San Francisco Travel Blog | Alcatraz and The Golden Gate Bridge!
I had always wanted to go to San Fran. It had this Hitchkockian allure that mesmerised me. Driving from the airport to our hotel only sought to reinforce this. Granted, we drove in a ride share shuttle with a driver who I'm certain was on his phone the whole time and we stopped frequently to drop people off. But once I started to see those beautiful painted houses and go up and down the cascading hills, I knew instantly that I would love this place.
We stayed at the Hilton at Union Square, which was pretty decent in terms of comfort. It was also in a good location but wasn't actually in Union Square. The biggest downfall of this hotel was that WiFi wasn't included and was only free in the lobby. Safe to say, we spent a lot of time in the lobby.
When we were booking accomodation with our travel agent, she offered us a choice of Union Square and Fishermans Wharf. We decided on Union Square because we thought there might be more to do there but looking back on it now, I wish we had of stayed at Fishermans Wharf. It was more visually appealing, had great restaurants and was easier to get around because it was flatter. It was also the location where all the Alcatrz cruises left from and the base for the hop on hop off bus.
Speaking of which, we had booked in previously to do both of those activities and they were certainly worth the money. We could have spent the whole day on our hop on hop off tour. The only thing that deterred us was that it started heavily raining. This meant that all the seats downstairs were taken and we were forced to brave the top level in plastic ponchos and still managed to get soaked. Because of this, we missed seeing Lombard Street, which was certainly something I was looking forward to and also meant that we didn't hop off at Golden Gate Park to check out the botanical gardens. We did get to have lunch in Haight Ashbury and take snaps of The Painted Ladies and The Golden Gate Bridge.
Our Alcatraz cruise/ticket was also a major highlight. We booked the 11am time slot which was good in terms of crowds, but perhaps 10am may have been a better option. It included an audio tour which was very detailed and fascinating. The island itself featured a number of buildings, most of which you could enter into. The main prison building was the largest and the most interesting as that was where the inmates were kept. It startled me to learn that the families of the warden and guards actually lived on the island in seperate accomodation. Picturing small children with a bunch of criminals weirds me out...
We spent a lot of time walking around San Fran, which I think is one of the best ways to truly get a feel for a place. This included multiple trips to Chinatown to use the HSBC ATM that my sister needed. This taught us a valuable lesson- you want cheap souvenirs, Chinatown is the best place.
Looking back, I wish we had of booked at least an extra day or two in San francisco. The flight really took it out of us (in addition to the two and a half hours we spent waiting in a line trying to get through border security) meaning that the first day turned into a half day and was a complete write-off. I also didn't realise how close Yosemite is and wish'd I had of taken the opportunity to visit.
If you want to see the full experience of our SF adventure, make sure to check out my YouTube video!