San Francisco City Guide

Be a tourist, be a local, it's windy either way.

For me, San Francisco was the home of Mrs Doubtfire, The Rock and a big iron bridge. Having missed the opportunity to visit Azkaban, sorry Alcatraz, due to summertime popularity (note: book 4-6 weeks in advance during peak time), my first visit to the misty city (they’re not kidding) wasn’t going to be the tourist city affair I had foreseen. Or at least two of the three days weren’t (day three I spent in an Irish bar whilst my other half watched 9 hours of football and UFC so I got to sit with a glass of wine and my Macbook Pro, I’m not complaining. Really I’m not!).
Thanks to our Air B’n’B host who gave us some great recommendations and positioned us off the beaten track in Mission District, we got to see another side of San Fran. Saying that, if you were to say Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39 and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, it would bring a smile to my face and warm (if not a little windswept) memories back. So on that note, I’ll start with the touristy bits to ensure you tick these off your list when you visit…
The Hearts at Union Square
Their equivalent to Trafalgar Square’s lions, this is the perfect photo opp without the vertigo (and a few less tourists). A beautiful square with art exhibitions and little eateries to catch your breath from the immense shopping scene surrounding it.
Ride the Tram Network
An iconic element of the city thanks to Universal Studios, the queue at Powell Street was somewhat ridiculous. Having shrugged it off in favour of walking to Fisherman’s Wharf, the hills we had to climb then claimed the more ridiculous title (and some expletives). I can see how you get a healthy lifestyle on the West Coast – the hills! Seriously, the trick horizons were just cruel but my legs did look more toned by the end of our stay (indeed the Letley calf got a flexin')! Having said that, the tram network is a great way to see the city; it’s cheap, fast and takes people watching to another level. Not to take it away from the healthier option (walking, guys!).
Lombard Street
Tick it off your list. Though I would honestly recommend a non-pedestrian method as photographs don’t translate and I think attaching a GoPro to your car or opt to GoCar itself will make the drive down far more entertaining! (Hope for power-steering!)
The Painted Ladies
Architecture in San Fran is beautiful. Totally nuts and lacking any type of consistency (no Taylor Whimpey-printed towns here) but these houses are renowned for their picture-perfect-ness. I’m not sure they’re worth the hills (but you now know my opinion on walking uphill). Once we snapped a piccy, there’s not much else to do!
Golden Gate Bridge
Partially engulfed in the low cloud that hung over the city, the Golden Gate Bridge held an air of mystery. Having entered the city driving over it from Sausalito, I wasn’t about to count that type of wheel-transport as the check off my bucket list. So make sure you have at least an afternoon to explore. Fisherman’s Wharf offers an amazing selection of bike hire companies. It’s worth shopping around the competition to get the best price which we found was $7 an hour (cheaper by a few dollars than down the road). Setting off past Fort Mason and into Presidio Park, there were so many beautiful points to stop and take in the view and the looming bridge in the distance gets ever more photogenic. BEWARE cycling over the bridge requires adept gear skills and upward peddling. P.S. Don’t wear a hat, it will blow off (as will a camera lens cap and anyone under 8 stone) – that wind blows some serious gusts!
After a few hours of cycling in the (gale force) wind, it certainly works up an appetite. Time to walk through Fisherman's Wharf in the direction of Pier 39. With one destination in mind, and another tick on my bucket list, this one may seem silly to most but the film fanatic in me had to go the restaurant chain born out of the success of Tom Hanks' Forrest Gump. Highly recommend ordering the Surf'n'Turf dish! Wow. The food was delicious and the experience was fun in a TGI Fridays/Hard Rock Cafe kind of a way.
So, once those big tourist sights are checked off the list (which we managed in a day!) on to being a San Franciscan…

Naturally the day would have to start with an early rise and throwing on some exercise gear (my new love is Lorna Jane Active Wear). Residing in Mission District, we took to the streets and ran in the direction of Dolores Park (my legs complaining about this form of exercise that didn’t involve some aspect of sitting on my arse). Mr A’s former personal trainer days unfortunately not enough of a distant memory for him to get me doing bear walks, burpees and sprint runs like I’m in a Year 10 bleep test all over again! However… I forgave him the pain when by 7.30am we were in the queue for Tartines; a bakery with a reputation and a wait-line as long as The Breakfast Club in Soho. So once the doors were open at 8am there was no holding back and our eyes were definitely bigger than our bellies (at that point, at least). Soon our bellies were bursting with double chocolate pain au chocolat, a morning bun (a cinnamon and sugar piece of carb-heaven!), chocolate and salted caramel brownie and a scone (you can take the Brits out of Britain…) plus several cups of tea.
Post carb-loading, stick in the Mission area to take in the amazing (and politically powerful) street art of Clarion. Among the murals which included a homage to Prince, there were strong anti-establishment messages in support of minority groups communicated so visually through abstract design.
Next, head to Haight Street. It's a wonderfully hip part of town, think organic food, shakes and tie-dye t-shirts, and makes for interesting window shopping. Plus once you've walked the distance, you'll arrive at a Whole Foods to make the most of their hot and cold salad counters! Buy a little picnic and head into Golden Gate Park where there's the beautiful Botanical Gardens and Japanese Tea Garden (note: $8 entrance fee for each). So now our eat > explore > eat > explore routine is pretty clearly established, we headed over to the east shoreline for the AT&T Park and home to the San Francisco Giants. Bring on the branded merchandise and foam finger - not to mention, hot dogs, popcorn and beer - and lap up the fun atmosphere as the SF Giants took on New York Mets. Baseball, for those of you that aren't that familiar, is a glorified version of rounders, with the pace of a cricket game and the fans of a rugby game. My conclusion? I'm a fan!
Other places I visited that I would recommend:
The Crazy Fox for craft beer…
Danny O’Coyles for hours of sports watching (even at 7am!), good wifi and making friends…

All in all my first experience of San Francisco was nothing like I expected it to be but I'm so glad I've seen both sides of life there; a tourist and a local.


  1. Wow! You certainly packed it all in didn't you! Sounds like you had a brilliant time! I loved seeing all the sites of San Fran - and I can definitely vouch for the insanely steep hills and serious calf muscles needed! The tram was our saviour when there! I love your pictures of the bridge you captured it beautifully!

    We never got a chance to visit Bubba Gump's shrimp but definitely loved the clam chowder over there! Lovely tips, I'd love to visit again!

    JosieVictoriaa // Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle


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