Sunday, January 15, 2012

San Francisco in an Instant

As most of you probably realize by now, my big January 9 surprise was the redesign of my blog.  I designed a new logo, created a background, added a few new features, including an online print gallery, and reformatted the blog and all of the posts.  I had a great time undertaking the redesign and I felt like it was necessary to visually represent my progression as a photographer and an artist.  So, I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.  That's enough redesign talk for now because the purpose of this post is to talk about San Francisco and share a few images from our Christmas trip.

At this point in my life, I can say that I've visited some of the biggest and greatest cities in the United States and the world.  Within the last five years, I've visited Boston, MA; New York, NY; Chicago, IL; New Orleans, LA and London, England.  Those cities each have similarities, but they are very distinctive and have their own identities; which makes them each great and unique in their own right.  With the exception of London, the other cities are among the mid to eastern half of the United States.  Texas is the furthest west I've travelled, so the trip to California was going to be something special, especially since San Francisco is typically mentioned in the same category as the cities I've already visited.  San Francisco (which is both a city and a county) is the center and hub of the San Francisco Bay Area, which includes Oakland and San Jose.  It is the second most densely populated city in the United States, right behind New York.  San Francisco is roughly seven miles by seven miles; so, it's only about 49 square miles in total land area.  According to Wikipedia, Spanish colonists established a fort at the Golden Gate; the gold rush of 1849 provided rapid growth for the city but by 1906, three quarters of the city had been wiped out by the great earthquake and fire.  The city was quickly rebuilt and was the site of such cultural movements like the 1967 Summer of Love and the gay rights movement.  The city has kept the liberalism that is so entrenched in its' history and has become a bustling metropolis of ideas, culture, history, food and art.

We arrived in San Francisco on December 21, around 1:30 p.m. PST.  We had been traveling since 6 a.m. EST, so we were pretty beat.  We hopped a cab to our hotel and relaxed for a bit.  After freshening up, we decided to explore the city a bit and grab a late lunch/early dinner.  We headed over to the Mission District, which is the original home of the San Francisco burrito and the Mission School art movement.  It's a very hip neighborhood, filled with art, restaurants, bars, shops and boutiques.  One thing that is very clear when visiting San Francisco is that each neighborhood has its' own distinct identity, similar to the neighborhoods in NYC.  We received a tip that the best deep dish pizza in the city was at a little restaurant called Little Star Pizza.  It's a small pizza joint that has three locations in the San Francisco area.  We would've never found or visited this place if it wasn't for the tip we received.  The windows were covered and it looked as if the place was out of business; however, that wasn't the case.  It was an off time and we were one of two couples that were in the restaurant.  We split the garlic bread appetizer and I then indulged in the "classic" deep dish pizza, which featured sausage, mushrooms and green bell peppers while Brittany ordered a thin crust pizza.  The pizza was delicious; the crust was out of this world and the ingredients were fresh.  We had a great dinner and walked around the Mission District, visiting a few boutiques before we called it an early night.

The next morning, we grabbed a quick coffee and took a combination of the subway (BART) and the bus to our Alcatraz Island tour.  Alcatraz Island was amazing and I'll go into more detail in a separate blog post.  After a few hours on the island, we walked around Fisherman's Wharf and grabbed lunch at Boudin Bakery. From there we made our way to the Buena Vista Cafe to indulge in an Irish Coffee (which was introduced to the United States via the Buena Vista).  It was an amazing experience and the place was packed from the time we arrived until the time we left.  The Irish Coffee was flowing and I would love to know how many they serve on an average day.  So, what's a trip to San Francisco without a trolley car?  The historic trolley car was right outside of the Buena Vista, so we decided to take one back to our hotel.  After waiting for an hour to board the trolley, we got to stand on the outside, making our way through the city.  The trolley stopped right by our hotel and we got ready for drinks and dinner.  The next part of our day was my favorite part of the San Francisco trip.  We went to an amazing bar, which is part of the speak easy revival, called Bourbon & Branch.  It's the epitome of what a bar should be and we'll definitely be patronizing this place on any future visits.  From there we had a wonderful dinner at Foreign Cinema, which is a classic restaurant in the city.  We watched a few skaters at the outdoor ice skating rink in Union Square and headed back to the hotel.

We only had a few hours on Friday because we had to head to the airport to meet my sister-in-law and head out to Sonoma.  So, we decided to see more of the city via bike.   Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours was our tour company of choice; they happily opened up a tour for us and we're glad they did.  The owner of the company, Daniel, was our tour guide.  He grew up in San Francisco and he gave us a lot of great history and background on the city; things we couldn't have gotten in any guidebook.  In addition to that, the tour didn't feature the typical big tourist areas of the city.  We got to experience the unique and diverse areas that make up San Francisco and we learned about the events that shaped the city as we know it.

After that, we headed to the airport and made our way to wine country.  San Francisco is an exciting city and reminds me of New York.  Various distinctive areas that have their own feel, vibe and culture.  The food is out of this world and the art scene is insane.  Like New York, you simply only need to step outside to be inspired.  Material to photograph is simply all around.  Streets are bustling with unique people, vendors and interactions waiting to happen.  Architecture and iconic structures are plentiful; this city is simply a must for a traveling photographer.  We only had two days in the city and it simply wasn't enough; we'll definitely be making a return journey to the city when we get a chance.  I shot the city entirely on film; Alcatraz in black and white on the Hasselblad 500 c/m and the Canon AE-1P; the rest of the city on the Holga and my Polaroid SX-70s.  I'll post my Polaroids in the following post and once I receive my processed film I'll be putting those up as well.  I hope you enjoyed this overview of our trip and I hope you enjoy my following photographic view of the city.

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