I actually did leave my heart here in San Francisco when I was 17 and visited the city for the first time. I loved it so much it was my dream to come and live here, work at the Benefit headquarters (my 17-year-old self had it all planned out!). But then I moved to France, met my Chilean-ex Cristián, and my North American Dream changed into a South American one. Although I did get to be a Benegirl after all!
Anyway, on our recent family reunion with Cristián, we had the chance to swing by San Francisco with our little Sisi at the end of our road trip; so we did. Almost ten years down the line I don't regret that I didn't end up here in San Francisco: there were still things that I loved but also things I really did not love! (It's amazing what a bit of age and motherhood can do to ya! 😉).
This was definitely one of the highlights of our entire trip. It was a beautiful sunny day (I was warm with a light jacket on and it's mid-March), and we had an amazing view of San Francisco Bay. By the time we arrived (we'd driven three hours from Fresno), Sienna was getting hangry so instead of going to a restaurant, we picked up some fresh crab and clam chowder in a bread bowl from the Sabella & La Torre stand and sat on one of the benches at Pier 45 overlooking Alcatraz (there is free parking for up to two hours here for restaurant customers with validation). Alcatraz tours leave from Pier 33 - be sure to book in advance online because tickets can be sold out for days.
This place is so cool! We stepped in here by chance because Cristián went to look at the USS Pampito submarine which is right behind Musée Mécanique: a museum of antique arcade games. This is probably the cheapest attraction in the whole of San Francisco at just fifty cents a go, and all three of us had so much fun here! Sienna had a go at hammering some moles (building her hand-eye coordination, right?) and I LOVED Grandmother! She printed me out a little pink card of her predictions which I now use as my mantra!
Ocean Beach is one of the best city beaches I have seen. We ended up here also by chance because we couldn't find the Golden Gate Bridge lol (I blame the GPS)! If you don't mind the graffitied wall as a back drop, it's a lovely way to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean (Sisi's first sighting of the Pacific). There are even concrete fire pits spread across the beach so you can bring your own firewood and enjoy a campfire or barbecue (as well as the eye candy of surfers coming in from the waves in wetsuits 😜). On the way to our hotel from here we swerved out of the way of a car driving into our lane without looking, who hit another car in the process! The driving in San Francisco is the craziest of all the places we drove through without a doubt.
We arrived quite late at our hotel so were told we could park on the street because it is free from 6pm onwards. However, be sure to check individual street signs thoroughly because some say you can't park there from 6-8am and some say you can (we obviously parked on a street where you can't so came down to a delightful $70 parking ticket the next day 😒).
We improvised our road trip much more than expected with Sienna catching the chicken pox (we arrived at San Francisco a day behind schedule), so we booked a room at the Adrian Hotel really last minute. It had good reviews and seemed to be very central but that night as I went out to get a takeaway from Sushi Hana (Sienna and Cristián stayed in the hotel), I had never before been so scared of walking alone at night (and I have lived in some pretty shady places in my time!)! There were people doing hard drugs before my very eyes and a local told me the area is renowned for people with addictions and mental health issues.
You know me, I don't like giving bad reviews, and as much as the Adrian Hotel is very nicely restored with a nice interior, the breakfast - a box of donuts riddled with food flies - wasn't edible, and the management couldn't have cared less and was in fact very rude when we showed them the HUGE (!!!) cockroach which had crawled onto Cristián's jeans in our room OMG!!! 😳😳😩 We scuttled out of that hotel faster than Sisi could say (and she did) "Daddy's got a big bicho (bug) on his trousers!".
Prior to the cockroach incident, Sienna and I had woken up early so we headed out to Union Square in the sunshine. The street was full of people once again and everyone was really friendly.
We bought a coffee and a pastry from a café right in Union Square (a babyccino is known as a "steamed milk" here) and sat outside, and then walked up to China Town which took us less than ten minutes.
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
We finally made it to the Golden Gate Bridge right before we headed to the airport for our flight to Seattle. It was a stunning day and driving over the bridge itself was a great way to experience it (I rode a bike over when I was 17 and that was wonderful too!). We came over to the view point at Sausalito which marked the end of our road trip: 1,300 miles in 6 days.
San Francisco is still an amazing city to visit and I really did love it this time round too. We had a lovely time with my little sweetheart. Let's just say that my rose-tinted spectacles have just slightly faded at my ripe age of 26!