Last year, my brother, sister and I, set off on an amazing adventure to the US of A. Somehow, we survived each other and spent two incredible weeks city-hopping down the West Coast. If you’re planning a similar trip this summer and need ideas, look forward to reading my city guide travel series…
To The Golden Gate Bridge!
Spanish street art, prison and giant pinecones
From Gold Beach to the Golden Gate, we made the three and a half hours drive down to San Francisco. As we approached the bridge, we read signs about a tolling station and similar to our panic at the border of California, we unnecessarily worried as we had no cash on us and assumed we’d be paying at the bridge.
So, we turned off and accepted our fate that we wouldn’t be making the famous drive down Golden Gate Bridge. The good thing about our detour was that we were able to drive up onto the highway next to it, catching an amazing view over the ocean (as pictured above).
As we considered the crazy level of traffic on the road we were on, we changed our minds once again and decided to head back to the bridge and hoped that we could pay on card. After all that fuss, when we got to the entrance, we realised that the toll is just a camera scanning number plates to charge us later – oh.
Once we’d taken our drive down the bridge, we were hit by traffic and extremely hilly roads. Luckily, this would be the last city that we had to drive in as we were going to switch to flights from here on. This turned out to be a really good move seeing as the crazy drivers just got worse when we got to LA.
What To See
San Francisco is a vibrant city full of beautiful street art. Visit the Mission District to see the best of it at Clarion and Balmey Alley. Despite the fact that you’re bound to come across a few odd people – it is an alley, after all – the artwork is truly stunning and if you’re lucky you may catch an artist at work.
You can’t visit San Francisco without taking a trip to Alcatraz island, home to the abandoned prison known for the famous June 1962 escape – the only successful escape from the isolated prison to ever be made. Three inmates created paper maché heads to fool guards into thinking they were asleep in bed whilst they escaped through a tunnel in their cells created using stolen spoons.
A five minute ferry ride takes you to the island where a number of guided tours can be taken. Make sure you take the audio tour around the prison – very interesting and informative, taking your through the cells, guards’ houses, kitchen, offices, recreation area, library and scariest of all, the isolation cells. You can actually step into these cramped yet bare cells to get an idea of how dark and isolating it is inside.
Tours to the island take place throughout the day and go right into the night as well for those who want a spookier experience. Tickets book up really really fast, so get yours as soon as you can!
We booked the Yosemite and Giant Sequoias Trip as the National Park is only a couple of hours drive from San Francisco. You can be picked up straight from your hotel lobby in the early hours of the morning so all you have to do is be ready to go.
The coach journey, though long, is half spent sleeping and half listening to the driver telling you all about Yosemite and its history, so you’re kept well entertained on the way.
The first stop on our tour was the giant sequoia tree hike. We were left to our own devices and told to return within half an hour. It wasn’t too tiresome apart from the first hill – climbing in the heat was a struggle so make sure you’re well prepared with sun cream, food and plenty of water. Strangely, the most shocking part was how huge the pinecones were – bigger than my foot! We saw plenty of tall redwood trees here as well.
After that we got back on the coach to travel further up the mountain. The views from the coach were stunning. We stopped at various points along the way to catch a glimpse of both El Capitan and the Half Dome mountains.
At the top of the mountain, you’re given free roam again to hike wherever you like. We decided to explore Yosemite Falls to do some rock climbing and join the people sitting by the cooling water.
Overall the tour was really good but it would be nice to have the time to travel further up the mountain. The driver told us that some people camp or book a lodge so they have a couple of days for hiking here. But if you only have one day spare like us, then this trip is a good way to go.
Where To Eat
Nick’s Crispy Tacos
Our first taste of San Francisco was the delicious Mexican food at Nick’s Crispy Tacos. We chose this place based on the raving online reviews and we were not disappointed. A perfect place to stop off for lunch, the menu has a wide range of options from tacos and quesadillas to burritos.
A good tip to know here is that unless you specify that you’d like your taco cooked ‘Nick’s way’ (crispy), it will be served as a soft tortilla. It’s also known as a bit of a sports bar with six plasma TVs, for those of you who are into that stuff.
You must eat at ICHI Sushi if you’re around the Mission District. The food is a little on the pricey side for the portions you receive but totally makes up for it in taste. With plenty of options for both sushi and sashimi, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Da Vinci Villa in the heart of San Francisco is an amazing hotel! Located close to the city’s famous Crookedest Street (Lombard), the villa has large open rooms (which was great in the summer heat), a swimming pool, restaurant, communal living rooms and a gym.
We were given vouchers for breakfast which we really enjoyed, lots of options available and good quality food compared to some of the previous smaller hotels we had stayed at.
The area was great, lots of restaurants, bars and shops outside and the hotel staff were very friendly and welcoming. Parking is available but it’s not guaranteed. When we arrived they had just run out of spaces but they gave us a printed map of a parking lot nearby in which we could keep our car, about a 10 minute walk from the hotel.
If you liked this post, look out for next in series: Los Angeles
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