Bob Hope, English-born American comedian and actor once told: “In San Francisco, you can experience all the four seasons: Every day.”
Having visited the beautiful city on the Bay three times this year, I can only appreciate and confirm his statement. In February, I spoiled my body with a brilliant sun and 22 degrees Celsius. This was a wonderful winter getaway for someone living in Ontario. After a couple of months, I was surprised by a cool and windy weather with some rain and 18 degrees in mid-July. In either case the sun is part of the story.
San Francisco, a city founded by the Spaniards in 1776 has a population of 800,000. Including the San Jose-Oakland Metropolitan Area, nearly 7, 5 million people live “around the Bay” and make it the second most populous region after Los Angeles in California. The Silicon Valley to the South is home to global tech giants like: Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo.
Sadly, despite its wonderful geography, San Francisco sits on top of one of the most dangerous earthquake zones in the world. The notorious San Andreas Fault Line cuts through the city and caused devastating earthquakes and fires in the past.
With Jeep Grand Cherokee
For many people of my generation, especially from outside North America, “The Streets of San Francisco”, the famous television police drama from the mid-Seventies established the first emotional connection with this wonderful city.
About the city and Jeep Grand Cherokee
I toured San Francisco first with a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a model symbolizing the start of Chrysler’s new product offensive which started about two years ago. The legend says that nobody wants to drive a car with manual transmission in this city of countless hills. I could not verify if the legend is true, however, I was absolutely convinced to have to have an automatic transmission (which I did have) after criss-crossing the city and stopping at red lights up the hills.
Bob Lutz, the legendary car guy of the industry and a Chrysler executive by then, spectacularly launched the Jeep Grand Cherokee by smashing a glass wall during 1992 Detroit Auto Show. The statistics tells us that only about 5 per cent of Jeep Grand Cherokee owners leave the asphalt. Nevertheless, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is an off-road vehicle with all-wheel-drive. During its development, the current generation of the Jeep Grand Cherokee witnessed some turning points of the recent, turbulent Chrysler history. The development of the Jeep Grand Cherokee started in 2005 under the Daimler-Chrysler Era, continued under the Cerberus Capital Management and was completed during the partnership with FIAT. The Jeep Grand Cherokee was launched in summer 2010. Definitely it doesn’t harm the Grand Cherokee to share some platform components and the architecture with the Mercedes ML.
Even if there is no third row, the Jeep Grand Cherokee offers a comfortable ride for five passengers. The quite cabin makes a very good first impression thanks to features like; laminated glass, triple door seals for superior noise isolation, soft touch materials and very good finishing. Chrysler says that the current model range has no fear to compete with some established names like the Range Rover. Unusually, the Jeep Grand Cherokee offers three different types of all-wheel drive. In the Laredo version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee that I drove, the torque is equally split between front and rear axle. In the Quadra-trac version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the simplest of the three, there is a central differential with electronically monitored limited slip. There is no torque sensing between wheels or axles to adapt to different surfaces.
The new 3.6 liter V6 Pentastar engine with 290 HP of the Jeep Grand Cherokee effortlessly provided the power and torque I needed during my trip. The average consumption of nearly 13 lt/100 km is somewhat reasonable considering my dominantly urban driving.
My trip “inevitably” included a trip to Sausalito in the North whereby I crossed the Golden Gate, arguably the most photographed and most famous bridge in the world. You do not pay a toll when you drive northbound towards Sausalito. Returning to San Francisco costs you three dollars. The bridge is open also to cyclists and pedestrians, weather permitting. The Golden Gate is actually the strait between the Pacific Ocean and the Bay of San Francisco and this name was given by Captain John Fremont in 1846. The Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was opened in 1937. The average number of crossings per year (in both directions) is above 41 million. The middle span is 1966 meters and the clearance above high water is 67 meters. The maintenance of this magnificent piece of architecture is an ongoing process and the bridge was never closed for this purpose.
A visit to San Francisco is never complete without going to Ghirardelli Square. The place once hosted a workshop where uniforms of the Union Army during the American Civil War were sewn. The McCormick & Kuleto Restaurant offers a wonderful view of the Bay and the famous Alcatraz Island, once the most secure prison on earth. The seafood is superb. Among other items, to me the star of the extensive menu is “Mahi Mahi Macadamia Nut Crusted with Fried Plantains.” Some people get confused and think that mahi mahi is simply some kind of dolphin, which is not true. If you happen to visit this place, order it and remember my advice.
Mr. Sarper Buca, the restaurant manager of Turkish origin works hard to keep the culinary standards of this food temple high.
If you find this upscale restaurant too expensive (which arguably is) there are other and significantly cheaper options to feed your stomach and soul. Around the Fisherman’s Wharf, there are plenty of fast (and slow) food restaurants and clam chowder in sourdough bread bowl is probably the most delicious option. If the size of the portion is too big, leave the rest to shameless gulls surrounding you. You will probably come to this area to visit the famous Pier 39 for people watching; to taste some other varieties of seafood and for listening to street musicians.
If you can afford to wait up to one hour in summer-time, take the historic cable car to the Union Square. Be patient, since the “car” has a maximum speed of only 16 km/h.
Add to your visiting list also the famous residential neighborhood and park of Alamo Square. It consists of four city blocks at the top of a hill overlooking much of San Francisco, with a number of large and architecturally distinctive mansions along the perimeter. A visit to Alamo Square is worth for at least to photograph those well-maintained Victorian houses a.k.a. “Painted Ladies.”
If you haven’t fully satisfied your culinary expectations yet and about the leave the city, pay a visit to the Napa Farms Market in Terminal 2 of the San Francisco Airport. You should try their wood fire-cooked four-cheese pizza. It is made to order but absolutely worth waiting for. The place is designed by San Francisco-based Baldauf Catton Von Eckartsberg Architects and is inspired by San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace and Napa’s Oxbow Public Market. It showcases mouth-watering artisanal products from the Bay Area.
Summa summarum, these places are some highlights from a city you could easily fall in love with and far from all-inclusive.
During your stay, do not get disappointed by a cloudy and rainy morning. The sun will eventually respond to prays of some 15 million tourists visiting the city each year.
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