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Visit the greatest city in the World
San Francisco (USA)
Member Name: lm09
San Francisco (USA)
Advantages: Never more than a few miles from water, some of the most iconic sites in the world
Disadvantages: None at all
I visited San Francisco in July 2005 and immediately fell in love with the city. From the plane window seeing the Golden Gate bridge and the prison island of Alcatraz for the first time was an image and moment that I will remember for a lifetime. Lucky really I suppose to have been flying on a day when the dreaded fog hadn't rolled in.
I booked my trip with my wife through Kuoni and was doing a three stop trip starting in San Francisco before moving onto the hedonistic city of Las Vegas and the grittier city of New York. As every with any Kuoni holiday everything about the flights, transfers and the hotels they picked was first class. In addition to this because we booked our holiday early and
were regular Kuoniers' we were given a free helicopter flights over Las Vegas and New York but more of those when I eventually get round to those Dooyoos!
Our flights were with United Airlines and I would after my experience with them certainly choose to fly with them again. On arriving at San Francisco airport which is around 7 miles to the south of the city we quickly negotiated the oh so friendly American passport control agents and progressed rapidly through the airport to our awaiting transfer, a mini-van that had the look of the A-Team van! Just about perfect! The journey into the city took us along the American favourite 6 lane freeway and within about 30 minutes after a couple of other drops we were at our hotel.
The Handerley hotel postionned just to the west of Union Square itself is a nice comfortable hotel with in truth very basic furnishings. For us though with its central location it was ideal. For those people with a limited time in San Francisco who like us see a hotel as a place to sleep at night rather than a holiday destination in itself the Union Square hotel is perfect. We were with Kuoni on a room only basis so cannot comment on the food in the hotel but would as ever say never eat in your hotel get out and about and make like a native.
To help you with that left me point you in the direction on Lorri's diner. Just around the corner from the hotel this is a real American diner. It could have been taken straight from the 60's with is plastic covered seats and retro styling. Pin ball machines line the walls and a 1930's bi plane decorates the ceiling. The food is typical American diner food. Pancakes with maple syrup the staple taste amazing and are done to American sizes. The milkshakes a meal in itself topped with a glacier cherry. This gives you a real flavour of America. That was breakfast then covered for us for the time we stayed in
So for the city itself then. The first and obvious place to start then for us was Union Square itself. Union Square is the heart of the shopping distict and has some great shops. Macy's is the most notable on the square itself with a massive store on the south of square. At the time of our visit the pound was pretty much worth two dollars (distant memory now!) so it
was definitly and empty suitcase job. I always use clinique products (an American brand) so was able to make massive savings and bought up Macy's clinique counter.
Shopping over then back to the city. The famous old trams run from just around 50 meters south of the square. The trams have two routes but the one we were interested in was the Union Street to Fishermans Wharf. As the tram negotiates the hills of the city you get great views across the bay area which the Golden Gate bridge the obvious stand out sight. It looks even better in real life as thepictures. Against a perfect blue sky it is a magical view. As we left the tram at he wharf my camera was in danger of
overheating. Also Alcatraz and the north side of the bay are stunningly beautiful on a perfect summer day.
Fishermans Wharf and the Pier have two major claims to fame. The first and most obvious from both the noise and the smell are the famous seallions which have basking rafts which they fully utilise. In the summer there are less of them as most of them disappear to cooler waters but the were still around 20 or so to give that fishy aroma. The pier (Pier 39) is also home
to a small fairground with rides from a different generation. Bands often play on the landside of the pier and this area really has a happy holiday buzz to it. The area around the piers has loads of tourists shops and attractions. Claim to fame but I set the new record on the ancient pac-man machine in the old aracdes near the pier.
Another important money spinner around the pier are the crabs. You will see hundreds of Dungeness crabs?? I believe kept in tanks ready to find there ways to the local specialty, crab chouder. We have this in a small restrarant near the pier and can first hand say it tastes amazing but you need to have a liking for seafood as a basic requirement before giving it a go. To get the full pier experience I would recommend at least half a day to amble about and enjoy the sun and atmosphere of the place.
It is also from the area that boats leave to cross the bay to go to Alcatraz island home of the most famous prison in the world. The journey across takes around 20 minutes and can be choppy. If like me you have the sea legs of a camel you might want to consider sea sickness tablets. When we planned our trip to San Francisco one of the things I was desprerate to do
was to go to Alcatraz. I am really glad we went but to be honest I was disappointed with it. From the boat docking point it is about a 10 minute walk up hill to get to the prison proper. The prison has photographs and tales of some of the famous residents of the prison but for me thay could have done more. You also get an audio guide which tries to give the place some atmosphere but again this could have been so much better. The whole tour of the centre takes probable around an hour to complete. You get sights of the prison yard, the cells, solitary confinment and the kitchen area. I'm not sure if I just built this up to much but for me I wanted more.
Back of dry land and mainland America we went back to the hotel to get ready for our nights meal.
As it was our wedding anniversiry we had booked ourselves into the Farallon restraunt just on Union Square to the north west (450 Post Street).
The Farillon was and possibly still is the best sea food restruant in San Francisco. It is a classy place and would suggest that you make an effort and dress up a bit to feel comfortable when going in. The lights are in the form of jellyfish chandeliers. The lighting is subdued and the whole place oozes stlye. The food is supurb and even now I can remember
exactly what I ordered for every meal and remember the tastes. This is to be a honest a fairly pricy by my standard place (say £25 for a main) but the food is well worth the outlay. I would 100% if you like seafood that you make the effort and book a table for the Farillon.
From here we left to meet up with some California friends in an Irish bar Lefty O'Doul's,just off Union Square and then off to bed for our first jet-lagged sleep.
The next moring after the trip to Lorri's diner it was off to see the other must see site, the Gold Gate bridge. This is probably the most iconic and famous bridge in the world (Sydney Harbour included) and was a dream of mine to go and see it.
The best way to get to it is to use the buses getting one in westerly direction as far as the massive Golden Gate park and then taking one north to the bridge. Seeing the bridge is an inspiring moment and being able to walk across the footpath was another remember for ever experiences. Walking across the bridge and looking back over San Fracisco is one of those jaw dropping oh my god moments. From every side and every angle San Francisco is a stunning city. The bay and the pacific framing the compact and cosmopolitan centre.
From the bridge we took the bus back up to the park and took as lazy stroll thtough the park which is massive. We spent most of the rest of the day in the park which has a bison enclosure, a windwill and at the western side the pacific ocean. Nowhere in the world has made me feel further that home than paddling in the shark invested pacific. The water in all honest is as cold as the north sea even in the California summer. What an amazing place though San Fracisco is as a city. In twenty minutes you could be in the city shopping with the biggest names in fashion or strolling over the iconic Golden Gate bridge or like me splashing about in the pacific.
From the beach just across the road is Ocean View micro-brewery and restraunt which does exactly what is says on the tin. The view across the pacific as the sun sets on another perfect California day is stunning. The food is over priced and not the greatest meal you will ever have but the beer is great and what a view. This is the place to watch the sunset over a
couple of lazy beers before taking a cab or the bus back into the city.
Day three in the city then and after the Lorris experience we took a stroll down to the tram stop only to find massive crowds. We had managed to walk into the world premiere gay parade and were greated with all manner of floats and marching bands in all shades of pvc or flesh. The atmosphere though was such a happy one and the show something that I will never see
again so we spent maybe an hour watching this pass.
We then took the tram back up the hill to Chinatown and had a walk
around the mini-country. We eyes are restraunt for a Chinese meal for night and then continued through the city towards Lombard street again on the old trams. Lombard street promotes itself as being the most crooked street in the world and it probably is. We were on foot and walked
down the street talking pictures of the street snaking down the hill. It was shaped this way to stop cars just rolling straight down the hill when ABS breaks were a thing for the future. The traffic queues a few blocks back as people queue for the experience of drving down Lombard street!
From here we took a short walk to the Coit tower which is shaped like the end of a fire hose. This tower is a memorial to the firemen and women of the city. It is possible to climb the tower and from the top as with most places in th city you get amazing views over the bay and to the south east across the Oakland bridge and the city of Oakland.
From the Coit tower we took a wonder throught the financial district with the massive iconic TransAmerica building at its heart before making our way back to Chinatown for an amazing meal at the Empress of China. Situated on the tops floor of the building before eating make sure you take in the amazing views over the city and China Town. The food is amazing here but
don't take my word for it, Mick Jagger, Jayne Mansfield and Sammy Davis Jr have all enjoyed the food here!
Tha tgive or take was my San Francisco experience. Being 4 years ago some ofthe detail from my trip has been lost but the images of the city and my feelings and love of the place still remain as strong as ever. From the plane banking to the ride back to the airport San Francisco is a place that I will always remember. I have always said that I would never go back
somewhere as the world has so many places to see but in the case of San Francisco I would go back at the drop of a hat. I love the place.
It is due to its geography (built on a penisular around 6 mile squared) a compact city with a great array of transport ptions. Surrounded by water of three sides you are never more that 3 miles from the blue stuff. The California weather for us was perfect blue sky every day. The weathermen are all pretty much obosolete! The food (apart from the American sizes
and fat content) was exceptional and the people not your stereotypical brash loud Americans but confident and plesant people.
If I could live anywhere in the world it would be a toss up between Stockholm and San Francisco for me. As a holiday destination San Francisco has plenty for at least a week with the surrounding vineyards and coastline making much longer stays seem really appealing. It truely is one of the worlds great cities and I would recommend it to everyone.
Summary: If I could be anywhere in the world right now I would be in San Francisco!!!
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