
The person was Emperor Norton. Norton was a fat cat end of the 19th century, rail money I think, but lost it all and took to drink. His wealthy friends took pity on him because he was a)harmless and b)funny. his mind sort of started drifting from its moorings. Here was a guy who was essentially a prototype homeless, eating in the best restaurants and staying for free at the Mark Hopkins and the Fairmont hotels, his amused friends footing the bill.
One day Norton declares himself Emperor of the World, insisting everyone address him as such. And they did and it just sort of stuck. Then one day norton decides he will print his own money and starts waving it around insisting he'll pay this time. His friends, all wealthy, instruct the waiters and such to accept it and they'll make good on it. Eventually so much Norton cash was floating around town that people not even remotely connected with this crowd started using it as an unofficial local currency.
That's local colour story #1.
#2 is that when Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead died, they flew a tie-dye flag at half mast from city hall.
I mean, you just gotta love it.
Fondest memory: Going to see Brritt Alley - where Miles Archer, partner to Sam Spade, was shot to death at the beginning of "The Maltese Falcon" (the book and the film). There is a plaque there commerating this fictional event.
But be warned - it tells whodunnit!
Off Bush Street, just west of the top of the Stockton Tunnel - the small dead-end alley next to the Tunnel Top Bar (good drum 'n' bass bar owned by French people).
Favorite thing: San Francisco is quite accurately known for its tolerant, liberal atmosphere...one that seems to breed wild eccentricities. A visitor from more conservative regions or countries should be aware that some of the behaviour of the city's citizens, whether they be homeless or nouveaux riches, can be either curious, amusing, or horrifying. Like a true San Franciscan, either ignore such things or pretend to do so. You must keep an open mind and not observe people's behaviour as if they are clowns in a circus. Some of th people on the street are deliberately putting on a show, and it is polite courtesy to pay attention. But if somone is attempting to bring a cause to attention, it is wiser to respect that than to mock said person or, worst of all, treat him or her like a street ornament to be photographed. Of course, capturing the mood of the city on film is a worthwhile activity, but in attempting to do so, do not alienate the subjects by appearing to be more of a tourist looking for something to put into a vacation album than a serious urban anthropologist type. Most of all, do not label people with nicknames or stereotypes, or do so in a loud and brandishing fashion. Do not even attempt to do so while in private conversation with someone from the city. San Franciscans are sensitive to their city's diversity, both of race and of ideology, and will not appreciate what they will perceive as closed-mindedness. Appreciate the city's eccentric residents, do not be put off by them or treat them as curiosities.
San Francisco has been, appropriately, called the most Asian city in the United States for its high proportion of Asian residents. However, the presence of Europe is also highly evident in the newsstands selling European periodicals and the murmuring of European tongues echoing through the streets. If one is looking to absorb an Asian atmopshere, Chinatown is of course the first neighbourhood that springs into one's mind. However, farther from downtown, Japantown, or Nihonmachi with its large Japan Center mall, is a centre for Japanese-American culture in the city, and the Richmond District, far from Chinatown's droves of tourists, has been described as the new heart of Chinese San Francisco. The Japanese influence is also evident in the form of the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Of course, most of San Francisco's predominately Asian neighbourhoods aren't uniformly Chinese or Japanese but also include Koreans, Vietnamese, Laosians, Cambodians, Thais, Burmese, Malaysians, Filipinos, and many other diverse groups. And the Asian presence in San Francisco has spread far from its traditional centres, reaching every corner of the city. Much of the city's famed California haute-cuisine is a fusion of Asian and European cuisinary styles. Asian newspapers are readily available everywhere, and many, if not most, signs have translations into Chinese and sometimes other Asian tongues.
Fondest memory: As aforementioned, the European influence on San Francisco seems to be just as strong as the famed Asian one. In fashionable Union Square, the second language of those engaged in faire des courses is French. In fact, on a Saturday spent there, I observed that at least 20% or more of the pedestrians in the area were speaking French. In fact, San Francisco has the largest number of French expatriates in the United States. There is a French embassy in the area containing the fashionable Hotel Trianon and the Cafe de la Presse, at Bush and Grant Streets. And Belden Place, once a staid Financial District alley, has become the regional centre for French cuisine, with grand restaurants and street cafes. On Belden Place also is the largest Bastille Day celebration in the United States. If it is Italian flair on is looking for, North Beach, the traditional centre for Italian immigrants and beatnik poets alike, has become a centre for expatriate Italians and Italian tourists alike, who come to dine at the fashionable restaurants along Columbus Avenue, speaking their tongue in rapid-fire fashion. The previously mentioned Richmond District, which is becoming a centre for Asian settlement, maintains an aura of Russian influence as well, with onion-domed Orthodox churches and one of the largest Russian-born populations in the country. It should come as no surprise that San Francisco is a centre for Russian culture in the US, as Russia once sought to extend its influence over the area in the 18th and early 19th centuries, when it built Fort Ross just north of the city. The name of Russian Hill has long been a curiosity, and local legend tells of gravestones found with Cyrillic inscriptions.
Asia and Europe are not the only continents influencing this cosmopolitan metropolis. Australians have begun moving here as well, and the Latin American presence in the Mission District has been well-established for a decade.
Favorite thing: gasoline is Most expensive in California since about $ 0.64 cents per gallon are allocated to federal, state and county taxes (connecticut is 2nd at $ 0.62 cents per gallon and New York third at $ 0.60 cents per gallon) hence gas is expensive in California and since San francisco has a high cost of living, many gas stations relocated to san mateo county and east bay hence you see less gas stations in San francisco County.
ATM's have become both a boon and bane for everyday life. A boon for convenience since you can have instant cash 24/7 but a bane for spending since you are tempted to spend a lot more. San Francisco offers Automated Teller Machines (atm's) which comes at different shapes and sizes and of different consortium and it accepts local and international types and the transaction charges differ per conortium that operates it. it can be as low as $ 2 to a high of $ 5 per transaction (which is different from the bank charge of between $ 1 to $ 4 so for a total of between $ 3 to $ 9) so my advice would be that you withdraw BIG ($ 300 or more) since the transaction and banking charge are constant on whatever amount you withdraw.
ATM's are available everywhere, whether in Department Stores, Kiosks, Banks, Stores , tour company offices, restaurants (even in Mitchell's Ice Cream!).
Ok Enjoy Shopping and Touring!
Fondest memory: get ready to spend!
Part 2 of ATM Tips and here you can see different shapes and sizes of various ATM's and the consortiums they accept like Mastercard, Cirrus, Meastro, Plus, Pulse, Quest, Credit Union, NYCE, Accel and A Lot more!
again a Caveat: always withdraw more than $ 100 (the allowed maximum withdrawal is $ 1,000 a day) since the ATM and Bank charges are Fixed between $ 4 to 9 depending on the consortium and bank so if you will just withdraw $ 20, forget it and just use you credit card!
Fondest memory: again be ready to tour and shop till you drop!
ATM's are available everywhere!
Favorite thing: How much space do I have - I could go on and on. This just has to be my favourite city. I don't have enough words in my vocabulary to describe my feelings for San Francisco. Its just a shame that I live so far away - oh well, thats enough of my ramblings. I just hope that you enjoy the place as much as I do.
The location you have chose is very nice and very close to public transportation. You can walk one block to Church Street, where you take the J Church Street streetcar. This will take you to Market Street ( which is not far). At this intersection you can catch a bus or streetcar heading into just about every area of the city. I do not know about cost of car rental, but the public transportation will get you anyplace you want to go, unless you are planning a trip across one of the bridges. Again if you have any questions, I will be happy to reply if I can.
Fondest memory: San Francisco is a beautiful city with fantastic views.
It's usually rather quiet in SF on Christmas Day, with fewer crowds and less traffic than normal, but there will be things going on in Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf. Also, it should be easier to catch a ride on the cable cars! Personally, I'd spend some time strolling the neighborhoods (the "Hidden Cities" of San Francisco).
As for restaurants that will be open - check on OpenTable.com. You can find out what's open and also a price range.
San Francisco is my all-time favorite city! And it's even more charming during its quiet times, like Christmas Day, or early in the morning when the trucks are making their deliveries of fresh produce to the little neighborhood groceries!
@ Powell Station, Union Sq, Downtown SF
My SF trip started here at Tourist Info Ctr. They've got lots of brochures and flyers on every aspects / activities available in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Get a map, ask for experts' advices, grab a light snack from a shop nearby. SF Muni Passport can be purchased here, as well as day trips and travel packages. It's also a good, quiet place to sit for a while and meet some fellow travelers who might share some interests.