The golden evening sun is reflecting on my hair, unkempt by the wind that is streaming through the open window. Stu Larsen sings “San Francisco” on the radio and I am cheering of joy by the sight of the big red landmark that welcomes us to town…
This was the very idea I was so stuck on
neurotically from the day it was certain that we will be visiting San Francisco. Even though our general route was northbound, we did manage to cross the Golden Gate bridge from up, right on track.. then things got a lil’ messy: “Oh the bridge, look … we need to pull over to park, yes, over there, no, that’t not a street.. ah there, no, shit, we can’t, it´s in the contraflow .. OH! we are on already, damn, where’s my Ipod.. it´s not plugged…ah for fuck sake..”
We thought very seriously about driving back and to start our San Francisco journey all over again. However, we decided to ramble around Battery Lancaster first and after being perfectly stunned by the view and the freakin’ cold wind, we thought: nah, let’s drop that.
San Francisco welcomed us gently with open arms. I can’t say if it was due to the upcoming holidays or if we lost much of our impartiality as Los Angeles was rather a disillusioning experience, but the city showed its friendly and hospitable sunny face and we were soaked up within an instant.
Where to stay
Being worried not finding an accommodation within our budget/standard due to Thanksgiving, we booked our hotel fairly in advance (and with a HUGE promotion on booking.com) and it was a stroke of luck to stumble upon Hotel Carlton. Based on experience, we are armed against disappointment and usually just pin our hopes on not too much deviation between idea and reality… this being said, Hotel Carlton had the almost unknown effect of: Hell yeah! Extremely friendly staff, clean, spacious and nicely decorated rooms, free (!) daily (!) wine tastings (!) and a great location; San Francisco’s Nob Hill.
Where to eat
Strolling and eating are our favorite activities when exploring new territories and we found it nowhere as good combined as in San Francisco. Fisherman’s Wharf is worth a visit in any case, the view on Alcatraz and the excellent people watching opportunity are a good selling points; but the long row of crowded, loud and steamy outdoor food stalls, saturated of the thick smell of fried fish.. that is the real interesting and delicious deal. Just around the corner you find also the Ghirardelli Square, famous for it´s chocolate but being as well home to a nice bunch of local stores and restaurants.
If you can’t say no to top notch dainties, you shouldn’t miss the Ferry Building in Embarcadero either. This sublime indoor food market with plenty of food stalls showcases some of the best local cuisine and wineries and the various free sample of regional products will for sure quicken your appetite.
While the recommendations above are rather representing a casual food truck spirit, you want to take a bit more time for the Liholiho Yacht Club. No worries, contrary to what the name suggests, you wont need to put your fancy pants on, but might consider a reservation if you don’t wanna to wait a couple of hours. Either way, it is worth it, so much! I am utterly convinced that everything this American-Hawaiian-Asian-fusion gem of a restaurant will put on your plate -or in your glass- is delicious as fuck. (yes!)
What to see and do
Due to a #blackfriday (omg) in the way and time spent eating, we had to downsize our sight seeing program a couple of times and ended up mostly rambling around. We stumbled by chance upon the San Francisco Art Institute; the door to the cloistered courtyard stood open and we entered clueless; visited the student exhibitions and enjoyed the scenic view over the city. It might not be a top sight of San Francisco, but if around, it definitely worth stepping in.
Another way of getting a great view is taking a drink in Top of the Mark, the roof top bar of the fancy Intercontinental Hotel. It requires a bit more of a plan; the tables are on first comes first serves basis and it´s good to be there early, best before it opens at 4:30pm. It’s quite an upscale ambiance but the staff is rather easy going.
Little anecdote: The usual entrance was closed and we had to access the bar via the elevators by the hotel lobby. We stood up in lines while the hotel guests wrinkled their nose (they did, true story) and the doorman by the elevator put much effort in not mingling hotel guests with bar guests in one and the same elevator.