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BUCKET LIST #30: Visit San Francisco


San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.

[Paul Kantner]

 

When I was sixteen, I visited San Francisco for the first time with my family. At the time, San Francisco was just another place. I didn’t remember much about the city, only that I had fun with the company I was with. Normally, I would take in all the beauty and wonder of a new place. But I had not seen my mom in over a year so for me, it didn’t matter where I was as long as I was with her.

I went to San Francisco for the second time this past weekend and I got to see it for the first time.

San Francisco is a city like no other. It’s diverse and beautiful in every way, on every street, in every smile. One cannot set apart the tourists from the residents because everyone is equally bewildered by its inviting ambiance.

The city was covered in fog when we arrived in San Francisco. It was 8:30 in the morning and we headed straight to the Golden Gate Bridge after a full night’s drive. The Bay Area is about a 6-hour and 30-minute drive away from home. My boyfriend and I took turns on the wheel while the kids slept in the backseat. We only planned on being there for 3 days so we made sure we had access to the city as early as possible.

DAY 1 ITINERARY

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time (again) was amazing. We went through the bridge and pulled over on Vista Point at the end of the bridge to admire the view. When we parked, we could hardly see the bridge because the sky was filled with fog. Mesmerized by the sight of the bridge covered in a blanket of clouds felt like I was in a dream. I could not help but admire it like a little girl opening her first Barbie doll on Christmas Eve.

I thought that we would have to come back later in the afternoon when the fog cleared, but after 30 minutes the fog subsided and what might as well been a golden gate suddenly appeared.

When the fog nestled down over the ocean, buildings started to appear in the distance. It looked like a floating city in the sky.

 

PAINTED LADIES

Steiner Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

Check-in at our hotel was not until 3:00 PM so we headed over to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch. We took a quick detour to the famous Painted Ladies on Steiner Street since it was on the way. With designs inherited from the Victorian era, it is no wonder that this popular landmark is one of the most photographed architecture in San Francisco. Alamo Square, the park across the street, was fenced around due to some renovation so I didn’t get the perfect backdrop of the skyscrapers. Nonetheless, it was still a pretty sight.

FUN FACTS

  • Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, used to live in one of the Painted Ladies.
  • Painted Ladies is also known as the Six Sisters.
  • It was built between 1892 and 1896 and withstood the devastating earthquake in 1906.

 

FISHERMAN’S WHARF

It is necessary to drive through the Golden Gate Bridge as it is to eat seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf. We decided to take our food to-go at one of the original seafood restaurants and dine on the benches with the seagulls.

The seafood sandwiches looked delicious as well, but I opted for the more traditional fresh shrimp and oysters, which I highly recommend.

 

TOURS

GoCar Tours, 431 Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94133

My budget only allowed us to indulge in one touristy adventure, so we decided on the GoCar Tour. We rented 2 GoCars for an hour. The GoCar has a built-in GPS that is activated after a block. Depending on what route you want to take, the GPS will recognize it and guide you accordingly. We took the route leading us to Crissy Field with a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

We parked at Crissy Field and took photos. I envied the people at the park who knew how to celebrate the beautiful Saturday afternoon with a nice picnic. I wanted to stay and admire the view some more, but we were crunched for time. With only an hour tour and a transportation that ran 35 MPH at most, we didn’t have much time to explore everything else on the suggested route.

On our way back to the station, we saw a group of middle-aged nudist men on bicycles and rollerblades happily flaunting through the streets. It was a sight I’ve never seen before, and I loved it! Not because their juniors were hanging out, but because of what they stood for. And if they were doing it simply because they don’t feel comfortable in clothes, then I support the freedom of choice and not getting thrown in jail for expressing those choices! God Bless San Francisco!

 

DAY 2 ITINERARY

My son had just gotten over a bad flew the weekend of our trip. I guess it wasn’t such a bright idea being stuck in the car with him for 7 hours on our drive up. My daughter and I started feeling sick on our first day in the Golden City so we ended our day early. I felt bad for my boyfriend because he was stuck in the hotel room watching us sleep.

My daughter, Janelle, was feeling better the next day. I, unfortunately, felt worse. But I was not about to waste a perfectly good trip, so I chugged down some Aleve (something I always keep in my purse) and told my body to start getting it together.

 

ROCCO’S CAFE

1131 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

I started the morning researching restaurants featured in the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives show. It all seemed really good in the photos, but because I was suffering from a no-appetite fever, I wanted something that wouldn’t make me throw up all the delicious food. After an hour of contemplating, I finally settled for Rocco’s Cafe. I wanted to dine in a restaurant praised for its authentic cuisine and embodied a historic culture of San Francisco. After reading the reviews and the history of Rocco’s Cafe, it seemed to be the best fit. When we finished our meal, I was grateful to have made the right choice. The food was flavorful to the last bite and very fulfilling. It became clear why it was featured in the popular Food Network TV show.

 

THE ICE CREAM BAR

815 Cole St, San Francisco, CA 94117

We decided not to order dessert and save our sweet tooth for The Ice Cream Bar Soda Fountain. It seemed fitting after dining in an early 1900s themed diner to continue with the old-school San Francisco experience. The Ice Cream Bar supplemented that theme with a 1930s motif.

 

LOMBARD STREET

Even after an awarding sundae, I was still feeling very much under the weather. All I wanted was to head back to our hotel and crawl under the blanket. But there was something at the top of my bucket list I so badly wanted to cross off and I would regret immensely if I pass up the opportunity.

The zigzag road on Lombard Street is one I have always wanted to drive through. It may just be because it’s one of the most photographed streets in the country and I wanted to be part of the in-crowd, or it may have simply been the thrill of zigzagging down eight steep turns on a steep hill. Either way, I was happy to have finally experienced it.

 

TIPS

  • There is a toll charge heading back on the Golden Gate Bridge for $7.50. You can pay online or via phone before passing or 48 hours after passing.
  • If you drive a stick shift and plan on driving it around San Francisco, I recommend you don’t. Unless you’re very comfortable stopping in the middle of an uphill road with bumper-to-bumper traffic.
  • Save money on your hotel and put it towards dining or tours. There are several hotels in the middle of San Francisco that are decent, cheap, offer free parking and is close to almost all the popular tourist spots. You’ll be spending most of your time outside your hotel room anyway, so why pay so much to sleep?
  • Since you’re already in the Bay Area, make the time to take a scenic tour of the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. It’s only a couple of hours drive south of San Francisco. You’ll thank me later for it.

 

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