It only took five minutes of the taxi ride from Oakland Airport to our hotel to remember how much I love this country.
As we crossed the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, we were greeted with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, huge cargo ships in the bay and the skyline of the Financial District. I couldn’t wait to get out and explore the city that I have such a strange feeling towards. It’s beautiful, quirky and unique, but at the same time dirty, cramped and at times, really bloody rough. There’s something about it though, that manages to combine the feeling of small, seaside town, with sprawling metropolis at the centre of the tech world.
We were staying in the Travelodge by the Bay, not too worried about the amenities and luxuries and more about the location and price in a city where a family earning $117,400 is considered on ‘low income.’ It was pleasantly surprising though, and proved a great base to explore on foot or with a short cab ride.
Our first meal was at San Francisco Brewing Co, and although I would say my burger was brilliant, I should note that I had just got off an eleven hour flight and only eaten underwhelming plane food, complete with tiny dessert pot, rock hard butter and a bread roll which is impossible to cut with a flaccid plastic knife. But anyway, the restaurant was good, albeit smaller on the portion side than I had expected. At 8:30, we went to bed in an attempt to adjust to the time difference and make the most of the next day.
Our first full day in California was a long one. We had the best meal of the trip so far at The New Spot on Polk, took photos on the crooked Lombard Street, met up with Jack and Makenna who are getting married on the 27th and are the reason we came to the US in the first place, and walked to the Golden Gate Bridge. The views from the bridge were amazing, and we were lucky to catch the city on a rare fog-free day, allowing us to see all the way to Oakland.
Before Yasmin and I left the others to embark on our ferry to Alcatraz, we filled up on huge sandwiches at Tommy’s Joynt, an Italian American sandwich shop that featured on arguably the greatest TV show of all time, Diners, Drive In’s and Dives. The four of us then braved the hustle and bustle of tourist hot spot Fisherman’s Wharf, and watched the sea lions play at Pier 39, before going to a shop that exclusively sells left handed goods (who knew spatulas were for us right handed folk).
Our night tour of Alcatraz was absolutely incredible, and the ferry trip over to ‘The Rock’ was worth the ticket price alone, allowing us a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun set behind it. If you plan on visiting Alcatraz, go on the night tour, which was self-guided, but with an audio guide full of stories and information told to you by former inmates and correctional officers. With your head peering into tiny cells and reading stories of attempted escape, you fail to realise the night setting in, and the windows suddenly flood the prison with a dark, eerie feeling.
We ended our busy day with drinks at a dive bar in the heart of the city with an old friend, Chris, who has recently moved to San Francisco and who I hadn’t seen in close to eight years.
The next day we picked up our rental car from Sixt who, at the time of writing, we would recommend, but we’ll confirm once we return the car. They didn’t have any vehicles in the class we paid for available, which was ridiculous, and after turning down an ugly, obnoxiously large mini van, we were given an upgrade and drove off in our Kia Sorento, which is brilliant.
Pacific Grove was our next stop, just for the night, before we began our drive down Highway One and if i regret anything this trip, it’s not staying there longer. I’ve always wanted to live in the US, and Pacific Grove may top the list of places I could see myself. Right by the rocky Pacific coast but close to San Francisco, this quaint seaside town is so peaceful and homely, complete with a cosy high street peppered with American flags, family-run coffee shops and shops. We stayed at the Lover’s Point Inn, which was about thirty seconds on foot to the sea and one of the best views of the trip so far. We ate dinner at Hula’s Island Grill and breakfast at Crema, where Yasmin had fried chicken with gravy and waffles for breakfast, because America.
This is a little late, as since this we have been to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Havasu Falls and are currently in the Grand Canyon, but time to sit and write comes after exploring. However, I will continue to update this website as often as possible, even if it’s just so I don’t forget everything!