San Francisco, 6th - 10th June & 16th - 20th June 2010 - you might want to grab a coffee before you start reading this - it's a big one!
We loved San Francisco so much that we decided to come back here for another 4 nights after our road trip, so we've had a total of 8 nights here and we still haven't fitted everything in.
My favourite area in San Francisco by far is Fisherman's Wharf. It's got the infamous Pier 39, is full of gorgeous restaurants, bustling seafood stands, over 40 piers, a busy harbour, street performers, quirky shops and a huge group of Sea lions.
The first day in San Francisco was a killer as we ended up walking for over 6 hours - why / how we did it I have no idea - next time we're hiring a segway! We finally decided to brave the bus and it was actually a welcome relief from the absolute nutters on the street in the area we were staying. We got off the bus at Fisherman's Wharf which as it turns out is my favourite part of San Fran - very touristy but I loved it.
Golden Gate Bridge
So we spent the morning looking around and then we thought we'd take a walk to the Golden Gate Bridge - it can't be that far right? ... Wrong! It took us 2.5 hours just to get to the bridge from Pier 7. It was a gorgeous walk and we went right underneath it, but we then realised there were no steps up to the bridge, so had to walk part way back to get up there. Apparently the bridge is the number one spot in the world for suicides - no wonder cos if the fall didn't kill you the currents in that water would. We walked about half way across to see the view of San Fran and Alcatraz before our legs felt like they were going to fall off and decided to head back to Pier 39 for some well deserved dinner.
I think I should point out here that we were completely unprepared for a days worth of walking and had eaten a bowl of cereal, a banana and half an orange each (this may explain why we were considering chewing our arms off). So after a total of 6 hours walking when we finally arrived back at Fisherman's Wharf we decided to treat ourselves to Bubba Gump Shrimp. Along with providing our starving and highly malnourished selves with food, it was the best meal either of us has eaten so far in the states. Highly, highly recommended!
There is a local legend about a guy called "the Bush man" in San Francisco who jumps out at people during the day to make them jump in the hope of getting some money. Well when this guy did it to us walking back from Bubba Gump Shrimp, at night, when there was no-one around and he very nearly got my foot embedded between his legs! We didn't get caught by him again, and it's actually really funny to watch him doing it to other people during the day, but he seriously nearly ended up with the need for some specialist reconstructive surgery!
There's a raft of about 150 Sea lions (yes I did have to Google that) that reside next to Pier 39 and sunbathe, play and make a lot of noise all day and night. It's so funny to watch them, especially how the big ones boss the rest of them around. Pier 39 also has a fun fair where we brought candy floss (or cotton candy as they like to call it) and we even went on the Carousel - it was hilarious. They've got a chocolate shop aptly named Chocolate Heaven, that's better than a visit to Willy Wonker's Chocolate Factory could ever be and I could feel my waist expanding just looking at the displays, so we made a sharp exit.
Everywhere in Fisherman's Wharf also sells the San Francisco speciality of clam chowder which they serve in a sour dough bowl which has had the middle scooped out. You eat the chowder with the top of the roll and eat your bowl as you go. Interesting, messy and delicious. And strangely it tastes like the best ever Heinz Chicken Soup, mmmmm.
On our second day we became inmates on Alcatraz for the day, and I loved every minute of it. :)
The boat ride to 'the rock' takes about half hour and can get petty choppy. When we got there we headed straight up to the Cell Blocks which were at the highest point on the island. I was actually really surprised to learn that all the wardens and their families lived on the island. I don't know why but I just assumed they would be transported back to the mainland at the end of the shift. Anyway, we got an audio tour which was voiced by wardens and some of the inmates giving accounts of what it was like to work / be imprisoned on Alcatraz - very interesting and it's only fuelled my Serial Killer fascination even more, and am now thinking of doing a Criminal Psychology course when I get home. I've digressed again ... they also had accounts of the 3 day siege of Alcatraz, we saw the cell where one of the guards was killed and even saw the markings on the floor that are still there from grenades being dropped by the US Marines during the fire fight when taking back the prison.
We also saw the dining hall, kitchen, exercise yard, laundry, shower block & Wardens office. I've added quite a bit of detail to the photos rather than writing a lot here as it's much easier to explain with the pics, and I'm sure your coffees are already getting cold. ;)
I've mentioned this in my Road trip Blog, but for anyone who hasn't read it yet you may not recognise Lombard Street from the name, but I'm sure you will when you see the pictures. We first found this by accident whilst walking / climbing up the steepest hill I've ever climbed - aptly named Hyde Street. We stopped to take a picture of the tram coming up and then noticed the cars going down it. It seemed to be mainly tourists that go down it, there was even a guy dressed in a circus looking suit, in a massive van going down with his music blaring posing for everyone - so funny.
How this piece of land could have passed planning permission to become a road I have no idea - the assessor was obviously a sadist or fitness fanatic, as parts of this climb should come with specialist climbing equipment!
It goes up in 4 sections, thankfully it has some crossroads so is flat in 3 places to catch your breath. There is also a very well positioned Starbucks at the bottom of the hill for anyone who's just succeeded in climbing it, or anyone about to embark on the treturous climb. Over the course of our stay here for some unknown reason we ended up climbing this not once, but three times. Honestly - I think we've both lost the plot (keep comments to yourselves please!) and all I can say is there was no need for any lunges on those evenings.
So I'm still on my quest to find an 'All American subway car diner'. We nearly managed it with this, and it's well worth a visit if you ever come to SF. It was recommended to us by a girl staying in our dorm and we mossied on down there and ordered a malt Oreo cookie milkshake each. Not only did they bring the milkshake, they bring out the leftovers which even after eating half of it was still enough to fill our glasses up again! They also had a blue Cadillac in there, a Juke box and funky red glittery seats. Each table also had a mini Juke box and we chose 3 oldies which were Beach Boys - Surfing USA, Elvis - Hound Dog & Dee Dee Sharp - Mash Potato, and sat there singing along. :)
We couldn't believe when we left Frisco the first time that we had not got round to getting on a tram - after all what else do you think of when going to San Francisco?! So for our second visit it was at the top of the list (yet it still took us til the last day to actually do it).
So on our last day we finally got on the long awaited tram ride, and what a memorable tram ride it was. The Conductor (we've decided to name him Joe) was insane. When we got on he made me get off and go to the front as it was a better view. However there was no space (or so I thought) and I'm standing on the street yelling back to Joe who's telling me to squeeze in after the guy right at the front. There honestly was no space, but with a bit of moving around I managed to get on there. We were both hanging off the side standing on the side railing which is about 9 inches wide and holding on for dear life! Well that was it, I was Joe's new best friend. We were talking about (rather yelling) where we were from, places we'd been, about lunch with the queen (everyone asks about the Queen - it's so weird), and then he noticed my tongue piercing.
Now I tend to forget I have my tongue pierced as I've had it done for over 10 years now, but as soon as Joe noticed it he was trying to set me up with every guy on the tram (yeah I wasn't to popular with the WAGs and it wasn't even my fault!) So other than Joe trying to sort me out with a Saturday night date, we had to wait for a car to parallel park (the driver wasn't doing to good, and Joe was getting impatient and there ended up with about a foot between them), Selena nearly got her head taken off by a passing tram, and I nearly got a broken leg from a bollard positioned in the road. So all in all pretty eventful. :)
As we managed to get off the tram in one piece we decided to go do a bit of shopping - wow!
Ohhhhhhh the shopping - I absolutely love the American sizes, I've never been a size 8 in my life!!! I needed a new pair of jeans, and after trying on what felt like 50 pairs I finally found 'the ones'. I can't tell you how happy I am. Lads more than likely will not understand this, but girls will know exactly what I'm talking about when you find your dream pair of jeans (even more of a dream when they're 2 sizes smaller than normal! :)) But of course during this marathon session I also naturally picked up a really cute pair of shorts (I'm definitely going to need them for the hotter weather), 2 vest tops (again absolute essentials), a t-shirt (ok, not so much an essential item for my wardrobe, but more for my mental health as I'm going stir crazy with my tiny wardrobe / backpack) and also a bag (needed to carry these extra items). It wasn't just me - Selena got involved to, so we thought it only fair to take our new purchases out with us for a night on town. Now I just have the age old dilemma of I need new shoes to go with my new outfits and I think I need to look into renting some kind of mule to help carry my bags! ;)
Cheesecake Factory / taking our new purchases out for dinner
OMFGG I am praying that they open one of these in London for when I get back. If anyone's taking orders for my 30th Birthday I'll have a birthday cake made up of different slices of cheesecake :) This place is what I imagine heaven to be like - gorgeous cocktails, a huuuuuge cheesecake menu, awesome food and all located within Macys - drunk shopping anyone?!
This was our dinner menu:
Tut, tut, tut - eating is cheating! ;)
Typhoon Punch - 10/10
Caribbean Cooler - 10/10
Strawberry Creamsicle - 10/10 (although this is like a dessert in itself)
Sour Apple Martini - 1000/10!!! Fecking awesome, just a shame it didn't come in a larger glass, but then I'm glad it didn't otherwise the drunk shopping could have been really bad!
Potent Long Island Iced Tea - 10/10 (they ain't lying about it being potent - it must be neat alcohol)
Mojito - this is only getting a 9/10
30th Anniversary Chocolate Cheesecake
Adam Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple
And they were so rich we couldn't finish them! Appalling.
We also made the school girl error and went to this place the night before we were leaving San Francisco, when we had to be up at 6am the next morning. You can feel my pain - ouuuuuuch. :(
We are now heading down to San Diego. This place has been added to our itinerary as its come highly recommended by nearly everyone we've spoken to. We only have 3 weeks left in the States but these are the ones I've been looking forward to the most. The next 3 weeks will be split between San Diego, LA, Vegas, The Grand Canyon and our Thelma & Louise style Road Trip. :)