Californian First Impressions pt 1 of 2

Hello and happy autumn!

At first, I wasn’t so sure I was going to write a piece on my first trip to the US, but then I can’t endorse a positive only web page, so here are a few truthful thoughts on my recent US trip. This is the first of two posts of two, the second one is from Monterey Bay. Although this post started as a scornful description of what is described as one of Americas best cities, it ended up being mostly a post with… birds. As always. :)


In the beginning of September I headed towards San Fransisco with David, my lab head and travel companion. The point of the trip was a week-long conference on deep-sea biology in Monterey Bay. Traveling across 8 time-zones does however mean that you should de-jetlag a few days before immersing yourself in other people’s science. Since I have never been to the US before and people seem to think San Fran is a great city, it was decided that we de-jetlagged in San Francisco. Rubbish idea.

San Fransisco is also known as Fog City (not nice fog, but grey fog), something that was very true the first two days. I found San Fran quite dull; the “vibe” wasn’t there for me and it felt impersonal and cold. I clearly prefer a city with people over empty streets (who would have thought). I feel that San Fransisco doesn’t offer anything you cannot find anywhere else (except if you are after hordes of homeless people, inhospitable cafes and restaurants and shit in the street - which you can also find many other places). I am still happy I got to sample American city-life for a few days, as it is easier to understand peoples ways and problems when you have seen it, even if it is from an outsiders perspective.

It wasn’t all awful though (big bonus for birds), and if you find yourself in this city, I did do a few pleasant things that shall be mentioned:

Angel Island:
Take a ferry from Fishermans Wharf to Angel Island. The island is a national park with a few trails that will take you around the island and offers good views of San Fran and the surrounding urbanisations and bridges (unless there is too much fog). The hike is easy and pleasant and if you like birds, raccoons and deer, you are very likely to see some. Take the earliest ferry and spend the day, last ferry leaves just after 16:00.

Walking around in the city:

Everyone will tell you there are mega sketchy places. Tenderloin (although many think this is the best cut of meat) district is not to be promenaded in after dark. I cannot comment on that as I was in bed long before 21:00 due to the jetlag (and perhaps also my distaste for evening activities). The homeless minded their own business and I found that they are much less pushy than many you encounter in Europe. During the day, we found that taking any staircase up a street was usually a good idea as the views and charming small streets are usually found up some stairs.

 Other bits:

There are sea lions on pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf. This is also a good place for viewing different species of cormorant, gulls and brown pelicans. If you enjoy photography and clichés, having a walk around the south side of Golden Gate Bridge is nice as the sun sets. The pelicans also come in from the sea in the evening and quite a few can be spotted.


Four days were more than enough, and I was quite happy to leave. It is actually nice when you don’t mind leaving as you don’t have to be sad, especially when goodbyes are much a part of a regular month.

I hope you enjoyed the read, though it was slightly less positive than usual.