(English version of the Spanish article published on June 2020)
It was 2014 when I visited San Francisco for the first time; one of my biggest dreams since I was young. I was probably seven years old when I heard a song on the radio that I really liked, even though it seemed a bit melancholic to me. From all the things that I could pick up and understand, there was something that really got me: San Francisco. I asked my mom what it was and she told me that it was a beautiful city; a city that I imagined in a thousand ways, and I decided that I wanted to visit one day.
Years later, I rediscovered the mysterious song. Scott McKenzie’s only great hit, I found out that this song would make him one of the best-known One Hit Wonders in music history. I began to inquire about the city; it’s history, architecture, but there were two things in particular that would capture my attention the most. San Francisco was the birthplace of the hippie movement, and home to the famous Summer of Love. Now I could understand why I always experienced that particular feeling every time I heard the song. Although the lyrics were already more than clear to me, the context gave it all that meaning which I was missing; Peace & Love, no war, brotherly love.
THE BIG DAY
For one reason or another, I found myself postponing such a desired trip and always ended up traveling somewhere else. But that summer of 2014 in Puerto Vallarta, I finally made up my mind. I had just met my now great friend Ernie from San Francisco and after thinking about it, I got my Visa and it was decided: that summer I would celebrate my birthday in THAT city.
The day of the trip, I was very excited. It was a three and a half hour flight, and once I noticed the impressive International Airport in the middle of the sea from my window, I selected my famous song and I set PLAY to a moment very surreal to me. The celebrations for my birthday started as soon as I landed: six days of parties, excitement, interesting walks, and lots of beautiful people that Ernie introduced me to. But above it all, there was a lot of learning.
In my mind, I had three things in particular that I could (and would) not miss in San Francisco: 1) Visit Haight & Ashbury; 2) Buy flowers and wear them in my hair and, 3) See the Golden Gate Bridge. Thanks to Ernie, we were able to do all of this and much more, like visiting Castro, riding the ferry that would take us to Sausalito Island passing through Alcatraz, walking down the famous Lombard Street (crooked street), China Town, the California Academy of Sciences planetarium, and of course admire the incredible architecture of those iconic Victorian houses found throughout the city. But among so many interesting places, these are the ones that I definitely enjoyed the most and would like to recommend:
Haight & Ashbury
The place where it all started. In the 1960’s, a group of young guys opened in this famous corner a little store; they sold handicrafts and traditional clothing acquired in Mexico, paper to roll marijuana, records, and played the guitar. It would soon become a popular meeting place and it would be right here where the Hippie countercultural movement would be born. Unfortunately, today it is an ice cream shop, but that does not stop the place from being worshiped and a definitive must-see.
Golden Gate Bridge
Without a doubt, the most emblematic and recognizable spot in the city, it is also one of the most beautiful. It was completed in 1937 and it connects the Golden Gate Strait. Surrounded by green areas, ideal to have a good time and facing the Pacific Ocean, it is a place that takes your breath away while offering the best views of the city.
The quintessential LBGTQ neighborhood not only of San Francisco but of the entire world, it is named in honor of the Mexican governor of Alta California, José Castro, who opposed the annexation of California to the United States during the Mexican-American war. During World War II, the US Army relocated to San Francisco thousands of soldiers discarded for their homosexual condition. Mostly settling in this neighborhood, this is how this city would become one of the first openly LGBTQ cities in the world.
The Stonewall riots of 1969 would define the path for the quest for respect and visibility. But we must not forget, thanks to the Hippie movement with their Peace & Love, and the Summer of Love with its search for peaceful coexistence and no prejudice, the atmosphere of affirmation and respect would begin much earlier in this city. So the next time you travel to this beautiful place, and as Scott McKenzie told us in his emblematic song: If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…