Friday, 16 December 2016

TNL Takes a Trip: San Francisco

san francisco, travel

Oh San Francisco, you made me want to become a West Coast gal, despite a less than impressive re-introduction.

A later-than-expected arrival (no thanks to windy weather & a detour via Sacramento for 2 hours) + my grumbling stomach meant that my feelings towards this city were on the back foot from the very beginning. Having been there some 20 years prior, my memories of SF were scant & despite seeing proper greenery (in the form of mountains) for the first time in weeks, I admit that I had my doubts about whether I’d made the right choice in going there (as well as where I stayed) as my cab approached my hotel near Fisherman’s Wharf. However, I am happy – nay, delighted – to report that on both fronts the Bay Area delivered.

1st day
A trip to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without at least 1 ride on the world famous cable cars & luckily for me, I was staying fairly close to the Taylor cable car stop (there’s only 2 cable car routes in SF - more on the other one later), so naturally my first day involved a ride on one into the city centre for – you guessed it – shopping. As usual, it was also a great way for me to get my bearings, figure out how the bus system worked & it also made me realise that I’d made a great choice as far as my accommodation was concerned. Although Fisherman’s Wharf itself is rather touristy, staying a block back from it meant that there was relatively little noise at night…a far cry from NYC, that’s for sure!

san francisco, travel

In regards to public transport, if you’re going to be staying in SF for several days & don’t want to shell out the cash every single time you hop on a cable car or a bus, get yourself a MUNI Passport. From memory, there are 1, 2 & 3 day passports (I think there might be longer ones, but I’m not sure about it), which you can purchase from participating outlets. I went to a Walgreens store for my 3-day passport, which cost me $31US & was worth every single cent. They work on all MUNI vehicles including cable cars, but not on the BART system.

During that first day, I branched out from the city centre & caught a couple of buses up to & around Laurel Heights – I say a couple because (a) this girl needed another ULTA fix & that’s the location of one of their stores & (b) I ended up around the upper end of California St at a beauty supply called Peninsula Beauty, who sell Zoya polishes (which, btw, are hard to get in Oz, although I bought the bulk of them in both New York & at Yo Beauty Supply in the Tenderloin district of SF) amongst other beauty items. Along the way, I stumbled across a small grocer/health food store of sorts & discovered a great San Franciscan chocolatier by the name of Charles Chocolates, who you might recall from the last of my Trip Haul posts. These guys could rival Lindsay & Edmunds for my sweet tooth & I’m glad I live halfway across the world & can’t access them because their Salty-Sweet Hazelnut Bar is my crack!

san francisco, travel

Speaking of food, if you’re staying around Fisherman’s Wharf & are in need of a good breakfast, then I highly recommend Eight A.M. on Columbus Ave (between Leavenworth & North Point streets). Thanks to Yelp & numerous glowing reviews, I ate there for breakfast every single morning of my SF stay. They do plenty of healthy options & a few devilish ones too; but even the latter tends to come with a small bowl of beautifully-presented fruit salad. I always had a side of peanut-buttered sourdough toast with a large bowl of the aforementioned fruit salad, which briefly turned me over to liking honeydew melon. I’ve never eaten such sweet honeydew melon in my life! I will warn you though, this joint is fairly small & tables do fill up fast, so make sure you either get there early or go outside of peak hours.

breakfast, food, san francisco, travel

2nd day
Although I had planned to go to Sausalito that day, the overcast & cool weather was a turn-off so a change of plan was in order….and that involved yet more shopping. I decided to head up to Union St Shops to check out the other Sephora in SF & to generally browse the area, which I thought was kinda cool. San Francisco does have a lot of boutique-y style stores outside of the city centre, which is really nice if you’re bored of malls & the like.

san francisco, travel

Post Union St, I began my quest to find another Wholefoods store to stock up on natural beauty products & headed up right near the Mission District to the store on Market St, where I found something I never expected to see in a Wholefoods...
chocolate, food, san francisco, travel
Having found out the previous night that my new favourite chocolatier had not only a factory but also a retail store up in the Mission, I set off up to Charles Chocolates to stock up like a madwoman on the Salty-Sweet Hazelnut Bar, as well as try the Caramelised Cocoa Nib & Tres Cojones (Three Nut) Bars + their version of a Snickers bar. The store itself is only small, but from there you do get to peek inside the factory & watch people making all the delicious goodies they sell. Unfortunately I forgot to ask whether I could take photos, so you’ll have to go & see for yourselves.

I had every intention of remaining in the Mission to check things out & perhaps eat some authentic Mexican, but by then my poor overloaded paper Wholefoods bag had split a handle & was beginning to split in general, so I decided to get back on the bus & head back downtown to my hotel. Along the way, I went right down Fillmore St, past the Haight-Ashbury District (which was right at the centre of the Summer of Love in 1967) & past a whole heap of boutiques, shops, cafés & street art that I dearly would’ve loved to have checked out if it weren’t for my stupid bag. I did however make a brief stop at a hairdresser named “Sorry I broke your heart” to nab me some R&Co Aircraft Pomade Mousse + a bookstore to nab me a copy of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd, which I started reading in Amsterdam.

san francisco, travel

Being in San Francisco & staying down at Fisherman’s Wharf made me crave seafood big time, but despite my best intentions, every time I went to either one of 2 locations I had in mind (Scoma’s, which was recommended by a blog, or Fog Harbor Sea House, which Yelpers recommended), everybody else clearly had the same idea & I would’ve had to sell a kidney in order to get in there. That part was disappointing; but luckily for me, Australia does have cracking seafood & I decided to wait until I got home to get my fix.

3rd/final day
Sun’s out, time for my trip to Sausalito! (Is it sad I only went there because one of my favourite singer-songwriters name-checked it in one of her songs?) If I’m honest, my time there was an absolute waste as I found that there wasn’t much to do except browse the boutiques near the pier. I probably didn’t get a real taste of Sausalito, but I was also worried about getting back to SF as the ferries are infrequent & I didn’t want to miss one. The ferry ride there & back was good for one thing though – taking a tonne of photos of San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge, as well as getting a photo or 2 of Alcatraz, which I’d visited when I was in SF 20 years back.

san francisco tourist attractions, travel
I think this is Alcatraz?
san francisco, sausalito, travel
The view from Sausalito back into SF
san francisco, travel

Post-Sausalito & back at Fisherman’s Wharf, I decided I wanted to go & check out the so-called “Crookedest St” (located between Lombard & Leavenworth streets) & waited an eternity at the Hyde cable car stop to do precisely that. Once I got up there, the wait was quickly forgotten. Aside from the fact that this highly bendy road is just cool IMO, you also get a great view at the top looking down to the streets & to the horizon beyond. I walked all the way down the street & all the way back up again…and yes, cars do drive down this street!

san francisco, travel
The view from the top of the "Crookedest St". Kinda risked life & limb for this shot!
san francisco, travel

san francisco, travel

san francisco, travel
The view from the bottom of the "Crookedest St"
I had every intention of heading back up to Fillmore St to check out everything I’d missed out on the previous day, but unfortunately time was of the essence & it was slipping away quite fast, so I only had time to head back into town for some sneaky trips to Sephora, Walgreens & Wholefoods for more beauty products & chocolate, before one last cable car ride back to my hotel.

san francisco, travel

Overall, I really enjoyed my time in San Francisco & I regret that I only spent 4 nights there. I’m wishing now that I’d cut at least 2 nights off my New York stay so that I could’ve stayed in SF longer! I really dug the vibe in San Francisco & everyone I spoke to there was friendly & chatty, which always makes a stay memorable IMO. I also dug the cable car rides….and coming into the city & seeing mountains…and Charles Chocolates…and my breakfasts at Eight A.M. Hell, I could even deal with the weather being chilly right throughout my stay, I liked the place so much!

FYI, I stayed at The Tuscan which, as mentioned, is about a block away from Fisherman’s Wharf & pretty convenient for buses & the cable cars. Whilst the place is a little old-fashioned in terms of décor both in the rooms & in public areas, I found that it had a homely feel to it & most importantly, the bedding was comfortable, coming 2nd only to my bed at the H10 Berlin Ku’damm. I would happily stay there again if I went back to San Francisco. There’s also an Italian restaurant right next door by the name of Pescatores, which isn’t quite as average as Yelp would have you believe (although the wait staff will leave you alone for a very long time before ordering, if you’re not careful). I went there twice & was satisfied with my meal each time. I needed the carbs after all that sea air & walking!

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Have you ever been to San Francisco? Would you like to go there?  


  1. I loved SF when we visited on Contiki in 2004. Such a cool place, full of history and lots to see, do and eat. We did the Alcatraz tour and it was amazing. I'd happily visit again!

    1. Yay, I'm glad you liked it too! I still enjoyed going to Alcatraz even as a child all those years ago. It was kinda creepy, yet cool at the same time.


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