Though Amsterdam and Manchester may be pretenders, there's no doubt that San Francisco
still keeps the crown as gayest city in the world, writes OutUK's Stevie Gardiner.
I can't think of anywhere else but San Francisco where a leatherman in tight white
t-shirt, chaps and posing pouch, arse cheeks hanging out for all to see, could get on a bus in the middle
of the afternoon in the centre of town and no-one bat an eyelid. Or even a peace protestor
on a demo wander down the city's main street completely naked and completely ignored by
police and pedestrians alike.
So how did the city end up like this, with an unrivalled reputation for tolerance
and perhaps eccentricity. It's a long story
but probably a lot to do with geography.
The city's on a 50 square mile peninsula
bordered on three sides by the sea, and built on a series of hills. This is as far west as you can go
in the continental US, and you get the feeling that everybody who's escaped from somewhere else,
could end up here. The hills create a small-town feel, and the city really is a collection
of neighbourhoods. Maybe it's also because you know the city is on a fault which it
any time could result in a serious earthquake, so why not live now as who knows what tomorrow
Of course in the 80's tomorrow also brought AIDS, which decimated the SF
gay community of the time. Now SF has a population of 800,000, around a quarter of them are gay or lesbian, so you'll
find that a gay sensibility is common across the whole city. It's possibly the one place
in the world where your sexuality is rarely an issue.
Tourist central is Fisherman's Wharf which is the nearest thing to Southend that I've ever
seen in the states. Avoid at all costs except that it's the place where you need to
catch the ferry to Alcatraz, once the site of the U.S.' toughest maximum security prison,
now a National Park. For around £11 you get a return ticket to the prison and an audio guide
which really does brings to life for prisoners like Al Capone. You should book in advance
and you can do it online.
Outside the Ferry Terminal you can also rent mountain bikes and a
map from Blazing Saddles for an 8 mile ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The views are stunning and you can catch
a ferry back from Sausalito across the bay from SF. There are some excellent restaurants such
as Scoma's which offer more incredible views across the bay. Your best to do the ride
on a Sunday when the cycles are segregated from pedestrians walking over the bridge.
Shopaholics should head to Union
Square and could spend a day maxing out their credit card in stores from the upmarket like Saks
Fifth Avenue and Armani or branches of gay staples like Abercrombie & Fitch.
Though San Francisco is a real melting pot of races and creeds, it retains a very European feel.
Much of the architecture is Victorian or Edwardian, and the climate is unlike much of California.
It can be foggy in the mornings and even in summer cool at night. The best way to get
around the city is either by public transport or taxi, which by London standards are both very cheap.
Unless you're planning trips out of the city, don't bother with a hire car as you'll find
nowhere to park. The Streetcars and Metro can be confusing at first but you'll soon get the hang of
it, and tickets are valid for 90 minutes and can be used across the whole system.
The famous cable cars are really only tourist attractions and don't really go anywhere useful.
Gay San Francisco