For the past 48 hours I have been walking around San Francisco with my husband and feeling every bit like we were in Paris, France. From our lunch at the Grand Café Brasserie & Bar on Taylor Street to the Picasso exhibit we toured at the de Young Museum, I could only marvel at the similarities of the two cities (wide streets, pollard trees, great shopping…”que dire de plus?” (French for “need I say more?”)).
As we left the de Young, I turned to my husband and asked, “doesn’t this feel like Paris?” Not yet feeling the vibe, he answered with a shrug, and we continued walking into the Golden Gate Park (which seemed to me to be like the Jardin de Luxembourg). It was only when we stopped at the Music Concourse to listen to a lone accordionist playing Midnight in Paris that my husband finally felt it. Voila! So bowled over was my lovely Irish husband that he suggested we sit on two of the many white folding chairs before us and enjoy the moment.
Of course the magic got me thinking and, while he soaked up the atmosphere, I whipped out my trusty iPhone and googled “Is Paris like San Francisco?”. Sure enough, it seems, I’m not the only folles américaines (crazy American). San Francisco is not only twinned with Paris as sister-cities, it has often been called The Paris of the West.
In fact, in 1896, the mayor of San Francisco, James D. Phelan (the son of Irish immigrants) became interested in remaking San Francisco into a grand and modern version of Paris and is often credited with giving San Francisco its charming nickname. In 1915, Alma Spreckels, the wife of sugar magnate Adolph B. Spreckels, convinced her husband to recapture the beauty of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris by building the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. The project was completed on Armistice Day 1924 and, in keeping with the wishes of the Spreckels, to “honor the dead while serving the living,” it was accepted by the city of San Francisco as a museum and was dedicated to the memory of the California men who lost their lives on the battlefields of France during World War I. And finally, in more modern times, San Francisco has been compared to Paris in terms of its gastronomy, its attitude towards gay life (think the Marais), the undeniable fact that it’s a “walking city”, and its multi-cultural diversity.
Unfortunately my husband and I are only able to spend two days getting to know this more unusual side of San Francisco but I have to say it’s been une expérience fantastique!