We recently spent 3 nights in San Francisco as part of a two week trip to California. Thanks to everyone who offered advice when we were planning, here’s what we got up to – sorry it is VERY long, but I hope some of you might read it!
Arrived SFO on a bright sunny afternoon and got a cab to our hotel – very quick and easy. We stayed at the SAN REMO hotel in North Beach – highly recommend especially if you are on a tight budget, the value is incredible.
Went to TOP OF THE MARK for evening drinks and food. It was a Saturday night and very busy - get there early. Watching sunset over the Golden Gate bridge was a great way to start the holiday, and we loved the live music and dancing.
On leaving we got our first understanding of ‘the coldest winter’ – the sunny day had given way to a damp windy night that chilled to the bone. Brrr!!
It was SF marathon day and we had entered the 5K race taking place near the FERRY BUILDING. This was really fun and great way to spend those early jet-lagged hours of the first morning. We ran alongside the first people finishing the full marathon which was inspiring.
On the way back to the hotel we ventured up Telegraph Hill and to COIT TOWER. Great view and glimpsed a few parrots.
After returning to hotel, we RENTED BIKES and cycled out to GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. Stop in the warming hut at Crissy Field – the shop had lots of interesting souvenirs. The bridge was still half shrouded in fog so we decided to do a loop round the Presidio, Lincoln Park and Golden Gate Park and return. Be warned, this is long and hilly! The bike hire maps are useless – just follow the “39 mile Scenic Drive” signs. Stopped to admire the “chickenwire monolith” of the DE YOUNG building.
On returning to the bridge, the fog had mostly lifted and the sun had come out – we were so glad we came back, the sunshine lifts the view from “wow” to “WOW!”, the whole scene just pops.
We had been told at the bike hire company that it was only 10 minutes from the north side of the bridge to SAUSALITO. Decided we had enough time to make it down there and catch the ferry back. Soon realised 10 minutes was a gross underestimate. Arrived at the ferry puffing and panting just in time – but, disaster, they weren’t letting any more bikes on! Advice – arrive early! Sausalito was lovely but we had not time to dally - we had to cycle all the way back over the bridge at full pelt to get back to the hire shop before closing.
Wobbled back to the hotel on shaky legs, and then went out to ALCATRAZ for the NIGHT TOUR. Definitely recommend this – the evening light is spectacular. Audio tour is good and also got to visit the hospital, which is quite spooky.
After getting back on the ferry, we were exhausted and in need of food, and saw the glowing sign of HOUSTONS dead ahead – which was the answer to all our prayers, loved this place – a modern up-scale take on a diner.
Not surprisingly after a transatlantic flight and an epic day yesterday, we weren’t feeling at our best. Wandered Columbus Road looking for breakfast and happened upon CAFFE TRIESTE. Cool beatnik-y atmosphere and great people watching.
Went to DOWNTOWN and UNION SQUARE for shopping. Felt like we were in New York, such a contrast from North Beach.
Went to the MISSION area for lunch at LA TAQUIERIA. Delicious bargain tacos and more (very different) people watching. Maybe we veered onto the wrong streets but we found very little evidence of the interesting shops we were expecting in this area, which was a bit of a disappointment.
Went to a GIANTS GAME in the evening, fortified by beer and garlic fries. My boyfriend thinks this was the coldest he has been in his life, but we had fun (and the Giants won!). We then went on to BOURBON AND BRANCH for drinks. This bar has styled itself on speakeasies and you enter an unmarked door and need a password to get in. It is hidden in the TENDERLOIN area, and despite being a hardened city-dweller, we found this area pretty intimidating, so were relieved to find the secret entrance and enjoy a few cocktails in this really nice bar.
On our way home we finally made it onto a CABLE CAR. The queues during the day had been really long so we hadn’t bothered, but late in the evening, we had a car to ourselves.
Our last day in SF! We wandered to FISHERMANS WHARF and PIER 39. It was very early in the morning so utterly quiet. We spent about 20 minutes watching the sealions and had them all to ourselves. Otherwise found the area to be the kind of tacky touristy stuff we try to avoid.
Queued to get into MAMA’S for breakfast. Half an hour wait but even my queue-hating boyfriend thought it was worth it for the crab omelette and berry pancakes. Walked up to LOMBARD STREET to see the crookedest street and joined the crowd of people taking photos.
And then it was time to leave. We had hired a car from downtown. As a first encounter with American roads, it was pretty intimidating to be launched straight onto a busy road with buses and streetcars to contend with. But after a few scary minutes we found ourselves on the bay bridge, bound for Yosemite, with great memories of San Francisco.