I was only in California for five days, so I was unable to form a very educated or thorough opinion about the state. I was also only in the Bay Area and then in Santa Cruz and Monterrey, so I formed all of my impressions from these places.
First of all, this was what greeted me at the San Francisco airport. Way to confirm all of the pre-conceived stereotypes that I had about California.
My next impression was that gas prices are REALLY HIGH. My Dad was complaining all the time that gas was expensive in CT at around $3.80 a gallon. Then I went to Minnesota and it was only around $3.55. In California it was $4.23!!
And despite that, THERE ARE SO MANY CARS. It was BY FAR the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced. Granted, I am from Vermont where “traffic” is a line of cars backed up behind the tractor going down the road. But I’ve experienced traffic jams in Santiago, which are nothing compared to the stand-still traffic on six-lane highways in the Bay Area. I’m not sure I have enough patience for traffic like that!
Even though I didn’t have time to properly get to know San Francisco, my drive-by impression was fantastic. My first thought was, darn, why is this city so far from my family? I could live here. I couldn’t have asked for better weather, which always improves my impression of a city, but even so, San Fran was clean, the people were friendly, and everyone seemed to be outdoors and active. I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to visit to get to know it a little more.
Another aspect that made an impression was the fact that a really nice neighborhood could exist next to a really shady one. My friends R. and JP live in Oakland, which I think has a bad reputation for being dangerous. And there are parts that are. But my friends live in a really cute neighborhood near Piedmont which is totally safe. But walk a few blocks and you are in the not-so-great part. I guess Santiago has made me accustomed to the socio-economic segregation of the city.
On a related note, I also found California to be quite diverse. However, I also thought that of Connecticut and Minnesota. This is probably due to the fact that I grew up and went to school in the whitest states in the U.S. (Maine and Vermont), and I live in Santiago, which has its own type of diversity, but nothing compared to California.
I am excited to eventually go back to California. I’d love to explore the Northern part and spend more time in San Francisco. Good thing I have friends living there who give me the perfect excuse for a visit!