RASHMI OBEROI | 17 AUGUST, 2014
“Gentle People With Flowers in Their Hair”
Flowers In Their Hair
During my Dad’s one year stint at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, we managed to travel and see a lot of beautiful places across this vast country, including a small portion of Canada. Amongst all the vacations, there was one that has always been special to me and that was when my Mum and I travelled together for a short break to the Western Coast...to the state of California. San Francisco was our destination and to this day remains as one of my favourite cities in the world.
We were dividing our time between staying with two of Mum’s closest childhood friends with whom she shared a bond of friendship that went back to her school days. I fell in love with San Francisco from the moment we started our descent into the city. It simply took our breath away. The shoreline glowed invitingly and the bay seemed to wink at us welcomingly.
The weather here bespeaks of a Mediterranean touch and the cosmopolitan city boasts of not only being a cultural centre but a financial hub as well. The city caters to every kind of traveller that makes every single individual comfortable enough to do his/her own thing and even allows them to find something that suits every facet of their travel persona.
During the week, as everyone was tied up at work, Mum and I would hit the hot-spots armed with a detailed map of the city and a daily ‘to-do’ list. Getting around was very easy as public transportation was conveniently located and so we alternated between the efficient bus services/metros/the Caltrain and good old walking. We even managed to use the city’s historic cable cars. We succeeded in doing quite a few sight-seeing tours, exploring the many museums and art galleries and eating a lot of street food.
China Town was delightful and as soon as we had entered the “Dragon’s Gate” a host of exotic smells had hit us along with the hustle and bustle that was in the air and largely evident. Finally the street vendors and interesting aromas had made us succumb to a gastronomical feast. Our trip to Ghirardelli Square was another memorable visit. This place was a landmark, filled with shops and restaurants and one could not leave without tasting the famous chocolate and ice-cream from the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, which we did by the way.
This place was located in the Fisherman’s Wharf area and the leisurely walk to the wharf was sheer pleasure and fun. I reckon this was the best part of the city especially for a sea-food lover like me. We sat at the waterfront and indulged in some clam chowder and fresh oysters while breathing in the salty air, watching the steady flow of fishing boats sail past, sea-lions basking on the pier and seagulls swooping down in the hope of catching a meal of their own. This place had been abuzz with visitors and a constant stream of chatter and street performers.
The cable car journey was exactly how I had imagined it to be after having watched in the movies. The most spectacular view of San Francisco Bay was from Nob Hill. Sitting in the California Street cable car was something like a charming ‘old-world’ experience. We were fortunate enough to be driven to the famous Lombard Street that boasts of being the crookedest street and consists of eight tight hairpin turns.
Over the weekend, we were shown The Golden Gate Bridge that took our breath away...to have been able to walk a part of it and gaze at the complete beauty of it was indeed special. The most iconic landmark of this city for sure. A further drive ahead had taken us to Sausalito where the shoreline was ideal to have watched the sun set over the hillside. The drive through Silicon Valley had been an eye-opener. And of course, over the years it has continued to remain a leading hub for hi-tech innovation and development. One could not even imagine how many of the world’s largest corporations had their humble origins here.
We were driven to Napa Valley for some wine tasting and the picturesque rolling hills with vineyards on either side are forever etched in my memories. A walk around an estate with a guided tour of the legacy and wine making philosophy culminated into a seated tasting of the iconic wines.
Our final destination had been the Muir Woods and its beautiful walking trails. We were fortunate to have seen some of the oldest and tallest Redwood trees. It had been quite chilly and damp walking through the forests and natural trails but the majestic redwood trees kept us spellbound.
It’s no wonder that so many people leave their hearts back in San Francisco... I sure did!
“If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there... “