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USA: Eastern Sierra, Los Angeles, New York City, Niagara Falls, Orange County, San Francisco
by Nupur Bang, India
San Francisco (SFO) is situated on the pacific coast of mainland USA, in the beautiful state of California. It's a popular international tourist destination renowned for its chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills and famous landmarks.
SFO was our gateway city to the US. We arrived at noon, and our friend came to receive us at the airport. Our hotel Holiday Inn had a good location - Fisherman's Wharf, only about 20 minutes from the airport. Though, most of the places we visited were at walking distance, it still greatly helped having our friend and his car to move around.
The temperature was on the higher side in the month of September, but the wind was so strong and so cold - it was wise to carry our jackets along!
We were excited to see the Golden Gate Bridge - actually red in colour. It was the longest suspension bridge span (4,200 feet) in the world when it was completed during the year 1937, and has become an internationally recognized symbol of SFO.
From the bridge, we saw the Alcatraz Island, nicknamed "The Rock". Now a tourist attraction, it was once a prison that held some of the most notorious criminals. An isolated island surrounded by freezing water ensured that no prisoner escaped alive. By the way, Alcatraz is also considered to be one of the world's most haunted places!
Driving around, we realised that most of the roads in SFO were either uphill or downhill. So, the buildings and houses built on them could easily have a height difference of 6 to 10 feet, measuring from two ends. And then, we saw America's most crooked street - Lombard Street. It's a beautiful steep road with many sharp curves. The best place to photograph the street is from Leavenworth Street, at the bottom - looking up. You will see cars heading down slowly, daring souls walking up, and down the sides, while the flowers and buildings provide dazzling colour. It is truly an incredible sight. Drive on the street if you can. It's fun.
The San Francisco cable car is the world's last permanently operational manually-operated cable car system, and is an icon of San Francisco. Cable cars operate on two routes from downtown near Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf, and a third route along California Street. While the cable cars are used to a certain extent by commuters, their small service area and premium fares for single rides make them more of a tourist attraction.
We had a great view of the city from the Coit Tower. It stands atop Telegraph Hill in San Francisco's Pioneer Park, and offers fantastic views that include the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, Angel Island, Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge, Lombard Street, etc. The Coit Tower took 5 years to build. Contrary to popular opinion, the tower was not designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle. In fact, it was bequeathed by Lillie Hitchcock Coit to beautify the city.
Via the Bay Bridge, which has two decks and one of the longest spans in the world, we reached the Treasure Island that is artificially made between San Francisco and Oakland. The island offers a breathtaking view of the city and the bay. What's more, when the wind is good, it's wonderful to see the bay with loads of sailboats!
On the way to the Pier 39, you'll see many artists displaying their art in the form of spray paintings, songs, murals etc. Pier 39, is mainly about food and souvenir shops and little bit of entertainment. The barking sea lions next door are also an attraction. No wonder it stinks so much there!
And chocolate lovers like me, have to be at the Ghirardelli Square, which is named after the original shop of Ghirardelli chocolates, also known for its world famous ice cream sundaes! The Ghirardelli Square is a landmark of specialty shops and restaurants in the Fisherman Wharf's area. We greatly enjoyed ice cream in the Ghirardelli shop and were quite fascinated to see a small section, maintained especially for visitors, that shows how the raw cocoa beans turn into delicious Ghirardelli chocolate. And by giving a free sample of the same to every person entering their chocolate shop, they make sure you remember its mouth watering taste even after you've left the city!
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