I think I’ve mentioned to you before Mark Twain’s comment about San Francisco. He said that the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco. And he wasn’t kidding.
I’ve just come home from a wonderful summer trip with my kids in France and Italy. The summer started out cool in June, even chilly in Paris, and then overnight in late June or early July, the summer burst forth in full bloom, and we had a heat wave in Paris. Ninety degrees most of the time, hot nights, and it hit l00 degrees for a few days in mid-July. We went to the South of France then, and spent a few days in Italy, and the weather was close to l00 on many days, but being at the beach and on the water, we didn’t mind the heat. And it cooled down, but only a little bit, when we got back to Paris in late July. And it was very tolerable, when I stopped in New York for a night, on the way back to San Francisco on the last day of July.
When you mention California to people in Europe, or even other parts of the U.S., their faces light up with envy, and they instantly think “ahhh….warm weather’. Tourists who come to San Francisco in the summer assume that LA and SF enjoy the same climate, and you see them shivering in shorts and tank tops, waiting for the cable car, while they turn to icebergs. Actually, the chilliest months in San Francisco are July and August, when the city is swathed in fog, with a chill wind off the Bay. If we get hot days at all, they are in September, and not for long, or an occasionally lucky day in June, but San Francisco is basically chilly all year long, with permanent ‘autumn’. You can get by wearing fall and winter clothes all year, except for those few rare warm days in September. I never get to wear summer clothes in SF, and don’t buy them anymore, or if I do, I wear them in Europe or New York. What you want to do in SF is bundle up in the summer!!! The temperature is in the 50’s in the daytime, during San Francisco ‘summer’. And the only way you know it’s summer is by looking at the calendar. If you look out the window, or step out the door, it looks and feels like November.
So if you’re planning a trip to San Francisco, bring your woolies, your heaviest sweaters and bring a warm coat!!! I’m serious!!! I wore a big wooly shearling coat the other day, in the daytime, in August. The hardest thing about San Francisco summers is that they get so depressing, the gray days really get to you, and the fog all day or every afternoon. People here talk constantly about how depressing the weather is in summer, and I cant disagree. After weeks of it, your spirits really plummet, and you know it will be just as cold the next day and all the weeks after. The odd thing is that if you travel just a short distance, you find yourself back in summer weather. Drive an hour South down the Peninsula, and it’s in the 80’s or 90’s. An hour and a half North, into the Napa Valley, and the temperatures are close to l00 degrees. And just across the Bay, toward the East, in Berkeley, it is easily 70 or 80 degrees, while it’s 50 in the city at high noon. But in the city by the Bay, with the cable cars and the quaint houses, the legend of Nob Hill with its fancy hotels (The Fairmont, Huntington, and Mark Hopkins) and reputation for sophistication, and the Golden Gate Bridge swathed in fog in the summer, it’s just plain freezing…..so if you’re coming out to see us, especially in summer, button up, wrap up, and once you’re here, try to cheer up despite the gray weather and fog, and icy blasts of wind. It’s a pretty city, there’s no doubt, but just as Mark Twain said, it is freeeeeeeeeeezzzzzing in the summer!!!! I hope you’re spending the summer someplace warm and sunny!!! (And now that I’m back, I wish I were too!!!).