ARE YOU CRAZY?! I can hear you saying from the other side of the screen… The answer is yes, frankly we are, but we did pretty darn well!
Our first stop was San Francisco for 5 days. Out of the three places we visited it was the easiest of places to get around as a pedestrian and using public transport. Although it’s considerably small for a city, it still felt pretty vast and full of all the wonderful things that life has to offer, with each area offering very different things. I could probably write an awful lot about our stay but I’ll try and keep it simple with a breakdown of things we did and things someone else might find useful.
HOW WE GOT THERE:
Our flights were booked via Norwegian airlines, direct to LA from Gatwick on one of their new Dreamliners, it was a pretty cool plane with bigger windows which had dimming buttons on. The flights were around £500 each.
We got a connecting flight up to San Francisco, with a four hour stop over as I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get through passport control, customs, baggage collection and then checking in again. FYI It turns out we only really needed two hours.
We then got a Delta airlines flight to San Fran which ended up being a little late with a bit on confusion as to which gate we were leaving from. They had an awesome plane snack for the 50min flight of fresh veg and hummus which was very welcome after the other plane.
HOW WE GOT AROUND:
WALKING – So so so much walking… Up, down and all around.
MUNI – only $2.25 a ride, or you can get a week pass for $35. They run around every twenty mins and the routes were pretty easy to figure out. We just ended up paying for singles the entire time as we did a lot of using our legs.
BIKES! – Much fun, many hills. If you’re a cyclist and you live there, you have that firm bum achievement unlocked! It was around $30 each for a 24 hour period from Bike Rental San Francisco, it was cheaper than some of the other touristy bike rental places and we didn’t have those cheesy logo packs on our bikes… I imagine you can get it for cheaper if you hire a bicycle for a longer time.
BART – Simpson? We only got it on two occasions but it seemed pretty efficient and cheap. The cost was calculated on where you’re going from and to, to get from close to Fishermans Wharf to San Francisco Airport it was around $10.
TAXI – Only used this once, after our long assed flight and we couldn’t be bothered to deal with thinking, I think it was around $40 for a half an hour ride?
FERRY – We caught the ferry twice, once to get back to San Francisco from Sausalito, I believe there are two that serve the route but we got the Golden Gate Ferry. Tickets were mid price range and we could take the bikes on board. The second time was to get to Alcatraz and back.
One thing we didn’t get was the old school trams, but if you’re interested I think a single ticket is around $6.
Our other airbnb travellers also recommended Lyft but we didn’t have US numbers so we couldn’t get it working on our phones.
PARKER AVENUE AIRBNB
We stayed at a really fantastic airbnb. The wonderful hosts Amy and Michael own the whole property and live on the third floor of the house, while renting out the rooms on the second floor and ground level rooms to airbnb travellers. This was actually really lovely, as we got to meet some new, interesting, friendly and excited folks while we were there – getting tips and info from them while getting to have lovely conversations with new people. Amy came down to chat to us a few times, also giving us some wonderful suggestions for places to go. The place was toward the the middle of San Francisco in Laurel Heights so we found it really useful for getting around to all the places we wanted to see. If anyone is headed to San Francisco and is looking for a place to stay I would really big up staying here as we couldn’t believe how lucky we were to have found such a great place!
Breakfast and lunch were our own concoctions from Trader Joe’s
Dinner was a burger and fries from Buzz Burgers
This was our first day and we walked just under ten miles. My back was killing by the end of the day but it was so worth it.
We walked through the entire park up to Ocean Beach, stopping at the Conservatory of Flowers ( absolutely beautiful and the entry fee is so cheap in comparison to Kew Gardens in London we had to do it), Stow Lake (we rented a pedal boat and had lunch on the lake – we saw some interesting birds – including humming birds, lots and lots of turtles, a dog wearing a balaclava with ear shapes and two heron nests in a tree), we walked through the academy of sciences garden but didn’t go in. The park is massive and stunning – it took us about three or four hours to walk through.
Once we reached the beach we did what all people should do when they’ve been subjected to a pebble beach all their lives and took of our shoes and rejoiced at the sight of flat sand. The sand was a beautiful sight to behold, as was the Pacific ocean and the view of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to our right and the rest of San Francisco to our left. I wish we had have had the chance to go back before we left to watch the sunrise or something but sleep was more important.
We walked from the beach to the Sutro Bath ruins in about ten minutes. Explored the incredible area, it’s hard to think it was once a rather majestic looking public bathhouse, but the ruins are beautiful and the cave next to them really helped to show how crazy the sea is around there, being able to hear it smash into the rocks that surround you and then watch the tides crash at the end of the cave.
After we wandered around here, we walked up to the USS San Francisco memorial which is surrounded by actual parts of the damaged ship. From here we went on a hike up to a point where we could finally see the bridge, and a very pretty bridge it is. Then tired and achey we walked all the way up to the Legion of Honour, then home after our burgers and perfect garlic fries. Passing out happily.
Breakfast was our Trader Joe’s concoction at our airbnb
Lunch was Señor Sisig – brilliant massive Fillipino fusion burritos
Ice cream was had from Humphrey Slocombe
We had lots of wine and Sangria at Wines of California Wine Bar on Pier 39
Finally dinner was at Boudin Bakery for fishy soupy bread bowls
We didn’t have anything booked to do today, and our host recommended we find Señor Sisig, a Fillipino food truck that sells massive burritos, so food became our agenda. Señor Sisig was based near Fishermans Wharf that day so we wandered around there after failing to get pastries from Mr Holmes’ Bakehouse. It’s probably a good thing because I wanted to nap after the burrito and pastry wouldn’t have helped. We wandered from the ferry building all the way up to Pier 39, marvelling at naked people walking down the street and the sea lions being lazy, fat and happy. I had gotten sunburned on our epic walking day, so I decided to get a hat, and so did Mikee. After our triumphant hat purchases we decided to grab some drinks from the wine bar that was close by… After that we wondered over to get some dinner at Boudin Bakery, where they were so busy they popped us in their private dining room on a huge table… I got the crab bisque and Mikee got the clam chowder in the bread bowls, both of us were really happy and very stuffed from the delicious food so we decided to walk it off. Walking up A LOT of hills through other areas which I wish we had time to explore properly, eventually giving up and deciding to get the Muni back where our hosts had started the fire pit in their back garden. We sat with them for a little while, chatting before heading to bed.
We had brunch at our airbnb.
Perfect Chai-tea from Samovar Tea Lounge
Rice-free Burritos for dinner from La Taqueria
Ice cream from Bi-Rite creamery
Donut from a random shop just to get some change
Today we went to the Mission district! This was probably one of my favourite days from the trip. We saw all the wonderful graffiti and all the cute little shops on Valencia street. We had perfect chai tea, how it’s supposed to be from Samovar Tea Lounge while sitting and talking to a lovely lady who had lived in San Francisco for the last 40 years and who had an incredible sweet rescue dog called Ginger. I bought myself a bracelet, and we looked at all the great art around, and got some serious inspiration for how to decorate our new home… I’m now on the hunt for a lot of cacti hah. I had read about La Taqueria for rice free carnitas burritos, the line was very long, the food was delicious and just the perfect amount to be just about full but not overly. We decided to walk to Dolores Park and visit the ice cream place next to it after our awesome burritos. Bi-Rite Creamery along with Humphrey Slocombe were on recommended lists, I personally preferred the ice cream from Bi-Rite. I had earl grey flavour and it was to die for. Following this we walked to the top of Dolores park and then got a bus to the bottom of Twin Peaks where we climbed to the top to watch the sunset and froze our little butts off, looking at views all over the city. This was probably the least pedestrian friendly place to get to/off but we got out alive and back home with our selves intact.
Food – supplies from Wholefoods, my friend Christina kept telling me to get the vegan donuts from there and they were really good.
We got up early and walked down to Haight Ashbury to hire our bikes from Bike Rental San Francisco – not the most original name but at least it gets to the point. We hired two bikes for 24 hours and went off on our way. It was a little overcast which was perfect as it meant we wouldn’t get too sweaty and sunburned on our ride. We took the route they recommended and cycled over the bridge. It was beautiful, Mikee has said it was one of his favourite days even though he really disliked being on a manmade structure that high above the ocean. After the Golden Gate Bridge there’s a really fun incline running all the way down to Sausalito where we’d been recommended to explore. We were going to try and get up to Muir Woods but Mikee was having chest pains and I was just rubbish at going up hills so we decided to stop here and wonder around. It was very pretty, but I wasn’t really sure what we could do around there so we just went and sat on a beach that got a little too windy in the end. We got the ferry back, then cycled all the way to the cycle shop before we realised they had closed half an hour earlier than I thought they said they would… but it worked out well for us in the end in order for us to get to our following morning destination. Cycling in San Francisco was actually a lot easier than we expected, so it was really enjoyable apart from having to go up the hills – down was rather fun though. Before we headed home we explored Amoeba music which was massive! Full of vinyl and special edition posters from local shows, and we felt the music love in there. When we got home we cooked dinner at our airbnb and snoozed the night away.
Breakfast at our airbnb
Drinks from the Magnolia Pub in Haight Ashbury
Dinner from Burma Superstar on Clement Street
Our last full day in San Francisco we got up super early in order to cycle from our airbnb to Fishermans Wharf to drop off our bikes when the shop opened and to make it to our Alcatraz Ferry on time. It was a really fun ride, and we got to our destination point in great time. The ferry to Alcatraz probably took about ten minutes once we were on the boat.
Alcatraz was beautiful! If you go it is definitely the tourist thing to make sure you do. We booked on Alcatraz cruises, who I think are the only people allowed to take you on to the actual island, we got the 9:30am boat and spent about two and a half hours there. It was amazing to see the buildings, learn the history, see all of the birds who live there now and the Ai Weiwei show that was on in one of the buildings… The audio tour which was recommended everywhere is really great. It was included in the visit so you don’t have to pay extra for it. You basically have six people talking you through your journey around the prison, three former officers and three former inmates giving you recounts of what happened there while they had been there. It was amazing to hear about a three day riot that went on inside the prison and it was incredible to hear about the three people who managed to escape, see the heads they had fashioned and put in their beds and the holes they’d so diligently dug to get into the laundry shafts.
We got the boat back and went to one of the most special things we could have done. I’d been researching on Pinterest what we could doin San Fran and I came across an old black and white photograph and discovered there used to be a photography studio in San Francisco called Photobooth where they shot on aluminium. It closed but now a lovely lady called Kari Orvik is carrying on working with the process. I got in touch with her and arranged to have our portraits shot on tintypes to remember our trip. Kari herself was lovely and interesting to chat to, and it was amazing to see the process of the tintypes – it’s just magical being able to go into a darkroom and see images appear suddenly on whatever material you’ve shot on. In this case when the plate went into the fix the image turned from negative to positive in almost an instant which was such an amazing thing to see. I’m now itching to try my hand at it in London.
After having our portraits shot we got the bus to Haight Ashbury, enjoyed some drinks at lovely pub which had some interesting beers on tap, then decided to go to this Burmese restaurant that had been recommended by our host and by Kari who shot the portraits. We walked there which took about half an hour from where were were and waited outside for maybe twenty mins before a space opened up at the community table and so we enjoyed delicious food on our last night, I would really recommend the Burmese rice from there – Mikee ordered it and I could have eaten the entire plate it was so delicious.
The following morning we finished packing up our stuff, feeling a bit melancholy about leaving because we’d totally fallen in love with San Francisco. We made sure our room was clean and got our hosts a little gift, left a little message in their note book and hopped out the door. We got a bus, then the Bart and we were right at the airport ready to get our flight to Palm Springs… I think this post is long enough so I’ll cover Palm Springs and Coachella in the next one, and then LA after that!
San Francisco – we will see you again for sure!