San Francisco is an odd place. There I’ve said it. Everyone who I know that has visited speaks with delight of the cable cars, the steep hills and the beautiful pier. There’s a problem though – I’m not convinced! Or am I?
We’ve visited San Francisco a number of times now, usually because it’s the best place to pick up a car before heading to one of California’s national parks.
The first time we stayed in San Francisco, we booked the hotel on the day and ended up in one of the most grotty places I have ever been: the shower didn’t drain, we were right in the middle of the roughest part of the Tenderloin area (we didn’t realise this until later), there were huge spiders and the toilet sounded like a foghorn every time we flushed it. Although it was terrible, it added character to the trip and we still laugh about it now.
Since then, we’ve tended to stay outside the city centre at the Best Western. Fairly close to the airport (and a Trader Joes for stocking up on food for camping trips), this is a handy place to stay.
I think that the reason I struggle with San Francisco is because it reminds me of Blackpool! The old trams, the pier and the general ‘seaside’ nature of the place all remind me of when we used to visit Blackpool as a child – and it’s not the stand out place for a holiday destination for me.
That was until I started writing this post. So many happy memories of what we did on our trip came flooding back. I remembered how this was the gateway to our road trip. How excited we were to explore and hit the road. San Francisco has given us some amazing memories:
- The Giant Noodle – Top of my list is the Giant Noodle. When we visited back in 2010, there was a sculpture of a noodle on the pier. Next to the noodle was a sign which read “for your own safety, please don’t sit on the giant noodle”. This struck us as immensely hysterical and ever since, the wisdom of the giant noodle is often quoted in a range of situations and each time it makes us laugh.
- Alcatraz – This place was creepy and cool in equal measures. A ‘must do’ if you visit San Francisco. You can read about our experiences and tips for visiting Alcatraz here.
- Bird attacks! – One of our group got hit in the face by a bird. On the pier, in the rain, with a wing. And it was as funny as it sounds!
- The Cheesecake Factory – sitting high above the Macy’s sign, a small balcony looks out over the main square in the city centre. Armed with the best cheesecake in the world (I love a good cheesecake – and they cater for gluten free travellers), it’s the best place to watch the world go by.
- Golden Gate Bridge – just standing by the iconic landmark, watching a group of yachts go by was one of those surreal ‘wow I’m in America’ moments.
- Cable Cars / Tram – Going down the steepest hill on a tram is a experience all on its own!
- Cliffs and Coast – Driving over the cliffs in the middle of the fog, looking out at scenery between each break of the clouds was the start of our road trip to the national parks.
San Francisco is not the one of the most beautiful, scenic or even iconic places, but it did give us plenty of laughs and memories, and that’s exactly what you want from a holiday, isn’t it?