My Notebook of the amazing places I have visited and the memories and experiences I don't want to forget.
I fell in love with San Francisco during our first visit to the City in April 2009, it is my most favourite city on Earth.
I know I may look at the city through rose-tinted glasses having never lived there, however I have travelled to a lot of places and San Francisco just always comes up on top.
I remember my first time there are the memories of the hills, the steep roads, the bay, the cable cars all the classic touristy things. However one of my favourite moments was when, suffering from jet lag we went for a walk at 6am on a Sunday morning. The sun had just come up, many of the main streets were eerily quiet and the side streets were almost deserted. We walked down to the bay and it was just one of those moments I will never forget. The light was perfect and the city looked so beautiful, I knew if I never went anywhere else again I would die happy!
Below are the places I visited during that first trip and the memories I remember:
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: The Ferry Building is a great place to visit, full of great shops, cafes, restaurants but it’s even better on a day when the Farmers Market is on. We visited this market during our first trip to San Francisco and found the quality of food to be superb. Yes it’s pricey but the fruit and vegetables are of amazing quality. There is also a variety of other stalls. ACME bread is a must, and definitely the best Sourdough in San Francisco. We really enjoyed the market, it was a warm sunny day when we first visited and there was a nice mix of locals and tourists. The market is fantastically situated right on the water with views out to the bay. You really can spend a nice morning or few hours here.
Breakfast & Brunch: The people of San Francisco love their breakfast and brunch. The longest queue/line we ever saw was for a breakfast joint. People will wait for over an hour for good chow, and to be honest I would happily wait an hour for some of the fine breakfast fare we have sampled. On our first visit to San Francisco we were a bit new to this phenomenon but went to some of the the popular breakfast joints like Dottie’s True Blue Cafe and Mama’s on Washington Square (1701 Stockton St). I remember the first time we went to Mama’s, it was before they opened but there was already a queue, there always is. We waited for what seemed like forever but was probably around 30 minutes, and I thought will this really be worth the wait, it’s only eggs. But after trying the ‘French Toast Sampler’ which consisted of cinnamon french toast, walnut french toast and vanilla french toast with berries and maple syrup I decreed that it was indeed worth it. Every time we visit we return to Mama’s for one great breakfast, I’d wait all day if I had to.
Little Gems: San Francisco is full of little independent shops, bakeries, restaurants, cafes that really are amazing. Opposite Mama’s is one such place, an Italian bakery called Liguria Bakery (1700 Stockton Street) that only sells a few items, blink and you’ll miss it. What it’s famous for is Focaccia. Various flavours are available all excellent. How this little old time place has managed to survive is beyond me. It’s great that it has because it does take you back to how you imagine the city was like years ago.
Golden Gate Park: We visited the park on a hot Sunday. The park was full of family’s enjoying the greenery and the sun. It really is beautiful and you forget that you are in San Francisco. Unlike Central Park in New York where you are continually reminded that you are in the City that never sleeps by the tall New York buildings that surround the park Golden Gate Park makes you forget the hustle and bustle of San Francisco is just outside it’s gates. It really is somewhere you can spend days exploring. We only visited the eastern and central section but we would definitely like to come back.
Golden Gate Bridge: When you first glimpse the red of the golden gate bridge glistening in the sun it is a special moment. For me the bridge is far more beautiful from a distance as you get to see the bridge in context. When looking North, away from the city, you see how it is surrounded by greenery with a golden beach below. If you face the bridge from its northern end looking across the bay south towards the City you see it against the San Francisco backdrop. Both views are stunning in their own right, for me it is the most beautiful bridge in the world.
The Mission: As a European nothing quite prepares you for the sights and smells of The Mission. The area is full of ethnic Mexican food shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. The highlight was discovering La Taqueria (2889 Mission St) which in my opinion serves the best tacos in San Francisco. I return here on every visit – it is a must. Again for those in Europe the tacos served here are amazing and nothing like the stuff you get back in Europe.
Coolbirth Park: After researching locations with great views of San Francisco I discovered Coolbirth Park on the internet and decided that this would be a good place to visit. The Park itself is very secluded and almost hidden. It boasts fantastic views in every direction of the bridge. Alcatraz and the City landscape can be seen here. We took some great photos here.
Alcatraz: Another must for any visitor to San Francisco. Definitely worthwhile and very interesting with fantastic photo opportunities. The good thing is that the tour is self guided with a headset so you can spend as long as you like on the island. It’s beautiful but creepy at the same time. Imagine being imprisoned on the island with such great views of the San Francisco Bay knowing that you would not be able to visit the mainland for years or perhaps ever. That must be torture.