Friday, 22 August 2014


Having been so impressed with the first Wild SF walking tour, on Sunday we went on another one. This time the tour took us around the Castro and Mission districts which are two of the cultural centres of San Francisco and home to the LGBT community. These areas are slightly off the beaten path for most tourists, but if you take the time to go up there, you are rewarded with some fantastic views, incredible murals and really interesting history. The tour began with our friendly and humorous tour guide J Jo singing a song in Union Square, then we all had a chance to chat with our fellow travellers as we took the underground up to the Castro area. 

LGBT history in San Francisco is both devastating and uplifting. For the first stop on the tour, J Jo took us to a sculpture dedicated to the homosexual victims of the holocaust. He pointed out that the gay prisoners were the only group of people who were put straight back into prison after being freed from the Nazi internment camps and he talked to us about the terrible persecution that the lesbian and gay communities suffered during and after the second world war. It was all very poignant.

Things never stay downcast for long in San Francisco however, and we were soon on our way with other stops on the tour that gave us an insight into more positive chapters in LGBT history. We stopped at the house where Harvey Milk lived when he became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California and we walked through the really vibrant area called the Castro district, which is the centre of the LGBT community in San Francisco today and is a really lively and colourful place. After climbing to the top of the hill in this district, we reached the sunny and beautiful Dolores Park, in the mission district. It was beautiful, so it deserves an extra-large photo!

The history of the LGBT community in San Francisco is the history of a community finding its voice and gaining a basic human right: the right to self determination. It is not surprising that this happened in the same city that hosted prominant members of the beat generation, such as Allen Ginsberg (who I mentioned in another post) and Jack Kerouac. Other groups of people have had similar struggles and triumphs in San Francisco and the art and architecture of the city is a testament to their perseverance and creative endeavour. In the mission district, there are many murals on the walls celebrating the life and culture of different ethnic groups. This photo shows the women's building. It's a dramatic and inspiring place that houses several different women's organisations, but was the subject of intense hostility when it was first founded. The murals covering the building are called the "meastra peace" rather than a masterpiece.

Sadly, by Monday morning it was time for us to leave San Francisco. Vincent charmed some Italian tourists into taking this photo of us by the heart in union square. Hasta La Vista San Francisco! We hope to return again.

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