Thursday, October 15, 2015

Two days exploring the streets of San Francisco...

The last time I was in San Francisco for the marathon, I swore I'd never run the hilly race ever again, but last week I found myself trekking up and down the captivating city streets in my first visit in three years.

The view of the Golden Gate Bridge never gets old
Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco
With a friend visiting from the U.K. and after a restful few days by the pool in Palm Springs we hatched a plan to cash in my air miles for some flights from Burbank Airport to the City by the Bay, and what a great spur of the moment decision that was.

Fabulous bay view from the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Union Square
Bay view Grand Hyatt Hotel Union Square SF
We stayed at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, less than a block from Union Square, a great location for transport by BART from SFO airport and a walk or a tram ride to pretty much anywhere in the city.
Crab sculpture Pier 39 San Francisco
Up at 4:30 am to catch our flight, we started the morning upon our arrival at the Embacadero's Ferry Building with an amazing cheese toastie at Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop (so good that we went back again for a second helping the next day).

We couldn't resist visiting the sea lions at Pier 39
Pier 39 sea lions San Francisco
After perusing all the little shops and stalls at the Ferry Building we headed up the Embacadero towards Pier 39 to be total tourists and check out the stinky, but incredibly cute sea lions.
Sea Lion sculpture Pier 39 San Francisco
We continued on past Fishermans Wharf, taking the same route that the San Francisco Marathon takes to the Golden Gate Bridge past Ghirardelli Square, I had flashbacks to the race when we came to the first steep hill by the Aquatic Park Pier.

View of Coit Tower from Lombard Street
Coit Tower San Francisco
Continuing up to Fort Mason parkland for a better view of the bridge, we decided to head back view Lombard Street to get a glimpse of the world's most crooked street and the surrounding views of the city.
Lombard Street pretty house San Francisco
From there we climbed and climbed and took a very twisty-turny route to the Castro for a late lunch at Starbelly on 16th Street (thankfully those cheese toasties had provided the necessary energy to conquer those hills).
Castro Theatre San Francisco
After reading Tales of the City when I was younger, the Castro has always been a real gay mecca for me, so it's always great to stop by, shop and mooch around.
San Francisco bear
There were no naked people on this occasion though, public nudity has been banned since my last visit, but there were a few bears chained up.
Together we can make a better world Castro
After all that exploring and walking for miles in the gorgeous, but hot, weather it was time for a much deserved cocktail or two (but who needs an excuse).
5 o'clock somewhere Parrot
On the way back to our hotel we stopped off at ABV and Bar Agricole to sample their wares, and it's safe to say that ABV won hands down in terms of atmosphere, cocktails and friendly staff.

After freshening up it was time to try out more bars and eateries, and even though I had my reservations about the themed Tiki bar Smuggler's Cove on Gough Street (thinking it would be too touristy), I enjoyed the best Mai Tai ever.
Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco
An Uber ride later and we also tried out cocktails at Trick Dog on 20th Street and back again to the buzzy and awesome Nopa restaurant on Divisadero at Hayes for a delicious late-late dinner.
Alcatraz San Francisco
Up early the next day to make the most of the remaining hours before we had to catch our flight back to L.A., we decided on an hour boat ride around the bay to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz up close.
Painted Ladies San Francisco
I've done the Alcatraz tour in the past and its interesting, but I don't need to see the prison on The Rock again anytime soon. After the bay excursion we headed to Steiner Street to see the infamous Painted Ladies. I've visited many of these San Francisco landmarks before but I do love the architecture of this city.

Who can resist an alcoholic ice cream?
Ice Cream Bar San Francisco
Our next stop was The Ice Cream Bar on Cole Street, a retro 1930s soda fountain with amazing ice-cream, milkshakes and even alcoholic beverages to cool you down on a hot day.
Stars and Stripes Alcatraz
It's pretty safe to say we had a great time and even though I revisited some old haunts, it was nice to try out some new bars and venues and be reminded of all the great food and drink San Francisco has to offer (unlike L.A. they're not afraid of bread, cheese and yummy ingredients).

After this visit I'm sure it won't be another three years until I return, although I have a feeling that the San Francisco Marathon is well and truly ticked off my bucket list...

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