Silicon Heaven (San Francisco)

San Francisco

The first thing you notice about San Francisco are the chairs.

They're waiting as you exit the plane, all over the airport--curvy ergonomic cuddlers that practically shout words like "synergy," and "Google," and "new wave office layout." The walls are studded with posters advertising brave new operating systems, and the companies behind them; shilling the Cloud to those fresh from the clouds.

Frisco sunset.

That's San Francisco for you, home to Silicon Valley. Once, the city drew people from all over the world with the lure of a gold rush--a rush which turned out to be more of a trickle, with far from enough gold to satisfy prospectors. Now it's a mecca for tech moguls and engineering graduates, shored up by accompanying entourages of marketers, copywriters and graphic designers. Everyone who's anyone wants to work in the Silicon Bay. 

Boat racing beneath the Golden Gate bridge.

Despite the dot-com booms and busts that have come over the years, prices in San Francisco have kept rocketing. Formerly poor neighbourhoods like the graffiti-studded Mission District have become flooded with incoming technorati--the glittering, occasionally socially awkward aristocracy of the 21st century. Outside its techy population, the city's trendy reputation ensures it's also home to a bustling collection of writers and artists... with some of their galleries more unbearably twee than others.

Street art locked away. 

On Fisherman's Wharf, the city waterfront, boatmen take tourists (a startling percentage of whom are elderly British folk) for jaunts around the city bay. Tour groups scrabble to get elusive tickets to the perennially popular Alcatraz--once a prison for terrifying convicts, now a safe way of keeping tourists contained.

Riding the famous trolleys.

There's a brand of American mineral water named "Smartwater." It is in fact indistinguishable from regular water but for its perky branding. It seems extremely at home in the shop fronts of San Francisco, a place where computer moguls fanatically scramble around the tourists, convinced that a new kind of spreadsheet will revolutionise the world. In between the techies, tourists and artists, grizzled old locals gossip on busses, remembering a time when the city was slightly cheaper and a lot less crowded on the roads. 

The Golden Gate Bridge.

San Fran is a city that demands more than a few days from visitors, then refuses to let them afford it. It is--indisputably--a placeworthy of its landmark, the shocking red Golden Gate bridge. The bridge is a feat of construction that still draws wonder to this day, especially when clouds straddle it come sunset; a monument to engineering wrapped in a coat of nature's finest fog, just waiting for a poet to inspire.

San Francisco is the home of grand things people make.

Of course artists and engineers love it. 

The Golden Gate Bridge, in morning and evening mists.


>The colour of the Golden Gate Bridge is officially International Orange--or, as I like to call it, red.

>I stayed in the Fisherman's Wharf Hostel International, located in Fort Mason (technically a national park, though located within San Francisco). While pricey, this tranquil spot is well worth visiting for a few nights.

> San Francisco is possibly the only city in the world where it is possible to see a herd of segways in the wild, thanks to the city's various segway sightseeing tours. I'll leave it up to you decide whether or not they look more ridiculous in greater numbers...