Friday, 21 August 2015

Road Trip Diary: San Francisco

Day 52
Sacramento to San Francisco
Wednesday 24th June 2015

We were excited to escape the heat of built-up Sacramento for the cool, misty bay awaiting us but apparently it didn't want to let us go without a fight. On our way out of the city, I asked Ed to stop at a local Goodwill and, as if the car sensed Ed's disapproval, a warning light sprung up on the dashboard. After much grappling with the manual we discovered it meant some sort of electrical failing and it recommended we to take it to the nearest dealer. After a quick change at the local Alamo, we were now onto our fourth (and I’m pleased to say final!) car.

On the approach to San Francisco, we stopped off at the Golden Gate Bridge, heaving with tourists. We drove up to recreation area to get some better views and were SO thankful that it was a totally clear afternoon with not a cloud in the sky. Last time we were here, we could barely see the tops of the bridge so this was a real treat. It’s an obvious tip, but to have the best chance of seeing the bridge, aim to arrive in the afternoon after the fog has had a chance to clear!

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The drive across into San Francisco was fantastic and we made it to the Haight district to find our Airbnb for the next three nights. After a bit of paranoia about finding a space in a city known for its notoriously difficult street parking, we somehow found one a couple of blocks away within the first ten minutes of looking and after the deciphering the restriction signs, left it there for the next 3 days.

The Airbnb was a traditional Queen Anne Victorian home, just a few minutes from the Haight-Ashbury junction. San Francisco is not a cheap city, but you should know that already. We couldn’t find a single affordable hotel in the Haight neighbourhood that we were set on staying within walking distance of. Luckily we spotted a modest but beautiful room in this huge converted house, complete with bay window and high ceilings, but it was the location that clinched the deal.

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That evening we went out for some drinks and food at a couple of hilariously pretentious bars on Haight Street, which I liked but Ed took an instant dislike to.
Sparrow Bar was cute but they’d run out of draught beer and the staff were a bit odd, The Alembic which made incredible cocktails but was quite expensive and then Magnolia Pub and Brewery for some decent English-style draught beer and a couple of burgers. After so much cheap booze on this trip, the prices in San Fran came as a bit of a shock!
Though these places had come highly recommended via the internet, we much preferred the dive bars that we spent the rest our booze money in for the next couple of nights - chilled, cheap and cheerful!

Day 53
San Francisco
Thursday 25th June 2015

The Haight Street Market is a local institution which opened in 1981 and has a great selection of fresh food, full meals and a deli, plus a great coffee place just inside the doors with fresh croissants. There are some tables on the street so you can eat your breakfast and people watch for an hour or so, which is exactly what we did each morning.

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We last visited to San Francisco in 2011 and had ticked off many of the sights then including Alcatraz, so even though it was brilliant we decided to give it a miss this trip. We wanted to have a casual walk around the city, seeing things we hadn’t seen last time. We grabbed the bus downtown and decided to head to City Lights, the well-known Beat Generation bookshop and then walked to down to the bay, past Fishermans Wharf (we learnt our lesson last time with this place - not that pleasant, too touristy) and headed to the little beach near Ghiradelli Square for some ice cream. We decided we couldn’t miss the chance to go on the cable cars again even if we had ridden them a few years ago, so queued up for an hour or so and when it was our turn to board, realised we were going to be hanging off the side which was amazing fun.
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Back in Union Square we did a bit of shopping and then remembered one of the bars I had read about would be opening soon. We climbed up to the Fairmont Hotel within which is hidden the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar. It’s hard to describe this adequately because it was so bloody amazing and one of my favourite places in San Fran, but it’s basically a Tiki bar with a huge pool in the middle and where every half hour or so, thunder sounds and ‘rain’ pours down around the pool. The best thing about it was the happy hour. When we arrived at 4.59pm there was already a medium sized queue forming, waiting for the room to open. I had no idea it was so popular until slightly after 6pm when we were happily seated and I looked out the door to see a huge line of people still waiting to be seated. They had a brilliant happy hour menu, with large cocktail bowls for around $15 for two people and an all-you-can-eat Asian buffet for $10/person. Perfect kitschy fun after a long day on your feet, but be sure to get there early! Happy hour is from 5pm-7pm.

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Day 54
San Francisco
Friday 26th June 2015

Today was the first day of the whole trip that we both felt pretty crap. Either the cocktails the night before had been stronger than previously thought or spending a month and a half on the road was finally taking its toll on us. I was so lethargic and my motivation was below zero, so only when we heard the amazing news that the US Supreme Court had legalised same-sex marriage did we even feel like crawling out of bed. What a place to hear the news! It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, the whole city seemed to buzz with happiness.

We walked over to see the Painted Ladies - a famous row of Victorian-era pastel houses with a view of the whole city behind them but were sad to see one of them was covered in scaffolding. They still looked pretty so we snapped some photos and walked back to Haight Street to spend some time looking in all of the vintage and thrift shops. I actually took a load of my own things to Buffalo Exchange as I was getting a bit fed up with some of the clothes I'd bought out with me and I ended up getting about $40 in exchange credit - another great idea if you're doing a long trip and fancy some new pieces! 
As for recommendations, both Wasteland and Held Over were the best we visited with huge selections and pretty cheap prices, Relic was full of beautiful hand-picked, really special items at a higher price point but still affordable.

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Still feeling a bit rubbish we decided to head back for a nap and then popped out later for some food and drinks to take back to the room. I'm still full of regret for spending our last night in San Francisco curled up in bed watching Netflix but what the body craves, the body gets and we wanted to be fully refreshed for our drive to Carmel the following day...

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