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Stefano Antoniazzi and Cristina Mazzocotti Hailing from: Milan, Italy Compared to home: “The roads are a lot wider and less winding, which makes driving a lot easier. And we had a great breakfast at a diner. We don’t have those in Italy.” Looking to party: “We’re going to Vessel. We love clubbing, but we’re getting older, so it’s not as easy staying up all night anymore.”

Our Tourists, Ourselves

In the country’s No. 1 tourist destination, there’s a very basic symbiosis between us and them: San Francisco gives tourists memories, and they give us $834 billion a year. But take a look into their camera lens. You’ll find it reflects something more. By Sara Deseran photography by alex farnum Shot on location at Pier 39

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Francisco Nunez Hailing from: Vancouver How he got here: “I took a train from Vancouver. It took 22 hours.” Economy boost: “We went shopping around the Union Square area and bought a ton of sneakers.”

The offices of 7x7 are located smack-dab in Union Square and so close to the gates of Chinatown that I can almost feel our building on Grant Street pulsing with the chirps of the toy crickets for sale. Double-deckers rumble by, clouding the air with puffs of exhaust, cable car tracks clatter, and doormen whistle for cabs. Every day, GoCars buzz past the old sash window by my desk. I don’t have to look out from the fourth floor to know that the tiny canary-yellow car is filled with a couple of spaced-out tourists in helmets, viewing our fair city at a vulnerable speed of 10 mph from the vantage point of Tom Thumb. Over a fuzzy loudspeaker, a recorded GPS system introduces the landmarks—something like, “On your right is Maiden Lane, which houses high-end boutiques, but back in the days of the Barbary Coast, it was thriving with brothels.” The tourists snap-to for a sepia-toned flashback of raunchy sex. “On your left is 7x7 magazine, your leading source for all things not about Fisherman’s Wharf. Read it, and save yourself now.” OK, the GoCar doesn’t say that. It’s only my fantasy. The narcissistic editor in me thinks that one day I’ll rescue the exhausted tourists. The ones who allow the North Beach hecklers to convince them that their red sauce joint is a better choice for dinner than, say, A16. I’ll save the gawky tweens in flip-flops, straight off the plane from Fort Lauderdale, trailing behind their families, trying not to stare at the first homeless guy they’ve ever seen—the one in the hospital gown. I’m thinking of visitors like my former dentist in Louisiana who used to M AY 2 0 1 1

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Who visits us (in ranking order)

Canada United Kingdom Australia Germany France

Tokuji Izawa Hailing from: Kobe, Japan Repeat visitor: “I came here 38 years ago and studied at SF State for six weeks. I loved it. I’m back to visit one of my students from Japan.” On fashion: “It’s very strange to see people in coats next to people in only T-shirts in the summer.”

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Ashley, Phil, and Nancy Borgel Hailing from: Whitehorse, Yukon Why they’re here: “Every time we fly through SFO, our luggage gets lost. So we decided to appease the gods and stay in San Francisco this time.” Weirdest sighting: “A guy got on the 30 bus through the back door and started singing rap. Ashley was pretty scared.”

Juan Olvera Raya Hailing from: Mexico City How SF Mexican food stacks up to the real deal: “It’s OK.” Favorite moment: “I walked to the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge and looked down. It was crazy.”

Brian Chandler Hailing from: Chicago Compared to home: “The Midwest is all flat plains. It’s boring. There’s so much culture in San Francisco, though. Whatever you’re into, it’s here.” Meeting locals: “I was driving around and ended up in the Castro. I was at a stop light, and a drag queen knocked on my window asking for directions.”

Nancy Connolly and Paul Ganley Hailing from: Honolulu Repeat visitors: “This is our 40th trip to San Francisco, and we still feel like tourists. We discover new things every time.” Dine about town: “We always go to Tadich Grill for the sand dabs and La Mar on the Embarcaderro. This time, we’re trying to get reservations at Larry Danko. I mean Gary Danko.”

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Leslie Walker and Neil Kirkpatrick Hailing from: Edmonton, Alberta and Ottowa, Ontario Muni observation: “The drivers here have all kinds of patience for people.” Biggest discovery: “We went to City Lights to see where the Beat Generation happened. Just to see a whole section of gay and lesbian literature—it’s real different.”

Bundo Onwueme and Bisi Falana Hailing from: Madison, Wisconsin Looking forward to: “The squiggly street” (aka Lombard Street). Best souvenir: “This guy on the Embarcadero made customized name bracelets for us. They’re pretty wicked.”

We might like to ride on the coattails of Google, but when it comes to what makes the Bay Area the big money,

Silicon Valley gets tech, and we get tourists.

Filippa Gille and Lina Östlund Hailing from: Stockholm Fair trade: “So far, we’ve been to Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and H&M. We bought a lot of clothes, makeup, and jewelry. Everything’s so much cheaper here.” Compared to home: “In Sweden, everyone is stiff and closed off. Here, the people are much friendlier.”

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rave about his convention trips to San Francisco, his favorite city, and all the bus tours he went on. I want to show the tourists the city I’ve spent my adult life writing about. Like the 360-degree vista from Bernal Hill, my favorite dumpling place in the Outer Sunset, the view of the bridge from Baker Beach. Maybe being around tourists has made me protective of them. It wasn’t long ago that I didn’t even consider the annual 15,920,000 visitors that flood our city for both leisure and conventions. I’d never really processed the fact that more than half of the 14 percent hotel tax goes straight to paving our roads, hiring our police force, maintaining our parks, and supporting our social services. We might like to ride on the coattails of Google, but when it comes to what makes the Bay Area go, Silicon Valley gets tech, and we get tourists. Last year, tourists spent $834 billion here, and from that Leading attractions amount the city made $485 million in taxes. But unless you frePier 39 quent the Stinking Rose or work in Ghirardelli Square, tourists Golden Gate Bridge probably exist largely in your subconscious. They’re simply a part Golden Gate Park of the city’s background. There’s the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street there’s a bunch of tourists in windbreakers. End of story. That is, Alcatraz Island unless you take a moment to poke fun. They’re wearing shorts 7 x 7. c o m

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I pass clusters of conventioneers in illfitting black suits, their badges hanging around their necks, blinking like moles in the light as they gleefully

escape from the bowels of the Moscone Center, desperate for a stiff drink.

Suzuki Ryuto and Sato Hiroko Hailing from: Shizuoka, Japan On fashion: “The cheap sunglasses at Fisherman’s Wharf aren’t bad.” Compared to home: “The food here is a lot bigger.”

in July. Ha! Don’t they read? I wouldn’t go as far as to say that locals harbor disdain for tourists—not at all—but San Franciscans are such a determined bunch of individualists that the sight of people moving en masse on group tours just goes against our ethos. I’m sure there’s a psychology behind this. The locals of any city must separate themselves from their tourists if just for the sake of identity. I should interrupt for a moment to say that I didn’t grow up in the city I’ve come to call home for the past 18 years—a place continually ranked the No. 1 destination in the U.S. by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler, a place with one of the most iconic bridges in the world, a place that makes all my non-SF friends tell me how lucky I am. “What great views, what amazing food!” they say. It’s the kind of positive reinforcement that makes you forget (for a moment) your pile of parking bills, perennial lack of a suntan, and that guy in the hospital gown. It’s also the thing that can make you smug, despite your best intentions. Like so many non-native locals, I grew up somewhere far less glamorous—in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to be specific—a place that failed to lure people from the mall to a downtown shopping center called Catfish Town, now long shuttered. A place that elicits fewer exclamations and draws more blanks. In Baton Rouge, I never saw people lost, looking at maps. I never saw the city where I live—my life essentially—reflected in the lens of a tourist’s camera. That took moving here. Actually, it took more than that. It took 7x7 announcing in 2003 that it was moving offices from SoMa to a

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Catherine Lynch Hailing from: Belfast, Ireland Couch surfing: “I’m on a seven-month vacation and staying with family in Stonestown.” Keeping busy: “My dad and I are hitting up all the Irish pubs we can find.” M AY 2 0 1 1

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Brenda and Russell Schmid Hailing from: Gainesville, Texas Compared to home: “We come from a small hick town, so San Francisco feels very cosmopolitan.” Dine about town: “We just got married, and this is our honeymoon. We’re eating our way across town. The pub grub at Lefty O’Doul’s is great, and we enjoyed breakfast at People’s Café in the Haight.”

Top Activities

Dining Shopping Visiting museums Riding the cable cars Taking a bay cruise

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tourism Deb McCurdy and Gene Wegener Hailing from: Carson City, Nevada Repeat visitor: “I’ve had some great memories at sporting events here. I landed myself on the field during a Giants game and posed as a newspaper photographer to get onto the field at Candlestick Park.” —Gene Compared to home: “We’re from a small town, so we think the art and culture here are amazing. The people seem a little standoffish at first, but once you get talking, they couldn’t be nicer.”

SF Visitor Statistics

Average number of visitors per day in 2010: 126,931 (up 1.2 percent from 2009)

Average tourism dollars per day in 2010: $22,840,000 (up 6.2 percent from 2009)

Average individual visitor spending per day: $333 29.8 percent are from another country 70.2 percent are from the U.S.

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Megan, Linda, Emma, and Daniel Ortman Hailing from: Dallas, Texas Repeat visitors: “I met Linda here. We fell in love, got married, and lived in SF for three years. We like to visit with our daughters and show them our favorite spots in the city.” Lap of luxury: “When we lived here, our apartment was 250 square feet. Now, we’re staying at the Ritz-Carlton.”

Felix Zimmer Hailing from: Contance, Germany Compared to home: “San Francisco is such a big city. We come from a town with a population of 800.” Getting around: “The driving and parking are so easy here.”

You don’t notice them until you take a moment to poke fun. They’re wearing shorts in July. Ha!

Don’t they read? drafty old building at Grant Avenue and Geary Street. I balked. To my mind, a part of town where the tourists outweigh the locals isn’t really San Francisco and certainly not an inspirational place for a magazine trying to brand itself as a hip source for insider information. Writer’s block was inevitable. Despite my protestations, we trudged north of Market Street and settled in. The same part of me that always wants to blend in when I travel to other cities wanted to wear a sign that said, “I’m not a tourist, I swear.” Of course, I had to leave my desk to do things like eat. As I entered the crush of people (by the time June hits, walking down Powell Street is an ordeal), I’d see cliques of Japanese kids working outlandish outfits that only fly in Tokyo and American couples holding hands, looking up, pointing at buildings that I’d never given a second glance. When the dollar was weak, there were enough chic Italians sipping espresso and smoking cigarettes at Rulli’s outdoor cafe that my lunch break felt like a 30-minute European vacation. Year-round, I pass clusters of conventioneers in ill-fitting black suits—their badges still around their necks—blinking like moles in the light as they gleefully escape from the bowels of the Moscone Center, desperate for a stiff drink. Laurie Armstrong, the director of media relations for the San Francisco Travel Association, says 2 0 1 1 M Ay

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this phenomenon has been referred to as cross-dressing. “They come in their business clothes, and they change into their blue jeans to go out,” she says of the convention-goers, the city’s real bread and butter. They make up 7.1 percent of our total visitors, arrive with expense accounts, fill our hotels, employ our caterers, florists, entertainers, and photographers—“all the things you wouldn’t think about,” says Armstrong. And they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. The Moscone Center is booked out as far as 2026. That kind of business is not easily displaced, not even in times of recession or war. “Even 9/11 didn’t halt convention business,” says Armstrong. Which is why she suggests that when you see Joe Blow from Raleigh, North Carolina walking up Fourth Street fresh out of the American Society for Cytotechnology conference, “you should give him a hug for what he does for the city.” Of course, that would be very uncool. We have to keep our distance. I think it’s enough that I’ve changed my perspective. On the days when I’m moping about the fog, my insane monthly rent, or the Muni delays, it gives me a shot in the arm to see people from all over the world walking by. And reporting from the most visited neighborhood in San Francisco, I’m here to tell you that, from their perspective, our life looks pretty good. x 7 x 7. c o m

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Our Tourists, Ourselves  

In the country's No. 1 tourist destination, there's a very basic symbiosis between us and them: San Francisco gives tourists memories and th...

Our Tourists, Ourselves  

In the country's No. 1 tourist destination, there's a very basic symbiosis between us and them: San Francisco gives tourists memories and th...

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