And we are back. Have you recovered yet from my lengthy report of our week in San Francisco Part One? Perfect. Let’s crack on with part two of our trip to San Francisco then. In which you will find more cycling (yep, don’t ask), more cable cars (obviously) and yet more food. Sprinkled with a few more views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Our Trip to San Francisco: Wednesday
As we had pretty much covered the main San Francisco tourist attractions in the past days, it was time to venture out. Being an absolute street art enthusiast, there was no way I could give the Mission a miss.
So, Wednesday morning after breakfast we headed towards Dolores Park first. The Mission (District) is an area in San Francisco, south of the main town center. It is a Hispanic influenced area bordered by the Mission Dolores (which also gave the area its name). The church itself was unfortunately still closed when we arrived, so we only caught a glimpse of the outside.
From Dolores Park you get a great view over San Francisco (as you are slightly elevated on one of the many hills).
We had a wander around the area. Mooched through some of the local shops, took in all the murals and enjoyed the sunshine. So, all in all a very relaxed morning.
For lunch we opted for the Meatball Bar. We’ve been to the Meatball Shop in New York before, which we loved (and which actually made it onto my list of Top 5 Eats in New York City), so expectations were high. And what shall I say? We weren’t disappointed.
As it was such a beautiful and sunny day, we decided to venture out even more and head to Golden Gate Park.
With almost 5 km length and 1 km width, Golden Gate Park is actually larger than Central Park in New York City. Shape wise it is similar, a slim rectangle (although Golden Gate Park is oriented East to West, whereas Central Park runs North to South). Obviously, you could spend an entire day and there is plenty to see and do in Golden Gate Park. From the Botanical Garden, to several lakes, miles and miles of walking paths to windmills, there sure is something for everyone.
To cover some ground and make it across the entire park, we decided to go by bike. Checking the Uber app, we found a few Jump bikes parked near the edge of Golden Gate Park. So, we picked up two of them and off we went.
Starting at the Eastern edge of the park, we cycled across the entire park until we hit the ocean and Ocean Beach. And WOW. This actually was the first time both Mr T and I have ever been to the Pacific Ocean. And just look at it, isn’t it gorgeous?
But since the clock was ticking on the Uber app (you only get 30 minutes included in your initial booking, then you pay by the minute for the Jump bikes), we didn’t linger around for too long. Instead we headed back to dump the bikes somewhere (thanks to an exclusion zone in and around Golden Gate Park, just leaving the bikes on the spot wasn’t an option).
Bikes parked and locked, we walked back to Golden Gate Park. A brief visit to the de Young Museum (an arts museum with a sculpture garden) and a little more sitting in the sunshine, then we headed back towards town.
We made it back to Fisherman’s Wharf just as the sun started to set. Look at those beautiful colours as the sun set over the bay. Unfortunately, we weren’t quite quick enough in getting ourselves in position. So, we made a mental note to try that again on Thursday.
Our Trip to San Francisco: Thursday
Thursday, we started with a walk to City Hall (located just around the corner from our hotel, but somehow, we hadn’t really been there since we arrived on Saturday).
From there down to the Ferry Building for the farmer’s market, which wasn’t quite what we expected. A few fruit and veg stalls outside the Ferry Building, but nothing to blow your socks off. The shops within the Ferry Building were more interesting (anyone else gets excited about cooking shops? No? Just us then? Oh well, Mr T and I both love them and could easily buy half their inventory whilst ‘just browsing’).
As we enjoyed the beach so much the previous day, we decided to head back to Ocean Beach and explore that area a little more. Especially since we had amazing sunshine that day.
The N train took us all the way to Ocean Beach. And this time we had all the time in the world to actually enjoy the beach. We took off our shoes and dipped our toes into the Pacific Ocean. I mean why wouldn’t you.
It was a little too early in the year for actual swimming, but there were already a few people around.
Along the beach we walked towards the Sutro Baths. And thanks to a rather low tide, we were able to actually approach Sutro Baths directly from the beach rather than walk up the cliff, past Cliff House and down again.
Nowadays the Sutro Baths are little more than ruins on the beach. But back in the days, Sutro Baths was a luxurious bath with several sea water pools and a giant steel and glass roof.
Opened in 1896, the Sutro Baths were the largest indoor swimming pool in the world at the time. And from the images I’ve seen on the internet, it must have been quite a sight.
With the Sutro Baths thoroughly inspected and photographs from every possible angle, we still hadn’t enough of the ocean breeze and the walking. So, we headed for the Lands End Coastal Trail next. Which would lead us along the cliff, past several perfect view points and ultimately to Golden Gate Bridge (Spoiler Alert: we didn’t actually go all the way).
You don’t necessarily need to be an experienced hiker to walk the Coastal Trail (I am certainly not). It is a decent gravel / dirt path. However, it does have several steps and a few rather long and steep climbs (especially if you fancy going down to Mile Rock Beach or Chime Beach, which we didn’t). So, if you struggle with walking long distances, maybe give the Coastal Trail a miss. Or cut it short. There are several signposts along the way to guide you to exits. And I would certainly recommend wearing appropriate foot wear. Open toe sandals or heels might not be the best choice when walking the Coastal Trail. But trainers should be fine (at least we didn’t have any problems walking in trainers).
As I mentioned earlier, we didn’t go all the way to Golden Gate Bridge. We briefly thought about it. But we started the journey completely unprepared and didn’t have any snacks or water with us. And since there aren’t any shops or cafés along the way either, eventually hunger and thirst got the better of us. We eventually abandoned the coastal path at Eagle’s Point and headed for the nearest bus, that would take us back into town.
For lunch we decided to tick off two more things on our mental To Do List. One was a Corn Dog (let’s not discuss nutritional value here. It is just one of those things you regularly see in films, so we (ahem… Mr T mainly) wanted to finally try one). The other thing was a chowder. San Francisco is famous for its clam chowder. And we had seen several food stalls and restaurants selling clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. The problem here is that I am not a huge fan of anything seafood and fish related. The idea of clam wasn’t appealing to me at all. So, the entire week I was trying to find a vegetarian option (corn chowder for example). And until now, I had completely failed. Since we were on our second to last day, it was time to tackle that problem. We headed to Pier 39. Getting the corn dog was easy (and I must say, it was actually rather tasty, although obviously rather fatty). But after we went full circle and checked every single menu, we just could not find a seafood free chowder version. Eventually we settled for chilli con carne in a sourdough bread bowl instead. Maybe not the San Francisco food classic, but still rather tasty.
As this was our last evening in San Francisco, we headed back to the harbour for another attempt of sunset watching. But not without a cheeky ice cream at Ghirardelli first. During the course of the week we popped into Ghirardelli on Market Street several times. I mean, how couldn’t you? This is literally chocolate heaven come true. We had munched our way through a selection of their delicious chocolate squares (especially since they seemed to always stuff one in your hand the minute you enter the shop). My favourite for sure was the Ghirardelli peppermint bark chocolate.
After the debacle the evening before, we timed our sunset watching better this time (and actually checked the time of sunset beforehand, rather than all of a sudden noticing the colour of the sky changing). We allowed plenty of time to get down to the harbour and decided to position ourselves on Municipal Pier to get a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun set.
To conclude the last evening of our trip to San Francisco, we headed to The Grove for dinner. I’ll be honest with you. The restaurant choice was down to Mr T. And whilst the food images we found on the internet looked yummy, the overall restaurant vibe felt more student bar than classy restaurant (more often than not do we go for a posh last night out during our trips). But what it was lacking in style, it did make up for with the food. Nothing fancy, but tasty and decent grub.
Our Trip to San Francisco: Friday
As our flight back to London wasn’t until half nine in the evening, we still had almost an entire day in San Francisco ahead of us.
With bags packed and stored at the hotel for the day, we headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf for breakfast. As a little treat we had decided to skip the hotel breakfast that last morning and finally have breakfast at Boudin Bakery instead.
Ready to start the day, we first headed to Ghirardelli Square. Had a look around the shops and played a round of table tennis (as they happened to have a table in the square). Good thing it was still early in the day. My ping pong skills sure don’t allow for any spectators. And I spare you all (mainly me really) the horrible video Mr T took of my meagre attempts to actually hit the ball.
Eventually calling defeat, we headed back to the Cable Car. One last ride, still with the rather unsuccessful attempt of snapping a perfect ‘Clinging to the Cable Car’ Instagram worthy shot. Thoroughly enjoying our ride (and our American seat neighbours that told us their entire life story by the time we got off the Cable Car), we got off at the Cable Car Museum.
The Cable Car Museum in San Francisco is located on the corner of Mason Street and Washington Street and is free to visit (although there are several donation boxes dotted throughout the museum, so you are encouraged to give a little). It is open daily from 10am to 5pm during winter months (6pm in summer).
The museum isn’t huge, but it gives a nice overview of the history of the San Francisco cable cars. There are several old cars on display, and you can learn how the cars are operated. Further the site is also where the Cable Car Power House is located. This is the place where the cables of all four lines turn and you can see them rotate on big wheels. Adjacent to the museum is also the car depot, but unfortunately the depot isn’t open to the public.
Whilst interesting, there isn’t a huge amount to see. If you allocate 30 minutes to 1 hour for your visit to the cable car museum, that is probably plenty.
After the museum, there was just one final thing on my To Do List (well, two really, but as I already mentioned in Part 1, I forgot all about visiting the Mosaic Stairs until it was time to head back to the hotel).
But what I didn’t forget about was visiting the Painted Ladies. If, like me, you grew up watching ‘Full House’, you might remember the opening sequence in the park, with a row of painted houses in the back. These are the Painted Ladies.
Why I wanted to see them? Not quite sure. Probably because every blog post I read told me, that it was an absolute must-see. So, who am I to not go there?
But truth to be told, it was a little underwhelming. In hindsight it probably would have made sense to arrive very early in the morning (or late in the evening). To catch a more interesting light. And to hopefully find the park a little less crowded. Instead we went in the middle of the day. The park was full of tourists snapping selfies with the Painted Ladies in the background. So, we had a look, took a quick photo and ran as fast as we could (well no, we went for the nearest bus stop, realised we were in the middle of nowhere and regretted dragging our sorry arses out there in the first place). So safe to say, I probably wouldn’t include the Painted Ladies in my Perfect San Francisco Itinerary.
With this last thing ticked off our San Francisco itinerary, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon with some light shopping around Union Square (and in Macy’s obviously).
Followed by iced coffee in the sun (I mean, if you visit California in early spring, you better make sure you get a half decent tan before heading back to the UK).
As the evening approached, we headed back to the hotel to collect our bags. And called an Uber to bring us back to the airport (somehow dragging our suitcases back to the subway didn’t seem quite so appealing to us. If you don’t know what I mean, I recommend you have a quick read of my hotel review).
Unfortunately, the British Airways lounge at San Francisco airport was under refurbishment. So instead we had access to one of the other lounges instead.
I wouldn’t say the lounge makes it into my Top 5 British Airways. So, we didn’t spend too much time in there and instead explored the airport a little. Before it was eventually time to board our 11-hour flight back to London.
There you have it. Our first ever trip to San Francisco.
We sure had a blast and enjoyed it. And I would be surprised if that was our last visit to California. There is loads more around that we would also like to see, so I can still sense a California road trip on the horizon (not this year though).
Tell me, where is your favourite spot in San Francisco?