California has been one of the trendiest holiday destinations for the last few years. Los Angeles, Yosemite, Napa Valley, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Diego, … I had the luck of visiting twice, during August: first, for friends’ wedding followed by a road trip with a close friend, and this summer, on my own, thanks to work for my company’s kick-off.
California is huge, I am sure you can visit a hundred times but still discover more of its wonders. Let’s start off with San Francisco, probably my favourite of the few cities I’ve visited.
- Wake up early to go whales watching. The experience is simply out of this world, you feel so small compared to those giants. Plus, to go to the deep ocean, you will sail under the Golden Gate bridge; that’s definitely a bonus if SF’s fog hasn’t been kind to you!
- Boats usually leave from the Transbay stop Embarcadero, after the trip, you can take a short 20 min-walk to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch. My favourite place is Fog Harbor Fish House, they do an amazing clam chowder but also a delicious lobster roll.
- Pier 39, where Fog harbor is located is mostly famous for the sea lions. There are probably fifty of them, fighting for space, to the delight of tourists!
- Continue on Jefferson street and you’ll arrive to a small beach where, if you’re lucky, will see the Golden Gate. The Golden Gate behind you, take a right on Hyde street, and a few blocks later, you’ll arrive on the famous Lombard Street. It is best to start from the top, as it is quieter, you will then be able to walk down the very steep street.
- Walk further down and once you’re at Jones street, take a left to go to Chestnut street. There, you have the San Francisco Art Institute. Not only very cool with a Diego Riviera wall art and cool galleries, the SFAI has a huge patio with yet another amazing few of the city and its surroundings such as Alcatraz, the Golden Gate and the Coit Tower.
- Visit Alcatraz, taking the Transbay to Embarcadero, grab the Alcatraz Feries on Pier 33. Again, make sure you book in advance. The visit of the famous island will take roughly three hours, during which you will go through all kinds of emotions.
- For lunch, you can go to Boudin Bakery, reputable for its sourdough bread. If you’re as in love with clam chowder as I am, they have a lovely clam chowder in a bread bowl.
- Continue to Alamo Square, via Stockton street, Market Street and Hayes Street. It is over a 1-hour scenic walk which will take you through Chinatown. Alamo Square probably sounds familiar to you, thanks to the “Painted ladies“, a row of Victorian houses featured in movies and TV shows such as Full House (yes, the series with the Olsen twins!).
- On the way to the Golden Gate Park, you can stop Alta Plaza Park, to admire the panoramic views of the city. To cross the Bridge, you can either rent a bike or walk. I’m cost-conscious and love walking so choose option 2; which took me around 45 min. Make sure to take some warm clothes as even during summer, SF is quite chilly and windy. You can walk up to Vista Point, and then go to Sausalito. This small community is full of boutique shops, art galleries and outdoor cafes with stunning views across the bay.
- To go back to SF, you can either take the ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf for $5 or the Golden Gate Transit.
- Visit Mission Dolores Park, between the 18th and 20th streets (with Transbay, get off at 16th street/Mission). The view from the park is amazing.
– Walk around The Castro, which was one of the first gay neighborhoods in the US. It is now very trendy with stylish shops and bars.
- Go shopping on Haight Street, the place where hippy culture started: Quirky and psychedelic describe it best, thanks to all the painted houses, the street art and the unique boutiques.With a limited time, we only did the essentials of the city but of course, I’d recommend staying longer. The first time I went, we finished with a day-trip to the Napa Valley, which I highly recommend if you are a wine connoisseur…
Next up, I’ll take you for my second favourite city in Cali, Santa Barbara!