The next stop after the Napa Wineries was three nights in San Francisco – getting their on the Friday gave us the weekend to enjoy the city.
San Francisco was a chance to get out of the tourist thing a bit and just chill out so we gave things like Alcatraz, Fortune Cookie Factory and the Cable Car Museum a miss. Instead we spent the Saturday doing what is called the 49 mile drive. This is a poorly signposted scenic drive around San Francisco that takes in all the major sites including Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park. This took most of the day as we stopped at a number of places – mainly for photos – but also to do things like the Japanese Gardens and Tea Rooms in Golden Gate Park and to drive down Lombard Street. What was really great about the drive was the perspective it gave you of San Francisco including its architecture and various communities. The surprise to us was the beaches and how big they were and close to the city.
Sunday we just spent walking around the city shopping and eating. We caught the cable car to get from Fisherman’s Wharf to the shopping precinct, and because of traffic the cableman lost the grip on the cable – they have to let go of the cable as they coast around corners and then pick it back up before they hit the slope. This gave us the highlight of having a big tow truck come and push the cable car up the hill to the next flat section where the cableman could re-grip the cable. In the morning at Fisherman’s Wharf we took in Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Factory and Boudin’s Soughdough Bakery. Kerrie would not let me and the girls have a Ghirardelli Ice Cream Sundae until I pronounced Ghirardelli correctly – so we missed out on that experience. But did spend up big at Boudin’s – lots of great kitchen stuff and knickknacks that Kerrie purchased.
The food highlight was definitely Chez Panisse which was a restaurant out at Berkeley that I booked before we left. Kerrie would agree that the food was great but would debate whether it was worth the drive and traffic as Berkeley is a city over from San Francisco. We obviously did lots of clam chowder and I highly recommend the milkshakes we had at Mel’s Drive in Diner – all American Graffiti fans will know that one!
Accommodation at Hotel Boheme was good and its location was great being on the edge the Italian and Chinese precincts and central to all areas you would want to walk to in the city – so we did not need the car on the Sunday. The room I booked was small but they upgraded us for free on the last two nights which made it quite comfortable.
If you are visiting San Francisco for the first time I would recommend staying near Union Square (for shops) or Fisherman’s Wharf (for tourist things) because it puts you closer to the activity. Where we stayed is half way between those two areas but requires you to know your way around so as to avoid walking up too many hills. I had the luxury of scoping San Francisco a few years ago and that is why we stayed where we did.