San Francisco: City by the Bay

16 May, 2016 San Francisco

San Francisco was my first solo trip to America and allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone, spend time alone and with the locals and really connect with the location. I realised quickly it’s a city that revolves around life as opposed to life revolving around a city – both human and nature – and it comes in many fascinating contrasts, especially during my spell there.

San Francisco and its surrounding areas is renowned for national parks many of which support networks of towering redwood trees that west America is famous for. A short trip outside of the city up and down steep valley roads will find you in Muir Woods. Here you find yourself removed from urban life with the hum of the city being replaced by birdsong. You crane your neck upwards not to look at skyscrapers but trees that seem to defy gravity in their stretch to the sky. As you walk up to one of the hallowed out base trunks and you realise you can comfortably fit inside as it still grows. They have been part of this landscape for hundreds of years, long before settlers ever braved the harsh journey across America. They are as much a part of this landscape as any human creation.

San Francisco is a place to go to remind yourself to embrace life, step outside of your comfort zone and never lose your spark!

Twenty minutes will find you back in the city across the Golden Gate bridge. Famously known as the “City by the Bay” one of its greatest attractions sits in the middle of the bay waters – the infamous prison of Alcatraz. Before it’s closure some of America’s most notorious convicts resided here. Row upon row of monotonous cells stacked upon each other. Wander into one and you get to experience the door slam shut behind you and the sense of severe enclosure. Perhaps the greatest sense of torture for the prisoners who ended up here wasn’t this enclose – this happens a convict in any prison. Alcatraz is unique, as every day from the recreation yard sounds of life, of freedom echo from the city across the bay. Standing here you are faced with a beautiful view of the city across the sparkling waters. This served as a constant reminder to the prisoners of a freedom lost as several times the San Francisco Bay waters proved to be the biggest form of prison barrier, a force no one could survive.

Back on dry land the city buzzes with an enthusiastic, carefree atmosphere. A stroll down Fisherman’s Wharf gives a glimpse into the still active sea industry and there are always street performers on show embracing the fun side of the city and encouraging people to do the same. Just before my arrival to the city came the tragic death of the much loved actor Robin Williams. Having grown up with his films the iconic Mrs Doubtfire house had been on my list of things to see, now it became an even greater priority. Tributes lined the street and covered the steps to the house itself, from flowers, messages, photos, balloons, the iconic red nose from Patch Adams to drawings on the pathway. At noon one day crowds gathered in Union Square to pay their respects to a comedic hero, not through a minute’s silence but much more fittingly through a minute’s standing ovation.

In a trip to San Francisco you will see all aspects of life revolve around you and the city and how people there embrace it fully, a reason I loved it so much. As Robin Williams himself once said “You’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it”. San Francisco is a place to go to remind yourself to embrace life, step outside of your comfort zone and never lose your spark!