Let the folly begin. Issue No. 3 of our new digital travel magazine, Girls’ Guide to Paris ET PLUS, brings another installment of “Paris vs. . . .” as we search the world for a city as incredible, as beautiful and as stunning as Paris. This time we suggest San Francisco, the City by the Bay, as a candidate, so we can enjoy more darling illustrations by the one and only Fifi Flowers, the most Francophile of illustrators.
Pont Neuf vs. Golden Gate Bridge
We begin by comparing the Golden Gate Bridge with the Pont Neuf. The Golden Gate Bridge was built in 1937 and is a suspension bridge spanning a three-mile strait, painted international orange to stand out against the blue background of the sea and sky. It’s certainly the most iconic symbol of San Francisco. The Pont Neuf, or “New Bridge,” was opened in 1603 after 25 years of construction, as the first bridge without houses on it. Wider than previous bridges, it showed Parisians an entirely new view of the Seine. Built of stone with arches supporting it, there is no doubt it’s a beautiful, much photographed historic bridge, but nothing can compete with the fame of the Iron Horse. Strike one in the SF column.
Paris Hop-On, Hop-Off Tripist Bus vs. San Francisco Cable Car
The winner here is pretty clear and straightforward: SF again. The nostalgia, the sound and the charm of a cable car wins any day against a London double-decker copycat for tripists.
French Baguette vs. San Francisco Bread
On the other hand, San Francisco’s sourdough bread, while famous and delish when served warm with a bit of creamy dairy butter, can’t stack up against the traditional crusty Parisian baguette. A great baguette from one of the Grand Prix winners (best baguette makers in Paris) is an item that is worthy of the long plane ride to Paris. There is no way to sing its praises highly enough, and the French baguette is the single thing my family misses most each time we leave Paris.
Chinatown San Francisco vs. Chinatown Paris 13th Arrondissement
The first Chinatown I ever saw was in San Francisco, and the best dim sum I’ve ever had outside China was there. But Paris is lucky enough to sport two Chinatowns, one in the 13th Arrondissement, and the other in Belleville, in the 20th Arrondissement. Though filled with many delicious restaurants and cafés serving dim sum, pho, tom yum goong and Korean barbecue, neither of Paris’s Chinatowns is as picturesque as San Francisco’s. The Paris versions are more diverse, offering every imaginable type of Asian food and incredible value. Several times I’ve enjoyed a five-euro pho and a two-euro beer, making it the cheapest meal next to a falafel in Paris. But as a purist and lover of classic Westernized Chinese, the roast suckling pig, the Peking duck and the steamed pork buns that you can find at some of the SF Chinatown classics, such as New Woey Loy Goey, Hang Ah Tearoom and the Empress of China, give an edge to SF. Then add to that the interpreted Chinese architecture, classic shop signs and the fact that it’s the largest Chinatown outside Asia, and San Fran comes out on top.
Parisian Haussmannian Building vs. San Francisco Victorian Town House
Speaking of architecture, we have also tried to compare the classic Victorian town house in San Francisco with the classic Haussmannian-era limestone apartment building in Paris. This comparison leads one to want to use the school-yard game of “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo” as they are both incredibly beautiful specimens and each is largely responsible for the charm of its respective city. Paris wouldn’t be Paris, though, without the creamy white look of its architecture that so seamlessly blends together, and because we must decide, we’ll give it this time to gay old Paree.
So for the sake of folly and an entirely hopeless enterprise of trying to compare two incredibly beautiful cities, for this round we are giving the blue ribbon to San Francisco. One is a historic and old grand lady; the other is a more colorful dame with zigzagging streets and a quirky, creative group of residents. Yet it’s true that the world would be a worse place without these two exceptional destinations.