Travel Blog – San Francisco/U.S.A
This June, my husband and I both visited the North American continent for the very first time. For four weeks we traveled the states and Canada, experienced adventures and took in so many impressions it all still has to sink in somehow. What I will probably repeat over and over again, because I just can’t get over it, is how the U.S.A. feels like its own planet. Australia? Europe? Specs on the map. Growing up in the heart of Europe in the nineties and early two-thousands, Germany felt like the center of the universe. Great Britain? Practically another continent. America? Consistent only of Hollywood, the statue of liberty, 9/11 and – vaguely – some Clinton or Bush president. What did it matter to me? I never wrapped my head around the fact that the U.S. consists of 50 states, all the size of a whole European country and what this meant dimension-wise. Whereas I always thought the number and borders completely arbitrary, visiting 4 American states (only four!!!) on our trip showed me that each state has their own unique history and mentality. Then again, the same is true for Germany which contains 16 states, but as a whole is only about 3/4 the size of California! I know, right?!
The Californian city San Francisco was the first stop on road trip along the Pacific heading north.
There are a few things worth knowing about San Francisco. Firstly, it’s cold and windy. Always. We’ve been told it would be, but coming from Australian winter to Californian summer we still didn’t expect to experience such an uncomfortable cold. As you can see in the photo above, I’m wearing a warm west in the middle of the day.
One of the Uber drivers told us that the fog is particularly heavy in summer, while San Francisco bay is clear and sunny during spring and autumn. That didn’t stop me from photographing the bridge at every chance I got, from every angle. No one prepared me for how breathtakingly beautiful the Golden Gate Bridge is in reality. It doesn’t translate in the photos how huge and imposing the bridge really is. I can’t help but admire the architecture and talent it took to build such a thing. Also, the red colour certainly is striking and gives the whole city its iconic and unique feel.
One of the highlights and something I can only recommend is to do a harbour cruise. Don’t forget to bring a wind-proof jacket along as it can get quite chilly outside on the deck from where there also happens to be the best view.
The harbour cruise ship goes all the way under the bridge and back to the harbour, but not before passing by the infamous prison island Alcatraz. We booked our harbour cruise just before sunset, hoping to get beautiful sunset photos of the bridge, but it was cloudy instead. That luckily turned out to be just the right atmosphere to get some dark and gloomy shots of Alcatraz. To get into Alcatraz you need to book months and months in advance, which we didn’t do, but also weren’t too upset to miss out on.
We were even lucky enough to spot some humpback whales out in the ocean. Unfortunately I wasn’t ever quick enough to capture it on camera.
San Francisco’s China Town more than deserves its reputation for being a beautiful place to visit as well as containing some of the best Chinese restaurants with the most authentic food. I love the red lanterns, lamps and exotic architecture.
However, I recommend to stay away from the main street if you are looking for great dinner options and instead take a stroll through the side streets to find something suitable. Things to look for are restaurants with big tables to fit in big Chinese families (they wouldn’t go to the overpriced touristy places).
Unfortunately I didn’t take any notes and can’t remember the name of the Chinese restaurant we visited, but it was very good. Still, being used to Chinese food being the “cheap” dining option in Sydney, we didn’t account for the high prices of the food in San Francisco’s China Town.
Even better dining options await in San Francisco’s “Mission District”. Craft beer, fancy wining and dining, authentic Mexican food, bars and clubs to go out to and dance until the early hours can all be found here. We went to a restaurant/bar called “Monk’s kettle”, where our stomach’s capacity limits for delicious food was put to the test once again. Another argument to visit this place is its extensive selection of beers (even the exotic Bavarian ones I’ve never heard of). Besides being San Francisco’s heart of night life and entertainment, the Mission District is also known for being the center of independent culture and art.
Although it’s worth testing out all the exotic tastiness that can be found in the Mission district, it would be a shame to miss out on classical Pacific seafood along pier 39. Because of the constant wind and cold I quickly developed an obsession with the creamy goodness called “clam chowder”. It’s made from potatoes, seafood and cream and it’s the perfect hot meal to warm up after a day spent outside.
Sea lions at pier 39. Usually there are many, many more but they travel elsewhere (don’t ask me where!) during the summer months.
The Victorian style town houses in San Francisco are adorable! Especially the iconic Painted Ladies, which are the backdrop for one of my favourite TV series as a child, Full House.
My favourite thing to do in San Francisco was taking a bike tour from pier 39 along the harbour, over the bridge and to the scenic coastal town Sausalito on the other side. With all the amazing food we didn’t want to miss out on, we started feeling sluggish after a few days and it just felt so right being a little, but not too active on that bicycle. Unfortunate as things go sometimes, we had to end the bike tour after only two thirds of the way, because we had a flat tire which could not be fixed. However, we took the ferry back and spotted some more whales and enjoyed the golden hour coastal views.
House boats in the more sheltered areas of the bay on the other side of the bridge. I love the little details and unique architecture of each one.
Overall we really enjoyed this city. I would recommend spending three days to experience the great food, great architecture and great views if you do the bike tour, otherwise even two would be plenty enough to see everything.