Don’t call San Francisco ‘San Fran’, ‘SF’ or ‘Frisco’ – the locals never refer to their city that way, you only look like a tourist. Which I was last week, on my second trip to the world’s tech capital, taking in SugarCON (SugarCRM’s annual conference) and a few other things along the way.
San Francisco (or “the city”) is a unique place, mixing quaint Victorian townhouse architecture with the pulsing modernity of an all encompassing tech boom and amazing views from its many road peaks and bayside vantage points. Jazz and piano bars adorn the central Union Square tourist traps, cable cars (only 3 lines remain) trundle noisily up and down passing roadside diners, which frequent every street corner. There’s a restaurant that puts garlic in everything (I mean everything, including ice cream), the school where Joe DiMaggio grew up (and the church where he posed for wedding pictures with Marilyn) and the country’s first topless bar (which is still open, and no, I did not go inside).
Walk south of Market Street (‘SOMA’) and you pass by the offices for Yahoo! (ironically placed right next door to the San Francisco Chronicle), Eventbrite, Klout, Weebly, Wikipedia, Zendesk, Yelp, FitBit and DropBox. The flood of tech people head to the city, chasing limitless streams of VC money that has put upward pressure on rents and house prices, making it an expensive place to live. As in Perth, people are being forced further and further afield, and the commutes are getting longer.
The place is cool, in more senses than one. The sweeping mists and fogs roll in across the Golden Gate bridge, bringing plunging temperatures to the city, while surrounding areas stay warmer. The winds that whip through the up and down streets are chilling, but walking around you feel the place is cool (in the trendy sense) and you don’t get badly hassled by street panhandlers as you always are in New York. Yes, around Union Square there’s someone on every street corner asking for money, but they do it in such a charming, friendly manner. They wish you well, no matter if you drop a dollar in their tin or not. Some openly tell you they need it “for weed”, with a cheeky grin.
Speaking of cannabis, I was there (coincidentally I hasten to add) in the Haight-Ashbury (hippy) district on the 19th April, which is the eve of ‘420‘ – the day synonymous with everything and everyone that worships marijuana. They had come in droves from far and wide, and were already camping out in Golden Gate park. All drab colours, ear piercings, distant faces, glazed smiles and large black dogs.
Down at Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll taste the finest clam chowder on the planet, along with the sweetest crabs. As one nearby sign simply read (how I loved it’s simple ‘call to action’ message): EAT CRAB. The views out to Alcatraz straight ahead and the Golden Gate bridge to the left have to be some of the finest anywhere. The seagulls are also the largest I’ve ever seen, at least twice the size – I gave them a wide berth.
Overall, you feel this place can do anything. It screams innovation, while also tipping a nod to its own history. You understand why people beat a path to its door, and why innovators in cities across the US and the globe are seemingly envious of the attraction San Francisco has for the next Facebook, Instagram or Google. It’s well worth a visit.