Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

10/03/2005

Rediscovering San Francisco

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

San Francisco can’t be denied its ineffable charm. Thousands walk its streets and ply its roadways and they leave behind not only their footsteps but (as the old Sinatra song says) their hearts as well.

At first, it does not seem to be a place that could capture the hearts of many. But, don’t be mislead by the looming flyovers and a mass of gray pavement. There is so much more to San Francisco that the worn tourist sights like Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Challenge yourself to explore and perhaps find something more from this city of San Francisco. Don’t forget to pack your walking shoes.

Getting around
Taking a car to see San Francisco would probably rank among the worst ideas you can get. San Francisco traffic is infamous almost as much as those in the Philippines. Long lines at the toll booths and narrow roads result in the best driving obstacles to be found around the country.

Instead, take San Francisco’s answer to the MRT- the BART. No, it’s not a yellow-skinned cartoon. It’s the Bay Area Rapid Transit. The BART is the subway system connecting the East Bay to San Francisco. The BART is a well-oiled machine in more ways than one. It is a fast and convenient means of getting to work for the industrious city-working suburb-dwelling population and buying a ticket is as easy as dropping coins in vending machines scattered around the area. Get off on the Powell St. stop, put one foot forward and welcome the beginning of your adventure.

The BART station at Powell Street will drop you off in the middle of a shopping mall. The small space boasts of unusual architecture which includes a curved escalator. Unlike normal escalators, this mutant one decides to slowly corkscrew its way down to the floor below.
Negotiate your way out of this shopping mall and finally came face to face with San Francisco. From then on, walk toward Mission Street.

This will take you to a neighborhood called SoMa or South of Market. The area’s name comes from a fanciful play designed to mimic New York’s SoHo district. On SoMa stands imposing buildings that hold its own secrets – societies, art galleries and not-so-unknown companies. Some buildings are actually hotels employing very jovial looking bellboys all dressed up in crimson velvet with gold trimmings. One would have thought they came from a medieval play, if they weren’t caught politely opening a limo door for VIP.

Metreon
On Mission Street the bright silver doors of the Metreon will greet you. Techies would be drooling at what can be found inside. The Metreon is a Sony-entertainment center, it showcases the latest technology from (who else?) Sony. Video cameras, flat screen TVs, voice recorders, find a haven here. Not only that, the Metreon boasts of 15 movie theatres and an IMAX theatre. Though the cost of a movie ticket might be pricey, at least you’ll know you’re getting the best quality there is. Take this opportunity to roam the display areas and let your imaginations run wild. Having no money doesn’t prevent us from looking right? The Metreon also houses restaurants whose fragrant aroma constantly tempts passersby.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Beside the Metreon lies the Yerba Buena Gardens. It covers a two city blocks of San Francisco. One block holds a sprawling and verdant meadow filled with flowers and trees called the Esplanade. On this particular sunny day in San Francisco, the Esplanade played host to anyone willing to take a break amidst the urban jungle. There was a fashionably dressed young man in a blue polo and black slacks taking a nap right on the green grass. Beside him lay a rather grubby street bum obviously trying to do the same. Perhaps there was something to that old American boast of “equality for all.” School children along with their respective guardians also decided to take a break playing under the sun. Still others just chose to take cover under the shadow of the lush trees and take in the breathtaking scenery.

Only footsteps away from this green pasture stands the memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., an American rights activist. His memorial is swathed in waterfalls. You can literally go behind a curtain of water to view the permanent exhibit. All the while, the rumbling of the waterfall will just be inches away from you. Perhaps they were inspired by King’s words inscribed just outside the memorial, “No, No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until 'justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Yerba Buena Gardens is a splendid sight to behold. Like a phoenix from the ashes, the whole area was part of an urban renewal project. Where old dilapidated hotels, commercial and industrial buildings once stood, there is now a wash of defiant greens and beautiful architecture that towers over the area.

Walking just across the street, keep an eye out for a bright orange brick building. On its very top lay what seems like a giant compass-shaped sun roof. No one could miss it.

SFMOMA
This is the SFMOMA or the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It is the only modern art museum in the west coast of America. Its fresh ambiance betrays the fact that it was only opened in 1995. Not only the art it houses was modern, so was the building that was home to works by such artists as Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams.

The museum houses five floors of art. It would take you the whole day just to scour the area. Each floor showcasing different artworks and exhibition given the time and season.

By the way, if ever you get lost and you don’t speak a word of English, just ask any guide in the museum. Most guides are Filipino and will gladly adopt you into their family if needed.

Sunset
By sunset leave the confines of the building, stand still for a moment, and enjoy the beautiful sight that only the hilly streets of San Francisco could provide.

Unlike some other cities, San Francisco has a contrasting personality. It is sophisticated without being stuck up and the city’s atmosphere of fun and play wears comfortably like well-worn sneakers. Each square block is home to a new perspective and a different way of life. On one side could be a high rise building owned by powerful financial houses while the other plays host to cartoon art of all genres. The city is quirky- a mix of the genteel and off-beat all in the same breath. Yet, despite all of these, each contradiction manages to co-exist with the other giving life to San Francisco.


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