California is the state of my dreams. Both me and my friends traveling in California come back from there with one thought: "It is a place where you feel very unusual, get high spirits and inspiration; it’s a feeling that cannot be conveyed".
A few years ago, my wife and I began our trip in Hawaii, then took a car and drove from ocean to ocean across the States. Considering all the stops for attractions and national parks, we spent a little more than a month. Moving from state to state, we observed how nature and people change, saw a lot of places that looked like paradise, but none we loved more than California. So I’d like to tell more about one of its cities.
The first thing every passenger faces after getting off the plane are the Customs and Border Guard. Officers work here, standing out not by physical parameters, but by asking the right questions. Their task is to protect the state from casual visitors.
After leaving the plane, you get into a long queue, which is divided by types of documents (residents of the country, B1 / B2 visas, and many others). On average, the queue lasts for about half an hour, but that time beat all the records - we waited for over an hour. The queue ends with officers booths. One by one visitors approach them, hand documents and answer several standard questions: the purpose of the visit, how long will they stay in the US, and where will they live. Depending on the circumstances, the questions may vary. If the officer has doubts about the plausibility of the information, and to avoid the delay of the queue, he can send a visitor to a special room for other officers to inspect the visitor more thoroughly.
After successfully passing the control, grab your suitcases and get ready for an unusual adventure!
There are multiple ways to get from the airport to San Francisco: by taxi or Shuttle bus, take BART, rent a car. Of course, in case you want to repeat the route of St. Francis, you can go on foot ;).
BART is a local subway (Bay Area Rapid Transit), it has many branches in the neighborhood of San Francisco and in the city itself. The fare from the airport to the city is $9, while Uber will cost about $25.
For those planning to live in the city and see sights in the vicinity of the city, it is worth buying a travel card for Muni (municipal transport). Or, if you have plans to travel far beyond the city, for example to national parks, it’s better to rent a car right at the airport, though you should first make sure your hotel has parking lots, and find out its prices. Often, parking lots are not free and can cost you about $ 50 / day, which is usually more than the cost of renting a car. Another feature of car rental in the United States is a way of payment. No matter how much cash you have, you will be asked for a bank card, and it should be a credit card. This way companies protect themselves from possible financial problems in case of unforeseen events. But at the airports these rules are softer. They often accept debit cards with funds reserved until the car is returned.
There are many contrasts in San Francisco. People’s behavior, clean streets, architecture, cuisine - you will find here both what you like, and what you’d rather avoid. Passing through the downtown, you can’t help paying attention to high-rise buildings - some new, some old, and some with certain historical value.
My first encounter with the city took place on Market street, that’s going through downtown. During the day, it’s bustling with workers from skyscrapers minding their business. Sometimes it’s impossible to get through the crowd to cross the street. In the evening everything stops, office employees leave for their homes, and on the streets only homeless people can be seen, sleeping in front of shops.
The city is not all skyscrapers. As soon as you leave the downtown areas, the city turns into low-rise residential areas with houses and hotels, in both typical San Francisco style and the usual modern ones. One of the attractions in the city is the Lombard street. It’s in the form of a snake, with cars slowly moving along it, and crowds of tourists shooting this unusual sight.
Market street ends with Embarkadero - a boulevard along the coast. Right at their intersection is one of the attractions - Ferry building, from which ferries leave for neighboring towns. Interestingly, many attractions remain active today and are maintained at a decent level of interior and quality of service. Inside the building there are administrative offices, restaurants, and even a market.
A ferry of a standard size accommodates more than 200 people, there is a small bar on board, and a passenger area of two rows of decks with comfortable seats and tables, which were one of my favorite places to work. Once, I lived forty miles from San Francisco in the town of Vallejo. The ferry there takes an hour, with landscapes constantly changing on both sides of the ferry: the Golden Gate Bridge, the Angel Island, the town of Sausolito, Alcatraz and many other beautiful sights.
Let’s continue our promenade on Embarcadero. There you can see interesting combinations of natural and urban. Skyscrapers, small parks, carriageway for cars and bicycles, quay, piers and the ocean. A row of palms neatly separates the business district from the quay.
Every time I've been there, I’d always take a bike (they are offered a lot within a block), drove along the entire waterfront to the Golden Gate Bridge and then on to Sausolito.
Driving down the Embarcadero for 2 km, we get to Pier 39 - a pier rebuilt as a tourist place. There are a lot of restaurants and ethnic cafes, a mini theater with actors working for tips and tourists’ favorite attraction - sea lions, which were given the whole dock. On the water, wooden pontoons were installed for the lazy sea inhabitants to lay for days, diving only to catch some fish, have a snack and then return to their place. It’s very interesting to watch them, as each one shows its character if someone takes his place. My favorite place on this dock is Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. This restaurant, inspired by Forrest Gump, serves all possible dishes from shrimps, to snacks, to soups and salads.
Our walk continues along the bay and in half an hour we see wonderful views over the Golden Gate and Sausolito. The site is a few kilometers between the Golden Gate and San Francisco - a suburban area with a yacht club, a former airfield that now serves as a huge meadow for picnics and sporting events, and also an access to the Golden Gate Park and the bridge itself.
The bridge is open for both cars and pedestrians. Since the width of the pedestrian zone is only about two meters, bicycle trails are bounded by signs. Only on the bridge do you understand the grandeur of this structure. The bridge was a great technological breakthrough and also made travelling more comfortable, connecting San Francisco with the suburbs on the other side of the bay. It was built in 1937 and for almost thirty years it remained the largest hanging bridge in the world with a total length of over 2700 meters. More than its physical characteristics, the bridge is also known for sad suicide statistics - over 1,200 people jumped from it into the waters of the bay. Another interesting fact - the bridge is a target of photographers from all around the world. Depending on the weather it looks differently and allows you to create exciting pictures. Photos of the Golden Gate Bridge can be found in many magazines, books, and postcards.
The area near the bridge is called Presidio (Fort). Formerly on both sides of the bridge on the hills there were defensive fortifications, and in the bay the fort and moorings.
Transport communication in the city is represented by trams: surface and underground. Surface trams in San Francisco are yet another point of interest on their own. All trams are very old, restored and brought here for the parade of trams. When underground branches were built under the city, the surface trams were closed, but the parade was held every year. After some time the idea gained such popularity that the annual parade was turned into a daily tram service. Until now, trams from different cities of the USA, Europe and even the USSR go for a drive.
The oldest tram - Cable Car - deserves special attention. This tram was launched in the second half of the XIX century, does not have its own engine and is moved by a cable rotated by the engine at the terminal station of the tram line. The tram is managed by two charismatic guys who, using levers, either stop the cab or hook it to the cable and accelerate. The technology of the XIX century is quite inconvenient and causes even greater discomfort for the operators whenever a car stops on the way of the tram while driving up. Some operators seriously, and some to maintain the charm, ring the bell on the roof of the car, shout, and whistle at such car drivers.
These cabs are incredibly popular among tourists. On weekends, passengers hang from the steps to the road just to take a ride on the sights and feel part of this unique performance.
Equidistant from the shores of the bay is Alcatraz. Once a defensive fortress, then a prison, and now a historical place, lively hotspot for tourists. The prison is known for its severity and escape bids. Almost all attempts were stopped; in the history of the prison there was only one successful escape by three prisoners that have never been found afterwards. It is not known whether they reached the shore or drowned, but the story of their escape is a tale of painstaking labor. For a whole year, three prisoners planned their escape and dug a tunnel in a concrete wall with tablespoons.
Labor in prison was the privilege of prisoners with exemplary behavior. There were many activities; for example, Al Capone worked in the library and laundry.
From the island opens a wonderful view on San Francisco, but this was not considered an advantage - imagine, the prisoners saw from afar how the city lives and develops, but realized that they can not get there.
It feels like the people here represent all countries of the world and all possible professions, they all have different interests and values, but there are certain rules, or culture, that nobody violates. Any bypasser can have a chat with you, in the elevator or in transport.
Such is their nature of communication - why silently stand together and hide your head when you can smile and chat for a couple minutes. By the way, business development gets an additional impetus due to such openness. Regardless of whether you are sitting in a park, running in a gym or participating in a conference, you can meet like-minded people or support an interesting idea. Or maybe share your thoughts with a future business partner.
A feature by which one can determine the cultural level of the people is respect for the position of another person. Despite the openness of people, you can count on untouchability. If a bypasser accidentally brushes against you, he will apologize. In a narrow passage no one tries to pass first by force. And the most interesting is the queue. Anyone approaching it simply takes his place in the queue, not trying to organize a second line or crowd near the entrance.
Another feature of San Francisco, and the rest of America, are the construction repair works. They are frequent, but are not the reason to block the street or, conversely, to not recondition at all. Scaffolds are built above the pavement to serve as shelter for pedestrians and storefronts. This design does not limit the movement and does not even interfere with cars and trucks driving into parking lots or pick up passengers at hotel doors.
P.S. After rereading this short passage of my thoughts about San Francisco, it seems to me that I did not say anything at all. This city is so multifaceted and interesting that I wish each of you to visit it, form your own perspective, and share them with your friends!