The third destination of my American honeymoon led me to San Francisco, following a 400 mile drive of the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica. Arriving late afternoon into San Francisco, we dropped off the car at the airport and navigated our way through the underground into the city. Dragging our cases up the relentlessly steep roads we found Hotel Vertigo and checked in before heading out for dinner at a very nice Italian, Fino Ristorante & Bar.
Day 1 – Exploring San Francisco by bike
For our first day in San Francisco we decided to explore the city by hiring bikes from Blazing Saddles bike hire. This was recommended on every tourist website going as one of the best ways to see everything worth seeing. The bike hire was dead easy and with bikes and helmets sorted, we headed off on the intermediate route which was stated as 2-3 hours as opposed to the beginners route which would take around an hour an a half. Now I’m not sure what sort of cyclists these guys typically have come in but the intermediate route was incredibly difficult and ended up being around 23 miles and taking us more than 6 hours!
Morning – Alamo Square, The Panhandle & Haight-Ashbury
We decided to spend the morning exploring some of the main locations recommended on Trip Advisor and from Blazing Saddles including Alamo Square, The Painted Ladies and the hippy district of Haight-Ashbury.
Unknown to us however was that Alamo Square Park was under complete redevelopment with the entire place fenced off! The painted ladies were looking great however allowing us to enjoy and appreciate their architecture.
Early Afternoon – Golden Gate Park, Seal Rocks and The Legion of Honor
Leaving Alamo Square behind us we headed further West, entering the Golden Gate Park. The park is extremely big at 4 km² and took some time to cycle through it. Along the way however there were loads of sights including the Japanese Tea Garden, Buffalo grazing in a paddock (yep, that actually happened), the Botanical Gardens and The Dutch Windmill.
A little further on from the park we made our way along the coastline for some great views of Seal Rocks before making our way up the hills to the Legion of Honor and Holocaust Memorial.
Late afternoon – The Golden Gate Bridge & Sausalito
The final part of our day took us to the Golden Gate Bridge, 15 miles and over 6 hours after setting off! Exhausted, we stopped to take some photos and took in this incredible feat of engineering.
We cycled across the bridge and headed in the direction of Sausalito where we finally jumped on a ferry back to San Francisco.
Back on dry land, we cycled through the city and returned the bikes to Blazing Saddles. Too tired to eat out, we grabbed an enormous takeaway pizza from Belissimo Pizza before collapsing in bed!
Overall the day was great fun but absolutely exhausting! San Francisco is a hilly city but cycling it and certainly cycling the cliff roads really did test us! Beyond the fond memories of the Golden Gate Bridge I don’t think I’ll be forgetting sights like these in a hurry!
Day 2 – Alcatraz Island and Pier 39
After the best night’s sleep I think I’ve ever had(!) we headed out for our second day in San Francisco, starting with breakfast at the recommended Flour & Co.
The first stop of the day took us the famous “windiest road in San Francisco”, Lombard Street! This road has featured in a lot of films and as such, was overrun with tourists both on foot and in cars! We quickly made our way down the path adjacent to the road to the bottom where there were more tourists blocking the streets taking pictures! What can I say, when in Rome…
From Lombard Street we made our way down to the docks where joined the queues to catch a ferry across the bay to Alcatraz Island.
Whilst on Alcatraz we grabbed our headsets for the audio tour to learn about the history of the island and explored all areas of the penitentiary including the cell blocks, dining areas and parade ground.
Alcatraz is bathed in so much history from it being a penitentiary housing famous inmates like Al Capone to it being taken over by American Indians it really does have a lot to offer that will interest most people. If you’re heading to San Francisco I would highly recommend setting aside a couple of hours to go and explore and experience this famous landmark.
Having spent around 2 hours on Alcatraz, we jumped on a ferry back across the bay and took a walk around Pier 39 which offered a wide assortment of shops, cafes, restaurants and attractions – certainly ideal if you’re in San Francisco with young kids.
Whilst at Pier 39 we grabbed an early dinner at one of the restaurants overlooking Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge before heading back via the harbour where we discovered sea lions on the jetty’s which was quite unexpected!
With another long day behind us, exhausted agan, we made our way back towards the hotel, walking past Colt Tower which unfortunately we ran out of time and energy to visit, through Chinatown and to Union Square, stopping for a spot of shopping on the way!
Day 3 – Leaving for Yosemite National Park!
San Francisco left me with some incredible memories that will last a lifetime. The Golden Gate Bridge (despite being freezing cold and incredibly windy!) is so iconic and has been something I’ve wanted to see my entire life. Similarly Alcatraz has always interested me so to have finally been there and stood on the island is something I’ll never forget.
Despite all of the sights of the city that we ventured to, our entire trip did however feel very rushed. We didn’t really get to stop and appreciate some areas as much as we really should have done due to only being there for a couple of days. I’ll certainly have to go back to San Francisco in the future as there is so much more to see than we managed to squeeze into the limited time we had available to us. We were there for 2 days however I think to see it all properly and be able to fully appreciate it we could have done with 4 days really.
With the San Francisco leg of our honeymoon complete we got up early, checked out and picked up our second hire car before heading off for 2 nights at Yosemite National Park.