‘….I left my heart in San Francisco,
high on a hill it calls to me….’
Sinatra’s song is haunting me. It is ringing in my ears.
Just heard, that my friend Nina is traveling to the West Coast; to charismatic San Francisco. After marriage when I first came to America after a short spell in LA, it was in the Bay area that my husband and I started our life together, shared our dreams and made new friends. Oh, those zillions of precious moments! All those wonderful weekends spent in Frisco! The breath taking picturesque Golden Gate Bridge is etched in my memory, forever.
When we’d visited San Francisco the very first time,
“The Golden Gate cruise is a must,” had declared my husband.
“The cruise is definitely a must.” I repeat, to Nina.
The cruise that starts from the historic fisherman’s wharf, had taken us along the San Francisco waterfront and around ‘The Rock’ – Alcatraz Island, the famous prison.
“This is where the notorious Al Capone was once imprisoned.” I remember the guide remarking. We spend the hour taking in the numerous sights, including the Marina District, North Beach and Presidio among others. And last but not the least sailing under the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge.
The famous Golden Gate Bridge is a classic suspension bridge. It was the largest when it was first built in 1937. Today it is the second largest in U.S. Made of steel frame and steel cables; it is Structurally Modern with some Art Deco details. The bridge is the only road to exit San Francisco to the north and on an average day there are 100,000 vehicles crossing the bridge. It has six total lanes of vehicle traffic, and walkways on both sides of the bridge. It spans the Golden Gate, the opening into the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. And it is especially mesmerizing at night when it’s all lighted up, especially on a foggy night.
The enchanting bridge has been picturised in numerous movies, from James Bond’s ‘A View to Kill’ to Hitchcock ‘Vertigo. You must have seen it several times in the ‘Bicentennial Man’ or in ‘The Hulk’. And of course in the famous television show ‘Full house’! You see the bridge in the title song as well as in numerous scenes. There are quite a few books based on the bridge too; including our very own Vikram Seth’s first novel. And the name of the novel? But of course it is called ‘The Golden Gate’. It is a story of yuppies searching for love and the bridge is a source of inspiration for them.
There are numerous anecdotes and plenty of interesting stories about the Bridge, some facts some fiction. Do you know why the bridge is closed for pedestrians at night? It is because the Bridge is notorious as a site for suicide and at times is referred to as Suicide Bridge. I read somewhere on average there is an attempt at suicide every two weeks!
Guess what, the bridge is not painted golden at all! It is painted orange vermilion or ‘international orange’ .Painting the bridge is an on going task, and I was told that a team of 38 painters handle this task. Hey then why the name Golden Gate? This famous bridge isn’t named for its color. Somewhere I read that it was named some 150 years ago by prospectors who passed through it on their way to California’s gold fields! But some challenge this theory, they say ”Golden Gate’ is not associated with the discovery of gold in California, but was in fact named two years earlier. It was named “Golden Gate” in 1846 by U.S. Army engineer and explorer John C. Fremont, after its geographical location. Well, whatever or whoever named it…..the name sure suits the grand bridge, right?
On the ending note, few lines from Joseph P. Strauss poem, ‘The Mighty Task is Done’. It tells us all about its construction. Hey, he should know the best; he was the Chief Engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge and he received $1 million and a lifetime bridge pass for constructing it.
‘Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.’
“Yeah, the cruise is definitely a must.” I repeat, to Nina, again. “The cruise under the golden gate bridge, a must!”