I’ve often been asked by friends ‘Giles, how can you have a phobia of hipsters but be so fond of San Francisco’?
Well that’s a good question. Such a good question as a matter of fact, that I’m going deal with it in the only responsible way: by all together ignoring it. You see, hipsters are people too and the only bartenders who don’t look at me funny when I ask for a cocktail involving pickle brine.
As a result, they’re okay by me. Kind of like bears, they’re probably as afraid of me as I am of them.
Now although I’m not one to claim myself as a scholar of American history, I do know that San Francisco holds a special place in its books, being a metropolitan hub during the California Gold Rush, a stage for large scale immigration, a nexus of the gay rights movement and a focal point for an unfolding wave of liberalism.
But before I discourage my readers by packing paragraphs with more parables than puns, let me assure you, like all my blog posts, this will be targeted towards a readership with a low attention span (just like its author). So much so, that I fully intend to include a whole array of random photos in completely inappropriate places. Like here:
Rectangle frames are too mainstream for San Francisco.
Fortunately, that photo serves as more than just eye candy, it provides a (not so) clever segway to my opening point: San Francisco is cool. So cool in fact, that no matter where I went, I always felt like something was going on that I wasn’t invited to.
Unfortunately for San Francisco, unlike at my neighbour’s parties, there was no fence to keep me out.
Any place which is willing to risk its financial viability for the sake of humour is okay by me.
The Golden Gate Bridge
Now, as my well-travelled and no doubt learned readers know, San Francisco is home of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is kind of like San Francisco’s equivalent of the Statue of Liberty, as it was the first sight for immigrants entering the United States through the bay.
Wikipedia is a better photographer than me…
Unsurprisingly, San Francisco’s history of immigration played an important role in shaping the area. In fact, as of 2010 San Francisco had the highest share of Chinese-born immigrants in the US, which is perhaps why it is also home to the largest Chinatown outside of Asia.
Now for anyone who has seen my previous travel blogs you’ll realize that I have a thing for immersing myself in markets and whatever other obscure attractions I can find. As a result, I spent a lot of time in Chinatown.
In fact, after spending around 4 hrs walking around in this one, I can assure you it’s impressively large. In fact, in the world of eating random street food and buying solar power waving cats, I’m king.
But SF’s CT almost had me beat, with a seemingly endless supply of toys, balms and disconcertingly food, which I find fascinating. You see generally for there to be a product, there has to be a buyer and understanding who they are and what they might be buying it for interests the hell out of me.
Of course, I already know who purchases fish ice cream, because it’s me. But who is purchasing solar powered plants?
And then there is the random assortment of graffiti:
Wait to ruin a perfectly awesome dragon Banksy!
Of course, I’m not going to be so bold as to claim it to be a major attraction of SF’s CT, but there are some pretty cool pieces of street art around the place. And although typically I’m vehemently against the defacing of dragons, for Banksy I’ll gladly make an exception.
It’s also hard to be mad when faced with the world’s largest LOL Cat.
Also home to the world’s biggest LOL cat.
As you probably also know, I’m a geek.
Typically I’d rather sit in a library writing, than at a pub drinking. In fact even better is being at the library drinking. And while I was lucky enough to be taken on a number of whirlwind tours of bars in the area, they’re not included in this blog because touring Stanford trumped them.
Although it’s hard for me to objectively reflect on why I liked Stanford so much, I dare say it was mostly to do with how magnificent the campus is. You see, although I think it’s pretty cool to be walking around a campus full of nerd, a high nerd density is not sufficient for me to be impressed.
The reason I can attest to this, is that I have also toured Harvard…. although that might have something to do with me being escorted off campus after making too many references to Animal House.
The Gates Computer Science building.
In any case, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Stanford, partially I suspect as a result of what the buildings at my university typically looked like.
Okay, my university looked nothing like that. We didn’t have walls. But check out this next photo:
It’s a car park.
That’s right, not content with just any old building to park their cars, somebody has constructed what is a Sydney Opera House for cars.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t spend ample amounts of time fawning over this thing, but it does make my point pretty directly that the Stanford campus is nothing short of epic, even when they’re just dealing with the temporary storage of cars.
Of course the explanation for this rather extravagant storage of cars is quite simple. You see Stanford is an amazing campus, with smart students and generous benefactors, and in such a place you can’t have your cars slumming it in a ‘car hold‘.
This is particularly because the university is built on such noble origins. Of which, I was lucky enough to be regaled with after ascending the illustrious Hoover Tower:
You see, the founders of Stanford university did so in the memory of their 15 year old son, who died of typhoid in 1884. But as part of the endowment they stipulated that all Stanford roofs must be red, their son’s favorite color, so he could see them from heaven.
The view from Hoover Tower.
Now, maybe it was the fact that I’m a sucker, but I have to admit when I was told this story I shed a tear, which is in my defense is pretty easy when you’re staring down the barrel end of a view like the one above.
But let me assure you it was a manly tear. In fact it was so manly, that it impregnated the ground.
Unfortunately, like many origin stories, outside of Marvel, this one and by extension my whole Stanford experience, was a lie. The roofs are just red because that’s the style, and there is no heaven.
Okay, a tad melodramatic, but it really didn’t make a difference as I didn’t tip the tour guide. Take that, thoughtful stranger!
Overall though, I have to say San Francisco stands out as one of my favorite places outside of Asia.
Which is why in an attempt to get closer to living there I’m already devising a plan to become a billionaire.