I left my heart in San Francisco
Every time “the US” is mentioned, people usually refer the country to big cities along with the wide variety of cultures, such as the City of the Angels – Los Angeles, political and historical cradle – Washington DC, funky Peninsula Manhattan of New York, etc. In my case, I usually refer United States to Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
My journey began in April, and I faced numerous challenges from the start, since I was assigned to design 10-day tour itinerary independent of any travel operators. Honestly, for someone who never been in anywhere in the US, every attraction I booked, all the places I chose for the itinerary, I did them all intuitively. Fortunately, my travel schedule can be seemed to be smooth sailing.
After a 15 hour flight from Seoul (South Korea), our media group landed in San Francisco’s airport at 11a.m. Later I found out that due its seaside position, San Francisco is blessed with ideal weather all year round. When the mini-van took us into the city, San Francisco skyline appeared into view with the welcoming melody on the radio:
“…I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don’t care…”
Just like those mellow words from the Tony Bennet song, San Francisco attracts people from all corners of the world by its stunning sights, high hills and the classic-looking houses along the steep hillside streets. During the day in here, we preferred to walk to “feel” the special in here that not many places have. Before the trip, a local friend told me that I definitely have to go to Lombard Street, Pier 39 harbor where super delicious seafood restaurants are and Golden Gate Bridge stands.
Instead of buying city tour packages, we got around the city by Hop-On-Hop-Off bus (one-time purchase of ticket allows you to ride to all stops), which took us to the Pier 39 ship by the first stop. I still remember the story about “innocent” friendship between Forrest Gump and Bubba the African boy in the famous film starring Tom Hanks, and could not contain my joy when stepping in to Bubba Shrimp Gump Co for real.
At the time of our trip, Lombard street side flowerbeds were all green leaves since the hydrangeas season had not yet arrived. The Lomdard flower in Russian Hill area street is steep up to 27 degrees. There are 2 ways to “enjoy” this road. One was the driving your car through the curvy hydrangeas street which is risky but very interesting. The other, which was the choice we chose, is walking 252 stairs from the bottom to top of the hill. It was an experience I might never forget.
The Golden Gates Bridge with the red-orange color often “stars” in the American movies as destroyed by natural disasters or supernatural power. The reason may be that people are impressed with the iconic attraction, overwhelmed with its grand glorious look and trusting message. The bridge has the most beautiful view when the sea fog enters to the bay, then it would looks very dreamy, flying amongst the coulds (what a pity, it shone brightly all the days we were here). However, the waters is also dangerous in whirlpool times, as the tour guide on the bus warned us, and no one can ever survive if they fall off the bridge. Hence, it becomes a “favorite place” for suicidal people.
San Francisco is attractive because of the freedom of self-expression in its culture – the kind of freedom “American dreams” often address of. Since the last 20th century, people from over the world immigrated to San Francisco has build a richly diversed community: Coilt Tower area with the smell of coffee beside to the white church – an icon of Mediterranean; China Town with non-English businesses; and Napa valley with Italian and Spanish wine shops.
In Vietnam, somebody wearing headphones and dancing on the street would easily be labeled “out of whack”. However, in San Francisco, these hipster people are everywhere, they respect each other enough not to intervene in anyway, as long as one person does not inconvenient the others. For instance this one time in Market Street, government allows young people to trade creative products they made in stalls along the street like musical chairs (the kind of machine that plays music when two people hold hands and sit on it), or a special terrace specially designed to help people to talk to each other just fine even though they are 100 feet apart. It can be seen difficult to see these activities in Vietnam, a country “confident” about its intellectual.
After coming back to Vietnam, my memories of San Francisco still burnt for a long while. I wouldn’t want to cross Golden Bridge off my bucket list anytime soon, because I want to come back to this precious San Francisco in the near future. Hopefully.
“My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco
Your golden sun will shine for me
I Left My Heart in San Francisco – Tony Bennett”
Reported by Hoang Dinh Vu