Yeah, we saw Hamilton. But this phrase, which takes such precedence in the musical, also describes our encounter with San Francisco. SF is a very young, trendy (read: hipster) city overflowing with great food, populated by all sorts of people from all walks of life, each climbing up and down hills of all sizes and slopes every day.
For those who don’t know, Hamilton: An American Musical is a musical based on the life of American founding father Alexander Hamilton, inspired by the biography by Ron Chernow. It was nominated for and won a record number of Tony Awards, has catapulted the careers of the artists involved with the show, and has ushered in a new age of musical theatre. It is an honest-to-goodness groundbreaking work- for more reasons than I can intelligibly write about. There have been many things written about Hamilton, which a quick Google search can easily yield, but this article gives a thorough picture of how the musical came to be: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/hamiltons
Hamilton premiered on Broadway in New York City, but since its success, it has been and is being staged in numerous other iterations, both stationary and touring, around the world. The show is currently playing out an engagement at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, which is the production that Katelyn and I saw. We are both big fans of the musical, and I would feel dishonest if I did not say that we have listened to the soundtrack on our road trip more times than we can count.
Seeing a live performance of Hamilton was something more of a fantasy for me, in that I never thought I would be able to snag a ticket within the next five years at a price less than my firstborn child. I have to remind myself every now and then that we did in fact see Hamilton live onstage, and it was not simply a dream that Katelyn and I both happened to have one night. When it comes right down to it, we were able to get amazing seats at an astonishingly reasonable price through a serendipitous loophole in the ticket system made known to us via an offhand comment of a former Hamilton audience member. However, it still seems less probable to me that Katelyn and I would have seen Hamilton live in person than the idea that our dreams might have contained identical events (especially after spending almost a month traveling together). In short, it was an amazing opportunity. And for now, I’m finished gushing about historical musical theatre.
Katelyn and I loved San Francisco. We had the pleasure of being taken on a walking tour all over San Francisco by Katelyn’s uncle, who is a resident of the city. If you are familiar with the terrain of San Francisco, you know that walking the city is no easy feat. I can’t tell you the amount of hills within San Francisco’s city limits, but let it be known that they are numerous, and the hills are alive with the sound of wheezing. Walking through San Francisco is a much more strenuous task than walking through any other city I have been to. The slopes of the streets are steeper than the trails Katelyn and I hiked in the Grand Canyon. On some streets, the sidewalks become stairs because “flat” surfaces are too difficult to scale at such an angle. Vehicles are instructed to park at ninety degrees to the curb- that is, perpendicular- rather than parallel park, as is usually the norm for street parking. To live in San Francisco is to have great cardiovascular health.
During our day of exploration in San Francisco, we had a few specific places or things to see, but most of the time we simply walked over and across the city, trying to see the neighborhoods that comprise San Francisco. They are each very different, populated by different kinds of people, with different kinds of businesses, shops, and restaurants. Each area of the city also has its own microclimate. There can be twenty degrees (Fahrenheit) difference between two areas at the same time on the same day.
Every time we arrived in a new borough, we would spend a few moments there, perhaps enough to walk down a block or two, and spot about twenty different coffee shops, restaurants, and/or ice cream parlors that I would have loved to sample, if we had more time and multiple stomachs. Then after a minute or two, Katelyn’s uncle (our unofficial tour guide) would tell us that that was that, and it was time to move on and survey the next neighborhood. Our trusty tour guide informed us that on any given weekday in San Francisco, the streets, shops, parks, restaurants, cafes, and all other businesses in the city are fully populated and frequented, throwing to the wind any kind of lull during regular work hours. Many of the residents of San Francisco have remote jobs, so they can work anywhere and anytime- and therefore are free to patronize the city’s businesses before, after, and between the hours of 9am to 5pm. And indeed, we never found an empty or non-busy street, even though we were doing our sightseeing in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday.
One specific sight that we saw was Lombard Street, the “crookedest street in the world.” In the most famous section of the street, the road (one-way downhill) loops back on itself many times like an infinite S. Lombard Street was also one of the steepest hills that we climbed. Were it not for its zigzagging crookedness, cars would be close to freefalling down the hill.
Another sight that we saw in San Francisco was the row of houses made famous by the television series Full House. The houses are quaint Victorian-style homes lined up next to each other on a hill. I found it funny that the previous week in Los Angeles, we had seen the fake house that is currently used to film the spinoff series Fuller House. The house now used for filming was built on the Warner Brothers lot because the owners of the original house in San Francisco painted the exterior a different color, and it doesn’t have the same appearance that it had in the original series.
And of course, we had to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We espied the bridge from afar many times during our precious few days in San Francisco- from the beach, from a hill, from a rooftop- but we only got up close and personal with the Golden Gate when we crossed it to leave San Francisco. It was again difficult to leave such a fascinating city, so it was with a mix of longing and expectation that we looked back at its hills one last time.