A beautiful morning in Noe Valley, February 2016.
Sunny Sacramento Street in May 2017.
Palm trees in Golden Gate Park, in front of San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers where we went to see butterflies.
Oakland Bay Bridge before sunset.
Evening walk in Sausalito, May 2017.

Golden Gate, not golden

One of the first things I learned about San Francisco is that when you visit, what you want to see is actually called the Bay Area, a region much larger than the city.

Surely there are interesting things to experience inside the city of San Francisco but even there, the best stuff is sprinkled here and there, over village-like neighborhoods.

Also, the Golden Gate is not golden, it is orange red. That is, the Golden Gate Bridge is orange red.

Golden Gate also refers to the water area under the bridge, the strait that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. The strait is what the bridge is named for.

But enough about trivial facts now.

The original scenery and city structure of San Francisco makes me smile every time I visit. If nothing else, this aligns with how the city is shown in movies. The first time I traveled to San Francisco was when watching Mrs. Doubtfire.

You can walk a lot – and walking is an experience in itself because of the hills and spectacular views – yet you will need a car, or public transportation, Uber, Lyft, whatever you prefer, if you are going to see places.

In terms of the city vibe, I find San Francisco fast but also tender and lovely.

The weather is easy for someone coming from the Nordic. Like on the Mediterranean, the summer and fall season is sunny. Come winter time, you get more rain and low pressure areas.

A great difference in the weather, compared to the Mediterranean though, is how cold the ocean is, any time of the year. That is why the air in San Francisco is often brisk, and the temperature drops at night.

Traveling around California, I have always packed a totally different wardrobe for San Francisco and southern parts of the state, like, Los Angeles.

For San Francisco: good walking shoes and, layers.

Even though extreme heat is not common, most days of the year you want to prepare for getting hot and for getting cold, possibly several times during the day.

Navigating the city, I have taken a habit of visiting one or two neighborhoods at a time. That way, I can maximize walking and get a sense of what is going on in each area.

Two nice neighborhoods I keep going back to on every visit are the Fillmore area and Hayes Valley, both nice for general wandering, shopping, coffee, snacks and dining.

I think there are not too many interesting things happening downtown, although SF Moma is a must, and I love to have breakfast and buy groceries and gifts in and outside the Ferry Building.

They host a terrific Farmer’s Market there on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and breakfast at Boulettes Larder has become a little tradition of mine.

Food is one thing to love and cherish in San Francisco.

You will find so many good things to eat that sometimes it is difficult to choose. Along with favorites from the past, there are always new restaurants to try.

What I also love as a visitor is the open atmosphere and a sense of ease that is a distinctive feature for the whole state.

The Californian ease. I bet the sunny weather has something to do with that, the fact that you can spend so much time outdoors.

Everything feels better in the open air. You want to hike. You want to eat outdoors, work outdoors, be outdoors, whenever possible.

I step out the door first thing in the morning in Helsinki too, because I am a dog owner, but in California I do it for the sake of pure pleasure.

Sometimes the air is soft and warm, sometimes it is crisp, but year around it feels nice to breathe in deeply.

Friends of mine who live in San Francisco tell about their weekend trips. They leave the city for a day or two, to go to Inverness, Sonoma Valley, Carmel, Big Sur, and so on.

The nature around the Bay Area is spectacular.

There is the rugged terrain of the hills and mountains. There are the beaches. And woods, with lush green vegetation, wild calla lilies growing on the ground, ivy flourishing, reaching up around large tree trunks.

And yeah, the trees. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years old.

Only a few miles north of San Francisco grows an ancient redwood forest known as Muir Woods.

If nothing else, leaving the city and walking in the woods, through 1000 year old trees towering 260 feet (80 m) high, will clear your mind and put your life in perspective.