Tony Bennett’s song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, isn’t a good impression of San Francisco. He makes the song so silky, smooth, deep, vibrant and charming, but my impression of San Francisco didn’t give me that.
After my PCH trip, I started driving up to San Francisco and of course, I had to be greeted by the severe traffic that doubled the time for me to get to downtown San Francisco.
Just like a lot of other cities in US, but more so in San Francisco, there were a lot of homeless people scattered around downtown. Not that I’m against them or anything, but to be honest it does dent the image of the city. If anything, San Francisco’s impression to me was similar to that of my impression towards Paris – dirty, old, overrated in charm or romanticism.
For some of you, you may enjoy the slopes and hills that San Francisco was built on, whether for driving or for walking purposes. I felt indifferent, but of course walking around the city was a bit more challenging than usual.
That said, I do notice that San Francisco has some very interesting architecture… the city resembled Barcelona in that sense in that some of their architectures were quite peculiar.
For those of you who’ve never been to San Francisco before, the city has got one of the most expensive hotel rooms I’ve ever rented, especially based on its value! I didn’t come to this realization until I entered my room, and I was thinking to myself… how the f did it even get more than 3 stars!?
I stayed at Calista Organic Hotel (website) which was located on the intersection of Bush and Van Ness Ave., which was parallel to Polk Street.
Honestly, besides its somewhat sort of convenience to Polk Street, nothing about it was special. And it had a paper saying that they strive to do their best to be a five star hotel… a bit humorous if you must ask me.
Not sure if all rooms were like this, but my room was right next to the street on the 4th floor, and everyday I could hear the sounds coming from the streets. I am a very good sleeper, so no noise can disturb me from sleeping, but it was still a bit of an annoyance and I’m sure those who are light sleepers should avoid this place.
They didn’t have much as well, just a bed, a small desk, and a bathroom. Oh also a TV and sink and fridge. But it was extremely small, it felt like living in one of those less than 300 sq ft apartments in Hong Kong, and the place didn’t feel extremely clean or anything.
My room lock had a bit of a problem… so to enter rooms you must use the access code for your particular room. But my lock was having some sort of problem, so I’d have to “lift” the knob up after entering the code, then turn the knob to enter.
My biggest problem of all, despite its small size, its noise, is that there was no air con! Maybe I’m spoiled since I’m from Hong Kong, but it was stuffy and while it wasn’t hot and the room was OK, it was just that every time I had walked for hours around the city, I felt a bit hot when arriving in the room… a bit of air con would be nice.
Most of my “transportation” was done by just walking around the city. I’m a tourist, I’m visiting, I wanna see what the city has to offer. I want to take in everything at my own pace. Sometimes, my friend would drive me around or I’d Uber.
Things To Do
Prior arriving to Downtown San Francisco, I wanted to make a stop at Apple HQ, Googleplex, and Facebook HQ. In the end, I could only do Apple HQ. I thought I had enough time to do one more, and after looking through Google images, I decided to attempt Facebook HQ instead (I know, the irony) because of its more entrepreneurial and start-up feel. However, by the time I reached the exit, it was jam packed, and I assumed that if I continued I wouldn’t be able to make it to return my car in time, so instead I continued on the freeway to reach to my car rental shop.
Basically a public plaza that is surrounded by central restaurants, shopping, hotels, and theaters in Downtown San Francisco.
Having nothing to eat around Union Square, I settled on Burger Bar. Given that its name had burger in it, I would expect a somewhat decent quality in their burgers. Turns out, what it was aiming more for was for its size… the burger was meh.
The Redwood Room was the lobby lounge in Clift Hotel, a few minutes away from Union Square. This bar turned out to be… let’s just say it was wonderful. If you’ve been to some of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, there’s an elevator where the portraits are looking at you quite slowly, but at all other times they appear very still. Well, they also have those type of portraits in this room as well.
The redness in this room exuded sexiness and gave off a seductive appeal, and the lighting ambience was perfect as it provided enough to have a ‘glimpse’ of the room.
I had an old fashioned, and not bad!
As if I haven’t ate enough, I passed by this danger dog stand (they usually start appearing during the night time, like owls). It is a danger dog because it’s hot dog that’s dangerous for you… all that greasy sauce and heavy toppings that you consume right before you sleep.
For one day for my trip, I spent it at Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
The tour operator was grateful enough for us to stop by the famous Golden Gate Bridge. If anything represented San Francisco’s appreciation for architecture, Golden Gate Bridge exemplifies that.
Every time I think of Fisherman’s Wharf, it brings me nostalgia to one of my favorite all time games, Final Fantasy 8, where they have their own Fisherman’s Wharf and there’s a theme song for that location, one of the best songs ever.
That said, Fisherman’s Wharf is located on the northern side of San Francisco, and it’s most famous for having lots of tourist shops along with lots of restaurants selling clam chowder.
This Ghirardelli building is old school. One of my favorite chocolate brands and also a landmark in San Francisco, the Ghirardelli founder bought this building and made this the headquarters of this chocolate brand in 1893.
Along the way, I also spotted the famous cable car attraction. This one is probably the most popular cable car route, the Powell and Hyde street. Every cable car was jam packed, so I didn’t bother going on since I had been on many years ago.
So Pier 39 is a shopping centre and also a very popular tourist attraction as well.
USC vs. Cal Game
Every year, USC has to play against either Berkeley or Stanford in their home court. Whichever game it was, that weekend USC (my alma mater) has to play them, we call it the Weekender, and USC students and alums will make the trip to attend the football game.
It was pure coincidence that USC was playing against Cal the weekend I was in San Francisco; I did not time it so that I would be there to watch the game. One of our alums had spare tickets, so a friend and I decided to go watch the game live. I haven’t watched a football game since probably when I was a freshman!
In fact, it was so coincidental that I even had my USC t-shirt with me for this trip. Probably because of this, of course USC pulled out a win against Cal 🙂 Fight on!
Upon my first trip going to Union Square while walking down Post Street, I noticed this restaurant that looked quite fancy and had quite a number of diners inside. I wrote a note down in my mind that if I had time, I would visit this restaurant.
That time came on the last night I had in San Francisco, when I didn’t have plans for dinners, so I decided, why not go to Saratoga?
Spanish Octopus – with Warm Heirloom Tomatoes, Chili Vinaigrette. Again, I enjoy my spanish octopus more in Hong Kong Admiralty’s Pacific Place, down where the marketplace where there’s a Spanish restaurant much more. Nothing tasty for this one, again forgettable.
I’m sorry San Francisco, but I didn’t leave my heart with you… this time. And I don’t see myself purposely coming here as a tourist for a second time or beyond, unless something drastic changes. Nothing excited me, not the food, not the ambience, the architecture was legit but there are better cities for that.
Anyone from San Francisco or been here many times? Would you agree with my assessment, or do you have other comments that I should consider if I do come back next time? Feel free to let me know below!
Other things to do in SF not mentioned: Airbnb and Uber HQ, Airbnb Experience – Sailing, Asian Art Museum, SF MoMA, Morning bun from Tartine, Walt Disney Family Museum, Ocean Beach, Nopa (restaurant), get to top of Grizzly Peak, Bar Crudo happy hour $1 oysters, Silicon Valley Innovation Tours (autonomous cars, internet of things, big data, robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence)