Posted - 8th August 2018
I was lucky enough to go to San Francisco for work, it’s one of the cities I’ve always dreamt of going to. When I was younger, I used to looooove a show about three witches called Charmed. It was based in San Francisco, and I used to watch it every single day after school. I used to dream about how much I wanted to see those beautiful and colourful houses and how much I wanted to discover the city. The only downside of going to such a big city for work, is that I only really got the weekend to look around, so I had a mission to see as much as I could, in 48 hours!
Day 1 – Cable Car | Fisherman’s Warf | Pier 39 + Sea lions | Ghirardelli Square | Crissy Field | Golden Gate Bridge | Palace of Fine Arts
As you can already tell from the day 1 itinerary, it was a pretty busy day! And I don’t really like to use the public transport much, so I decided to put my walking shoes on, and set off for the day. As I was travelling on my own, it meant that I could go at my own pace. I was staying in a hotel by Union Square, which meant I was really close to the cable car station: Powell St & Market St. There’s usually a big queue here for the cable cars, but if you go early enough, there’s not many people, and I would strongly recommend checking how the cable cars get turned around here! It’s an experience, one that I’ve never seen anywhere else before.
I was really glad I was able to catch the cable car, because San Fran is very hilly! Saved me a lot of walking up hill early in the morning, as I had to save my energy for the rest of the day. I decided to take the cable car towards Pier 39, but unlucky for me, there was a cable car that was broken down on the tracks, which meant we couldn’t get through… so I ended up walking the last part of the journey. I was quite annoyed at first, but actually this allowed me to see a part of San Fran I wouldn’t normally go to as a tourist, and passed by some charity shops on he way. San Fran is AMAZING for shopping, and it’s genuinely beautiful anywhere you look. Every house is so unique and colourful, even in the dull weather that I had!
Once I got to Pier 39, the first thing I wanted to see were the seals and sea lions. I’ve heard from many people that they just lie there on the pier, but I didn’t imagine there would be so many of them!! Some of them were sleeping, some of them swimming, some fighting each other – I could sit there for hours and just watch these little (or big?) rascals (although they were quite loud and stinky.)
Next, I decided to walk through the entire Pier 39, to have a look through all the souvenir shops and food courts they had there. I can imagine that on a nice day, walking around this pier with an ice cream can be quite nice, but unlucky for me, it was a bit cold, so I was just hopping from one shop to the next. They had so many different food things that you could have there, and I couldn’t resist having some tiny little doughnuts.
I then wandered towards Fisherman’s Warf. There were so many sea food restaurants, takeaways, museums, and just things happening around there. And if I was not on my own, I would have probably stopped there for some food. So I’d strongly recommend aiming to get there for around lunch time.
Now I have to state the obvious, probably looking at the photos, it’s pretty clear already that San Francisco has the most foggy weather! Just before going, a few people did mention that San Francisco can get very foggy, but the fog usually clears out during the day.. So lucky me, first day I get there and BOOM, terrible fog. I mean, I couldn’t even see a few meters in front of me.
My main aim was to make it to the Golden Gate Bridge (and actually be able to see it), so I decided to power through and keep on walking. I passed by Ghirardelli Square, where you can find some cute little shops, and during the summer, there are some music performances. The green park just in front of it is also very cute, where you can have a picnic and look out towards the water.
From this point, I kept walking towards the bridge, following the coast line. And “normally”, I’d already be able to see the bridge from the coast line…but no, not me, the fog was in the way!! I was starting to get really upset, because that is the one thing I 100% wanted to see. But it was still only midday, so I kept telling myself that there’s still time, it can clear up, and the closer I get, the better I will be able to see it. So I kept on walking..
Tip: At the Fisherman’s Warf, you can also run some bikes with a map, which you can use to cycle to the Golden Gate Bridge, and even cycle across it, to get the view from the other side. I decided that as I was on my own I was going to walk, but just know that there is that option.
The San Francisco map is deceiving, and looks like everything is quite close to each other, but once I actually started walking, I then realised that it’s not actually that close, and a voice in my head was saying: What the hell were you thinking when you decided to walk there!!. I walked through the Crissy Field, which was a really nice park type thing, just on the beach and I could see that a lot of people from San Francisco were gathering there for a nice beach day with the family and dogs.
Then I was actually getting very close to the bridge (I followed the Battery E Trail), the sun was starting to shine, the fog was starting to disappear, and YES, I could finally see a part of it, the BRIDGE, it WAS there!
I got so excited, and the closer I got, and the higher up I got (yes, yet again, more uphill walking), the more I could see! I ended up at the most beautiful view point by the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Centre. And I could not believe it, it was completely clear by the time I got there, and I could actually see the ENTIRE bridge.
So what they say is true, the fog can be very scary, and look like it will never clear, but it does! So just need to have some faith.
Once I’ve snapped enough photos of the bridge, I slowly made my way back and stumbled upon the nicest little palace: The Palace of fine Arts. It is surrounded by water, and I could see many people were sitting around having a picnic. It was such a nice and calming location, that I decided to have a rest on the grass.
After my small little break (ehmm nap ehmm), I realised how many kilometres I actually walked that day, and decided I was too tired to go on, so I made my way back towards Union Square where my hotel was. I decided to go for a dinner with a view, so i went to The Cheese Cake Factory above Macy’s. It’s good fun, because you get to go into an elevator that shoots you right up, and then get to see Union Square from a bird’s eye view!
Day 2 – Union Square | Shopping | Lombard Street | Chinatown | Painted Ladies | Alcatraz Island
Believe it or not, but my feet were aching so much from the day before.. surprise surprise. So I decided to take it a bit easier today. I started with what was closest to my hotel: Union Square again! Shopping around the Union Square area is amazing, especially for an European. I felt like I was in Disneyland for clothes. So I took my time looking around the shops, but one shop stood out to me so much: the Apple Store. It was completely opened up, it was as if the entire front of the shop was just a massive glass sliding door! I went in and actually asked about the glass door, and I was told that it was the biggest sliding door in the World? (Hopefully that was true) and it takes a few men to be able to open it! It’s impressive, have a look:
I then made my way to that FAMOUS Street: Lombard Street. It is the steepest road, and I just couldn’t imagine how people actually live on that road, and have to drive through it every day! I would not trust myself with the car there. I stood there for a while, just looking at all these cards making their way down at snail speed.
I decided to go up the street so I could see the view from above, and although it was a trek to get there, I was definitely not disappointed with what I saw.
San Francisco has some really special parking signs, and I’ve never seen ones like that. I needed to take a photo of this, as it really made me giggle. These hills aren’t a joke! The streets are very steep, so parking the car in the right way is important!
Lombard street wasn’t too far from Chinatown, and I heard on the grape vine that the Chinatown in San Francisco was one of the best in the whole world! They had a lot of places to eat, lots of souvenir shops, and beautiful Chinese architecture. It really felt like I was in China.
So at this point of the day, I actually had to go back to the hotel to do some work in preparation for the week ahead. But if I had time to keep looking around, this would be a perfect time to see the famous Painted Ladies houses. I was quite disappointed that I didn’t manage to get to see them, but I’m sure I will return to San Francisco one day, and will manage to go.
Alacatraz Island is another place I didn’t manage to go to. I thought I would be ok to just buy tickets once I’m there to go visit the island and this eerie prison, but unfortunately you have to book in advance and there are set times of when people can go and visit. So my tip here is that if you do really want to go and see it, make sure that you book it BEFORE your trip to San Francisco, and plan your stay around that. I’ve heard some really good things about this tour, and it’s a really great experience, but again, I’ll have to come back and do that (not that I’m complaining, I’d go back in a heartbeat.)
This is my quick weekend plan for my stay in San Francisco. We hope you enjoyed reading this, and we also hope this inspires you to go out and visit this quirky city.
Xoxo Ani and Sam