By Tristan Postal| For Epoch Times
A city that celebrates diversity and talent, past and future.
On November 2, 1769, a Spanish exploration party led by Don Gaspar de Portolà and Franciscan missionary Juan Crespi landed in San Francisco Bay.
The Spanish sailors would return seven years later to found a Catholic Mission and the Presidio (a military base at the Golden Gate) to defend their interests on the Pacific.
Seven decades later, the California Gold Rush would mark the big start this city wasn’t expecting, initiating San Francisco’s growth and transformation over the past two centuries. And well, they can be very proud of the result.
After flying over Nevada’s arid deserts and the mountains of Yosemite National Park, the City by the Bay emerges like a natural Eden at the end of the San Francisco Peninsula.
Flanked by the deep blue Pacific Ocean on the West, San Francisco shelters its own bay on the East, where islands and bridges appear when the fog lifts.
Piers, historic vessels and fish markets proudly announce the city’s maritime heritage and its perpetual lust for exploration. Open-mindedness and an appetite for adventure have generated its citizens’ favorite hobby: defying routine and convention.
And this no-holds-barred spirit manifests in the city’s dizzying array of architecture, fashion, companies and technologies in perpetual development, and arts and culture.
Like a ship ready to set sail, San Francisco simply can’t look behind and wait for the latecomers – the city must continue exploring its horizons. And this not just limited to business, but also to social, cultural, and political domains.
The architecture and infrastructure reflect these particularities, where history is juxtaposed with modernity, and the greys with a rainbow of colours.
Among the Financial District’s glittering skyscrapers sits the historic Telegraph Hill, which has one of the best panoramic views of the city and its marina. Initially named Goat Hill by the Franciscans, the hill found its use with the construction of a semaphore telegraph in 1849. The semaphore was in charge of signalling to the rest of the city the nature of the ships entering the Bay.
In 1850, Telegraph Hill received from the ship Oregon the monumental news: the City of California had been declared an official state member of the United States of America.
A Cultural Smorgasbord
Big cities are often pictured as concrete jungles devoid of arts, culture and vibrancy. Well, San Francisco will completely shatter that stereotype.
Centuries of liberal values have created a vibrant Eden for art in every single form and fashion – from prehistoric to Renaissance to modern.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has five floors filled with what American artists do best in pop, minimal and figurative art.
By contrast, the Legion of Honour Museum – which is a replica of the Hôtel de Salm in Paris – has a collection spanning 6,000 years of ancient and European art, including one of The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. Also worth mentioning is the museum’s large Impressionist and post-Impressionist collection, including works by Degas, Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Seurat, and Cézanne.
The Asian Art Museum celebrates the city’s Asian connection with one of the largest Asian art collections in the world, at over 18,000 pieces.
In comparison, the sciences take centre stage at the famous Exploratorium, where art, science and human perception intersect in curious and incredible ways. Interesting fact: the Exploratorium has a net-zero energy goal, which means it produces more energy per year than it consumes.
The San Francisco Opera and performing arts theatres complete the scene.
Few cities provide the opportunity to visit sandy beaches or national parks in the day, and enjoy a burgundy velvet seat at the Opera in the evening.
Living Local: San Francisco’s Diverse Districts
In the evening, hit the neighborhood of Pacific Heights, where you will find Union Street and Fillmore Street. Both streets have plenty of shopping and dining options, and besides being pleasant to walk along, they offer a snapshot into local life and leisure.
At the end of Fillmore St is the Boom Boom Room – legend goes that it was owned by Blues master John Lee Hooker. Indeed, this Jazz District used to be called the ‘Harlem of the West’ back in the 1940s and ‘50s. Need I mention that Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday were regulars on the scene?
Columbus Avenue in North Beach is where the Italians made their homes. Pretty patios invite you to have a front row seat of the lights along Telegraph Hill and the Financial District – brightly lit restaurants, bars and clubs line the two-kilometre stretch of the avenue, ending at the initially controversial and later beloved Transamerica Pyramid.
The Mission District is the Mexican quarter and the oldest neighborhood in San Francisco.
Colourful murals decorate the shop fronts and restaurants along Mission Street –palm trees lining the road complete the electric atmosphere.
Upbeat music tempos float from the windows, making walking through the area a true pleasure. At Dolores Park, the green hilly turf is the perfect place to picnic while enjoying unbeatable views of the skyline.
Electric and diversified atmospheres, green hilly parks and beaches, and a rich smorgasbord of culture make the City by the Bay not just a fantastic holiday destination, but a source of perpetual inspiration.
And as the famous song by Scott McKenzie goes, “If you’re going to San Francisco, you’re gonna meet some gentle people there.”