Yes folks, it’s Sunday and time for a bonus City Rumble, and today well, we head to the good ol’ US of A as the capital of the whole shebang takes on the hilly. Earthquake prone city on the far West Coast, San Francisco! Yes it’s an all-American affair today, two cities I really liked facing off against each other. Who will take home the chocolate? Well, let’s get ready to…. RUMBLE!
Well, to do this one I have to make my brain work overtime because it was 2004 that I last visited the States and both of these two cities. I was really lucky back in 2004, through people I met whilst I travelled, I had places to stay in a lot of places in North America including both Washington DC and San Francisco.
I arrived in September and flew into Washington DC. The transport into the city seemed a but limited at first, and I ended up in a shuttle bus that drops people off at different locations in the city. Washington does have a metro system and it’s not bad at all, and I used it all the time to get around the city (along with walking) and the good news is that as I write this post there is an extension to Dulles International Airport under construction.
Transport in San Francisco is pretty well known, isn’t it? Because it’s famous for its tram, or its cable car, the thing gets pulled around by a cable just under the ground. There’s a wonderful museum for the cable car in San Francisco which is undoubtably one of the city’s highlights.
As for size, well Washington DC has a little under 700,000 people living there. Across on the West Coast and San Francisco, we have a little over 880,000. In the greater San Fran area it’s over seven million though. For Washington DC it’s a tick over 6.2 million, so there isn’t a huge difference when it comes to size.
How are the people? Well immediately I would say that people in San Francisco are friendly. In both cities I was staying with locals and so mostly I met and had drinks with their friends. And there are a lot of bars in both cities. Yet both cities, despite DC being the capital, are without a doubt friendlier than New York City.
And both cities have really cool neighbourhoods. The houses in Washington DC, well the townhouses, are historic buildings with narrow roads and plenty of shade. I don’t know if it was because I had a vision of living in American cities, but the streets of Washington DC somehow fitted into my vision of the States.
San Francisco’s inner suburbs are pretty cool too and I stayed in a pretty spacious first floor (second floor) apartment which was on the top of a hill. The hills in San Francisco are really something else, it’s close to the hilliest city I’ve ever visited. One morning I woke up and the person I was staying with’s car suddenly didn’t have any wheels. Yes, they had been stolen overnight. And she didn’t seem that concerned by it actually. They left the car on stocks of wood.
Both apartments I stayed in though were clearly not built in the last thirty to fifty years, so that was really cool. San Francisco has the Bay which is the main geographical feature of the city. And of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a breathtaking spot and even with a fair bit of fog when I was there, it still looked that way. The way that it combines the nature with the city was a real plus.
On the city side of the Bay are parks and walks, depending on how close you get to the bridge, and you can climb Coit Tower for great Bay views as well. Other attractions include the famous curling Lombard street, which frankly is nice but I’m not sure it should be classed as a major attraction. Then there’s the Earthquake/Fire Museum. It was 1906 and San Francisco was struck by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake. That and the resulting fire all but levelled the city. There is a highly interesting museum that covers this event.
Washington DC is all about the politics. Really, it is. I mean the people I stayed with worked for Congressmen for starters, there are monuments galore to Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and co. The layout in the centre of town sees a huge mall in front of the Capitol Building (where the houses sit) with the Washington Monument in the middle – a rather strange thin obelix – and then the Lincoln Memorial at the far end.
Then of course there is the White House. I think occasionally you may still be able to take tour, but not in Covid times either. But just seeing this incredibly well known building from the outside is a really cool experience.
Then you have the Smithsonian Museums, I went to the National Space and Flight Museum which was, all told, pretty awesome. If you do have an interest in politics Washington will really float your boat.
Costs? Well I didn’t think there is as big difference cost-wise between the two cities. But on closer examination I could see there was. Hotels in Washington DC are certainly pricey – not a lot going for less than $200 a night. Perhaps you’d like to stay in the Trump International Hotel? Well that’s starting at around $500 upwards.
This is all through a quick Trip Advisor search, but San Francisco seems to be coming in at around half the price of hotels on the first page for Washington DC. So there’s a way to save a bit of money. Then you have dining out, and I would say again San Francisco is a little cheaper.
Connections? Well they are both well connected cities by air, both have well serviced international airports, but then a lot of cities in the USA are really well connected when it comes to airports. There are rail connections too for both, which is not a given in the USA. And Greyhound will bus you about too.
Finally, weather and San Francisco is pretty cold and grey outside summer. Washington in contrast is was sunny and quite warm in late September. But I know it sees snow in the winter which means I guess it has a continental climate. I imagine it could be quite stifling in summer.
So where do I favour? Well, despite it being the more expensive of the two cities, I loved Washington DC and would love to go back one day. So DC it is! I went in 2004 but in 2021 I have more of an interest in politics and I know more about the places I saw than when I was there. Also I explore places a lot more thoroughly with more planning these days. I don’t have any plans for the next few years to get to the States, but actually I’d like to see both of these cities again!
Thanks for reading, take care – and May the Journey Never End!