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Places to Go: San Francisco

Places to Go: San Francisco

The American West has many cities, but none are as iconic or as historic as San Francisco, California. San Francisco really boomed during the Gold Rush, where people from all over the world rushed into its port, in the hopes of making their fortune. The city has a close association with money, and is now headquarters to 5 major banks. It’s also famously built on the San Andreas fault line, and was completely destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. Then, in 1989, another earthquake destroyed important parts of the city. However, this time the buildings had been designed to withstand such vibrations, so most of the tall buildings in the city survived.


The city has lots of famous landmarks, including the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. It was built in the 1930s, and it’s a real wonder how modern technology has helped create such an incredible landmark. The bridge is almost 2 miles long, and it’s painted in “international safety orange” and not the distinctive red you often see in pictures. Be warned, though – if you travel across it on an open top bus, or a convertible car, it’s incredibly windy! It carries one of the main roads in California, and is one of the biggest bridges in the world.


From the Golden Gate Bridge, you might be able to see Alcatraz. This was a prison island, up until it closed in the 1960s, and now you can take tours around it and view the place they held some of America’s deadliest criminals. It held Al Capone, one of the most notorious gangsters in history, after his arrest (for tax evasion, of all things). You have to take a boat over there, and it’s a bit expensive, but you can’t go to San Francisco without seeing Alcatraz. You’ll probably have seen it in a number of films, including The Rock, with Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage.


If you’ve ever been round the back of Leicester Square, you’ll see London’s Chinatown. However, San Francisco is home to the most famous Chinatown, a place where Chinese immigrants traditionally come to settle. You can find fortune cookie factories, Chinese shops, and lots of good restaurants. Buildings with lanterns hanging outside, and pagodas for roofs, are all commonplace here.


San Francisco is built on a steep hill, which leads down to the bay and the sea. This means its streets are really hard to walk up, so locals take the iconic cable cars to get around. If you can’t do that, then one way to tackle the climb is to make the street a zigzag shape. Lombard Street has 8 hairpin bends in just a tiny section of road, and unbelievably, cars still drive down it! It’s a totally bizarre sight.


San Fran is one of those places you can simply walk around and enjoy. Unlike a fair amount of cities in the US, it’s also green and verdant, and the fresh air from the sea helps shift away any pollution. The parks in San Francisco are particularly unique, especially the Japanese Garden, where you can climb odd shaped bridges and look at pretty little tea houses.


It might not be the first place you imagine, when you think of California, but you might like it even more than the typical picture of a sunny surfer’s beach.


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