After 5 days of driving we we on the final stretch of our trip from LA to San Francisco via the Pacific Coast Highway. Our trip had taken us 450 miles, with visits to Hollywood, Santa Barbara, Cambria and Monterey. The drive into SF was great – blue skies and clear roads.
First order of the day was returning the rental car. The Mustang had been great – I’d highly recommend one to anyone doing a similar journey, for an all-American experience. Thankfully the sat nav took us directly to the parking garage – there’s nothing worse than getting lost when driving in a city you don’t know! Unfortunately we weren’t able to find a petrol station. We’d filled up in the morning at Monterey (an experience because US pumps ask for your zip code!) but didn’t see a station as we approached the city. The car was supposed to be returned with a full tank, but the very friendly man from Enterprise let us off with 3/4 of a tank. Great customer service!
We’d booked five nights in Hotel G. This hotel is just off Union Square, so really central to the shops, cable cars, underground etc. It had inclusive wi-fi, good bathroom and a modern design. The staff were really friendly and the bar/restaurant served up some great drinks! Thats where we spent our first few hours, whilst waiting for our room to be ready for check-in. The bar tender was great and ended up giving us a list of bars to visit during our five day stay.
There is so much to see in San Francisco. Being our first time to the city, we did all the tourist attractions; Lombard Street (the crookedest street), Alcatraz, Fishermans Wharf and biked across the Golden Gate bridge. Throw in some great food and drinks = a brilliant place to visit! Theres far too much to mention in one blog post, so I’m going to cover biking the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz and touch on some of the food highlights.
Biking the Golden Gate bridge
My highlight was biking the Golden Gate bridge. You can hire bikes from Blazing Saddles, who have shops all over SF. We used the one on 2555 Powell St and from there it was a nice ride to the bridge down through Fisherman’s Wharf (just one hill to contend with, before the hill for the bridge). Our ride was 12.65 miles in a leisurely 2 hours 10 mins. Some other shops are closer if you don’t fancy such a long ride. This was so much fun as a couple. Theres minimal cycling on the road and when it is, the roads are quiet ones. You’ll see from the pictures that much of the cycle was on pedestrianised track/cycle tracks.
Organised tours aren’t usually my bag. I prefer going at my own pace (so I can skip the boring bits!). But the only way to get to Alcatraz Island is by buying a tour ticket which includes the ferry crossing from pier 33.
However, this tour is different to your usual guided tour. Its all by audio, through your very own headset (think old school walkman).
Once you get over the fact the headphones have been around other peoples ears (eew), its really interesting. The voices you hear include ex-prisoners and guards. The audio tells you where to walk, but you can pause and do your own thing at any point. There are also interactive talks at intervals inside the prison. I don’t want to give too much away, but its definitely worth spending an afternoon here.
Make sure to book in advance! The Alcatraz tour gets full waaaay in advance, so once you know the dates you’re in the city, plan ahead. You can book at the official website here.