Landmarks, feasts and diamonds in San Francisco
Day 7 – Santa Rosa to San Francisco
After breakfast we continued south on highway 101 towards San Francisco. Santa Rosa and San Francisco are a little over 50 miles apart and without stops wouldn’t take much more than an hour. We had the top down and enjoyed the drive, although there wasn’t much more than fields to see which came with some country smells!
Approaching San Francisco the highway did get busier. We had a bit of a scary moment with a bus just before reaching the famous Golden Gate Bridge. We pulled off at Battery Spencer, where there is a great viewing point of the Golden Gate Bridge, before crossing it. We weren’t lucky enough to get a full view of the bridge as the mist was over the bay but it was still exciting to see it. After a few photos we carried on the make our crossing.
It was around 11am when we crossed the Golden Gate and not too busy at all. There is a toll to cross the bridge southbound which would be deducted by Alamo after our trip. No charge to cross northbound if you’re considering a trip.
It’s well known that San Francisco has lots of hills, this is very true, to get to our hotel we made our way up Russian Hill – very steep! It’s worth it though as once you get to the top you’re at the top of San Francisco’s famous windey road – Lombard Street. We were expecting a queue but there was only two cars in front and the front car was only stopped due to a skateboarder being in front. With less than a couple of minutes wait it was our turn to drive down the street. Definitely give it ago if you have the chance it’s such a strange experience and only in San Francisco!
We arrived at Pier 2620 at 11.45 which is where we would be staying for the next two nights. Not only did they let us check in early but they also gave us an upgrade to their largest king room. It was on the top floor and was a huge room with a huge bathroom to match but bizarrely there was only a tiny bath inside.
By 1pm we were in Ghirardelli Square tasting some free samples of chocolate, caramel milk chocolate and it was delicious, way better than the Hershey’s we bought to make S’Mores with earlier in the trip. Normally I would have bought some but gave it a miss – we still had Voodoo doughnuts left!
A short walk from Ghirardelli is one of the cablecar turnarounds which is fun to watch, it’s done by hand and you can watch the operators pushing the cars around to send them back the way they came.
The Pier 2620 is in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of the city and if was a perfect location for us. We enjoyed exploring this area and had lunch at Boudin Bakery which was good, although a bit crowded. With bread filled baskets running on conveyors hanging from the ceiling, it’s quite a sight, not your average bakery.
By far my favourite part of Fisherman’s Wharf was Musée Mécanique. It’s an arcade with old amusements inside, suitable for everyone. I like visiting carnivals and fairs whenever we get the chance so this was right up my street. We had a go on quite a few of the machines, some were better than others, we enjoyed playing wack-a-mole and a game you knocked clowns down by throwing balls at them. There was even a steam-powered motorbike in here, in a case though so you can’t touch it.
Another thing I love to see on our travels is the wildlife, knowing there should be sea lions to see at Pier 39 that was our next stop. It’s a very busy area this part of Fisherman’s Wharf, lots and lots of tourist shops and restaurants, not our usual scene. This is where the sea lions can be seen though and they’re well worth winding your way through the masses to see them, really funny animals – when they’re not sleeping! There weren’t that many there at this time, it must be the wrong time of year, you could see where more of them would be when they’re all at the Pier though.
The North Beach area of the city, a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf, is the Italian neighbourhood. We chose a restaurant there for dinner called the North Beach Restaurant, it’s a very nice restaurant, feels very old but in a good way, waiters are in black tie. Our waiter recommended the prosciutto and mozzarella to start, they cure the prosciutto on the premises for 9 months. We took the recommendation to be followed by tagliatelle bolognese for me and tagliatelle pesto for Richard with a bottle of Prosseco. All the food was delicious, you could tell how fresh and high quality the ingredients were in the starter, a very good recommendation.
The present was given on one knee along with a proposal, the most gorgeous ring I’ve ever see and fits perfectly!
We walked back to the hotel via Fisherman’s Wharf, a very different atmosphere at night time, quite an uneasy feeling actually and not somewhere you want to linger so straight back to the hotel it was.
We had had such a great day and when we got back to the hotel Richard said he had a present for me. The present was given on one knee along with a proposal, the most gorgeous ring I’ve ever see and fits perfectly! What better place to get engaged than San Francisco?
Day 8 – San Francisco
No lie in this morning, not that there had been many on the trip so far, we were booked on the early bird Alcatraz tour this morning. We had booked our tickets direct with Alcatraz Cruises soon after tickets were released for our dates.
You can book Alcatraz tickets up to 90 days in advance and if you want to visit the rock make sure you do book early as all their tours sell out weeks in advance, especially if you’re visiting at a busy time.
The Alcatraz boats go from Pier 33 which was a short walk from our hotel. There are breakfast options at the cafe there, if you’re on this trip make sure you get something before boarding, no food or drink is sold on the Rock. We joined the queue for boarding with everyone else at 08.15 and the Alcatraz Flyer left promptly at 08:45.
It’s certainly worth a visit to the prison but it’s the type of place you’re likely to only want to visit once. We did the audio guide like most people, you’re given your own headset and work your way around according to it’s instructions. The Hole had a weird feeling about it, it’s the solitary confinement cells.
We’re big fans of the show Ghost Adventures and have seen their lockdown here a few times, worth a watch before you go but you won’t want to go in certain cells if you do watch it!
Outside on a clear day you can see San Francisco, today was not a clear day and we couldn’t see the city at all. It’s also quite cold out in the bay when the mist rolls in, we were pleased we came prepared.
There is a 15 minute video to watch if you like near the dock on the island, the History of Alcatraz. It’s worth a watch and is a handy attraction if like us you just missed a boat back to San Francisco. Once we had finished watching the next boat was pulling in.
We arrived back at Pier 33 at 11.30 and we probably took an average amount of time on Alcatraz, if you’re a bigger history buff than us (not difficult) you would likely need more time.
We got a muni day pass today to use all the public transport, including the cable cars. Our first trip was on the Powell-Mason line to Union Square. This is what you would expect of the city centre, high rise buildings, big shops, theatres etc. everything you could want. After our first family call to tell my Dad our news (he already knew it was going to happen apparently!) we headed into Macy’s.
The Macy’s has 7 floors, the top floor has a Cheesecake Factory which we wanted to try, our only knowledge of the chain being that Penny from Big Bang Theory worked in one. They have a lunch menu and just wanting something light to save room to try some cheesecake we went for that menu. Richard chose a salad and I had spaghetti meatballs. Once they arrived we didn’t know what to say, these aren’t your normal lunch portions, they were huge. I left half of mine, I was here for cheesecake and I was going to get it.
We should have taken more notice of the size of the cheesecake slices on the way in, we had seen some from a distance go to another table and they looked an average size. We ordered one each to allow us to try two flavours, salted caramel on a blondie brownie base and a red velvet and white chocolate. The main courses should have given it away but they didn’t and we were still surprised at the size of the cheesecakes when they arrived, they were amazing though but we could never have finished.
It’s harder to catch the cablecar from Union Square and we lost our patience so started to walk – not a bad thing with the size of our ‘light lunch’ we walked back through China Town, the biggest outside of China apparently. It is big but we didn’t feel the need to linger, we’ve seen lots of China towns and although it covers a large area it doesn’t seem much different from any other.
We called in at Rogue Brewery pub on our journey where I had a fruit salad cider, but didn’t really like it – very dry.
“A Rogue Brewery Pub is definitely worth a visit if you’re a craft beer fan, there are a number throughout the north west states.”
We also passed a few more sights we would have missed had we not walked back. It is hilly but not too bad and we weren’t in a rush for anything.
We had time to relax a bit at the hotel before getting ready to go back out again, we had Giants tickets for tonight and needed to get to AT&T Park. A stop I wanted to make on the way to the E-line streetcar was Baked Bear. I wouldn’t have went after having cheesecake but we would be moving on early tomorrow so it was my last chance!
Baked Bear specialises in ice-cream sandwiches and is based in Fisherman’s Wharf. You choose which cookies you want and what type of ice-cream and then if you want it heated or not, which confused me surely it would melt? but it didn’t. I chose red velvet and chocolate chip cookies and cookie dough ice-cream. It was pretty good but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t already had cheesecake! I had a couple of bites and so did Richard but we couldn’t finish it between us.
The E-Line streetcar takes you right from Fisherman’s Wharf to outside AT&T park without having to change lines. The stadium is huge and there’s loads to see once you’re inside including a great view of the bay. We got a few souvenirs including a mystery bag for $20 which contained a bobblehead, a t-shirt, a bag and a pin badge so not a bad deal at all.
After walking around a bit we got a hotdog each (which are beef) and some garlic fries to share which were really good. This was enough for dinner for us after our indulgences earlier on, but we’re celebrating!
Our seats were in the Virgin America Club Level and there is a fancy escalator to get there, we were sat in row A section 227 which were great seats with a good view of everything. The friendly steward showed us to our seats and offered to take our photo.
We hadn’t watched baseball before and we found it very slow going, it was the San Francisco Giants vs Colorado Rockies. However it didn’t really matter that the game was slower than we expected the atmosphere in the stadium was amazing. Various things go on on the big screen throughout the game drawing your attention and there’s plenty of memorabilia around inside to look at if you want a break. To be honest I didn’t think we would see the end, we hadn’t appreciated how cold it would be, it was a night game and we had our hoodies preparing for it to be cold, similar to Alcatraz, but it was freezing you could see the mist rolling into the stadium from the bay! BUT we did see the end, unfortunately the Giants lost 2-0 but the fans cheered them on until the end.
Getting back to the hotel was not so easy, it was very crowded leaving AT&T Park along with everyone else and it was after 10pm now and the E-Line doesn’t run late. We had to get the number 30 bus back from a stop a bit of a walk away from the Park but we felt safe the entire time, everyone else was going that way! It was half an hour wait for the bus and we arrived back at the hotel at 11.30pm – a very long day!