Lucie Loves... Travel // California road trip ~ part one: How to spend 3-4 days in San Francisco
Lucie Loves… Travel //
California road trip ~ part one: How to spend 3-4 days in San Francisco…
San Francisco, baby! This was the first stop on our California road trip and what a stop it was.
The journey from Richmond to Heathrow was fraught. I mean, when you buy new luggage with a built-in combination lock, all I can say is do a few trial runs first BEFORE YOU LOCK IT!
Stupidly, I didn’t and managed to lock my bloody passport inside my hand luggage and set the combination mid-roll of the lock. FML!
I arrived at Heathrow Airport, a little bit earlier than my friend Roz, and immediately went in search of security to see if they had one of those special keys to unlock it without busting it open. However, we do not live in the US and that being the reality of the situation, my precious new vintage cream 8 wheel Dickins & Jones cabin suitcase had to be cracked open. Thank goodness for screwdrivers and over attentive security staff.
Thanks to being chosen as the winner of a Popchips competition, we flew with Virgin airlines direct from London Heathrow to San Francisco airport for FREE.
Settled onto our flight ready for take off at 11:50 on Sunday 10 April. We immediately zoned out and tuned into the in-flight entertainment.
Me and Roz donning our Ray-Ban Clubround sunglasses on the flight to San Fran.
I watched a few films, including Carol, the Ronaldo documentary (literally blubbed my eyes out! I’d definitely recommend it, even if you aren’t a big fan of the man!) I started watching Joy (but couldn’t concentrate) and instead watched another documentary, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict. I think – along with Iris (another MUST SEE documentary about fashion icon Iris Apfel) – Peggy, is probably one of the most inspirational and eccentric women I’ve ever discovered. So bold!
So, feeling rather educated in the world of art and enlightened about the day-to-day life of a football legend, we finally arrived in San Fran at 15:10 on Sunday 10 April. Despite it being an 11 hour 20 minute flight, it’s like travelling back in time and you gain a few hours at the beginning of your trip. Bonus!
As there were three of us on the trip, we divided up the responsibility of finding accommodation for each of our stop offs. I asked around on Twitter and it was recommended that we stay at The Grove Inn, close to Alamo Park.
It was perfect for what we needed. Clean. A decent breakfast. Safe neighbourhood and also a great location to use as a base from which to explore the rest of San Fran.
Initially, we were going to get a hire car at the very beginning of the trip and then I thought back to when I’d visited a few years ago, and remembered how expensive/difficult it can be to park in San Francisco. Especially, if you’re staying at a nice hotel. The cost of parking alone can be almost as much as your stay! Eek!
This being the case, we decided to explore San Fran on foot, by Uber and take the tram. We found the we used Uber a lot on our trip. It really just boiled down to the convenience of being able to split the cost of the taxi ride between the three of us at the beginning of the journey, as opposed to one of us forking out each time and someone ending up out of pocket.
Never used Uber but fancy giving it a go? Use my Uber promo code: 6xwir to get £10 off your first ride!
Our first day in San Fran, being a Sunday, probably wasn’t the best day to land in this city. Ideally, we’d have come on a Thursday or Friday so that we could see the place come alive at the weekend and really enjoy its vibrant gay scene.
After checking into our hotel and being pointed in the direction of Castro, we met up with a friend, who works in Fashion and Tech and lives in San Fran. We headed for dinner at Alta CA.
Now, as good as this place is, with its cute waiters, excellent cocktails and delicious shareable dishes – IT. IS. PRICEY! Tasty, yes – but you’re looking at paying at least $17 for a cheeseburger… Hmmm.
Merry on gin and tonics and bourbon-laced cocktails we waltzed over to Castro, and had some very bad drinks at The Lookout. I swear, my drink tasted like paint stripper! There was so much whisky and not enough mixer, I could only take a couple of sips before I had to head back to the bar and beg for more coke!
As I said before, day one in San Fran, was a Sunday night, so not quite the party atmosphere we’d been expecting. We then made our way to The 440, and gazed in awe at the beautiful, barely clothed bronzed adonis writhing to the music for all to enjoy.
Jet lag started to set in and despite a few shots, we couldn’t stay awake any more.
But it was quite the welcome!
Day 2 in San Francisco was a bright and breezy, but still very sunny Monday morning. We decided to hire bikes from Golden Gate Park Bike & Skate hire – I think it was around $25-35 dollars each for 3-4 hour hire.
Every now and then we’d hope off, lock them up and take in a few sights around Golden Gate Park.
We explored the Japanese Tea Garden - the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. It’s open daily, and admission is free if you visit on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday before 10am. We stopped by around mid afternoon, and so paid the $8 entry fee, which is still very reasonable. After a short walk around the manicured gardens, we had matcha green tea and cake overlooking the pond. It was so nice to be able to stop, talk and get into holiday-mode.
As we hopped back on our bikes, we rode past a waterfall, yellow school buses, and even bison! We headed to the nearest stretch of golden sand, Ocean Beach, just a short cycle away from the Japanese Tea Garden.
We then got it into our heads that we’d try and cycle to the Golden Gate Bridge. I mean, after looking at Google maps, I admit, this was a little bit ambitious… in the heat… with no water! Oops.
We cycled/walked/cycled/walked up the hill towards Cliff House and then along past the Sutro Bathsand along the coastal trail… It was only after a while of cycling – on bulky beach cruisers – along increasingly rugged terrain, that we spotted the ‘no cycling’ sign ahead.
Obediently, we took a right and – hoping for a short cut back to civilisation – ended up trekking through a golf course and then arriving at The Holocaust Memorial. Which, in a hauntingly beautiful way, was pretty moving in itself. Such a stunning sight of white painted bronze by artist George Segal.
As we carried on cycling we realised that we weren’t going to get any closer to the Golden Gate Bridge on our bikes, so we abandoned our mission and headed back to Golden Gate Park to drop off our bikes.
We must have looked a little lost as a self-proclaimed San Fran native paused as he cycled past and offered us advice. All I can say is cycling ain’t easy in that heat… all those steep hills! Jeez!
We were more than ready for dinner by the time we’d de-biked ourselves and virtually hailed an Uber to Flour +Water, located in The Mission district.
Full of wine, salad and delicious pizza we headed back to The Grove Inn for a nap. Naps became something of a daily ritual for us on this trip. Such a luxury!
That night, we found a Monday night Motown night at Madrone Art Bar. We glammed ourselves up, donned a pair of (unsuitable) heels and walked the short distance up and down a few hills to Divisadero Street. I think we actually drunk cans of Strongbow cider like a bunch of hipsters, before ending the night eating fried chicken and chips in the takeaway up the road. Very Dalston.
Day three in San Fan, saw us visit Alcatraz, where we took a boat from Pier 33 and then did an audio guide tour of Alcatraz prison and learnt about life on the island itself.
This was the second time I visited Alcatraz, but I still felt that there was stuff I hadn’t seen the first time around and enjoyed the visit very much.
Alcatraz ticket prices start at $33 for an adult ticket or $40 for an adult night tour ticket! That would probably scare the sh*t out of me, so I’m glad we opted for daylight! This place is haunting enough as it is…
After our time behind bars, we fancied a Chinese and made our way to Z & Y Restaurant in Chinatown. Fantastic food and really reasonably priced. We ordered a few dishes to share between the three of us and some tea. It was more than enough.
We then visited a Chinese gift shop, where we had more fun than anyone could have ever predicted and ended purchasing a couple of Chinese printed robes.
My Clarks Glove Puppet slip-ons were so comfy for exploring the city in.
After that we went in pursuit of a tram stop…
San Fran is famous for its tram system and one thing we learnt is that if you’re going to get your money’s worth, take a tram from the very top of the hill going downwards or from the very bottom of the hill going up.
Don’t do it like we did and buy a ticket with only one stop to go until you’re asked to get off. However, the tram driver – who must have seen the dismay on our faces – offered to take a snap of us, which made everything better.
We were flagging a bit by this point, but didn’t want to head back to our hotel yet. We were really close to Pier 39, which is home to the many families of sea lions. Stinky? Yes! But so much fun to stand and watch.
Calling another Uber home, we met Emily, our very funny Napa-born driver. Who told us at the very end of the trip that she actually works as a love and relationship coach, when not Ubering people around. We were all ears! Tell us more! We begged! As she revealed that she worked for howtounderstandmen.com.
Note: Despite us getting back and having a good old nosy through the HTUM website, we decided NOT to part with the money needed to GET HIM BACK or learn the art of the MAN MISTAKE ERASER! I mean, if someone can make money from this, fair play to them… but seriously… we didn’t want to understand men THAT much.
After a little nap and much-needed showers we headed to Meox Mix at Stud Bar. I’d done a bit of Googling and found that this was THE best drag and cabaret act in San Fran. Hopes were high!
I’d say that Stud Bar was one of the highlights of our stay in San Fran. You arrive, pay whatever you feel like, and grab a drink at the bar. This place isn’t anything like The Lookout or The 440. It’s less sticky floors and more speakeasy. I loved it!
If you visit San Francisco you definitely need to go and see a show! I insist!
“Just let your soul glow!” - watch this Instagram video and you’ll see what I mean!
From twerking to sea witches, this place has it all!
On day four… feeling a little fragile and still cracking up at memories from the night before, we headed over to take a look at the famous Painted Ladies of Alamo Park, before making our way to Avis car hire to pick up our rental.
We’d decided to go all out and hire a Mustang. Little did we realise that this car – with it’s convertible roof and ridiculous boy racer engine – wouldn’t come in a subtle white or black colour. Nope… Orange it is then! We howled with laughter. At least we wouldn’t lose it?
And so, with the beast loaded up with our luggage (I say loaded up… we hadn’t realised that what you made up for in lack of roof and panoramic views, you lacked in boot space! Luckily, as there were only three of us, my GIANT suitcase could sit in the back, like a passenger and keep Roz company. I think at one point it even had a seat belt on…
Marcos took the wheel for the first part of the road trip, as he’d had experience of driving a) on the right and b) an automatic. I was due to take over the driving from San Luis Obispo onwards… *gulp*
This is by no means a comprehensive guide to San Francisco. There is so much more to see in this city! But I hope my write up has given you food for thought. If you’ve got any other San Fran tips or fave places, please share them below. Thanks.
Want to find out more about our Californian adventure?
Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment of the #LucieLovesCaliroad trip, as we embark on the beautiful drive north from San Francisco to Napa Valley and do a bit of wine tasting. The scenery alone is worth waiting for!
Have a read of our full Lucie Loves California road trip itinerary.
Photography © Lucie Kerley