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Trip Report CA Coast Drive Great; San Francisco, Not So Much

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Disclaimer: San Francisco is one of the greatest cities in the world. If you have never been, go. It is a unique, vibrant place with much to offer travelers. Additionally, the surrounding region is filled with great, beautiful places.

That being said, after a few recent trips to San Francisco in the past couple of years (some good, some just ok), this past weekend confirmed my displeasure with the City-by-the-Bay; and for me, the negatives now tarnish the positives. I concede that the following may seem like little things, but they were not little to me; and when combined, added up to an unpleasant trip.

I just got back from a few days driving up (and down) the coast between LA and San Francisco, a trip I usually do about once a year. The drive was fantastic (I am a car and driving enthusiast), and my days in Carmel and Santa Barbara and Napa Valley were fantastic. But unless I need to go to SF for business, I do not plan on returning anytime soon.

The things that made my trip unpleasant follow: Firstly, and most importantly, the homeless/ vagrant/ aggressive beggar/ druggie situation is completely out of control. And while not limited to Union Square, this is where it is at its worst. I usually stay in the Union Square area; but never again. I was repeatedly harassed by beggars and aggressive homeless, many of them acting drunk or on drugs, in a threatening manner. (I am an adult male from New York City who now lives in Los Angeles; so I am used to life in a city). On three separate occasions I tried to just sit in Union Square and watch the world go by; each time only to witness various street people: sleeping on the grass(one with his pants pulled down), aggressively harassing others and myself, and a particularly unpleasant dude who was dressed in a multicolored unitard just behaving bizarrely and aggressively mocking people and following them closely as they walked by.

The problem is not just one of unpleasantness, it is one of safety. Many of these people are on drugs, and are capable of violence. So now, as my hotel warned me: I "do not walk west of Union Square, it is just too dicey". Things are not just unsavory, they are potentially dangerous. Walking and wandering in a city is one of my favorite things to do; I used to walk to and from the Mission; no more. For the first time, I left my nice watch locked in the safe for the duration of the trip after my first day's hostile encounter right on union Square.

Secondly, in addition to certain areas being unsafe or unwise to walk; it is often difficult to get a taxi. There are just not enough cabs; and while the public transportation system is good, I prefer to walk, drive or take cabs. Speaking of driving; I drove to the Mission with a friend to get a snack at Tartine. We could not find a parking spot, and after 20 minutes of searching, we just gave up. Frustrating.

Thirdly, We could not get into any restaurants that we wanted to go to. We tried to reserve a few days before coming up, and with the exception of a 5:30 table here and a 10 pm table there, we could not secure reservations at any of our choices. This is understandable, but San Francisco is supposedly a great food city; it is not so great when you cannot get into the places you want to go. Or, we had the option of waiting to get a seat at various counters or communal tables or bars; sometimes a counter seat is nice, but I usually prefer a table, particularly for fine dining. Maybe you do not mind lines; I do not like them. We went to Swan Oyster Depot at 4 pm hoping to get a seat at the counter; the line was 15-20 people out the door - thanks, but no thanks (After no fewer than five tries, I will not likely return to Swan). We called Gary Danko at 5:45 pm hoping to sneak a walk in seat at the bar - there was already a two hour wait. These are just a couple of many examples.

(And when you are lucky enough to get a table somewhere, make sure to add the CA tax of 10% and the San Francisco restaurant workers health care fee of usually 4% to your bill, plus your 20% tip. (This is one of my pet peeves in general about the US vs. Europe and Asia). So, that $100 per person meal you just had is actually about $135 per person.).

I any event, I just don't love visiting this city anymore. San Francisco deserves its great reputation, but, like anywhere, is not without its faults. On this occasion, a few relatively minor inconveniences, combined with the major unpleasantness of my various encounters with "street people" overshadowed the many great things that San Francisco has to offer.

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