San Francisco, Sans Fog

A view of eastern San Francisco from atop Russian Hill.

I’ve never been to a city quite like San Francisco.

You always hear about cities that are melting pots of cultures, where each ethnicity has its own neighborhood. And I don’t think that phenomenon is any more pronounced than in The City by the Bay. I remember when I descended Coit Tower and wound up in North Beach, the city’s Italian neighborhood. As I walked past pizza shop after pizza shop, deli after deli, I could certainly tell.

After a few blocks, the scene rapidly changed. It was as if someone swiveled the globe around under my feet, depositing me on the other side of the planet. China, to be exact. Fish markets and Asian candy stores replaced the pizza and delis, Mandarin street signs replaced the English ones just a few feet north. And just like a real Chinese street, it was abuzz with shoppers, eager to buy ingredients for their next meal, with the same kind of large crowd you’d find in Guangzhou or Shanghai.

As I wound through Chinatown in search of my next destination, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, I marveled at the freshly caught fish, waiting to be sliced and diced; the sweets that didn’t quite look like sweets due to their being covered in sesame seeds; and the children playing on the steps of shops and running around the crowded sidewalks. And it amazed me that just a few blocks north of here a burly Italian man was arranging meats to make salami, that a few blocks west were tourists riding a cable car down Powell Street, that a few blocks east businesspeople were ascending the iconic Transamerica Pyramid for a meeting. And 30 minutes south, at the airport, planes from Tokyo, London, Frankfurt, Paris, Sydney, Auckland, and even Dubai were all arriving with passengers from faraway lands. I realized then that San Francisco is truly at the crossroads of the world.

These are pretty spectacular crossroads, too. Situated on a peninsula surrounded by the vast San Francisco Bay, San Francisco sits like a blanket over a hilly landscape, the streets rising and falling with the earth. Huge bridges connect it with the other sides of the bay, whether it be the famously red Golden Gate Bridge to the north or the much longer Bay Bridge to the east. And for the most part, it’s all shrouded in the mystery of the daily fog.

I didn’t see much fog while I was here- in fact, I only remember one morning where the view from my hotel room was hazy. But by midday and into the evening, sun was all I knew in San Francisco- along with 70 degree weather and a constant light sea breeze.

I get the feeling that the weather isn’t usually like that.

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