So after my walk in the Mission, it was time to trot over to the Castro; only a few blocks away but a 180-degree shift in local culture. As the Haight was the infamous center of '60's Flower Power, so Castro is the capitol of the GLBT movement. They fly the rainbow flag proudly here and everything from shops to billboards to social services openly support and celebrate the freedom and acceptance of alternative lifestyles.
It hasn't been easy. The 1978 assassination of San Francisco Supervisor and beloved community member, Harvey Milk, social intolerance and the ongoing battle against the AIDS virus have created challenging times for this neighborhood but they continue to gain admirable ground through creative, charitable, educational, spiritual and cultural contributions to greater San Francisco.
This is a particularly lovely district of beautifully restored Victorians constructed in the 1800's by immigrant families when the area was known as Eureka Valley. Front porches and stairways overflow with potted and trellised flora during the warmer months, and many of the streets were lined with trees in full spring bloom on my April walk. There are also great restaurants and lively bars for refueling and rehydrating.
Some come as curiosity seekers; to gawk at the locals and to point their cameras at those who look/behave a little differently than what's normal in Smalltown, USA. Please, these are nice people and this is their turf so be good guests, mind your manners and check any personal biases at the door.
It is said that this is where San Francisco began. Mission Doloroes was established by Father Junipero Serra in 1776 and the building was completed in 1791.
In this picture, the original mission is the smaller mission-style building on the left. To the right is the Basilica, which replaced a parish church destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. The Basilica was completed in 1918.
The inside of the chapel is beautiful and ornate. The ceilings replicate the original Ohlone Indian designs.
This is a peaceful place to reflect, regardless of your religious persuasion.
Pretty much everyone has heard of the Castro District as the world's most famous gay neighborhood, and I for one was very curious to see it. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but I was thinking something along the lines of Montreal's gay village, only bigger and perhaps even funkier. However, I was a bit surprised to see that apart from a few rainbow flags, the Castro is a pretty down-to-earth, mostly residential neighborhood. It's a really charming area, with plenty of nice little cafes on Castro Street, but I'm guessing that a lot has changed since the days Harvey Milk used to run his camera store. It's still worth stopping by if only to enjoy the fun and casual atmosphere around Castro Street, but it seems to me like Montreal's "Le Village" has more to offer in terms of diversity and culture.
or so was i told!
a few years back, i always loved the rainbow colours, then discovered it was the peace flag, then little by little it was 'converted' to be the gay flag, i wonder in the next years who will claim it again? :D
this district is usually very crammed and crowded over summers for the famous San Francisco Pride - one of the must-see event in the bay area
this place is surprisingly - at least to me - very expressive of the sexuality of the gay community in SF or perhaps in whole california! rainbow flags are everywhere, all men walking hand in hand no exception, and the commercial ads all say one line 'Are You Gay. com'! though haven't see any women really!
another interesting point besides the expressiveness level, california state still considers gay marriage to be illegal regardless of how gay-friendly it can be. domestic partnership is benefit-restricted for gay couples compared to the marriage benefits.
this very contradictory and interesting!
The Castro District, the old Irish working-class neighborhood that in the 1970s became an internationally famous gay enclave. As gays won increasing social acceptance and began moving out to the suburbs in search of lawns and detached homes, the Castro’s reputation for good shopping, easygoing ways and cultural amenities made it a magnet for straight singles and families. Though the neighborhood still has a large gay presence, it’s on its way to becoming a quintessentially mixed San Francisco neighborhood.
The Castro is bustling all day long, but at night it really comes alive, as the bars from the Mint to the Midnight Sun fill up and the Castro Theatre's neon marquee lights up the main drag. Though the Castro's nightlife doesn't have as much to offer women as many dykes would like, it remains a fairly safe neighborhood after hours, and there are plenty of places where women, queer or not, can feel at home.
Any visit to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without a wonder through the neighbourhood called The Castro. What most surprised me about this area was how suburban it felt. The second interesting thing about this neighbourhood is that it has heaps of good restaurants that aren't very expensive. In fact, if the prices of inner city restaurants are giving you worries, head out here on the subway or bus and eat well, for reasonable prices. On my way back from the nearby Mission District on foot, I stopped here for a Japanese dinner that was excellent. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the restaurant.
Apart from the restaurants there isn't much else to do in The Castro, but a visit there adds to one's collection of San Francisco experiences.
Whether you are gay or straight, the Castro is a great neighborhood to visit in San Francisco. Take either the old restored antique trolleys to the end of the line along Market, or if in a hurry, take the underground Muni train (you can also get a Muni transfer and take each in either direction from downtown if your trip to the Castro is only two hours). The Castro district is named for the developer in the 19th century who built many of the fine Victorian homes that cling to the hillsides above the central business district. In any case, the Castro is filled with disco bars with high self-expressive people, and there are a number of excellent restaurants here. The Castro Theater stocks amusing cross-dress productions of interest to the gay and lesbian audience, but will entertain straights as well. The Castro is active all year, but obviously a good time to go is during Gay Pride Day, at the end of the parade. The Castro has evolved quite a bit from the late 70's when I first visited it regularly. During the 80's the neighborhood was quite depressed over the AIDS epidemic, but those days are gone. Now, boutique stores, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and discoes keep the action going long into the night. The micro-climate of the Castro District is sunny and warm, relative to Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square, and so this is a good place to find a well-kept B&B. For those with healthy legs, a stroll through the Castro District can be followed by a hike downhill to the venerable Mission Dolores and the Latino Neighborhood of the MIssion District. Head to 16th and Mission to catch BART back to downtown. It's also possible to grab a bus between the two neighborhoods, of course.
Drive down Market Street toward Twin Peaks and you will cross Castro Street with its towering rainbow flag marking the entrance to The Castro District: the Gayest Spot on Earth! The main business area of The Casto covers just two blocks from Market to 19th Street along Castro Street, but the residential area is significantly larger. The main landmark in the Castro is the Castro Theater, built in 1922, it was designed to resemble the basilica of Mission Dolores--its giant pink "CASTRO" sign ensures all visitors know their location. This is one of the largest gay neighborhoods in America and is home to the annual Gay Pride Parade.
Castro Street was named for José Castro who was the governor of Mexican California and the commanding General of the area during the Mexican-American War. In case you were wondering (like I was) José Castro had no known relation to Juan B. Castro, the founder of Castroville (the artichoke capital of the world) in Monterey County.
The entire city of San Francisco has this laid back feel to it that makes you feel welcome, no matter who you are. But what I found most appealing was that it was a place where people felt comfortable being themselves. The Castro district seemed to exemplify that feel of the city, at least for me. Not to mention, it was very colourful.
The SF Gay Pride is definitively the largest in the world. No comparison with the Paris one.
The parade on Market Street begins at 10AM and lasts between 3 and 4 hours.
Bring your sit or rent one. Mind the sun : I got a sunburn there
All the societies and groups are represented. The politicians are also present.
The main topics of 2004 are :
- the homosexual weddings
- the presidential election
- the imprisonment of Gwen (but who is Gwen ?)
More pictures on the Travelogue : Gay Pride 2004
San Francisco is well known for having the largest gay comunity in the USA and their neighborhood is the Castro District. It's fun to go there and get to know the ambiance. It's a lively zone, with gay flags in most of the houses
There are also many shops, restaurants and bars in this area and a theater, the Castro Theater, an old movie palace that plays classic films.
The wonderful Castro theatre is great to visit anytime of the year, but they have special classic and more recent holiday films in December (Nightmare before Christmas, Miracle on 34th St, Its a Wonderful Life, etc.).
But the best part is before the movie, they often play 15 minutes of holiday songs on the wurlitzer organ that magically rises from the below the stage. The Castro's interior is very diverse and has Spanish, Oriental and Italian influences. The auditorium seats over 1400 people. The theatre was built in 1922 and features murals inside.
The Castro district (the main gay district) - I met some of the nicest people there on my trip. It was the only place where I stood with my map in my hands (disorientated again) where someone came up and asked me if I needed help. Again, just really interesting to wander up and down the streets and have a coffee. Some nice health food shops in this area also. There are some great muriels on some of the walls and a really old movie theatre if you're interested in architechture.
The Castro district is famous worldwide for being a very tolerant, liberal, and accepting area for homosexuals. This is the place where the annual San Francisco Gay Pride parade is held every year, as well as the Castro Halloween gathering. However, don't let this stop you from visiting if you are heterosexual. It is a fun, colorful neighborhood with lively cafes, unique shops, and just a wonderful energetic atmosphere. You can reach the Castro district via the L, N, K, and J lines easily from downtown (just a few stops away from Powell Station). It is the liveliest on the weekends!
It's really hard for me to believe that recently, city officials were going to close down The Castro Theatre to make way for a Cineplex, and was only saved by extensive lobbying and petitions.
You will understand why when you see this stunning theatre, originally built for silent pictures in the 1920's. The interior is complete with grecian columns, twin opera boxes, and painted frescoes on the walls. I'll let you in a little secret -- the gorgeous bronze ceiling is actually made out of cardboard. The original box office remains intact outside the theatre, when many other vintage box offices at other theatres have been dismantled due to theft and vandalism.
Though the theatre is located in the Castro District, and is home to gay and lesbian cinema, they also show classic movies and foreign films.