Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area  

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Introduction to the San Francisco Bay Area

Most people enjoy the San Francisco Bay Area — it consistently ranks at the top of polls of preferred travel destinations. (There are exceptions — novelist Gilbert Sorrentino said "the entire Bay Area, with the source of infection being, of course, that citadel of provincialism, San Francisco, has the air of an amateur stage production set in sinister natural surroundings." And clownish ex-basketball player Charles Barkley dismissed "Golden State" as a "smoky little town.")

Sorrentino and Barkley notwithstanding, the region is blessed with natural beauty, with its expansive bay surrounded by hills that are wooded with pines near the coast, turn to oak as one moves inland, and grow more open and golden as one continues east. The bay empties into the Pacific at the Golden Gate, and to the north and south stretch endless beaches and rocky shores.

The Bay Area also benefits from a pleasant Mediterranean climate, usually at its best in September and October. Summers in the city and elsewhere near the coast can be frigid with fog, and in winter one may endure long periods of relentless drizzle. But sunny days will follow, and it's a rare winter that doesn't see some beautiful sunlit days to cheer the sodden spirit.

The area further benefits from a diverse and creative population. A Pacific rim region, and historically the country's preeminent outreach to Asia, the San Francisco Bay Area has a unique culture that looks as much to the East as to the east. It is a tolerant region, in which — at least relative to many cities — all sorts of people are by and large accepted. Those who travel here often enjoy a friendly reception from people they meet. (Needless to say, there are the usual urban problems, and attention has recently focused on police abuses and racial inequities.) The Bay Area has a colorful history, and a lively arts scene offers a great variety of choices for activities. Many national trends, from the counterculture movements of the postwar years to the high-tech boom at the end of the century, got their start in the Bay Area.

Still, misinformation abounds, and there are plenty of traps for the unwary. Traffic congestion and homelessness are just two of the difficult issues on which little progress is apparent. The city tends to be pleased with itself to the point of smugness. Perhaps because it depends so heavily on its tourist industry, it tends to view things through rose-colored lenses. Frisco Vista seeks to correct misrepresentations and misconceptions. We hope to present an honest and informed picture of all aspects of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, and we welcome your comments and feedback.


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