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14 Dec 2019

California Adventures: San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco Travel Diary

I finally went to America and ventured out of New York! After a dreamy week in the Big Apple, we flew over to the sunny state for ten days ready to see what California had to offer us. Basing ourselves in the famous city by the bay seemed the obvious option and so in between venturing out to see other parts of California, we explored San Francisco. 

I think everyone has an idea in their head when you tell them you’re off to San Francisco. It’s such an iconic city that images of bridges and houses and hippy movements immediately come to the forefront of our minds. Despite this, I will admit, I have struggled to find the words to describe San Francisco to other people. The juxtaposition of the city constantly surprised us and it was simultaneously as I expected it to be and yet not. 

There was so much that I loved, so much that felt like we were in the heart of a film. It’s such an exciting feeling; finally visiting a place that you have seen on screen countless times. But there was also the side you don’t envision. Although you know to expect it if you do any kind of pre-trip research, the size of the homeless community and all that came with it was still astonishing. It was impossible to miss and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make us feel uncomfortable and more guarded at times, particularly at night. It was difficult to know what to make of the rife amount of poverty that contrasted so starkly with the liberalism of the city. We had a great time but it felt wrong to talk about our trip to San Francisco without at least acknowledging that there were aspects of the city that weren’t so great.  

But ANYWAY. Let’s crack on with the good stuff shall we? Here’s how our first day in San Francisco went down. 

We were staying in Harbour Court Hotel along the waterfront. We’d arrived late the night before, so we got to open up the curtains and were greeted by a gorgeous view of the Bay Bridge which did not get old, and made the room seem pretty special. Being along the waterfront was great, and meant we were very close to some famous sights, i.e. the ferry building, although we did learn later that being on the edge of the financial district wasn’t convenient for just popping out for dinner after a long day of sightseeing. But no complaints about the super comfy bed, stylish bathroom or the view. Did I mention the view? I loved the view.

San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco Travel Diary


Pier 39 Seals & Fisherman’s Wharf

I feel the waterfront is a good place to start when you arrive in San Francisco. Think palm trees, street cars jingling by, pale cobbles under your feet, the piers stretching out to sea, the Ferry Building with its lovely clock and bustling market and views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. As our hotel was on the water, it made sense to start here, plus it was hot and sunny so the waterfront was the perfect place to be. Fisherman’s Wharf is probably one of San Francisco’s most touristy areas but I think it gets away with the ‘tat’ more than other cities. Yes, it’s full of arcades, souvenir shops and music but it’s also right on the water, with boardwalks and gorgeous sea views and you can’t help but get that day-out-to-a-seaside-town vibe. Only think less grey English drizzly and more Californian sunshine! The absolute highlight? The sealions! They arrived on Pier 39 in 1989 and no one really knows why they continue to hang out there in the bay. They were just so much fun to look at; swimming, sleeping, fighting, sunbathing, and you certainly hear them before you see them! 

San Francisco Travel Diary

We had lunch at Boudin Bakery; famous for creating the original San Francisco sourdough. The Fisherman’s Wharf branch is the flagship and it’s huge and chaotic. We had sourdough sandwiches which weren’t mind blowing but did the job. The bakery was a lot of fun to nose around, there was bread in all shapes and sizes (bears and turtles to name a few) and yes okay, I have a lot of regret about not trying the chocolate sourdough. 

We soaked in the sunshine, the brashness, the bubbles, the tourist shops, the abundance of seafood restaurants and, most importantly, those beautiful views before deciding it was most definitely ice cream weather. Thanks to some pre-trip research, we headed to The Baked Bear. Choose your ice cream flavour, choose your cookie flavour and then indulge on an outrageous ice cream sandwich the likes of which you’ll have never had before. Gary somehow mastered the art of eating it like a normal sandwich whereas I proceeded to cover myself in blue ice cream. No regrets. I recommend the Bear Batter flavour (aka the electric blue one that tastes like cake batter) for full child-like joy. 

San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco Travel Diary

Lombard Street 

Fisherman’s Wharf is a sight to see but a morning is plenty so we then took a wander up to Lombard Street for another easy sightseeing tick. This was our first experience of walking up the San Franciscan hills and oh my, I’m not sure my ankles or calves have ever been in such a position before. They really are incredibly steep. We had much admiration for the car parking skills of the locals on those hills! In case you’re not aware, Lombard Street is famous for being the ‘crookedest street in the world’ and includes eight hairpin turns in just the one-block section. You get the full effect from aerial view pictures (see below) but it was a lot of fun to watch the cars navigate the road in real life. It’s a super pretty street (although must be super annoying to live there) and the views from the top are great. 

San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco Travel Diary
Photo by Brandon Nelson on Unsplash

Golden Gate Bridge & The Fog 

As the day was so clear and warm, we decided last-minute that we should go walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. We did a quick dash back to the hotel for a jumper (as everyone and his guidebook said it got breezy walking across) and then hopped on a streetcar (greatly enjoyed this) and then a bus over to the bridge. And this, my friends, is where we had our first experience of The Fog. In the half an hour it took us to get from the hotel to the bridge, the fog rolled in quickly and densely. By the time we got off the bus, I’m not even sure I could have told you which direction the bridge was in, it was that thick! We decided to start walking it anyway and I mostly remember giggling at the absurdity. Every now and again, the fog would shift and – if you were close enough – you would get a glimpse of parts of the bridge but mostly, you could have been anywhere. If anywhere was really freaking foggy with an intense wind. We couldn’t see the bridge, we couldn’t see the view, we couldn’t see the sea. It’s actually pretty unnerving knowing that you are suspended high above the ocean but not being able to see anything, all while being buffeted by the wind. So eventually, amongst much chuckling, we decided to turn back and return on another day. We may not yet have fully experienced the Golden Gate but we had experienced one of San Francisco’s other key sights – The Fog!  

San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco Travel Diary


More San Francisco/California diaries coming soon.

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