Review: Insight Guide San Francisco

By: Norm Goldman

Review: Insight Guide San Francisco
Editors: John Wilcock: Martha Ellen Zenfel: Brian Bell:

There are many books written in the travel literature genre pertaining to San Francisco, but few cover as much territory as Insight Guide San Francisco.

Just by glancing through the table of contents, you notice that what is important to the editors was not where to eat or stay, although this is briefly dealt with at the end of the guide, but rather, mixing history, culture, people, historic places, and neighborhoods that seduce visitors to this “City by the Bay,” as many call it.

The focus of this guidebook is to enable visitors to partake in a total tourist experience. Commencing with the opening chapters, readers are presented with a chronology of the history of this great city beginning with pre-1500s and up to the twenty-first century. We learn about native tribes, the Gold Rush, the 1906 earthquake, Alcatraz Island, where some of the most notorious criminals were incarcerated, the servicemen who took up residence in the city after World War II, Asian immigration, the 1950s when the city was the birthplace of a new cultural renaissance or the “beatniks.”

We are also reminded that to fully experience San Francisco, it is essential to appreciate the huge mosaic of cultural groups that make up its diverse population. Consequently, snippets are provided concerning its population that, according to the last census, is made up of 46 percent white, 29 percent Asian, 14 percent Hispanic, 11 percent African-American. Moreover,we learn about the immense contributions of African-Americans, Chinese and Chinatown that is the biggest Chinese community outside Asia itself, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese, Mexicans, Italians, and the Gay community, who all bring with them something unique.

When my wife and I first visited San Francisco many years ago, we were reminded that it is a walking city. The guide book definitely reconfirms this as it states, “it’s the many and varied hills more than anything else that offer San Francisco’s visitors such a variety of vistas.” Although the city may only be a few miles wide and long, it is made up of at least a dozen unique neighborhoods. These are mapped out with their sights, activities and experiences, with the qualification that not all of what is available in San Francisco is covered, nonetheless what is presented reflects a combination of the city’s popular and out of the way offerings.

You have an excellent grasp of Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower, Chinatown, Union Square, the Financial District, Civic Center, Soma, Nob Hill, Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, Golden Gate Bridge and some of the not-so-familiar venues.

As is the case with all of the Insight Guide books, the photo images are spectacular and breathtaking as they capture the pulse of this great city.

To repeat the old cliché, a picture is worth a thousand words, this just about sums up how effective are the many photos scattered throughout the book. This is particularly true of the photos of the different cultural groups that make San Francisco as to what it is- a most unique ambiance that will entrance you with its sights and sounds, and even its fog, that some consider romantic.

By the end of the bookScience Articles, you have an excellent grasp and well-rounded picture of what makes San Francisco tick.

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