Having arrived like zombies after a sleep-deprived 11.5 hour flight, we found that we fitted in well with many of the locals we saw on the streets of San Francisco – I have never seen so many homeless people, blank-looking down-and-outs, and desperate beggars in a First World City. As you walked between the fancy shops on Market Street, the atmosphere outside had a bit of an End of Days feel – people sleeping rough everywhere, picking through the rubbish bins, shouting, singing tunelessly into over amplified mikes (I presume for money), while religious preachers loudly implored us to repent our sins. The gap between the haves and the have-nots has never seemed wider.
On the other hand, the area around the extremely touristy Fisherman’s Wharf was much more mainstream – maybe a little too mainstream. This concentration of restaurants and souvenir shops was a little over-developed, but it couldn’t take away from the magnificent bay views behind, of the forbidding Alcatraz Island and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Of course, the star of the show here on Fisherman’s Wharf is always its collection of barking sea lions rudely jostling for sunbathing space on the floating piers – you could watch them all day (as long as you can put up with their fishy aromas).
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see much else in San Francisco, but it gave an interesting insight into some of the issues facing modern America.