A visit of San Francisco and other cities of the Bay area: Oakland, Berkeley, Palo Alto and San José, as well as cities in the South: Los Angeles and San Diego.
The city of San Francisco is famous worldwide and often symbolized by the Golden Gate Bridge. Founded in 1776, it is in 2013 the fourth biggest metropole in the USA, with an agglomeration (the Bay Area) of about 7 million inhabitants. Since the second half of the 20th century, its reputation has increased due to the companies implanted in the Silicon Valley which are specialized in the computer science technologies and because of its universities such as Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley.
The history of the city has been marked by the presence of the prison of Alcatraz in the bay and by several earthquakes among which the one of 1906 caused a giant fire that destroyed most of the city.
Among the most famous places of the city are the Painted Ladies (a group of houses) and Lombard street. San Francisco is famous for its inclined streets and its cable cars.
It was created in 1927, but the civil flights only began during the Second World War. It has four terminals and the international one is the biggest in North America.
The airport metro
Since 2003, the airport has its own free and fully automated metro which has two lines.
The cable cars
Created in 1873, the three remaining lines are the oldest cable-car system still used daily, mainly by tourists.
San Francisco is one of the five American cities using trolleybuses. They have been used since 1935 and count 17 lines in 2013.
This heavy rail train link many cities of the Bay Area, notably Palo Alto and San José. Trains need one hour and half to reach San José from San Francisco, and express train one hour only. The trains use diesel-electric locomotives, and it is planned to convert them to fully electric locomotives.
The total area of San Francisco Bay is more than 4000 km². It is an important habitat to several species of birds, fishes and shrimps. It is however polluted by numerous industrial activities. It is also the center of a 7-million-inhabitants agglomeration and serves as an access to the port of Oakland, fifth busiest container port in the United States in 2011. Eight major bridges cross it.
As for San Francisco shore, the Ferry building was constructed in 1896.
This island is located 2.4 km offshore in the bay of San Francisco. It hosts a lighthouse, military fortifications and a prison. The latter served as a military prison in 1868 and as a federal prison from 1933 to 1963. It is now a historic place to visit. The gangster Al Capone is the most famous men that was imprisoned there.
The Golden Gate Bridge
"Golden Gate" is the name of the opening of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean. The bridge that spans it was opened in 1937 and is one of the most world famous icons of San Francisco. Its main span is 1280 m long and its total length is 2737 m. Its highest point is 230 m above sea level. It is made of steel with about 1.2 million rivets.
San Francisco has a modern industrial port with cargo terminals. There are also smaller leisure ports, some with fishing activities.
Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf is famous for its Dungeness crab, a species that lives on the West coast and is consumed here. The clam chowder is a kind of soup served in a sourdough bread bowl.
Pier 39 is a famous tourist attraction, with an aquarium and several shops and restaurants, opened in 1978. A colony of California sea lions lives on the marina. The sea lions from the bay arrived at this location in 1989 and some docks had to be abandoned and relocated to avoid boat collisions with the animals.
The maritime museum
This museum, located near Fisherman's wharf, displays a few magnificent boats. Among them, the cargo ship Star of Alaska aka Balclutha was built in Scotland in 1886 and sailed five times between Europe and San Francisco and then yearly journeys to Alaska from 1903 to 1930. The steam tug Hercules, built in 1907, traveled from Alaska to Panama until 1923 and then worked on the Bay until 1962.
Saint Mary's cathedral
The cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption was completed in 1970 and replaces the previous cathedral which burned in 1962. It has a modern style, very different than the usual shapes of churches. Its geometry is composed of hyperbolic paraboloids that join to form a cross-shaped vault that contains a stained glass window of the same shape. The interior of the vault, supported by four pylons, is covered with 1600 triangular coffers. The dimensions of the inside are approximately 78 × 78 m for a height of about 60 m crowned with a 17-meter golden cross.
The building has four windows opened to the city at the four corners; it can contain 2400 people. It was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1987.
The cathedral contains six shrines consisting in low-relief bronzes made in Italy representing Wedding Feast of Cana, the Flight into Egypt, the Visitation, the Crucifixion, the Pentecost and the Assumption. The pipe organ has 4842 pipes and was made in Italy. The tabernacle is covered with a tapestry representing the Host surrounded by flames. The altar weights 10 tons. Above it is a 15-story baldacchin made of aluminum rods which weights 1 ton.
This mission, also called Mission San Francisco de Assisi, was founded by the Father Junipero Serra and consecrated in October 1776.
The mission itself is the oldest building in San Francisco. It was finished in 1791 and survived the 1906 earthquake. Its sequoia beams are still the original ones.
Holy Virgin cathedral
This church is the cathedral of the Russian Orthodox community. It was built from 1961 to 1965 and consecrated in 1977. Its five domes are covered with pure gold. Its interior contains a wall of icons.
This church is the cathedral of Episcopal Diocese of California. It contains a 44-bell carillon, three pipe organs and 677 m² of stained glass windows. The building, made in French Gothic style, was built from 1928 to 1964.
This church has some architectural similarities with the basilica Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière in Lyon. It was built in 1858 for the French immigrants. It contains beautiful stained glass windows.
Our Lady of Fatima church
This Russian Byzantine Catholic church is located just near the Russian Orthodox Holy Virgin Cathedral.
Sacred Heart church
This church was once one of the most important of San Francisco. Its construction began in 1897 and lasted 12 years. It survived the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes. It closed in 2004 because of a repair bill of 8 million dollars and serves, in 2014, as a roller-skating place.
Saint Boniface church
This church was built in the Tenderloin quarter in 1900 and reconstructed after the 1906 earthquake. The parish has been place under the responsibility of the Franciscans since 1887. One of the stained glass window represent the vision of Saint Francis of Assisi: Jesus-Christ crucified wearing three pairs of wings, like an angel.
It is home to hundreds of homeless people who can sleep and wash there.
Saint Charles-Borromeo church
This small church with nice wooden furniture was built in 1887.
Saint Dominic church
The parish was established in 1873 and the church built between 1887 and 1928. It is of Gothic style. Its nine flying buttresses were built in 1992 and serve as protection against earthquakes.
Its stained glass windows are modern and figurative.
Saint Francis of Assisi church
This church is the Pro-Cathedral of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. It was established in June 1849, during the Gold Rush, as the first English-speaking church of the place (the ministry and preaching were in Spanish in Mission Dolores). The church burnt during the 1906 earthquake, but its brick walls remained intact. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops gave it the title of National Shrine in September 1999.
Saint Francis-Xavier church
This church is part of Saint-Benedict's parish for the deaf, which was established in 1984 in San Francisco, nearly 100 years after Saint-Joseph's home was established in Oakland for the deaf. The church itself was built in 1913 and was taken care of by the Jesuits. It was the church for the Japanese Catholics until those they were relocated to a camp in Utah in 1942.
Old Saint Mary's cathedral
This church, located in Chinatown, is the former cathedral of San Francisco and was built in 1854. It served as a cathedral until 1891. It was severely damaged by the 1906 earthquake and was restored in 1909.
Santa Monica church
This church is part of an elementary school, founded in 1919 by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.
Saint Patrick church
The parish was founded in 1851. The construction of the first church began in 1851 and ended in 1854. The current brick church, located on Mission Street in the Financial district, was built between 1870 and 1872 and survived the 1906 earthquake.
Saint Peter and Saint Paul church
This church is located in the Italian quarter and was the church for the Italian immigrants. Nowadays, it serves for the Chinese-American Catholics.
Saint Vincent-de-Paul church
The interior of this church, built in 1911, is very simple. This church has beautiful stained glass windows.
This church seems abandoned.
The city hall
The city hall of San Francisco was rebuilt in 1915, after the 1906 earthquake. It has the fifth largest dome in the world, slightly taller than that of the United States Capitol.
Near the city hall stands a monument to James Lick, who the wealthiest man in California at his death in 1876 and donated its fortune to science and charities. The monument refers to events of American history.
San Francisco Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. It counts a large number of shops as well as temples and traditional Chinese architecture.
The Financial District
The financial district is a quarter with several companies headquarters and about 2.8 million square meters of office space. About 220 000 people work in offices there.
The Transamerica Pyramid has been the tallest building in San Francisco since 1972.
The Coit Tower
Lillie Hitchcock Coit was a firefighter. When she died in 1929, she left one-third of her estate to the City of San Francisco to beautify it. This tower was built in 1931 with that money. It contains frescoes representing the history and people of San Francisco.
The blue house
In 1971, the French singe Maxime Le Forestier lived in this house located 3841, 18th Street and wrote a famous song entitled San Francisco. The house was then forgotten and painted in green. In 2011, it was painted again in blue and a plate was placed.
The Bay area
The University of California
The University of California at Berkeley was established in 1868. It is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. It occupies about 500 ha and teaches to about 36 000 students in 2013. One of its symbols is the Sather Tower.
Christ the Light's cathedral
This cathedral, of modern style, was built between 2005 and 2008 after the former Cathedral of Saint Francis de Sales had been damaged by an earthquake in 1989. It is designed like a bishop's mitre and a giant bright image of Jesus Christ is placed above the choir.
The crypt hosts the ashed of incinerated people.
Preservation Park is a set of 19-century houses of Victorian and Colonial Revival styles dating from 1870 to 1911.
This university is one of the most famous in the world. It was founded in 1885 by Leland Stanford, a rich businessman who owned a railroad company.
Folding@home is among the global projects initiated by the University.
Memorial church was built by Jane Stanford in 1903 in memory of her husband. Its pipe organ has 7777 pipes!
The construction of the Cantor Museum was finished by Jane Stanford. Among all the collections, the bronzes by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin are remarkable.
Palo Alto is served by two stations of the Caltrain: California avenue station and Transit center station.
Saint Joseph's cathedral
This is the fifth church built at this place, after the previous ones were destroyed by earthquakes and a fire. It was dedicated in 1877 and finished in 1885. It became a cathedral in 1985 and a basilica in 1997. The seats are organized in a circle around a central altar.
The State University
The State University was established in 1857. In 2012, it enrolls about 30,000 students and provides the Silicon Valley firms with a lot of engineers and doctors.
This parish was founded in 1872 and now serves the Vietnamese community. The current church was built in 1967 and was the cathedral of the diocese from 1981 to 1990.
The tramway of San José is called "Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light rail". It is actually a light rail train which opened in 1987. In 2013, it consists of two main lines and 62 stations.
This station was constructed in 1935 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is served by the Caltrain and the VTA light rail.
The first settlement in this place counted approximately 40 inhabitants, in 1781. It developped so much in the 19th and 20th centuries that the whole metropolitan area count about 18 million inhabitants in 2013, with the most diverse population of the United States. It is known worldwide for its movie industry, represented by the district of Hollywood. Gangs and pollution remain among the problems of the city.
The cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is a modern church, built in 2002 for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles. Its shape avoids right angles. The nave contains tapestries by John Nava. It is built on a mausoleum made of 1270 crypts.
The pueblo of Los Angeles, founded in 1781, is the location of the first Spanish settlement. Later, the church of Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles was constructed to serve as a parish church. One of the main buildings is the Mexican Cultural Institute.
The Union Station is located just near the Pueblo. It was constructed in 1939 and serves about 60,000 passengers a day in 2012.
The church of Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles
This church is located in the Pueblo. Its origins date back to 1784, with the creation of the Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles Asistencia. The construction of the church itself was finished in 1814.
Near Los Angeles
The history of the city began in 1769. It is now known for its pier, which has a roller coaster track, and its beaches.
The Venice neighborhood, located between Santa Monica and Los Angeles, is well known for its canals. Between 1925 and the 1970s, the area mostly consisted in oil pumping wells.
The California Institute of Technology is one of the most famous universities in the world. It was founded in 1891. More than 30 Nobel prizes were awarded to its alumni or professors, as well as Crafoord prizes and National medals of science or technology.
Its campus is beautiful, with many trees and flowers. It also counts a NASA laboratory. The tallest building is the Millikan Library.
This city, located near Los Angeles was established by the construction of a presidio in 1782 and a mission in 1786. It has nice beaches and face the Channel Islands.
San Diego is one of the most important cities in California. It was founded in 1769 as a Spanish city, became American in 1848 and has a population of about 1.3 million inhabitants in 2013.
This church was built in 1941 on a former brick church which became a cathedral in 1936. It was restored in 2011.
The presidio was established in 1769 and abandoned in 1835. It was the first European building on the West coast of California. The current building on the site is the Serra museum, built in 1928 which now belongs to the city of San Diego.
The maritime museum
This museum was founded in 1948. Its master piece is the iron bark Star of India. It also possesses an American and a Soviet submarine, a ferryboat, a yacht and the frigate HMS Surprise.
The port of San Diego provides both cargo and cruise facilities.
The USS Midway is an aircraft carrier that served from 1945 to 1992. It is now transformed into a museum.
The bay of San Diego has an important industrial and military activity. The island of Coronado is located in the bay and linked to San Diego by a bridge.
The Old Town
The Old Town of San Diego is a set of houses, museums, shops and restaurants located around a central plaza.
The Immaculate Conception church
This small church is located in the Old Town.
The Union Station, or Santa Fe Depot, opened in 1915. Built in the Mission Revival style, it replaces the former station built in 1887.
The tramway of San Diego (called trolley locally), opened in 1981. In 2013, it has 4 lines
Lake Cuyamaca is located near Cuyamaca Peak (1985 m), in Southern California. The villages there were founded by mining companies, in the late 19th century.
Imperial Sand Dunes
The Algodones Dunes, in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, are a set of yellow sand dunes. This site, which is about 72 × 10 km, is located West of the Chocolate Mountains, near Arizona.
Some famous movies have been filmed there, such as Star Gate and some scenes of Tatooine of Star Wars.
Cette page en anglais a été créée par Peter à partir de notes de voyage, le 10 mars 2013 et modifiée pour la dernière fois le 25 août 2020. Son avancement est noté 3/3.