Yesterday when we embarked for our third and final day of exploring of San Francisco, we nervously looked up at the sky and saw the ominous dark clouds overhead, pitting the city into a field of fog. However, this is just another typical San Francisco move— looming black clouds threatening rain with no follow through. Thank God.
We hopped on a bus and headed to Haight-Ashbury, a neighborhood in west San Francisco that borders the Golden Gate Park which boasts the center of the 1960’s counterculture movement, complete with skateboarders, dreadlocks, colorful murals, deadheads, and the odd scent of a certain herbal substance.
I was skeptical about what this neighborhood would really have to offer—would it just be a series of cheap vintage shops, where tourists gathered to buy Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and California themed bongs? Actually, no.
Haight-Ashbury, named for where Haight and Ashbury streets meet, is a real-deal neighborhood, equipped with colorful Victorians, hippies painting children’s faces, men holding hands, and long-haired kids in their windows waving and laughing. This isn’t just another tourist destination; it’s a real little Narnia that houses the same people it did back in the 1960’s, with the same people who wished they were living in vans like their parents did.
Unfortunately, my handy guidebook really didn’t specify any specific locales in the neighborhood, so we just wandered a little, missing some big spots like Jerry Garcia’s house (but we did get ice cream…obviously). And since we were nearby anyway, we walked a few blocks north to Alamo Square, where the Painted Ladies reside.
The Painted Ladies are that row of colorful Victorians you have seen on postcards; which is the biggest hub of the 19th century homes in the city. It’s worth it to climb the massive hill of the square to have the greatest view of the homes, which unfortunately do not include the Victorian in Full House, although the hill is the same one that the Tanners picnic on in the opening scene. My life is a lie.
After Alamo Square, we had these great tour-quality expectations of walking to the bike shop at the start of Golden Gate Park to the east to ride to the Golden Gate Bridge a few miles away, but this may have been slightly optimistic since half the group couldn’t ride a bike, it was freezing cold, and it was 5:00 pm. Whatever, I tried. Instead, we took the inconvenient route of bus 71 to bus 28, the only line which goes from Golden Gate Park to the Golden Gate Bridge.
During this long, smelly, and crowded public transportation ride (#firstworldprobs) we were all seriously wondering if this was really gonna be worth it. Screw the bridge. I hate this bridge. I can’t bike to it and it’s friggin cold and the Bay Bridge looks kind of similar anyway, right?
Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge reminds you of where you really are. Haight-Ashbury, cable cars, Chinatown, Pier 39, and Fisherman’s Wharf really are, yes, real San Francisco. But who can resist such a famous trademark such as that of the Golden Gate Bridge? It may just be a really big red manmade structure at first glance, but really, it’s more than that. It’s the final mark of a great city, one that has flourished for years, one that has been the epicenter of life, change, and revolution. It’s the last capische on an Italian dish in North Beach, the soy sauce on Chinatown lo mein, the last hump when the cable car hits Lombard Street. The Golden Gate Bridge might as well be the cherry on the whimsical sundae that is San Francisco; always saving the best for last.