I just returned from a most wonderful trip to San Francisco and wanted to share my trip report here with everybody. Tripadvisor and especially this forum with all the knowledge from locals was a tremendous help for me when planning my trip, so I thought it would be nice to give something back. Maybe others find it useful for their own planning.
With the report I also wanted to encourage other single travelers to not be afraid and explore SF on your own if you don't have anyone to travel with. I do a lot of travelling on my own (I'm a woman in my mid-twenties) and always had very positive experiences. San Francisco will definitely be fun even if you're on your own. Don't be afraid, be curious and simply do it! There's no way you will regret this.
Of course I wanted to do many of the usual tourist things, but also immerse a little in the local culture if possible. As this was my first trip to the West Coast (been to the East Coast before) I also wanted to explore areas outside of SF. Generally, I wasn't on a budget for this trip and had some money saved up to indulge from time to time, but tried to choose some money-friendly options when possible.
So let's get started! (It's rather long, I hope you don't mind.)
Day 1: Oh no, the sickness bag!
I got up at 2:30 a.m. after only about 3.5 hours of sleep, because I couldn't fall asleep with all the excitement that was buzzing inside me. Packed my last things and went to the airport in Hamburg. My flight wasn't until 6:10, but I wanted to be early. In the end I was so early that the bag drop counters had not yet opened.
Everything else at the airport went quite smoothly and my first flight to Amsterdam started on time. Before I got on the plane I could already sense that my stomach didn't feel too well. I hadn't had breakfast yet and didn't feel like I could eat something at that time of the day. So the inevitable happened and I got sick during the flight to Amsterdam, breaking out in a sweat and almost fainting included. I never got sick on a plane before, so it was a premiere having to use the sickness bag. Well, at least everybody around me was asleep so nobody had to witness it.
In Amsterdam I had about two hours for my transfer, found the new gate quickly and sat down to cool down a bit. Unfortunately, it didn't really get better while I sat there. There were some minutes where I really thought I wouldn't make it to SF, that I would pass out before I even got on the plane and the whole vacation would be over. I had spent so much money on this trip, was looking forward to it for so long and now that.
Fortunately, after I had successfully boarded the aircraft it all got better and my stomach calmed down. Once in the air I felt that I had taken the first obstacle and hoped that the rest of my vacation would be considerably better than the foul start.
Some movies, two meals (in my stomach, not the sickness bag) and about 11 hours later I landed at SFO. First place I realize I'm back in the US: the restrooms. I wonder why public restrooms always have such big gaps at the doors of the booths. Maybe it's so everybody can see from the outside if I fainted inside. But luckily I felt great by now and ready to start my adventure.
The line at immigration wasn't too long and moved fairly quickly. It took a little less than an hour to get to one of the officers. The lady asked me a few standard questions and I got a little nervous when she was hesitating with my passport and kept checking it again. Turns out that her date stamp was adjusted to the wrong date (Jan 2012 instead of 2013) and she had to stamp my passport again.
I gave my customs declaration to another officer who asked me some more questions and made a sad face when I said I was travelling on my own. I told him that it's not sad at all and that it can be lots of fun. Well, guess I have to live with people not believing that and getting a lot of strange looks for it.
Got my suitcase and found the BART station relatively quickly as it is in the International Terminal where I arrived. I had read about the ticket machines here on the forum before, so it was easy to load the right amount of money for a return ticket to downtown onto a card. Otherwise, I would have been lost as to what to do. I saw a lot of confused people.
The BART took me directly to Powell Street. I hadn't printed a map at home as I hoped I would be able to find my hotel relatively easy, and after only taking one wrong corner I indeed found the Chancellor very quickly.
My room wasn't ready yet, so I left my suitcase at the hotel and went exploring around Union Square a bit. I took in all the new sensations, took some first pictures (oh look, it's a cable car!) and checked some of the stores in order to estimate the amount of shopping I would have to do during my stay. (Conclusion: lots.) Union Square was quite busy at this nice Sunday afternoon and I sat down a bit to enjoy the sun and watch people.
At about 4 I returned to the hotel and received the key to my room. I chose the Chancellor after reading a lot of positive feedback about it here on Tripadvisor and because it offered quite good rates. I usually rather like modern, sleek hotels, but was aware that the Chancellor is a very traditional, boutique hotel. My room on the 8th floor felt like a perfect mix of traditional and modern, gave me a nice view of Union Square and had me hear the cable cars. I don't mind street noise and like hearing the sounds of the big city, so no complains there. The room immediately felt like a nice, cozy place for resting after spending my days exploring.
I unpacked my stuff and decided to lie down for a bit and watch some TV. By now it was more than 24 hours since I had started my trip and I felt knackered. Well, of course I fell asleep and even though I had wanted to go out for dinner later again, I decided to just stay in the room and go to bed early. The soft bed sheets kind of aided my decision. So the lights in my room went out fairly early and I fell asleep looking forward to everything I had planned.