San Francisco - The Foggy City

Trip Start Jun 13, 2006
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Trip End Jun 12, 2007


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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Alex: You would think that San Francisco would be hot in the summer with it being in California - do not be fooled it is freezing, if you go, pack an extra jumper. We had been warned about this but it was still a shock! The next shock was the location of our hostel in the Tenderloin district, I think the name says it all - it was very dodgy and smelt of wee. Don't get me wrong though we loved Frisco (I was reading On the Road at the time so now think I am very cool by calling San Francisco Frisco - hee hee hee)

Our first day we just took a look around the city. We rode the Cable cars to Fishermans wharf which is very touristy but gives you good views of Alcatraz. The cable cars were good fun (if a bit touristy) and you get great views down the straight, hilly streets, that seem remarkably familiar. We walked up Telegraph Hill, one of the many hills, which gave great views of the city and more views down those iconic streets. The next stop was the Golden Gate bridge - I was shocked at how short it is - way, way shorter than the Humber Bridge! But it is still impressive and very orange (oh and cold - did I mention that)! In the evening we took a walk to Castro, the gay village (or town itīs a big area), as we walked down the fog came down over the hills which looked very odd. We decided to stop for a drink and wound up in a bar in which I was one of only 2 women the rest were old (presumably gay) men!

We had booked tickets for Alcatraz so that was our destination for Thursday. It was interesting and nicely derelict - some of these places are over renovated, it was also surprisingly close to the mainland, only 1.6 miles out but the currents are strong and the water is cold so that it is very difficult to swim, although people do. The island has now been "given back to the birds" so is covered in poo. The recorded walking tour was good and took you to the cell block and pointed out everything you wanted to know, like Al Capone's cell. Again back to the weather, you think a prison in Calafornia would be quite nice but Alcatraz was so bleak, to have stayed there with the fog and cold looking out to all the life happening on the mainland must have been hell.

To get out of the city and the cold we took a tour to Napa and Sonoma the wine producing region just north of San Francisco, it was amazing the change in weather just travelling a little bit inland! We went to 3 vineyards, all relatively small family run places and stopped in Sonoma "city" for lunch. The first vineyard was a really small organic place only producing about 10,000 cases of wine a year called Madonna, which only sells direct or via itīs wine club. The wine was nice (although the measures were stingy!) but not entirely my taste - too sophisticated maybe - although the Cabernet Savignon was yummy! It was fun to be drinking at 10.30 am though.

Sonoma city was really nice small place, old adobe buildings and lots of nice places to eat obviously catering for the tour bus crowd including a great cheese shop with lots of free samples (less after we had invaded).

The second vineyard was Vinosa again small but considerably bigger than the first. Again not really my taste and not huge measures (our plan to get drunk wasnīt doing to well) but it was interesting to look at and in a beautiful setting, I haven't been to Tuscany but that is what I imagine it is like.

The third vineyard was Cline which was the biggest and also the most generous (yippee). It was set on the site of an old failed mission and they had a replica of the mission building built. We tried a lot of wine here (the other 2 only gave us 3 or 4 small samples) my favorite was a red zinfandel made from grapes on ancient vines (80+ years old). We ended up quite drunk and now kind of know how to taste wine so all in all it was a good day.

On our final day in San Francisco we decided it would be a great idea to visit Muir Woods, an old growth red wood forest. We could have got a tour but there are lots of bike rental companies suggesting cycling over the Golden Gate bridge and getting the ferry back in a few hours, Muir woods only looked a little bit further so we though we would go there and make a day of it - oh my god it hurt! We looked and the map and there were half a dozen places marked as steep so we thought that it would be fine. The first hill we came to we got half way up and pushed! It turns out that the bike companies version of step doesnīt match ours! Anyway with a lot of pushing we got to Muir Woods and it was beautiful, the trees are so huge it is untrue and it smells so nice! We had our lunch there and took a wander around and got over the mornings cycling. Getting back on the bike made me realise I was going to be very saddle sore the next day, but we were taking another route home which didnīt look as hilly..... The supposedly flat bit soon got steep and we soon gave up trying to cycle. After about 1.5 miles of pushing I whacked my shin on the peddle sat down and refused to go on for about 5 minutes feeling close to tears and very miserable. At that point two other cyclists stopped, making it all look very easy. "Youīre doing well" they said "getting up these hills on those bikes, we couldnīt do it" It turned out that we had been given the wrong bikes - their bikes were about a 3rd of the weight of ours - I felt a mixture of relief that it wasnīt just me being pathetic and unable to cycle uphill and anger that we had been give the wrong bikes which had made our day sort-of miserable. Anyway we soon got to the top of the hill and it was fortunately all down hill from there. We took the ferry home and went to bed early (after yummy Vietmanese food) as we were totally knackered. It was really good getting to cycle over the Golden Gate bridge and seeing Muir woods but we wonīt be cycling again anytime soon!

I really enjoyed San Francisco and would definitely go back. Its a quick stop in Merced to visit Yosemite and then on to Las Vegas.

Dean: Of all the cities we have been to in Canada and the USA, San Francisco and New York are the two I would happily move to, for maybe 2-3 years. San Francisco was really nice, if they could just do something about the weather...
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Comments

drfugawe
drfugawe on

Chilltown!
I bet you already know that Mark Twain once wrote that the nicest winter he ever experienced was one summer in San Francisco - Enjoying your blog - thanks for doing such a nice job on it!
jm

alijim
alijim on

THE CITY OF ALL CITIES
I read your delightful blog with a smile on my face. I am a Bay Area native and have spent many hours and days wandering San Francisco and sampling its diverse cultures, sights and sounds. It is the first city I think of when someone says the phrase 'the city'.

I love it in all weather and just wanted to make a few corrections to some of your comments. The Castro is not a separate village or city from San Francisco proper, it is simply called the Castro because most of the gay community live around Castro street and that area.

San Francisco encompasses many neighborhoods, such as the Castro, the Richmond district, Pacific Heights, etc, but they are all San Francisco addresses. Sort of like London has Kensington, Slone Square, etc.

As for the weather, the best weather we have consistently experienced in San Francisco has been in late fall/early winter. Summer typically is cooler and foggier - the city is nearly virtually surrounded by a marine climate, so this is to be expected.

In sunshine or in fog, it is a historical city and you can easily access the wine region (as you found out), Muir Woods, Sausalito, and activities on the Bay. The City also has nearly unlimited choices when it comes to restaurants, some of which are world-class.

I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves. If you should ever return, just bring layers of clothing so you can adapt yourself to whatever that wondrous city decides to don as HER attire for the day! :-)

alexndean
alexndean on

Re: THE CITY OF ALL CITIES
Glad you like the blog. The village thing may be a 'lost in translation' issue - here in Manchester UK we have 'the village' which is not a separate village but just a local name for the gay area of the city. As for the weather, we will try to get back to San Francisco in the Autumn / early winter! Cheers for the feedback. Alex and Dean.

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