San Francisco – one of my favourite cities

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco is a fun city!

One of my favourite cities to visit, San Francisco has a little ‘funk’ about it.  Explore San Francisco’s unique neighbourhoods as there is such a huge range of fun things to do when visiting Frisco and it’s surrounds!

Our favourite experiences:

The Golden Gate Bridge:  A photogenic and picturesque landmark known the world over! 1.2 miles across, the bridge was considered unbuildable because of the foggy weather, 60 mile per hour winds and strong ocean currents and is a credit to the engineer who designed it.

The Golden Gate Bridge is an impressive sight – with or without the fog. For us it was a foggy morning however the structure peeked out of the fog to leave us with some memorable photos and a feeling of awe to see such a magnificent bridge.

Fishermans Wharf: A ‘must go’ place in San Francisco.  A range of shops and restaurants to browse through and a museums and other specialty attractions are nearby.  A number of restaurants & cafes serve their version of San Francisco’s clam chowder served in a fresh sourdough bowl.

Live music and street performers are part of the evening entertainment and make it a fun place to hang out.

The Sea Lions:  In October 1989 after the big earthquake hit San Francisco, a number of sea lions have settled and taken up residence at Pier 39. These Californian mammals are famous for their intelligence, playfulness and noisy barking.  Sea Lions in the wild may live up to 25 years and often put on a show for the people standing on the deck taking photos.

Click here for more information on these fascinating sea lions.

Cable Cars:  Mostly a tourist attraction today, the historic cable cars were introduced in 1873 as a link to the public transport system in hilly San Francisco until the earthquake and fires in the early 1900’s destroyed most of the cable car system.  A few lines were rebuilt after the earthquakes and are now designated National Landmarks.  They are an extraordinary experience – be sure to include this in your trip to San Fran!

Our cable car driver was obviously full of Christmas cheer and loved his job. Much to the enjoyment of his passengers he rapped out “Jingle Bells” with the bell with his offsider doing the accompanyment over the microphone!

Lombard Street:  Located in the Russian Hill area and known widely as “the crookedest street in the world” because of it’s 8 sharp turns on a 40 degree slope.  Pedestrian pathways are on either side for those who wish to walk it.  Driving down Lombard Street is an experience but well worth adding this adventure to your list!

Speed limit is 5 mph.  Take care!

Haight Ashbury: We stumbled onto this part of San Francisco and were surprised to find this ‘down to earth’ part of the city.  Locally known as the ‘Hippie’ area, Haight Ashbury community is recognised for it’s creativity and diversity.  For me it was a flashback to my earlier days with 70’s style painted buildings, organic food in the grocery shops, tie-dyed clothing with vintage and retro shops everywhere!  It was a pleasant trip down memory lane!

The interesting thing for us was the constant aroma of marijuana drifting by as people walked past (reminded us of days gone by!).  We later learned that California has legalised ‘medicinal’ marijuana.

Chinatown:  No place is complete without visiting Chinatown and San Francisco is no different!  Walking through Chinatown, we came across traditional herb pharmacies, temples, shops and a number of restaurants.  The Asian aromas drew us to enjoy ‘yum cha’ at one of the side cafe’s which was superb.  The famous fortune cookie factory is a destination on a number of the walking tours through this part of San Francisco.

Tours to take:

Alcatraz:  The trip to Alcatraz took about 3 hours.  A short 15 minute ferry ride from Fishermans Wharf included a briefing, video presentation and then a steep climb to the main prison area for the self-paced audio tour. The audio tour was enlightening, with vivid descriptions of the conditions for prisoners during the years Alcatraz was open. It was interesting to note that some of the buildings were in disrepair and that much restoration work is currently being undertaken.  Take a step back in time and be sure to do the Alcatraz tour.

Napa Valley and Sonoma:  A great day with Tower Tours taking us out to the Sonoma and Napa Valley, north west of San Francisco.  It was a great tour experience with our ‘Tour Director’ Willie Robertson’s knowledge and local expertise of the area.

Madonna Winery was the first stop.  Showcasing a very nice chardonnay, this family run winery was our favourite of the day.  Good tasting skills shared and a nice friendly group in the outlet.

Sutter Homes Winery provided a rose to taste followed by a number of other selections.  This winery had an extensive gift range complete with locally made sauces and mustards which were delicious.

Sabastiani Vinyards put forward a great selection to taste from one of the oldest wineries in America.  The guide shared many antidotes about the hand-carved wood barrels and the community support given to the Sebastiani family during the years of prohibition and depresion era.

Restaurants & Bars we enjoyed:

Boudins Bakery & Bistro:  Freshly shucked oysters served at the oyster bar with a couple of cocktails followed by an exceptional meal of Steamed Dungeoness Crab Linguini which was cooked to perfection.

Bubba Gump Bar & Grill:  A great casual dining restaurant with ribs, chowder & gumbo.

Castagnolas:  An Italian style restaurant down on Fishermans Wharf with magnificent views over the bay, specialising in Cioppino (seafood stew) and featuring the Dungeoness crab as one of the main ingredients.

Rouge et Blanc: An awesome little wine bar we stumbled into after a cold day shopping and settled into a selection of pate, fresh breades and cheeses complimented with a selection of fine Spanish and French wines.  This cafe turns into a popular breakfast stop in the mornings with excellent coffee and pastries.

La Casa:  This Mexican restaurant in Sonoma Village was recommended to us by our coach driver/tour director ‘Willie Robinson’ on a wine tour of the valley.  Quite possibly one of the best Mexican restaurants that we’ve eaten at in many years.  The fajitas are superb!

Peoples Cafe: A great coffee spot in the Haight Ashbury area to stop in.

Jack’s Cannery Bar and Grill: With over 80 beers on tap its great to have choice!  Down by Fishermans Wharf, Jack’s is a nice little bar to chill out and enjoy the afternoon. Great atmosphere. Live music with a guitarist welcoming everyone through the door.  Try one of their chowder bowls – delicious!

My favourite tip: Grab a hot pretzel with your morning coffee!

Where we stayed:

Hotel Zephyr, Beach Road, San Francisco.  A funky boutique hotel with a modern decor and some very trendy ideas.  Great staff, friendly service and cosy rooms.

We loved San Francisco but didn’t have time to do justice to all it had to offer so are already planning our next trip to explore more of this part of the world.

More photos coming soon!

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