22.08.2010 - 22.08.2010 25 °C
Today I explored the Chinatown and Nob Hill areas of San Francisco. I set out late in the morning to Stockton on the other side of Union Square, up Stockton (by 'up' I mean both along and literally up as the hills here are imposing!). Chinatown is divided into two quite distinct sections; touristy Chinatown and Chinaman's Chinatown. Chinatown proper sits on Stockton. It is very different to New York's Chinatown. Even though this was the first Chinatown in America, and is very much closer to China, it is considerably smaller than New York's Chinatown. Perhaps its size explains another difference between the two; San Francisco's Chinatown lacks the smell of rubbish that lingers in the air in Chinatown-New York. One of the fantastic advantages of Chinatown is that everything is cheap, whether you're buying fruit or a padlock or looking for a haircut. Whilst I was walking around I popped into a few market-shops selling to buy fruit and vegetables - I didn't buy the flapping fish!
I walked to the end of Stockton and I started to spot lamp posts painted with the Italien tricolour. I hadn't realised there was a Little Italy in San Francisco, although I shouldn't have been surprised. The thing is, it really is very little, perhaps just half a block. Nevertheless, on this hot day the geleto was fantastic! Not far from the end of Stockton I found Washington Square, which is a little treasure. I found a spot on the grass and within minutes I was fast asleep in the hot California sun. About three-quarters of an hour later I roused myself and I was fully recharged to explore Nob Hill. Nob Hill is a hilly and charming neighbourhood. The pastel painted terraces aren't terraces as we know them, instead they are smart attractive buildings, most with stunning Bay views.
After hiking up and down and down and up plenty of hills that make up the Nob Hill neighbourhood I made my way back to where I'm staying, a neighbourhood called The Tenderloin. This is a very sketchy area and I don't have any plans to be out after sunset. There is a significant homless population in the neighbourhood because of shelters, which are forrunately located quite a few blocks away. However, the hostel provide a 'safe corridor' into the city that avoid the less safe areas and instead sticks to the road that is more heavily policed. I hope I don't, however, give you the impression that homlessness is unique to The Tenderloin, it is endemic across the city; from the best places to the worst and the places tourists don't visit to the places they do. I stuggle to appropriately describe it. I want to say it is a problem, I am sure the homeless people belive it is, however it isn't treated as an afflication by the city and its population. Instead, homelessness is seen as a part of San Francisco as much as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island are fixed in our finds when we think of this city. I, though, am disappointed by the tacit acceptance or permanency of their condition that this view implies. Viewing it as a part of the city's character neglects solutions to the problem (or whatever you choose to describe it) and I have found no one yet who has thought a solution necessary, let alone even suggested one.