Travelling alone is a bit daunting – my last large business trip resulted in missed flights, material going awol, a killer cold, and a burst ear drum.
Thankfully, my latest work trip was much more fun – in fact, it was an utter delight. The trip out was a comfy as anything, did you know that Virgin Atlantic serves ice lollies? What an awesome idea!
Not only that, but I got a whole 2 days to explore San Francisco before having to work – again, HOW AWESOME!!!!!!
So I thought I’d give you a whirlwind tour of what I got up to – apologies in advance for the sheer amount of pictures but they’re all too good to not share!
After a long 11 hour flight of being talked to death by my over-friendly neighbour, I arrived in San Francisco to clear blue skies and weather far warmer than I expected.
My hotel, The Marker on Geary Street, was a boutique hotel with spacious rooms, slightly bizarre but not overly extravagant decor and a yoga mat in the room ready for my nightly physio routine. They didn’t, however, have a kettle in the room until I complained … after that one was bought up quite quickly with a stash of Early Grey. I had to remind them that us Brits like milk with our tea though!
The hotel was only a short stroll to Union Square and I headed there after a refreshing shower and change of clothes. Union Square is beautiful on a sunny evening, with outdoor benches and tables to relax around a couple of cafes serving palatable coffee (a rare thing in a country where Starbucks reigns supreme). It is also surround by shops and hosts San Francisco’s biggest mall.
I was pretty dead on my feet but had a wander around Macy’s, up Sephora for some make up (typical blogger), tried to get a table at Macy’s top floor Cheesecake Factory and quickly gave up after being told it was a 90 minute wait, and went off instead for rather fancier pastures in the shape of Kylde’s Wine Bar which serves great wine and charcuterie boards.
I was perhaps too tired at this point to truly enjoy the place but would love to go back one day!
I managed to stay up till 10pm before zonking out for the night. I struggle with time differences as have an over active body clock so woke up at 4 am and didn’t manage to get back to sleep. I headed out the hotel shortly before 8 and wandered back to Union Square for breakfast. There was an art fair on in the Square and I may have spent any clothes money on some beautiful images from a local photographer – he threw a 3rd image in for free cause I was his first customer of the day!
After breakfast (and a dash back to the hotel to stow my artwork), I was able to buy a hop-on, hop-off bus ticket that allows unlimited rides on 4 different bus routes across the city for 48hours from purchase. The buses are terribly touristy but are great for getting around – especially if you have reduced mobility like me. I took the first of my bus rides to Golden Gate Park to visit the de Young Museum.
The de Young Museum is quite wonderful – set in beautiful gardens amongst the park grounds it was hosting an Oscar de la Renta exhibition so I got to drool over all the wonderful gowns. Have I ever told you how much I love Oscar? He is one of my favourite designers and would be my best friend if I had the money! The red ruffled skirt at the top had me slobbering … I kid you not!
The permanent exhibitions at the de Young are definitely worth looking around – I love the native peoples exhibition which featured amazing carvings and primal drawings. The garden’s are also beautiful, studded with beautiful sculptures, and I sat by the pond with a cup of coffee in the sunshine before moving on.
I was torn between the Californian Academy of Science and the Japanese Tea Garden, but felt I needed some light refreshment and the sunshine was too good to go back indoors so next I bought a $7 ticket to enter the Tea Garden through the tall, red, Japanese gates.
I sat by a waterfall, basking in sunshine with a matcha tea and a bottle of water – it was heaven, even if I did end up with a burnt forehead. I didn’t eat there but have it on good authority that the food is great. I spent a good hour wandering about the many gardens and loved the mix of vibrant flowers, tumbling water and sense of calm about the place. I only wish I didn’t have to share the time with other tourists!
Running low on phone battery (I was using it as my camera), I hoped back on the bus and rode the rest of the Golden Gate Park loop to a very blustery & cold North Beach where I nearly lost the sunglasses of my head the wind was so strong!
The view point from the top of the beach was fantastic – you could see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in the distance and the views across the sands were beautiful. The bus then takes you through Haight-Ashbury – the hippy district of San Fran – but I unfortunately had no battery by that point!
(Don’t worry though, I went back to get photos the next day so read on!)
A lie down and battery charge was needed before I headed out to get a night tour of the city (it was included on my hop-on, hop-off ticket so it felt a shame not too).
The night tour was okay (despite not being dark and being very cold), it took you wandering around Nob Hill (not named after the big wig business men that used to live there) and exploring the huge (slightly monstrous) cathedral. It wasn’t my favourite though – but the sites were pretty spectacular and the tour guide was jolly good fun.
After the night tour I headed to the famous Pier 39 – a waterfront attraction with San Francisco’s famous (and incredibly stinking Sea Lions), a view across Alcatraz, and many shops selling cheap tourist tat & fudge. The place reminds me a little of Blackpool and I’m sure I’d have had an absolute hoot of a time if I hadn’t been completely exhausted and on my lonesome.
Pier 39 is also brimming with seafood restaurants (my utter heaven) so I stopped off at The Fog Harbour Fish House for a true San Franciscan dish – chowder in a sour dough bowl. It was amazing – utterly divine – and I beg you to try a bowl if you’re ever in the city.
I’m pretty sure I got ripped off by a taxi driver on my way home but I was too tired to really pay attention and slept like a log that night!
Monday morning was glorious (which is good as I woke up insanely early again). I got a bus down to Pier 39 and from there hoped on the first bus that goes across the Golden Gate Bridge (bloody hell that was windy – definitely wrap up warm) and onto Sausalito – a sleepy little yachting community across the bay from the city.
The bus stops off after a fast and breezy blast across the bridge for all the tourists (myself included) to stop off and and take some marvellous pictures across the bay. Afterwards, it’s onwards (and upwards) to the most adorable seafront town that is the California version of Cornwall with sleepy, quirky cafes and independent gift shops.
I wasn’t planning on stopping off in Sausalito but the town (and the weather) were too beautiful not too. I was also getting hungry so a brunch consisting of spicy chorizo scrambled eggs with potatoes, coffee, and water melon whilst basking in the sunshine was just what I needed.
After brunch I had a lovely stroll down the seafront, a wander around the shops, and an obligatory salted caramel ice cream whilst sitting watching the ships sail by before heading back to the bus and the home to the city.
I was back to Union Square by mid-day which gave me plenty of time to hop on the Golden Gate Park bus and head back to Haight-Ashbury to photography the hippy town and the contrasting Victorian Houses that I’d missed out on due to low phone battery the day before.
The Victorian Houses that escaped a devastating fire at the beginning of the 20th century are simply breathtaking and I can’t wait to draw them.
I was also struck by the beautiful graffiti that covers the city – these are just a few of my favourites:
My two days of exploring San Francisco were marvellous but sadly, I had to start doing some work (as that was my main purpose for going there).
I did, however, get to try some amazing breakfasts:
And managed to exploring China Town and The Stinking Rose garlic restaurant (don’t drink the house wine – it tastes vile):
Have you been San Francisco? What were you high and lows?
Or are you planning to go some time soon? I highly recommend it!