In February, having graduated 8 months prior and still without a secure and worthwhile job, I was urged by my parents to get on a plane and go to San Francisco as my uncle Ray (who I had never previously met) had a possible job in the architecture industry for me.
I had literally nothing preventing me from going- no job, no sense of direction in my career and no attachments- yet there was still a lingering hesitancy about the whole thing.
I think it was the thought of actually living on another half of the world on my own, not knowing really if it would be of any benefit to me and not knowing how I would settle in and what I was even doing.
I also hadn’t really researched it too much- I mean the general British personification of the food-happy, loud mouth, over-dramatic American citizen wasn’t particularly appealing to me (although I eventually found this was far from the case, on the west side anyway).
Anyhow- I didn’t have much time to think about it as within 2 weeks of this being suggested I was strapped to a seat 30,000 ft in the air for 11 hours.
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In truth it didn’t take me long at all to settle into San Fran- having a British accent makes meeting new people so easy and everyone was massively keen to help me out and show me around. I cannot thank the people I met enough for everything they did for me including giving me accommodation, taking me climbing, biking, hiking, surfing, skiing and obviously the occasional gamble- its a pretty impressive list of activities.
The lifestyle is something I became very quickly addicted to and is something that I will definitely miss- I was working as an architect and basically just had to be in the office for 36 hours a week- in essence, this meant get into the office at your own leisure, possibly take a couple of hours out of your lunch to go for a bike ride or lay in the parks or by the harbor and then come back, in a much more productive and aware mood to nail through some work.
It wasn’t always like this, when we had deadlines the office was generally pulling an all-nighter, but apart from that everyone was their own boss. I find this to be such a greater and more refreshing lifestyle than the monotonous, robotic 8-5 job in the London rush-hour.
Although in theory I was there to work in an aid to boost my pretty inexperienced C.V, I was actually really there to explore on my own and do things in my own way taking any character that I wanted as there was nobody who actually knew me. Therefore now is the point where I will stop rambling on and get to some photos to show just how awesome this city is!!
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Lunch and post work bike rides and treks around Mount Tam. and China Camp
So generally I would go for either a 2 hour bike ride or trek a day- oh yeh I was leant an old school road bike by my only known acquaintance prior to visiting, John Lundy and an awesome mountain bike by a guy at work (Brett).
Cycling in California is like what Jesus is to the South- I’ve never seen anything like it!! On weekends there were twice as many cyclists as people in cars- something I did not expect to see in America- In fact the area around San Francisco is where mountain biking began.
But to be honest is it really any surprise. There are so many mountains and valleys to climb that give some of the most incredible views across both sides of the ocean, the city and cliff edges. I managed to cram in pretty much every trek going in the north and most picturesque side of the bridge area going, with particular highlights including climbing Mount Tam- past the phoenix lake and a night bike ride with my two mates Brett and Tim from work through the Headlands and down to the bridge.
Starting by the cliffs with Tim and Brett, sunset in the Headlands, the Golden Gate at night (top to bottom)
The night bike ride was unreal!! We started by the cliffs, next to the old war gun mounts and huge artillery bunkers. As the sun began to set we continued to climb and drop through the valleys just north of the Golden gate Bridge- in the pitch black- on routes that were sometimes single tracked and on cliff edges. Armed with just one headlamp, I found it a bit of a struggle to keep up with the Yanks- particularly as I am pretty turd at riding mountain bikes. All I remember seeing was literally thousands of lights of all the different wild cats, deer, birds and other nocturnal animals that reflected off our headlights as we blitzed through the meadows. It was so surreal, knowing how much wildlife was contained within these meadows at night. The ride ended by the less natural, but much more comforting lights of the glowing city as it stood beyond the illuminated Golden gate Bridge. It was exhausting but well merited of the ‘awesome ride dude’ reaction by my American buddies.
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I will definitely be throwing a lot more blogs out about the surrounding areas in San Francisco-as there is just so much to write about and share- but for now I’m going to actually get into the actual city itself.
Generally, I would head into the city on Friday night after work with my bike and head to a hostel- I will blog about decent hostels and nights out in another post- but I found this the best way to chill out, get a cheap start to the night and most importantly its impossible not to meet friends and have a good night out.
The following day, after a quick recovery period, I would take my time (often made necessary thanks to the invention of the hangover), and using my bike, explore every district the city has to offer. There is no better way to see San Francisco than by bike! But be warned- its a darn hilly place- California Street had me close to throwing up- it may look simple on a map but getting from one side to the other can be a stretch, especially after a night out!!
The general touristic hotspots including Pier 39, the painted ladies and the golden gate bridge
The general touristic hotspots aren’t bad, although as you would expect can be excessively crowded. Fishermans wharf is probably the area most indulged by tourists and apart from the Sea lions at pier 39 and the array of overpriced restaurants its fairly naff. (Bubba Gump Shrimp, is obviously excused from that criticism) Lombarde is worth a 10 minute visit, but its just a road-albeit a very pretty and iconic one, and is usually hammered with tons of asian people taking pictures.
The ride to the bridge is pretty impressive- I would often spend a half day around the Fort Mason area to relax and enjoy the views across the park. As for the painted ladies- one of the most chilled out places in San Fran and a welcome relaxation spot right in the heart of the city.
But, as with every city, there’s so much more to see that is so much more impressive.
The Golden Gate Park is ginormous and is pretty incredible. Acres of sports grounds, chinese gardens, science museums, lakes, windmills, golf courses and bison open out onto the pacific sided beach.
Further up is the Presidio- a series of nature treks that give some of the most impressive and secluded pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A visit to Angel Island is also definitely worth a day trip- The extent of the island can be cycled or jogged pretty easily and reveals unbroken views of the harbor and the city, twinned by its bridges.
The Golden Gate park, Beach, Presidio and Angel Island
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Of course there are some places to avoid- I seem to recall Market Street being a bit shifty and mainly the neighborhoods around the highways. But that’s normal in such an expansive and notorious city.
Nonetheless its fair to say San Francisco is pretty rad and a whole lot of more fun if you have a bike handy.
There is so much to explore particularly just across the bridge and a little outside the city, where the true charm of the state can really be discovered. There’s a whole mess of places I need to blog and further digest to really portray the marvel of the area.