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San Francisco – A City of Ups and Downs

Julia Rosén Staff Writer

Julia Rosén

Last week was this year’s highly anticipated and needed Spring Break. Students and faculty had the chance to take a break from school and relax. Some of us decided to stay at home and be with our families, while others seized the moment to travel. For me, the latter was true.

Having a family living on the other side of the world, Sweden to be more exact, going home was not an option. So I packed my bags and went to San Francisco, California, with my four best friends from school. This trip would not only give me lots of joy and good memories, it would also burst my bubble of the romantic San Francisco I had seen in the movies.

San Francisco is one of the top destinations for tourists, famous for its warm weather, rolling hills, eccentric architecture and liberal mindset. It’s hard to come by anyone who hasn’t heard of the Golden Gate Bridge or the former prison Alcatraz. Movies like Harvey Milk and Vertigo, or series like Full House and Dharma & Greg are all set in San Francisco. There is no doubt that this city attracts people from all walks of life.

My friends and I did all the must-do sightseeing, but also went beyond just the common tourist places. On our first day, we went to the piers to spend time at a market with authentic San Franciscans selling local art and cuisine. We got the chance to enjoy good food and mingle with the locals. The sunny weather brought a smile to everyone’s lips.

On another day, we rented bikes and rode through the Golden Gate Park all of the way to the very end of the park where you could spend time by the ocean. The view from Louie’s Diner at a cliff right by the sea was an amazing sight. The most memorable moment was when we bicycled through the park Land’s End and suddenly the fog cleared up in the distance and the majestic Golden Gate Bridge was suddenly visible. On a later date, we also got the chance to get closer to the bridge and take a million pictures by it, just like all the other tourists. For the locals, the sight of the tourists must have been amusing.

But it was not only the attractions that were exciting for us. The well-known hills that the city is located on were a sight in itself. Looking at these hills was mesmerizing, however, walking up and down, drove me crazy at times. I now understand why they have their famous streetcars.

However, despite San Francisco’s lively and colorful appearance, the city turned dark and scary sometimes. During our first hours in the concrete jungle, we saw an abundance of homeless people, most of them under the influence of different kinds of substances. While walking down one of the biggest streets, an older man in worn out clothes came up to as and asked how much we cost, and what he wanted to do with us. These kinds of suggestions and comments became a daily occurrence, and we all felt threatened at times. This not only became scary, but also ruined large parts of my trip. Since I am one of the most easily scared people, probably in the entire world, I had to build a human shield of my friends around me in order to not run away screaming. We always had to make sure to look over our shoulders and not walk on the “wrong” street.

But there were not only “crazy” homeless people. When sitting at a bench, looking over Oakland, we had a woman come up to us and sell us a paper made by the homeless community. She told us that instead of choosing the wrong path, she sells papers while trying to get by on the streets. I became so impressed by her that I bought the magazine and gave her some change.

After my six-day journey, I came home with new memories, and experiences, both good and bad. It was not at all as I expected. I failed to find the romantic little city I expected, but found a large city with diverse locals. It was sometimes breathtaking with the hills and views, but sometimes scary and frightful with screaming homeless people and sketchy streets. If you want to go to San Francisco, you have to be aware of where not to go, like the Tenderloin area, especially during nighttime. I am glad I went to California during Spring Break, but I feel oddly happy and safe being home in my city, New York.

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