San Francisco- My Hidden Treasure

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 also share a grandson Avery and a sense of adventure.   We drove the 2 hours from Sacramento to San Francisco, she lived there during the 1960’s. I felt for an certain I would have an adventure and she did confirm she was a hippie.

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Our first destination was the Golden Gate Bridge.  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.  I’ts an amazing site and the views are wonderful, beyond what I had imagined.

Next we drove toward the downtown area I immediately notice how many tourist were were in the city. It’s the kind of place that welcomes you and dares you to explore. Although San Francisco is only 46.9 square miles, it’s the second most 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.

We drove through Chinatown, it’s only a few blocks within the city, yet it’s alive with culture. The street were bustling with locals and tourist all eager to shop, eat at the local restaurants and stroll through the herb shops which displayed tiny bottles of medicinal potions and remedies for everything.

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As I said Mary Jane is a hippie so our next stop was Haight & Asbury Streets. We parked the car and walked up and down the hilly streets.  I was taken back to the 60’s and imagined Mary Jane passing out flowers in the Airport. The locals were appropriately dressed in psychedelic shirts and faded jeans. I looked up and to my amazement there were a pair of legs proudly hanging out a window.  That was enough to convert me into a temporary hippie. The homes and businesses were painted in bright reds, greens and different shades of blue. I wondered what the area was really like in the era of hippie counterculture.

In 1966 the first Psychedelic Shop opened and began selling marijuana and LSD, no surprise there . The neighborhood really became famous after artist such as Janice Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead began performing in the neighborhood clubs.   Still today the area is like a place that’s behind the times and still trying to make sense of the protocols of modern society.

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Golden Gate Park was our next destination, Mary Jane and I are lovers of nature. Although it’s larger in acreage than New York’s to Central Park travelers often compare the two.  The Park consists of a Japanese Tea Garden, which is the oldest of its kind in the United States, the De Young Fine Arts Museum, The Strawberry Hill Academy of Science and a almost perfect of the San Francisco Skyline.  The Conservatory of Flowers, which happened to be the world’s largest conservatory is magnificent.

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In my opinion there would no point in visiting the San Francisco Bay area not taking the time to wonder through Pier 39 Marina. Regardless of the number of times I visit the Marina area, I always find something new to enjoy, something I didn’t notice before. It’s a bustling area filled with Restaurants, Retail Shops, Sailing and so much more.  The Pier is lined with boats, yachts and cruise liners in varying sizes. The area is currently one of the busiest in the world for in terms of foot traffic. I guess I’m not the only tourist that appreciates the area.
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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 includes such historic landmarks 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 and 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 area is currently one of the busiest in the world for in terms of foot traffic. I guess I’m not the only tourist that appreciates the area. The San Francisco Bay area has something for everyone to enjoy. Wonderful restaurants and shopping, scenery that captures the imagination and mind boggling view from the Pier. If it’s not on your bucket list of places to visit, it should be!