San Francisco, CA ᛫ September 24 – 29, 2017
Our last long drive of this road trip was from El Portal to San Francisco. We started in the early afternoon and had a playlist with songs mostly from the Hippie era and some about San Fran. It took us about six hours, but we also took a little detour. Before we reached San Francisco, we googled places to get some food. So we left the highway and went to a grocery store. Caro said that we might be in Silicon Valley, looked it up and we actually were. We were happy because we hadn’t planned to visit this part and could now see a little bit of it.
After eating salad for dinner in the car, watching the sunset from the parking lot, we headed back to the highway. On the way there, we drove through residential areas that all had ground floor houses with garages. We imagined behind how many of these new companies were being created. 😉
A Lovely Arrival in a Lovely City
Back on the highway, we drove into San Francisco with a beautiful sunset sky. Our first destination was the Sunset District because our Couchsurfing host lived there. After saying hi to him and unpacking the car, he took us to Treasure Island, located between San Francisco and Oakland underneath the Bay Bridge. From there we had a really nice view of the skyline. And we were surprised to find out that the Golden Gate Bridge is not lit at night. We also came across some pretty big raccoons that seemed to be friendly though.
Next, we went to the Twin Peaks, a mountain right in the middle of San Francisco. We drove up some really steep streets and Caro could have her first typical San Fran experience. Up there, we had another spectacular view over the city. It was very windy and a little cold, so we didn’t walk around the whole area.
Have you ever heard of this famous red bridge in San Fran??
The next day was dedicated to the Golden Gate Bridge because we had to return our car the following day. Unfortunately, I hadn’t slept well that night and was pretty tired. But I tried to get over it and the beautiful scenery helped for sure. At first, we drove to Baker Beach with the bridge in the background. We chilled there for a while and then walked around some old batteries just south of the bridge. Of course, we took more pictures and afterward drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to the next viewpoint. It was not even a 5five-minute drive but it was fun. The blue sky in the background of the red-colored frame made the drive over this famous bridge just beautiful.
After taking pictures again at another viewpoint, we drove up to the Marin Headlands. On the winding road up, there were several viewpoints where we could have stopped, but we went all the way to the top to have the full view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. And you can guess what we did there – taking more pictures of course. 😉
Meeting up with Our Couchsurfing Host
We also met up with our Couchsurfing host and drove farther north with him to see some big redwood trees. By the time we got there, it was already pretty late and they wanted us to pay the full entry fee. So we didn’t end up going inside the park.
We drove back to San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge again. At the tolls coming into the city, we got a little confused because we thought we could pay cash. But that wasn’t possible. So we ended up paying later online.
On our way “home”, we shopped at the Sutro Baths shortly and then arrived at Ocean Beach just in time for the sunset. When the sun was gone, we split from our host because he wanted to eat dinner at his place and us at a restaurant. We drove to the nearby vegan restaurant called Loving Hut. I can definitely recommend it because we really enjoyed the healthy Asian food there. The rest of the night we planned the following days and decided to keep our car one day longer so we could explore more of San Francisco and it was easier to move our stuff to the next Couchsurfing host.
The reason why we had two different hosts in San Fran was that we first sent out requests for the entire time we were visiting. One couchsurfer replied that he could host us from the 26th to 29th. So we sent out more requests asking only for the 24th to 26th and that’s how we found our first host. The move wasn’t taking place until the evening. So our first destination on that day was the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. It’s a stairway that has a mosaic showing pictures from sea to stars. It looked beautiful and when we reached the top of the stairs we were happy to find a nice view of the city and a swing. We had to go up more steps and enter the Grandview park to sit on the swing. Of course, we had lots of fun swinging and taking many pictures.
Afterward, we drove to one of the most famous tourist attractions: the Painted Ladies. The TV show Full House was filmed in them (it’s not the house of the opening credits though). They look nice, but we didn’t really understand the hype because there are far more beautiful houses around San Francisco. We took a short walk through Alamo Square Park and returned to our car.
San Fran’s Colorful Parts
Next, we went to the Mission District. We started by walking through Balmy Alley that has murals and graffitis drawn on every house and looks really pretty and colorful. Then we took a stroll through the district that had many restaurants, shops, and more murals.
After we had some good Thai food, we continued our sightseeing tour and went to Haight-Ashbury, which used to be the hippie hotspot in the 60s. Today, the neighborhood has many crazy and fun stores, restaurants, and bars as well as all different kinds of people. The district wasn’t only flower power anymore and I can imagine that you can surely meet some interesting people there and have a great time if you stay longer than us. We just looked around for a little bit and then returned to our car to go to the next location.
We headed to the Conservatory of Flowers next but didn’t end up going inside because we didn’t want to pay the entrance fee. So we sat down on the grass in front of it and waited for our Couchsurfing host to meet us. When he came, we walked around the Golden Gate Park, to the Stow Lake, and up Strawberry Hill. It was nice to hang out and chat with him again before we left. He had a lot of travel experience and many crazy stories to tell.
Moving to North Beach
Then we drove back to his place, packed our things and went to North Beach where our next host lived. After we had gotten to know each other a little bit, he took us to the Coit Tower from where we could see over the city and the Bay Bridge pretty well. The bridge had light installations that changed shapes and looked very cool. Afterward, we drove down a zigzag street called Lombard that was built to slow traffic and has now become a tourist attraction. I have to say, it was pretty fun driving down the road and the view of the city from there was also nice. He showed us some other places from the car on our way home that I don’t all recall. 😉
I’m not sure if it was the thin mattress on the floor or the stress of the past weeks or both, but the next day I woke up with a stiff neck. Getting up and moving really hurt. I took some Ibu for the pain and Caro gave me a massage because I had to return the car that day. She had to stay at the couchsurfer’s place because we didn’t have a key and there was no way I could spend all day outside until he returned from work.
A Day in Bed
Although I felt a little better when I got in the car, it still hurt a lot and it wasn’t good to drive, fill up the gas tank and return it. Thankfully, everything went well and there were no complaints about the car. In a nearby diner, I got myself a nice avocado and bacon cheeseburger and took an Uber back “home”. After enjoying my burger, I was happy to lay down (this time on the couch) and slept for a couple of hours.
In the meantime, Caro went sightseeing. Luckily most of the places she visited, I had already seen during my previous visit in 2014. She went to Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 where you can see sea-lions, Ferry Building Marketplace, and the Financial District. At night, Caro made dinner and we watched the documentary What the health? on Netflix that can really recommend.
The next day, I felt better but my neck still hurt. Caro had a surprise planned and booked for me so I definitely couldn’t stay at the apartment again. When she told me to bring sports clothes, I got a little “scared” because I really didn’t feel like doing any sports yet. We took the bus towards downtown and followed Google Maps to Raven Fitness, an aerial yoga studio. I was excited when I saw it because I had tried it three years ago and really liked it. At the same time, I was still a little skeptical if I could even do it.
During aerial yoga, also called Anti-gravity yoga, you use a hammock to do the asanas or exercises. There were about ten students in the class and at first, the hammocks were adjusted to our height. The teacher was very nice and explained each yoga pose precisely. Some of the yoga poses were traditional ones that were aided by the hammock and others, like hanging upside down, that would not have been possible without it. The class was a lot of fun and lasted for about an hour. Thankfully, my neck hurt less than expected and I could do all the exercises (or try to do them as far as my flexibility let me ;).
Sightseeing with New Energy
Afterward, we ate lunch at a vegan deli and decided what to do next. Luckily, my neck felt better than before the yoga and we could do more tourist activities for the rest of the day. At first, we went to Union Square, looked at the art displayed there, and into some stores.
Then we wanted to take the San Francisco Cable Car from Powell Street to Mason Street. We had to wait in line for a pretty long time but got lucky to be the first ones when it was our turn and got to sit in front. During the ride, there were some stops where a few passengers got in or out. But most went the whole way and I’m pretty sure everybody did it for the experience. Some people where standing and I also tried it for parts of the ride. It was fun, especially when we went down very steep streets. Sometimes people in our cable car would even scream in excitement like in a rollercoaster ride going down these streets. We were not really fast though. 😉
From the terminal stop of the cable car, we went to Hyde Street Beach to hang out there. It was late afternoon and not very warm anymore, but some persons went swimming anyway. The view of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge was bittersweet because it was the last night in San Francisco and therefore the end our travel together. And we would only see each other again (in person) half a year later in Cuba.
The Last Night Being Together
Since Caro hadn’t eaten in a typical American diner so far, we decided to go to Slider’s Diner for dinner. We took the bus from the beach towards downtown again. The diner was a good choice for our last night. For the burgers, you just order the bread and meat (veggie patty for Caro) and they have a self-service section where you can choose how much lettuce, tomatoes etc. you want on your burger. We put as much on our bread as possible of course and in the end, it was almost like having a side salad. Besides the burgers, we had also some sweet potato fries and milkshakes for dessert. It was so delicious that I couldn’t walk straight when we left because my stomach was too full and hurt. 😀
When we arrived at our host’s place, there were two other Couchsurfing girls. We all chatted for a while and Caro and I had to pack our stuff. The next morning, Caro had to get up very early to catch her plane to Miami. After we said our goodbyes, I could go back to sleep thankfully.
Continuing the Journey on My Own
I left the apartment around noon, bought some snacks for the road and took an Uber to the bus station. It was the first (and hopefully only time) I actually had a bad experience with the service. I had to walk a bit to find my driver and then she let me out in the wrong place. She said the station was just around the corner and I didn’t double check on my phone because usually, the drivers do bring you to the correct place. When I didn’t find the station and looked on Google Maps, it showed that I was one kilometer away from it! So I had to walk and hurry because of course, I didn’t plan that much extra time. From that point on, I made sure to follow the driver’s route on my phone.
I reached the bus station, sweaty and out of breath, just five minutes before the bus left. Thankfully, I had already bought the ticket and everything worked out. I left San Francisco via the Bay Bridge and went east to Reno, Nevada.
See More Pictures of Our Time in San Francisco, CA
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