So it’s not technically a seaside destination. But it is in a bay, it has a whole lot of piers, there is definitely fresh fish to be sampled (my favourite spy was clam chowder served in a massive sour dough roll bowl – why not?) and sea life to be spotted (I was weirdly obsessed with sighting a great white shark, but reluctantly settled for some dolphins and the seals of Pier 39). What’s more, we absolutely loved it! Therefore I feel that the San Francisco stop off of our recent California adventure is worthy of a write up.
My husband and I have just returned from a two week road trip around California; we started off in San Francisco and made our way down to Los Angeles, via an awful lot of vineyards – well, as you know, I do love my wine! It was quite simply a phenomenal holiday – full of adventures, the most stunning natural landscapes, wonderful food & wine, and some beautiful, beautiful beaches. I’ll definitely be writing a little more on the coastal elements of the trip, but first up is San Francisco.
I always thought I’d be a fan of the city, although I’m not entirely sure why. Some people say you’re either one or the other – San Fran or L.A. – and I would definitely put myself in the camp of the former if stereotypes are anything to go by (I’m definitely not beach body ready all year round – if at anytime! – and the thought of me on a surf board is hilarious). Other friends who have been and know me well also said I’d just love it. So off I went with pretty high expectations; and I am pleased to report that these were smashed.
San Francisco is awesome. Firstly, the climate is very different to what you might expect from California – in that it’s not super warm. In fact it gets quite chilly in the evenings. But this was perfect for me – as I get overheated very easily – and San Francisco is all about the walking, up and down hill after hill (ideal for burning off wine calories…), so we were thankful for the blue skies and accompanying cool breeze. I also love to walk, so it being a walking city suited us just fine; it’s such a great way to see everything, including those lovely places not on your to do list that you just stumble upon as you round a corner. A great example on this trip was the San Francisco Art Institute we found after taking in the Lombard Street landmark; it was a gallery and art college in an old mission building, with a beautiful, tranquil courtyard – the perfect place to come after a busy tourist attraction obscured by selfie sticks.
We had three nights there, and stayed in the amazing Hotel G just off Union Square. Yes this area is San Francisco at its most touristy, but it was central and meant we could walk most places. It was also a fabulous hotel, we loved its Scandinavian style, and were so lucky to be given a room on the 11th floor which meant it was quieter than street level – and we also enjoyed the most incredible views of the city from our window. The hotel was so lovely & accommodating – I couldn’t recommend staying here enough. We wouldn’t stay anywhere else now we’ve been.
We spent our two full days there mostly wandering. We checked out the fisherman’s wharf and the infamous Pier 39; but we much preferred exploring quieter more local areas like North Beach (where we enjoyed a delicious brunch at Park Tavern). A visit to Alcatraz is a must, for the eerie history (I am fascinated by prisons – I know, it’s weird…) but also for the stunning views of the city, the bridge and the broader Bay Area. A trip up Coit Tower is also worth it for the panoramic view of the bay. We took in different parts of the city – the boutiques of Haite, the coffee shops & bars of Mission (Tartine Bakery deserves a particular mention – that cake…), the vibe of Pacific Heights, and we got lost (by choice) in the vastness of Golden Gate Park – a random one, but I highly recommend the botanical gardens!
San Francisco is known for its food & drink scene and oh my we were not disappointed. The key thing to know is to BOOK IN ADVANCE. I don’t capitalise things often but this you need to know. Fortunately a friend had given us the heads up on this, so we were lucky enough to enjoy an absolutely fabulous dinner at Nopa – seriously good food & an even better atmosphere – and a very fun evening of margaritas and guacamole at rooftop bar El Techo, followed by a delicious dinner at Delfina. Just make sure you book for the weekend that you’re actually in town (fortunately it was only the one booking I made for an entirely different weekend 😂).
We could have spent so much more time here – there is so much to do, and so many coffee shops, bars & restaurants to while away afternoons and evenings. I loved the vibe – cool, but in a relaxed unpretentious way (key for me as I am definitely not trendy – sometimes Brighton can overwhelm me 😂), and relaxed – it’s the opposite of how intense New York is (which isn’t a bad thing as I love NYC for that) – it’s somewhere I could definitely see myself living. I wonder what kind of job I could get there? Is it easy to get a visa? Sorry…daydreaming mid blog post.
Anyway you get the picture – it’s an amazing city break if you’re after a relaxed place, that offers culture, great food & drink, and lots of walking and wandering (and you need to like hills too). I randomly referred to it as a kind of California does Copenhagen; if you’ve been to both you’ll know what I mean. We loved it and will definitely be finding a reason to go back, as on this occasion after three nights it was time for the coastal road trip to begin! Blog post on this to follow…