I loved my time in California, alas it was too short. And I really like both San Francisco and Los Angeles but they are quite different, so I thought I’d do a comparison of the two cities.
They were both sunny and warm, very not British in their approach to weather, but San Fransisco was a little chilly and rainy at times, while LA was the place I got sunburnt as you can just about see in the photo below. You can also see the difference in the topography i.e Frisco is very hilly and LA is pretty flat (apart from the old Hollywood Hills in the background). Also SF has cable cars.
San Francisco / Los Angeles
These are a bunch of the postcards I’ve collected from visits to America, as well as a few I’ve received from Canada.
Here are some pics of things I’ve eaten abroad. There’s nothing too crazy here, I am veggie so I have to be quite cautious in foreign lands with what I eat but I thought the pics offered a nice comparison of San Francisco, Belfast, Shanghai, and Barcelona.
So that’s a huge portion of nachos in Hard Rock Cafe San Francisco that I could not finish, a burger in Belfast near the botanical garden that came with a ludicrous amount of chips, rice, cheese, pak choi, strawberry tea, and some other stuff in Shanghai, and (I don’t recall the Spanish name) an omelette sandwich with tomato soaked bread. There may be a reason, that may not be entirely genetic, that Asian people are slimmer than their European and American cousins…
We spent three days in San Francisco and here are some of my top tips if you’re planning to travel there.
- Be careful where you park! We got towed and had to pay about $700 to get the car back which wasn’t a good start to the holiday. We park on the street and apparently broke three rules; we slightly blocked someone’s driveway, we were facing the wrong way, we hadn’t angled our wheels on a hill. We weren’t aware of the last two being serious rules and we thought we had left enough space for people to exit their drive but apparently not. They didn’t try to find us they just called for a tow because that’s how they do things in San Fran…an expensive lesson to learn. Pay attention to red lines on the curb which indicate where you can not park, leave a few feet each side of a driveway, watch out for street cleaning times when you can’t park on the street, and pay for parking in designated lots to be on the safeside.
Kids Playing Tennis
- Wear sensible shoes! San Francisco is very hilly!
- Be prepared for changeable weather. It was actually very nice and sunny when we were there in April but I bought some gloves and sunglasses at the same time when I was there because there was a strong breeze coming from the sea.
- Buy and eat salt water taffy- it is delicious! And comes in many flavours!
- Don’t bother going to the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park- it’s small and you have to pay to go in. When you have the whole huge park to explore for free it’s just silly. There are a lot of Japanese people and influences in San Francisco because of the large numbers of Japanese men who went there to work on the railroads etc so you can find Japanese food elsewhere easily. Boyfriend is being argumentative and saying he enjoyed the Tea Gardens and it was worth the money, he liked the ‘huge, weird bridge thing you had to climb over’.
- Take the early ferry to Alcatraz to avoid the crowds and get something to eat before you go as there isn’t anything on the island you can buy.
Our second day in San Francisco and we had a little lie in before setting off towards Haight-Ashbury (literally the intersection of roads called Haight and Ashbury and yes American city planning makes so much more sense than anywhere in Europe), which is a more alternative area (certainly compared to Pier 39), pretty much every other shop was selling weed and also some guy offered me some in the park later on too. But the other shops were more interesting and there was a nice cafe called The People’s Cafe where we got breakfast (I went for pancakes and veggie juice). I liked that there tables had glass tops with lots of coffee beans underneath. I also spent some money on clothes (completely inappropriate once I returned to rainy England) and doodads. Then we headed into Golden Gate Park which is pretty big!
San Francisco Day Two
We headed into the Japanese Tea Garden which was a lot smaller than I expected, especially since you have to pay. It started raining so we went straight under the sheltered and drank tea and ate overpriced biscuits. We got fortune cookies and mine read ‘You will travel many exotic places in your lifetime’, boyfriend’s was ‘Take a trip with a friend’ which I thought was neat! There are some nice trees, a large Buddha statue, a worn looking pagoda and that’s about it. We carried on walking to the Bison paddock so that I could see some bison. They weren’t really doing anything entertaining but how often do you get to see bison? At this point I was worried about how much time we had because we needed to pick up our rental car, I was very tired and dragged myself out of the park crying to boyfriend ‘go without me… just come back late and pick me up’. But we made it onto our bus and got the car rental in time.
That night we decided to drive back to Golden Gate Bridge, although we couldn’t actually see the bridge given it was night time. We stopped off at Wholefoods before going home too- I fell in love with some Spiced Orange tea and stocked up. We came back home feeling pretty good, parked the car outside and went to bed.
The next morning…the car was gone! It had been towed and we spent the morning and $500 getting it back! It was a stressful and expensive lesson in San Francisco parking etiquette!
We flew from New York to San Francisco and then got the Bart train to our accommodation. Emerging from the Bart station (despite the darkness) it was immediately obvious how different the two cities are; my first site in San Francisco (outside of the airport) was a palm tree! San Francisco is very hilly and the short walk to our accommodation was hard work but we made it and found out delightful yellow house in Noe Valley.
The next morning we headed off early to get out ferry to Alcatraz. We booked an Uber taxi which was quite simple and I’m going to do a separate post on that so watch this space! Alcatraz was a really interesting experience that I recommend; the former prison is now an interesting museum. You get an audio tour included (in numerous languages) which is very informative, unfortunately my one criticism is that the audio tour directs everyone around the prison in the same way meaning that you get big groups of people loitering around the same cell or plaque. There’s a nice shop there too and I got a replica of the tin cups prisoners would have used, there isn’t anywhere to eat and, in fact, you can’t take any food or drink with you (there is a small area when you get off the ferry where you can eat food you have brought).
San Francisco Day One
We headed back to San Francisco to get food, the ferry went from Pier 33 so we headed down to Pier 39. Pier 39 is incredibly tacky and touristy, and apparently the locals never go there! It is full of souvenir shops and restaurants, and a few attractions like a sea lion centre and a carousel. There wasn’t that much choice for vegetarians so we headed for Hard Rock Cafe because I had never been to one and (since it was MY BIRTHDAY!) it was my choice. I ordered nachos (basically the only veggie thing on the menu) and it was HUGE! I also got a cocktail and the final bill was pretty hefty. This is where we discovered how you pay with a card in America; no chip and pin here so they take your card then bring it back with the receipt which you then sign and leave. We were confused and had to ask what we were supposed to do!
San Francisco Day One
Around the corner from Pier 39 is the Musee Mechaniqe which is full of old arcade games and fortune teller machines, the Museum doesn’t give you any information about them but you can play with them (they take quarters). After that we took a look at the Cable Car turnaround where they turn the cars around by hand which was around the corner from Millennium where we ate dinner. I had booked Millennium (before we even left the UK) for my birthday meal because it is a very highly rated Veggie restaurant but I have to admit I was underwhelmed by the external appearance and my food was just ok (boyfriend loved it!).
We went to bed early again because we were very sleepy…
To be continued!