In order to get a visa to study abroad in France, I had to visit the French consulate. In San Francisco. Turns out, I AM A HUGE FAN OF SAN FRANCISCO. It is an awesome city and I can’t wait to go back.
I caught a 6:00 AM flight from Seattle to San Fran. I hopped on the BART train to downtown and arrived at the French Consulate 15 minutes early for my appointment. Perfect timing. The consulate is a bizarre place and I’m wondering if all consulates are this way or just the French ones. First, it’s a door tucked away and hardly noticeable except for the giant French flag outside. Second, there was a Nigerian drug lord or something standing outside with his briefcase full of money (my assumptions) whispering into his cell phone. Third, you walk into a tiny itty-bitty room just big enough for a metal detector and a non-English speaking Asian lady. She proceeds to search your bag, and I mean REALLY search, opening every pocket and taking things out. Then she taps on the window and a loud buzzer is heard, meaning that you are now allowed to proceed into the main “lobby.” There’s a couple with a child and a girl my age who is probably doing the same thing I am. There are about 12 chairs in a row. The couple is at the counter being helped, the college girl is sitting in the third chair in. I take the seventh seat. “No, no, no!” yells a small French man in a suit. He rushes over and moves us so that we are now sitting in the very first chair and the very second chair. This is for security reasons and is very very important.
…. I don’t get it. He acted like it was the biggest mistake we could’ve made. Anyway. When it was my turn, the man behind the bulletproof (I’m assuming) glass took my papers and then did some calculations in his head for LITERALLY 6 MINUTES. I watched the clock. Like he was just staring at a blank spot on his desk, tapping his pen. He’d look back at a piece of paper for a second, and then go back to calculating something. And then said, “Thanks! We’ll mail you your visa! Au revoir!”
I found my hostel (my first hostel in America) and stored my luggage and then headed to Chinatown.
Among the multitudes of semi-cheesy gift shops, I found the Tin How Temple. Its tiny door is found in the “Alley of Painted Balconies” and there is just one small sign that can be easily missed. However, don’t miss it! It’s an actual LEGIT cultural/historical attraction, a place the first Chinese immigrants visited to say a prayer for safe travels and good luck (“Real luck, not fortune cookie luck,” as the host said).
(View of Coit Tower from Tin How Temple)
Speaking of fortune cookies, I also stopped by the Fortune Cookie Factory. The main appeal here is the free samples, and they make different flavors (chocolate, etc) if you feel like paying $7 for a novelty gift such as that.
My favorite part: the Asian grocery stores.
Day two: Walked through Chinatown up to North Beach (Little Italy) and somehow I have zero pictures from it. Though I think I loved it more than Chinatown. Reason 1: City Lights Bookstore where they had A WHOLE SECTION devoted to topography/geography books. Reason 2: Molinari’s which is super authentic Italian (with the hilly streets, haphazardly-parked Italian cars, and countless Gucci & DG-wearing Italians, I thought I had been transported back to Siena [this is an exaggeration]) and where I bought salami and provolone for $2 which made for a delicious lunch. Reason 3: The classic pastel San Franciscan architecture.
A quick hike up some seriously steep inclines and I was at Coit Tower, on top of Telegraph Hill. Inside, there are murals painted during the 1930s, showing what life was like. A highlight:
And this is the only other photo I took because at this point my lens was malfunctioning and I didn’t want to pay $5 to go to the top with a malfunctioning camera lens.
If you walk down the other side of the hill (Filbert Street, which is so steep it’s just steps) you’ll pass Napier Lane. Which is an adorable wood plank street lined with the oldest houses in San Francisco.
And I didn’t take any pictures of those houses…. So moving on: I walked down Mason Street to the Cable Car Museum. It’s free and it’s a museum so I loved it. I’d never really thought about how the cable cars worked but it’s quite the system.
I got a beverage at the cafe across the street and was reading a magazine when I suddenly decided that I absolutely had to find a copy of Vice Magazine before I left the city (because it’s hard to find and also, awesome). Well, I did find it, and it was free. And I was the most content and happy that I have been in at least one week as I flew back on that IMMACULATE MARVELOUS MAGNIFICENT airline (Virgin America) while reading my Vice magazine.