San Francisco by foot… armed with an iPhone 4 I set out to explore another US city I’d never been too.
Golden Gate bridge peaking out of the fog
A ‘friend of a friend’ met me at the airport with a bottle of water and some vege chips. We set out on an adventure to get to know each other and to explore San Fran. The weather was miserable and wet… the famous fog had settled in and had earlier delayed my flight two hours.
Lynette, born in San Francisco, has travelled the world – a couple of times, dabbles in few different languages and was just the best host one could have wanted! She first of all took me to her favourite hippy coffee shop - Philz Coffee and I got myself a hand made caffeinated peppermint tea (that I didn’t know existed!) that had real peppermint leaves floating around in it. Delicious I will say! Phil took seven years crafting his coffee blends and apparently they are to die for too. Check out his video if your a coffee connoisseur.
We then hit up Lynette’s favourite hole in the wall, Thai restaurant, Sai Jai Thai off O’farrell and Larkin for an early dinner… possibly up there with the best Pad Thai and Kor Moo Yang (pork dish) I’ve ever tasted! Highly recommend it!
We also hit up San Francisco’s crookedest street – Lombard Street. It’s kind of random and all downhill… great place to get car sick if you’re not careful!
I then checked in to Pacific Winds Hostel for the night. Thankfully I was able to leave my 50 pound bag of luggage with Lynette because four flights of stairs to the hostel would NOT have been a happy moment! My ‘southern’ slightly conservative, super caring friends in Nashville were all a little concerned about my safety and wellbeing staying at a youth hostel… but for $30 in the heart of the city I couldn’t resist the adventure… at least for one night! This hostel was great… very friendly. Their moto…
“Our hostel unlike most others in that it’s not just a cheap place to stay. We are a small extremely social community of international travelers. We hope you will come with the expectation and desire to be part of our friendly community. There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met. We look forward to meeting you.”
The manager was Australian and was super helpful pointing out cool places to visit. Obviously it’s wise to pack a set of ear plugs… the party-ers in the group are loud till late. I bought a lock to lock up my luggage but didn’t use it and returned it the next day.
This has to be the coolest building I've ever seen a Forever 21 store in!
Because of the rainy weather the next best option was to go shopping of course! I even found my favourite stores, H&M and Forever 21 and tried not to buy anything because as I said earlier… my bag already was 50 pounds (23kgs)!
The next morning I awoke fairly early and solved all my iPhone syncing issues at the San Francisco Apple store and then began my ‘walkabout’ adventures of the city. I’m not very good at ‘planning’ a city tour. I get the basics covered – transport and accommodation – and then just like to wing it. In my quest for ‘free’ accommodation – or places to ‘couch surf’ at a few people had made some recommendations I vaguely remembered.
Pier 39 was obviously one of those ‘things to do’ in San Francisco. Seems it was only about 2 miles from the Apple store I decided to just walk. One thing I wasn’t really aware of was HOW hilly the city is. Wow… my thoughts of biking it around were quickly eliminated. Walking along the The Embarcadero was fascinating. The historic Cable Cars made you feel like you were stepping back in time. Also the bus system is all run via an electric circuit. I found that facscinating… added to the hippy, eco friendly, tree hugging, free spirit of the city.
Pier 39 has heaps of restaurants and tourist attractions – Alcatraz, Aquarium of the bay, boat tours of the bay…etc…. but in typical tight budget Joy style I just enjoyed wandering around and following my nose whilst trying to capture it all on my trusty iPhone.
Most appealing food find for me was this fruit market on the end of Pier 39, where you can buy (and then wash!) the nicest looking fruit I’ve seen in forever, for lunch. You can even buy some ‘dipping’ chocolate to de-healthify the fruit if need be and then eat it looking over the bay. Very sweet!
Next I kept wandering along the Embarcadero towards Ghiradelli Square. This is one American chocolate I actually like and they give out free samples. The company was actually started in this area. So… I made my way from one Ghiradelli shop to the other and got myself a free piece of caramel chocolate at each and then bought a cuppa hot tea to compliment…. ahh… divine.
Next I navigated my way, the least hilly route to Coit Tower.
It’s on top of Telegraph Hill (so I still got a work out!) and is a 64 metre high monument to the firefighters of San Francisco. For $7 you can catch the lift up inside to the top and get spectacular views of the city.
Once again traveling by foot made way for some awesome photography… with my trust iPhone. I just loved the contrasting colouring of buildings and every day objects.
To top off my day I met some more ‘friends of friends’ from Mill Valley – Jeff and Marissa Page. They rocked my world! I felt like we’ve been friends forever after just spending a couple of hours with them. I love the way God does that! Jeff and Marissa run a youth group in the area and sure have their work cut out for them… San Francisco and the great area would be the opposite of ‘the bible belt’. We had hours of rich conversation over a Puerto Rican meal at Sol Food in San Rafael. So good!!!
So all in a day in San Fran… I think I did alright considering I didn’t do a lot of ‘prior preparation!’
Thanks Lynette, Jeff and Marissa for being awesome ‘friends of friends’! Definitely my favourite way to travel. Locals are the keys to local goodness!