Do you have a glass of wine in hand? Good! Let’s get started on the first part of our California Road Trip.
San Francisco is known for a lot of different things; home of the hippies and techies as well as being very hilly and foggy! My goodness was it windy and the coldest place of our whole road trip. It was the only place on the whole holiday that we both wore jeans, jumpers and coats!
Where we stayed: Park Central
(just off Market Street in the Finance District)
How many days: Saturday afternoon until Monday afternoon
After spending our first afternoon in San Francisco chilling and eating yummy pizza from ‘E Tutto Qua
‘ above China Town, we woke up nice and early on Sunday morning, grabbed a Starbucks and got ready for a day full of walking and sightseeing. And wow… did we do a lot of walking on our first day… we covered just over 27km!
We always think the best way to see a new place is by walking around. Unfortunately at the moment, San Fran has a lot of homeless people which we hadn’t expected and to get to the other side of the city we walked down Market Street which had a lot. As we moved closer towards the residential area of The Castro District it became much less busy and touristy. As you can see from the photographs it was very hilly!
We were aiming to walk up Twin Peaks but as we kept climbing the fog wasn’t lifting so we turned towards Ashbury Heights and saw the most quaint, pretty houses! They were all so pristine and the colours were all so gorgeous! If we were to go back to San Fran I’d love to get an Airbnb in this area.
We carried on down to Haight-Asbury which was a hodgepodge of hippie places, boutiques and tons of old Victorian houses painted in light pastel colours. You wouldn’t think you were in the same city as the Financial District! With the Golden Gate Park right on it’s doorstop it was ideal!
The Golden Gate Park is San Fran’s version of Central Park and is picturesque. It has flower gardens, a Japanese tea garden, a lake and it covers 1000 acres. We only covered a small bit at the bottom and saw a Dahlia flower garden and went to the Japanese Tea Gardens. The Japanese Tea Garden was gorgeous and so green! It’s the oldest public Japanese Garden in the US and has lots of narrow paths which wind past koi ponds with stepping stones, pagodas and there’s even an arched drum bridge. It was a lovely little find to sit down in away from the crowds and have a little snack.
Although it was very foggy and a little nippy (we were both wearing coats by this point!), the fog gave it an eery atmosphere and it was enchanting. The fog was descending over the lake looming like a storm was brewing. We hadn’t realised that San Fran is famous for it’s summer fog due to it’s unique micro-climate, so were glad to have packed ready for the cooler weather.
The Park was a lovely find and had some lovely picnic areas with bbq’s already in place for people. If we were to ever go back we’d definitely spend a day at the park (on a sunny day!) and hire a pedalo on the lake and have a bbq!
We then strolled down to an area called Sea Cliff and saw some more amazingly grand houses with views over the bay. We checked out the real estate of the area and if you have $13m to spare you can buy a house with panoramic views over the bay… how insane! If you can’t stretch that far, one just sold at a snippet of $5.85m… in my dreams!
The next hour was spent making our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was so foggy but we got to see it a little more clearly the closer we got. Those views though…
By this stage we were about half way through our walk and had to get all the way back to the main city… I was also very peckish by this point but managed to last another hour and a bit walking through Crissy Field to Cows Hollow where we stopped at a diner ‘Mel’s Drive-In
‘ for lunch – much needed by this point!
We had burgers and milkshakes. I had strawberry and the hubby had butterscotch. Both were made with ice-cream and were just what we needed! Delish!
We spent the next hour or so by the Marina and then walked along Lombard Street which was majorly steep and walked down the other side of it which is covered in Hyrandeas… This part of Lombard Street is famous for its hair-pin turns and being on a 27 degree angle. I couldn’t imagine living on this street with it being so steep and all the tourists and traffic all over the road. Either way it was very pretty…
We then got the old fashioned cable car back to Powell Street and that was our day! We were so shattered that we grabbed some sushi and had it in our hotel room for dinner before crashing. We covered 27.3km on foot and did over 45,000 steps in one day!
We’re glad we saw everything we did as we didn’t have long in the city and had already arranged Alcatraz and Angel Island the next day. I wouldn’t recommend doing all the walking we did if you’re not a fan of walking long distances and would instead recommend the open top bus. My in-laws went to San Francisco earlier in the year and got the open top bus and got to jump on off as they pleased.
Day 2 was another early-ish start as we had to get to Pier 33 for our pre-booked boat to Alcatraz. I’d definitely recommend pre-booking tickets as they sell out quickly, especially in the summer months. Our tour departed the Pier at 9:30 and we’d booked the tour for both Alcatraz and Angel Island.
Before heading over to the Pier, we stopped at Marazine Coffee
for some breakfast. This had been suggested by someone we know and it was an amazing start to the day. Yummy rich hot chocolates and thick toast topped with delicious-ness! I had the fig jam and ricotta and my husband had chicken, bacon and avocado. Yum! The toasts are a little pricey starting at $8 but they were a tasty treat to start our day.
Alcatraz was a must for us and it didn’t disappoint. I love my history and this place is steeped in it. Everyone has the chance to go up to the inmates quarters and listen to a headset. It guides you around and really paints a vivd picture of what happened.
I hadn’t realised the history of the occupation of Alcatraz which happened in 1969. You can see above in the photo on the top of the water tower reference to it.
I also hadn’t realised that the families of the prison guards lived on Alcatraz and the children would get a ferry across to San Francisco every morning to go to school!
We spent a total of 2 and half hours on Alcatraz before our ferry to Angel Island. Angel Island is a hidden gem and you get some amazing views of San Francisco and the surrounding area. There’s a lot of fascinating history to this place and we got to learn about it during our hour tram tour of the island. There is a military history to Angel Island as well as once being a Japanese Internment Camp.
One part of Angel Island is partly deserted and looks like a post apocalyptic place… quite spooky in places and surreal.
It was a great find and we’re glad we decided to do the joint tour of both places.
By 4pm we were back in San Francisco and were on the way to get our car. I left my husband to be in charge of the car when sorting the Road Trip and he picked a Mustang Convertible. Our thoughts being, if we’re doing an American Road Trip we might as well do it properly 😛
Our next stop was Santa Rosa and we stayed in a lovely little Airbnb. (Here’s the link
) We were only using it as a pit stop and it more than served it’s purpose.
The host Rick had left suggestions of a few places to eat locally and we ended up going to Legends Sports Grill at Bennet Valley Golf Club. We sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the warmer weather as the sun set. We were famished and to start with shared some nachos (see below). Just goes to show you how big the US portions are compared to the UK! That was a starter for 1 and filled us both up. They were very tasty ☺️
So that’s the end of Part 1 of our Road Trip! Well done if you made it all the way to the end 😛
Keep a look out for Part 2: Napa Valley…