San Francisco has always held a fascination for me.
Brought up on american movies and TV in the seventies, I was continually exposed to the city. Karl Malden in The Streets of San Francisco, Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force, Kim Novak in Vertigo, Steve McQueen in Bullitt, The Towering Inferno, The Rock….the list is endless and all used to city to maxim effect.
It’s not surprising then when visiting the city that it feels a little bit like a movie set. That’s my abiding memory of New York: I’ve been here before, not in the flesh but in a multitude of celluloid experiences.
San Francisco is a delight of a city. It’s kind of an ideal american city – it delivers the big city skyscraper vibe that NYC does so well but on a smaller more consumable scale. It sits on the impossibly beautiful bay and has vistas to die for and it’s unmistakably Californian in its outlook: relaxed and confident in its own skin.
Every time we’ve visited California, we’ve always started our trip in San Francisco and it provides the perfect springboard for immersion in the american microcosm that is California. Small enough to get around on foot, the city rewards the steep hills with stunning views. Impossibly photogenic, the compact city centre is safe and well kept making it the perfect introduction to the US.
Like every city it is constantly evolving and it exudes a lofty air. Unusually for California, its cool weather and fog in the height of summer sets it apart from other cities in the state and there’s a real sense that the locals are quite proud of this. And this makes us Brits feel quite at home too.
It does edgy quite well too and of course it has been the hotbed of radical thinking since the sixties and it sets the agenda for gay rights in the US. Of all the big american cities I’ve visited, it’s the one city I’ve thought closest to where I’d like to live although this time we noticed an awful lot of homeless people on the streets in pretty bad shape.
It’s a reminder that California really is all about living the american dream, this is a state (and country for that matter) that does very little for the people at the bottom of the chain.When you’re doing well in California, you’re doing really well but when you’re struggling there seems no hope for you.
It’s hard for us Brits to comprehend as the NHS and the welfare state is so fundamental to the way we live our lives and whilst we struggle to fund these things in the current difficult climate it reminds me how important they are to our national psyche.
San Francisco: A city that plays out the american dream and nightmare in equal measures, but I still love it.