My tour guide was a friend of my son’s mother, Mary Jane O’Keefe. After spending 30 minutes in her company, I was convinced she was a hippie in her other life. We share a grandson Avery and we also share a sense of adventure. We drove the 2 hours from Sacramento to San Francisco, she lived there during the 1960’s. I felt certain I would have an adventure and she did confirm she was a hippie.
Our first destination was the Golden Gate Bridge. Like most people I had seen the bridge on TV and glimpse of it on commercials. Until 1964 it was the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world spanning 4,200 feet. I saw people walking toward the other side and wondered what they were thinking. My thought was hmm, no way too far to event attempt. The area was filled with tourist like myself, all trying to get a view of the famous bridge. I weather was cool and breezy, I definitely suggest a sweater. Being from Georgia, it’s always a treasure being close to water. This area welcomes you and dares you to explore. San Francisco is only 46.9 square miles, however it appears to be much larger than it actually is. It’s the second densest city in terms of its population, New York City holds the first position. Everything is built on the top of everything else, the homes, the businesses the restaurants everything. A city floating upwards!
We drove through Chinatown and although it’s only a few blocks if was colorful and alive with culture. Street cars were filled with locals all eager to shop for locally grown produce, Cantonese Restaurants packed with dinners, herb shops and all the sites you would expect in Chinatown. It’s the largest Asian community in North America. It has its own identity and culture, separate from the rest of the city. You can clearly see that the area caters mainly to tourist. There are lots of shops and boutiques to capture your attention.
As I said Mary Jane is a hippie and our next stop was Haight & Ashbury Streets. Like most people I’ve heard bit and pieces about the area, but now I would recommend a visit to anyone interested in the overall history of the San Francisco area and the Hippie movement. As we walked up and down the hilly streets I was taken back to the 60’s. I imagined Mary Jane passing out flowers in the Airport.
The locals were dressed in psychedelic shirts and faded jeans which was so appropriate given the area we were in. As I gazed up I saw a pair of legs proudly hanging out a window, it was at that point I became a temporary hippie. The homes and businesses were painted in bright reds, greens and multiple blue shades. Each unique in its own way and like the rest of the city they were at least four levels high. I wondered what the area was like in the era of hippie counterculture. In 1966 the first Psychedelic Shop opened and began selling marijuana and LSD. Wich by today’s standards in nothing unusual, but in the 1960’s is was considered revolutionary. The neighborhood really became famous after performers like Janise Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead began performing in the neighborhood clubs. Still today the area is like a place in a time warp unable or unwilling to catch with to the modern era.
Mary Jane and I are lovers of nature, our next destination was Golden Gate Park. Although it’s larger, by a few acres than Central Park in New York, City, that’s would be it’s’ closest comparison.
The Park consists of a Japanese Tea Garden, which is the oldest of its kind in the United States De Young, a Fine Arts Museum, The Academy of Science, Strawberry Hill which offers an almost perfect of the San Francisco Skyline and a Conservatory of Flowers, which happened to be the world’s largest conservatory. On a good day if you start our early, you get through the entire park. The natural surrounds are breathtaking.
In my opinion there would no point in visiting the San Francesco Bay area not taking the time to wonder through the Embarcadero’s Pier 39 Marina. Regardless of the number of times I visit the Bay area, I always make time to walk through the marina. It’s a bustling area filled with vendors, restaurants, shops and arcades. The Pier itself is lined with boats, yachts and cruise liners in varying sizes. Its currently one of the busiest areas in the world for in terms of foot traffic. I guess I’m not the only tourist that appreciates the area.
Tourists can schedule a tour for as little as $20.00 to get a bird’s eye view of the Bay. Truly a bargain! The tour includes historic landmarks like Alcatraz, the former Federal Prison which at one time was said to be escape proof is one of the first sights you notice. It eerily lurks over the Pier. On a foggy day it’s rather ghostly. It’s the former home of Al Capone, Bumpy Johnson, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and of course Robert Stroud, “the Birdman of Alcatraz.
Angel Island is another of the landmarks you get to gaze upon on the boat ride. The Island has been home to the Bureau of Immigration the Dept. of Public Health as a quarantine station and a Military Fort. The view of the San Francisco skyline is phenomenal at sunset. The locals say on a clear day you can see Napa Valley, try it let me know if it’s true. The San Francisco Bay area has something for everyone to enjoy. As a tourist I took a few minutes to visit Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Leonardo DiCaprio just happen to be waiting to greet me.
There is so much to explore and discover in the San Francisco Bay area. Public transportation is safe and convenient and there are attractions on every corner. If you’re searching for a fantastic location for your next vacation, may I suggest the Bay area.