San Francisco: from the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz and the bits in between
Back from Yosemite, I settled back in San Francisco, the city known for its varying climate and fog. All of which I got to experience, along with my first cold of my trip.
The Golden Gate Bridge and the Cable Car
This astounding bridge is a real achievement and amazing to walk across. Each way is about three miles long and takes about an hour to walk, the good news is that there are toilets at either end! I got to experience it covered in fog and also when it slightly lifted. Just my luck later that day it cleared up to be blue skies!
It was another one of those ‘pinch me’ moments as I walked across and back. It was so huge and I’d seen it on so many television shows and movies, yet here I was, walking across this huge structure. It was pretty cool.
After being told it was too far to walk to Sausalito, I decided to spend the rest of the day wandering and taking the cable car around the city. I met a really awesome couple from Atlanta that loved Flight of the Conchords, so the long cable car queue passed in great conversation. Another one of those times that I met such great people for a short amount of time on my travels, that I may never get the chance to see again.
For a bit of a relaxing day I opted to head back to the Ferry Building on a Farmer’s Market day, nab a few of my favourite macaroons and take the ferry over to Sausalito. The little town of Sausalito reminded me of parts of Auckland in New Zealand. It was quaint and cute, but didn’t have much to it. Good thing I had macaroons to enjoy the view over San Francisco harbour at least!
One funny thing was after hunting around for a cheap lunch (and failing) I opted for fish n’ chips. It was there that I met a couple of Kiwi’s visiting their son, that were actually going to be on my flight back to NZ in a few days time and worked at the University I had gone to years ago. It’s actually amazing how many Kiwi’s I met in San Francisco, I nearly saw some every day!
Haight Ashbury and Golden Gate Park
One day I ventured out to the hipster-grungy area of Haight Ashbury. It was a confusing area. There were these stunning beautiful colourful houses all around and then grungy stores and plenty of homeless and drugged people. In reminded me of a mix between Camden and Chelsea in London.
At the end of Haight Ashbury I reached Golden Gate Park where I nabbed a veggie wrap from Wholefoods for a picnic lunch and ventured into the park….
That side of the park is filled with homeless people and groups of people using drugs. Not so nice. I had my lunch in a children’s playground where I felt safe.
I headed over to the other side of the park towards some of the gardens listed on the map only to be severely disappointed that absolutely everything that is nice about that park costs to get into. If it was only one attraction I could understand it and maybe pay, but ALL the nice displays and the museum costs to get into. I couldn’t believe it. It was the only aspect of San Francisco that I felt was a complete waste of time and left me disappointed. Granted, that was the day I started getting my cold, so I wasn’t feeling 100% either. I gave up after seeing the entrance of 4-5 different attractions that cost money and ventured back to my hostel to rest up.
One day I headed up to the Colt Tower in the middle of the city through some stunning gardens to get one of the best views over the city. It was one attraction that I decided to pay for since I’d walked all the way up there. After a short elevator ride, you’ve got a 360 degree view over the entire city.
The infamous Alcatraz is a must-see island on any trip to San Francisco. As advised by a lot of people leading up to my arrival, I booked a night tour months in advance to secure my place. It was well worth it too!
At night you take the audio tour around the complex and then have the opportunity to see some areas that are usually closed off and listen to some presentations. The audio tour is created by ex-inmates and guards and is probably the first one that I actually found interesting and kept me listening the entire way. It talked a lot about the attempted escapes and inmates as well as how the cells, dining room etc. all worked on a typical day.
Afterwards as it got dark I listened to a presentation that took me down to the dock, while many people then took the first boat back, I decided to head back up to hear another presentation about the ‘Slamming of the doors’. As I headed up taking the odd photo, it got dark and creepy. I somehow missed the main entrance and ended up at the back, so walked through all alone in the quiet of the prison, past several cell blocks to ‘Times Square’. Then all of a sudden I hear the slamming noise of the cell doors shutting. Yes, that was the creepiest part of Alcatraz, but cool.
The end of San Francisco
San Francisco was a cool city to visit and a great stopping point for visiting Yosemite. It was also a much-needed modern city that excited me after months of countries that were less-so. Unlike New York, I felt I saw everything I could in San Francisco and the only reason to go back would be if I visited surrounding areas like Muir Woods, Napa Valley and the Redwoods National Park in the future. That doesn’t make it a bad city by any means, but I visited attractions that I’d probably only need to do once. However, I could easily go back for some more macaroons and a wander through the Ferry Building!
Snivelling and coughing my guts out I farewelled the lovely American city with lovely sights and people, boarded a fancy new Air New Zealand plane and headed home to live after almost 6 years of living away from Aotearoa.
This isn’t the end of my blog by any means, it just means that you’ll start to hear a bit more about my homeland as I become a tourist in my own country. The posts will be fewer because I’ll be getting my health, wellbeing and work sorted (if you need a website or piece of design let me know), but they’ll still show you all some incredible spots!
For all the people who I’ve met on my travels (and from my time the UK/Europe) and now follow my blog, if you ever decide to visit New Zealand, please do get in touch and I’ll help you out wherever I can.