We sat on a plane and it hit me. We made it! We were only 11 hours away from San Francisco, one of the most exciting American cities and it is famous for its steep hills and the red Golden Gate Bridge that I saw first time in the TV series Full House. I could not wait more for our arrival as visiting San Francisco was our two-week road trip around the most beautiful national parks and famous landscapes of the US. All we had to do was to survive the long flight. Luckily, part of the journey was varied by a chance to look at Greenland from a bird’s eye view. 10 km above the ground, this is the world’s largest island looked like an uncovered sea bed with countless lakes separated by mountains. As we were approaching our destination, the landscapes were changing and there were more views to admire. And then we had finally arrived.
San Francisco welcomed us with a smooth passport control procedure, a dark grey sky strewn with clouds announcing rain and a one more thing, a beautiful, black, convertible MUSTANG with a leather interior. Our primary mode of transport for the upcoming two weeks Jerome, all are excited about the new toy that drove us to the centrally located hotel where instead of a room with an extra large bed, we received a room with an extra large space in the bathroom as it was designed for disabled (later on it turned out that being downgraded wasn’t a bad thing as we managed to turn this disadvantage into a free buffet breakfast. Who would complaint about that). We dropped the bags and pull our last remnants of strength together, went for a quick walk to discover the local area. It was long after dusk and the streets were quiet, but there was some noise coming behind the tall buildings. It was the Union Square, which although being a construction field at that time, served perfectly as an outdoor cinema, filled up with people watching Devil wears Prada. We wandered for a bit but the fatigue was hard to fight and we eventually got back to our hotel for a well deserved sleep which unfortunately didn’t last long.
The jet lag took its toll and we woke up at 4 in the morning where our bodies were confused with 12 pm UK time. There was no way to get back to sleep again so we decided to explore the city. It was 6:30 am when we were equipped with beautiful orange helmets; where we were excited to hit the road on the bikes, rented from our hotel. One might think that cycling in a city as hilly as San Francisco is a challenge (or worse – ridiculous) but actually it’s a great alternative to public transport or walking. There are plenty of flat cycling paths that can be chosen and I really think that this mode of transport makes sightseeing in San Francisco way easier.
For starters, we headed to Fisherman’s wharf and Pier 39. When we reached there, it was 7:00 am and everything was shut. We had the place for ourselves to spend good time. Given that Pier 39 is a popular tourist attraction packed with fish restaurants, shops and video arcades, I could only imagine how busy it gets during the day. I definitely wasn’t disappointed that we arrived so early and missed out on the crowd. I enjoyed the silence and the lazy sea lions lying on the wooden platforms, next to the pier.
Our second destination was the mighty Golden Gate Bridge. While cycling down the Crissy Field, we were racing with the marathon runners and I was super impressed by the number of fit people in the city. I was expecting obese teenagers filling up on burgers and coke but I couldn’t find any (they must have been still in bed). The famous red construction was getting closer and closer and when we finally reached it, I was all in awe. I couldn’t believe that such a massive bridge was suspended in the air. The metal ropes, although thick, didn’t seem strong enough to support it and the slightly shaking surface under my feet gave the impression that it could collapse anytime. There are so many adjectives that can describe this construction such as beautiful, scary, and impressive.
Getting from one sight to another was easy but the real challenge was to find a good spot for breakfast. Place recommended by Trip Advisor as number 1 was occupied by hungry tourists waiting for a free slot outside of the building. Too hungry for 1 h queue, we ended up in a little coffee place called Francisco’s. The food wasn’t bad although I was surprised that such a dodgy, dirty place was able to attract so many customers.
Stocked up on bagels, we set our next destination to Lombard St, Greenwich St and Crookedest St. I can proudly say that, we were the only tourists cycling up these steep streets but I have to admit that I reached the top of Lombard St by pushing my bike rather than riding it (unlike my amazing bf – he made me write this).
In the afternoon, we visited China town. It was the time of a Moon Festival and a lot of street stalls were there (not street food disappointingly). Jerome acquired a new hat for his hat collection and that was pretty much a highlight of our visit in that part of the city. It was nice to see but didn’t really differ from other China Towns.
Next on our list was Mission district, apparently a place beloved by hipsters. I shared this information with Jerome what made him dislike it straight away. We never found out whether it was hipster or not as we cycled straight to, recommended by a friend, Corona Heights Park. Sitting on the top of the peak about 158 m above sea level and sipping the most expensive and the strongest beers ever, we were admiring an amazing panoramic view over the city. Slightly tipsy we cycled back to the hotel where I suffered from FOMO on a night out in San Francisco. Shame I was too tired to do anything about it.
The microclimate of San Francisco was really peculiar. For most of our stay it was grim, cold and foggy but only 30 min away from the city, we felt as if we were miles away. There was not a single cloud on the sky and top down was obviously a must. Enjoying the sun, we drove until we reached Napa town. Our visit in this popular wine region obliged us to drink wine. There was no way around it and to be honest we didn’t want to find a way around it. In a place called Oxbow Market we sampled 3 local wines served with matching cheese: Sav Blank paired with a mild goat cheese which were pretty blank, super floral blend of Napa varietals paired with a Spanish cheese which were full of fruity flavours and very good, and at the end fairly standard oak Chardonnay paired with mild blue cheese which were good but didn’t stand out too much. Flavoursome or not, they were definitely easy to drink – one should be careful with these.
Tempted to discover more wine flavours, we drove aimlessly amongst hills and vineyards, until we found a place called Napa where we tried different types of red wines poured by a very chatty and enthusiastic girl who told us not only the most important facts about the wines but also a simplified story of her life. We learned that, Napa wine company makes their own wine but also let other wine companies use their fruits for wine making. Every week Napa wine company features different wine makers and our tasting consisted of both the house wine and other wines. We also got to know that, the soil composition in Napa valley differs from place to place and that was because of the glacier that formed this area by pushing the ground while melting. That would explain why Napa valley is not famous for growing one type of grape.
Driving around Napa were both pleasing to the palate and the eyes. Everywhere we looked endless vineyards with its juicy grapes covering the surrounding hills. The views were stunning, the wine delicious but, as we discovered later on, it wasn’t everything that Napa prepared for us. In the evening we went for dinner to Bounty Hunter – a place that we literally smelled earlier that day in Napa town. Never in my life I have eaten meat smoked and seasoned so well. It was falling apart and melting in my mouth. Topped up with a bottle of great local wine, Napa valley really showed us its best side.
We stayed in:
Napa valley: Hampton hotel
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