Travel

San Fran: the city that knows how

If you ask anyone what they think of San Francisco, whether they have visited the city or not, it will often be a list comprised of that iconic red bridge whose name slips their mind, the overpopulation of hippies and flowers found in that famous song, and something about cable cars going over some of the biggest hills you have ever seen. While these statements may be largely true, often overlooked are the smaller details which make San Francisco such a distinctive and enchanting place to pay a visit.

Photograph: Holly Maunders 

The city is the only place where you can spend an afternoon for under £5 being a cake competition judge, sail under the Bay Bridge in a kayak, and also watch a movie on an outdoor screen with the city skyline as your backdrop. The resource behind these lovely cheap (and often free) things to do is the following website: www.sf.funcheap.com.

Was this a oneoff occurrence? No, you can pretty much rely on the website as a daily guide to the life of a true San Franciscan. Some are food-related with free Ben and Jerry’s giveaways and food truck meetings – a collection of different food vans collated in one area of the city for all to descend upon during a Friday night sunset. Other offerings include those which are art-based, such as free gallery tickets; sports-based with people using the city as their playground for a giant game of tag named “Urban Battle Game”; and music-based which advertise free live sets across the city.

While most urban areas have parks to compensate for their lack of rural proximity, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park stands alone as central to the definition of the city and a must-see to thoroughly explore. The park boasts a unique identity of its own through its beautiful lakes, waterfalls and fields combined with museums, a Japanese tea garden, a golf course, playgrounds, windmills and carousels to name but a few. The park also hosts many events such as music festivals, the traditional Dutch Queen’s Day, the charitable fancy-dress run “Bay to Breakers”, and was iconic during the 60s as a site for the Human Be-In, an event which focused on the key ideas of counterculture, preceding the Summer of Love.

If you love the outdoors, surrounding the bay area are iconic hotspots such as Yosemite National Park, renowned for its breathtaking mountains, waterfalls and glaciers. Lake Tahoe, a vast once-in-a-lifetime location for ski and snowboard enthusiasts, is another stunning example of what Northern California has to offer. For those over 21 who like wine, there are also the expansive beautiful vineyards of Napa Valley. If none of these appeal then it is only a few hours drive down to Los Angeles, San Diego, and if you are brave enough, Tijuana, Mexico.

San Francisco is one of the only places which is truly multicultural in that it has a diverse population and equally varied activities. I was fortunate enough to spend a year in this wonderful city and I still have things I must return to see.

With a population of over 800,000 it is astonishing how well it accommodates for such a variety of different cultures. I can safely say that I never had a boring moment, or replicated anything. Did I wear flowers in my hair? Actually I did. And if you explore the city for all its worth, you will

08/01/2013

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hollymaunders



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