I always knew I would love San Francisco. I’d heard only good things, and from what I was able to piece together, it sounded like it was going to be my kind of city. Now that my trip is very near it’s end, I can say that San Francisco was my favourite, hands down.
The first day we arrived was a bit of a write-off, because our flight from Las Vegas was delayed 3 hours due to a thunderstorm. On our first full day, we started with Chinatown, which was very close to our hostel. They have quite a big Chinatown in San Francisco.
We made our way to Pier 39, which is a cute little collection of shops and eateries on the pier. What I liked the most, though, was the sea lions, which pile themselves onto a single deck and flap around making bizarre noises. It’s quite amusing.
We wandered down Fisherman’s Warf, which was nice, although the weather wasn’t ideal. It was almost like Melbourne winter in San Francisco – jeans and jumper weather and often overcast. We discovered the Musee Mechanique, an old arcade with games like Ms Pacman and Pinball. If anyone’s seen the Princess Diaries, it’s that same arcade where Mia takes her grandmother to play the arm wrestling game.
The aforementioned arm wrestling attraction
The food in San Francisco is amazing, and you can even get a good coffee. For lunch that day, we went to a bakery called Boudin, which specialises in soup in breadbowls. They cut the middle out of a sourdough roll and fill it with soup. The thing to get is clam chowder, but we opted instead for a tomato soup. It was delicious.
The sun came out that afternoon and we walked along the water all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, which is far. Unfortunately it was covered in fog, which is apparently typical for July and August. Nonetheless, it was exciting to see the Golden Gate Bridge in real life, as opposed to in the opening credits of a movie. It’s quite something.
This photo was taken on a different day when it was not foggy! The Golden Gate Bridge.
We finished the day with the Beat Museum, which is a museum deidicated to the Beat generation, a group of artists, writers and thinkers who came together in San Francisco in the 1950s. The museum is small, but it’s packed with memorabilia from the time, such as original manuscripts and letters. We found it both interesting and enlightening.
The next day we explored downtown and did a bit of shopping. We walked and walked, admired cool painted walls and buildings, lovely houses, and locals who were effortlessly cool. We saw City Hall, and also visited the Cartoon Art Museum.
A cool painted building
That evening we had another culinary experience worth shouting about. It’s called ‘Off the Grid,’ and is a collection of food vans which park in various locations around San Francisco on certain nights. There’s music and loads of people flock for the variety of quality food on offer. I had a Vietnamese noodle dish, which was delicious, and for dessert Sabrina and I both went to the Creme Brulee cart. The atmosphere was great and the food was even better.
The following day was Alcatraz, the old Island Prison located in San Francisco Bay. After a quick ferry ride, we had a guided audio tour of the island. It was incredibly interesting, not only to see the abandoned prison, but to hear about the prisoners and the way the place operated only a few decades ago.
Inside one of the cells at Alcatraz Prison
That afternoon, we went to the Ferry Building, which is primarily a food market. Again, good food. We walked along the water in the opposite direction to what we had done a couple of days prior. It’s really a beautiful place to be.
Enjoying the views
We began our last day in San Francisco with Grace Cathedral, which was beautiful inside. We then went up the Coit Tower, a white concrete column atop Telegraph Hill which rises unmistakeably into the San Francisco skyline. The observation deck at the top provides 360 degree views of the city. In fact, while we were up there, we witnessed a marriage proposal!
Grace Cathedral – from the outside, reminiscent of the Notre Dame in Paris
View from the top of the Coit Tower
After lunch at Pier 39, we had the essential San Francisco experience of riding a cable car. We were lucky enough to stand on the outside holding on to the rails. It took us up a hill and we had wonderful views, although we had no hands free to take photos.
A San Francisco Cable Car
Did I mention that San Francisco is ridiculously hilly? Walking in that city was the best exercise I did the entire trip. But it’s great because you get to the top of a hill and you think you’re going to die and then you turn around and look at the view, and it’s all OK. In fact, it’s all wonderful.
One such view from the top of a hill
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Sabrina and I love books. Our Lonely Planet guide had a section listing book stores to visit in San Francisco, so we made a point to get to as many of them as we could. Our last afternoon we must have spent close to two hours in this particular store, an enormous independent book seller called Green Apple books. The walls were piled to the roof with books and it was just fantastic.
Afterwards we went to Golden Gate Park, where there is a famous Japanese Tea Garden which is tranquil and very pretty. We ended the day with dinner in Little Italy.
Inside the Japanese Tea Garden
All in all, San Francisco was a super cool city which we both absolutely loved. The sights, the food, the culture, and the general feel of the city.
Wish I could have!
The next day we rented a car to drive to LA. I’ll write about the rest when I get home. For now, I’d better go and stretch my legs before a 15 hour flight. Fun times!