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Published: September 8th 2013
Our visit to San Fransisco was much characterized by the neighborhood of Tenderloin, where we had our accomodation. We had a bit of bad luck with our airbnb booking attempts, as two first ones failed. By the third attempt we were already in a hurry to find a room, and simply chose the first decent sounding option: private room, cheap and just few minutes of walking to the heart of downtown San Fransisco. In the hurry we didn't bother to read the reviews of previous guests.
Upon arrival to the Tenderloin area in the middle of the day, it was already obvious that this wasn't the best place to stay. The streets around our quarter were filled with the homeless, drunks, junkies and mental cases. "Normal" looking people were few. Even so, it wasn't that scary during daytime; that is not to say we didn't witness pills exchaging hands in bright daylight, though. But in the evenings things got pretty creepy. We saw a young girl sitting on the street injecting herself, among other disturbing stuff. Nothing happened, though, actually no one tried to approach us, but we did feel slightly nervous every time we returned to our room after
Our room wasn't really an apartment, but something called "efficiency unit". It meant a room of perhaps 12 square meters, and a shared bathroom with the other residents, who were mostly Asian immigrants. To the credit of the place we need to mention that the room was clean, it felt safe inside, and we slept remarkably well inspite of the constant noise from the street. Looking back now, it was an experience to stay in Tenderloin, but we would still choose something else if we went back to SF. I wonder if the city officials are doing anything to try to clean up the neighborhood, it is, after all, literally in the center of downtown San Fransisco.
We spent about a week in SF, so of course we found also nice areas. We did some touristy stuff, like crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on foot. Golden Gate is a beautiful old bridge, but apparently it has a dark side as a common site of suicide; the bridge has signs for crisis counselling phone numbers with regular intervals stating "there is hope, make the call".
Regarding sights, we also visited the Coit Tower to see some views
over the city and surrounding bay. But we were too cheap to pay the 7 dollar each fee to get to the top, so we settled for the partially tree covered views at the root of the tower. It was good enough anyway. The seaside is also a sight in itself, with lots of restaurants, souvenir shops etc. The most interesting thing there however were the sea lions. There are wooden docks floating in water, and hundreds of wild sea lions are coming there to lay in the sun, and sometimes to fight for the dock space with each other. On the last day we also visited Golden Gate Park and the Japanese tea garden, but ended up spending most of the time in the huge greenery just sitting and reading.
Rather than visiting specific sights, we spent most of our time wandering around different neighborhoods of the city, and browsing some shops. We liked the Mexican influenced Mission area, as well as shopping streets in Filmore, Heights and Hayes areas. The most memorable experience, though, was visiting Castro, the historical gayborhood of SF. What made it memorable was visiting the old movie theater to see the Hitchcock film
Vertigo from restored 70mm film. The movie theater itself was old and fancy, and it had big golden (or "golden") organs. The funny part was that before the movie started, an elderly gentleman gave a short organ concert to the movie audience.
There were also other cultural activities to be enjoyed. We went to several music performances in the city, one ska band, one bluegrass duo and, by accident, one competition for young mixers. We did also visit Berkeley, the university town right next to SF. The reason was that our friend is currently studying there for a year, and we met him for some beers and pizza. Fun night.
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