Travel: San Francisco for Three Days (Part One)

Its no secret that I love to travel and when I only have to fly an hour to get somewhere, it doesn’t take much to convince me to start packing! Recently I went to San Francisco for a quick trip and am happy to share the details with my fellow travel lovers.

I typically spend hours researching before I go any place and this time was no different. Looking for a hotel was tough since I was looking for specifics: a safe part of town, good rating on Trip Advisor, easy to find transportation, centrally located so I could walk places, nearby restaurants. When I am looking into a big city like New York or San Francisco, I want to step out of the hotel, onto the city street and start my adventure.

Right away I decided to skip the Tenderloin area since I had read about a high population of homeless, I also ruled out Union Square because it’s a very busy area. I think of it as the Times Square of San Francisco.

I went back and forth on an Airbnb/VRBO versus a hotel. I like the idea of living like a local but don’t love living amongst the property of strangers. We stayed in an Airbnb in NYC and loved the location but the front door stuck and I had to keep calling the neighbor to let me inside plus I found a cockroach in the bathroom and there was a lack of towels.  With a  hotel, you typically do not experience those problems, however minor. Some Airbnbs are strictly for renting out to travelers which is what I will look for in the future.

 

 

I settled on the Holiday Inn Golden Gate which proved to be a good choice. Not only were restaurants a short walk away but there was a Whole Foods across the street. I have written about my love for Whole Foods while on vacation previously. Since I am gluten-free, I need safe foods and choices.

There is a buffet, soups, and a salad bar with ingredients clearly marked, plus there are tons of options like fruit, vegetables, salads etc. I bought a little carton of milk since the hotel only had powdered creamer and kept it in the fridge. Three nights in a row we ate at Whole Foods. At the end of our long days, my daughter and I were exhausted and wanted something quick and easy. Whole Foods to the rescue!

 

 

We flew into San Francisco and immediately got on the shuttle (SuperShuttle) to the hotel where we checked in and dropped off our bags. I used Uber for the first time (highly recommend Uber to get around San Francisco) and the car came in less than ten minutes and whisked us away to our first adventure, Alcatraz. With only a few days in town, there was no time to spare!

If you have never been to this creepy prison, you need to see it as part of your San Francisco experience. Board the ferry and sit back as the boat takes you to the eeriest place I’ve ever been.

The grounds of Alcatraz are quite beautiful with plants and flowers. The bay and blue sky are in deep contrast to the inside of the prison which is stark and unfriendly. Grab the headphones so you can do the audio tour which is loaded with detailed information. It’s also cold inside and windy outside of Alcatraz so bring a jacket and hat!

 

You could spend at least 1-2 hours, if not more, at Alcatraz, taking it all in. We rushed through since the last ferry left at 6:30 and it was nearing that time. Be sure to buy tickets in advance, we were told they were booked solid and tickets had been sold out! This is not uncommon as Alcatraz is a hugely popular tourist spot. Give yourself plenty of time to do the audio tour and walk the grounds.

The next day we didn’t have a tour until one in the afternoon so we decided to take a stroll over to our meeting place in Union Square which was just over a mile away, no big deal, right? WRONG. More on that soon.  We began our day at a restaurant around the corner from the hotel, the Crepe House. I ate my standard omelet while my daughter had the crepes. Very good, quick service.

I really depend on my Find Me Gluten Free app to seek out places to eat.  I also use the map on my phone, between the two I can usually find a place that offers non gluten food.

 

Now here is where the fun begins. When I mapped out the distance from the hotel to Union Square, I didn’t take into consideration the extremely steep, shin-splint inducing, thigh burning, foot cramping hills. I mean, I walk two miles a day at home so what’s the big deal?

The hills are a big deal.

At one point I think we were going up a ninety-degree incline and I wished someone could’ve pulled me with a rope. The hills are no joke! By the time we reached Union Square, I was ready for a massage and a nap.

Note: Smarter people would have taken the cable car to Union Square!

Incredible Adventures!

 

Our Incredible Adventures tour bus arrived at an easily found, predetermined location. Sidenote: I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this tour company. They are a green company that uses a petroleum-free biofuel fuel and they have been around since 1993 and offer loads of tours. I wish I had more time because I saw several things I wanted to do thru this tour company including a Napa and Sonoma tour, a one day Yosemite tour  (Hiking, Photography, Wildlife & Nature, Eco/Sustainable) and a Haight-Ashbury Food tour just to name a few that caught my eye.

I love this:

We promote “Green Business” and sustainability of the destinations we visit through the use of eco-friendly renewable alternative biofuels. We focus on small group tours to minimize the environmental impact of our business.

Two things we wanted to see/do whilst in San Francisco, one was Alcatraz and the other was Muir Woods. There were only three people on the tour and two were my daughter and me, the other woman was a single traveler who came from Ireland. It was like having a private tour experience!

 

 

Our tour guide, Nicole, was young and energetic and fun. She was the perfect person to drive us to Muir Woods and talk about the area. I snapped photos from the window (which was spotless) as she drove.

I didn’t know that the roads were twisty and curvy and I was thankful that I took my motion sickness pills. I have to travel with them, I get so queasy on boats, in cars, on buses planes. I also wore motion sickness bands on my wrists.

We stopped to take photos of the Golden Gate bridge and then were off to Muir Woods!

 

How can I even describe the beauty of Muir Woods? The sunlight streamed through the trees and cast a glow on the plants below and the whole effect was other-worldly. I had to pause every so often to take it all in. There is something about being in nature that lifts my spirits.

With my camera in hand, I strolled slowly and took tons of photos which do not do the area justice. You have to see this for yourself. The huge trees shoot into the air and thick canopies of leaves keep the wooded area cool.

 

 

Ahhhh it was heaven for me.

I wish we could have stayed longer but it was time to head over to Sausalito! The drive down was way better on my stomach than the drive up and I enjoyed chatting with Nicole and our tour mate, Edith. Sausalito is a cute town right on the waterfront with lots of shops and little cafes.

We walked along the waterfront and enjoyed the view of the bay. Though Nicole our guide, Edith our Irish friend, my daughter and I split to go off in our own directions, we ended up meeting and walking together.

 

The weather was perfect, the tour fantastic and the day of adventure was an A+!

Back at the hotel, we were beyond tired but it was a good tired, from fresh air and walking a total of over six miles. During our few days in San Francisco, we walked almost 20 miles.

I fell into bed around ten, looking forward to our next day.

To recap:

If you are planning to visit San Francisco, I recommend the CityPass for your tours, Uber rather than a taxi, Incredible Adventures to see Muir Woods, a stay at the Holiday Inn Golden Gate which is around the corner from the trolley plus close to restaurants and shops. Get your Alcatraz tickets ahead of time.

I struggled with what to pack, I knew I wanted to take only a carry-on bag. I also knew I love bring too many things with me at all times.

Here’s what I brought for May weather in San Francisco:

three pairs of pants (one pair of camo print pants, one black jeans, one blue jeans)

tee shirts (a striped tee, a pink blouse, an olive green shirt, a gray top, two tank tops)

three light jackets (one olive green, one pink {from Old Navy here}, one jean jacket

three pairs of comfy shoes. I like Nikes and Puma sneakers. The Nikes are very light to pack!

two hats, I only wore the ball cap.

one scarf

pajamas

I had enough clothes and didn’t feel like I had nothing to wear! San Fran was way warmer than what I had anticipated.

 

Stay Tuned for Part Two! 

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