Monday, 11 June 2012

California Dreaming: San Francisco

Our West Coast USA road trip on iconic California State Route 1 took us from San Francisco (A) to Monterey (B), through the Big Sur and on to Santa Barbara (C), a stop in Venice Beach (D), a quick hop across the state boundary in to Las Vegas (E), back to Los Angeles (F) and on to San Diego (G), before saying goodbye to California and flying home. Part one, San Francisco, is below!

The route!

San Francisco

We stayed at The Clift, right by Union Square, which was a great base for us to spend our time wandering, exploring, eating, drinking and shopping.

Reception seating at The Clift Hotel
I’m a city girl by nature and I enjoy the frenetic pace of a busy, bustly city. San Francisco was a bit more laid back than that, less bustle, more chilled. So I found it a bit difficult to understand, when on a Sunday evening we made our way out for dinner at 8.00pm, but despite walking 20 minutes in every direction (in very high heels) and getting a cab to Pier 39 (a big tourist area, clearly only for daytime!) we finally ate at a bistro back under our hotel. The next day we went out earlier and found some cute back streets for laid back dinners in restaurants with a local (i.e. not touristy) feel. I was sad not to get my glitzy outfits out, but I saved them for later on! We did, however, stuff our faces with some great brunches (that’s what you go to the USA for, right?), especially at Sears Fine Foods, which we sought out on the guidebook’s recommendation, and it was worth the 30 minute queue.

First holiday brunch at Sears Fine Food

The iconic sights are pretty cool, and we spent some packed days checking them out and taking a bus tour of the city was a great way to spot locations for further exploration. Alcatraz (one of Mr G’s bucket list to do items) was amazing with probably the best self-guided audio tour I’ve ever done, the Golden Gate Bridge and its lesser-known sister the Bay Bridge were pretty awesome sights. It was fun watching the seals at Pier 39, though we were too stuffed from brunch to sample any clam chowder unfortunately. We popped in to Little Italy and China Town, but didn't stop for too long and we also drove over the Golden Gate Bridge (another activity from Mr G’s bucket list) to Sausalito to check out some of the most expensive real estate in the world.
Golden Gate Bridge

We also spent some more relaxed time in some less touristy areas, drinking pink lemonade and eating sweet potato fries (my new fave snack) in alfresco cafes, perusing well-out-of-our-price-range boutiques in well-to-do neighbourhoods, and eating super-tasty chocolate in Ghiradelli Square. One thing we were advised not to bother with was a trolley ride. Well, we defied the critics, bought some tickets and jumped aboard. It was a great experience and, in my opinion, worth the queue to experience something so iconic to San Francisco!

A San Francisco trolley

Overall I loved the vibe of San Francisco, but I’m not sure my city girl-high heels-“I’ll have a white Cosmo” persona is 100% suited to the city! I think it was a little bit too boho and chillaxed for me!

The famous Tony Bennett heart on Union Square - inspired by his song "I left my heart in San Francisco"

Up next, Monterey...

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