Essentials, Feature, San Francisco

Playing the Tourist

July 29, 2015

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So it’s been a week since my return from San Francisco or San Fran as I prefer to call it and honestly I am still not over my holiday, five days was not enough for this amazing city. For me the best part of traveling is the excuse to indulge, be lazy and shop till you drop, trust me San Fran ticked every box for a luxury city break. I was absolutely exhausted traveling from New York, so I can only imagine how my parents must have felt traveling from Ireland. If you can, I would definitely advise at least one week to really experience everything this beautiful city has to offer. Lucky for me, I got to stay with a family friend with beautiful views of San Fran city centre and the Bay Bridge. To pick a favorite district of this city would be very hard but just like New York, I feel San Fran is a city that has something for everyone. My first day touring San Fran I went to Alcatraz Prison, now closed of course. History was always a love of mine and I was extremely excited to visit such an iconic piece of American history. Especially when I found out that it is the most visited tourist destination in America with the Statue of Liberty in second place. For this reason it is necessary to book tickets at least one month in advance to ensure admission. The audio tour is a must, you will be led through the prison with the re-enactment of voices & sounds of the prisoners & prison staff, bringing the experience to life. The audio tour tells intimate stories of the people who were imprisoned on the island and also of those who worked there. I won’t tell you all to spoil the visit but what I will say if you are a lover of history then you really can not pass this opportunity to see it & having visited, I fully appreciate why it is the number one tourist site in the USA. Later on that night catching the San Francisco Giants ball game at AT&T Park. You could not buy the atmosphere that night, it was easily the best base ball game I have seen great first night with my family.

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The lovely part about getting to Alcatraz is you have a beautiful boardwalk to enjoy before or after your journey. Pier 39 based in the Fishermans Wharf District is a favorite, with every type of food imaginable to eat and drink, to shops overindulged with barrels of chocolate & other temptations. As you can imagine being a foodie myself I was in complete heaven !! To taste something different, I would recommend snacking at Bistro Boudin for their popular chowder soup. You wont be disappointed, besides being a perfect fix to keep you going during the day, using their legendary sourdough bread as a bowl, yes that’s right a soup bowl, it is the perfect place to dine with light snacks at anytime in the day. Also it is a great spot to enjoy sunsets from the patio area or people watch on the boardwalk. How clever are they?

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As you know if you followed by previous posts, I am a lover of fashion and was extremely excited to visit the Flower power city that really paved the way for 60s and 70s fashion. Of course the Haight & Ashbury district was my first stop and was the center for peace and love during this era & still is. I went on the hunt for some vintage boutiques and there are plenty to explore. There really is no need for directions to this iconic street, the minute you see it, you know you are are there with an explosion of colors, decorative shop windows and hippy vibes still remain in this district making your shopping trip all the more fun. It really is beautiful and I found a wide selection of vintage boutiques from “Love Street”, “Held Over”, “Relic Vintage”, “Waste Land” and “Decades of Fashion”. I will warn you ladies, if you are not sure of a piece think twice as returns are non existent on this street. I learned this the hard way from one boutique when I tried to return a piece. So you have been warned. Don’t forget to visit “Dollhouse Bettie” a vintage pin up lingerie boutique. The selection of beautiful laced lingerie to sexy busters it is hard not to want everything in this boutique. I love to buy lingerie and if properly fitted, why alter a one piece by placing a nude undertone and create an original dress. I have done it so many times and if done right can look so sexy and seductive. Try it!!!

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My favorite vintage shop is still “Wallflower”, it really has everything, best part is it is location in the Mission district. If you are a lover of art, you have to see this area with painted murals on pretty much everything it is really is very beautiful and amazing to see. You will get loads of fun pictures here. Moving on from the Mission district, make your way towards the Castro district, you cannot help but giggle at the shop names from “Does your mother know ?” to more funny names some of which are too cheeky to mention but you get the picture, this is the gay district of San Fran, even the road crossings have rainbow colors to add to the already humorous and fun streets. I absolutely loved it here and the atmosphere is infectious.

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For views ??? You got to check out “Twin peaks”, here you will find the most beautiful view of the city and bay area, this is highest peak in San Francisco and on a clear day gives you a magnificent panoramic view of the full San Fran area. Another amazing place to visit is “Billy goat hill park” not only will you find a beautiful view but also a swing to bring out the hidden child in you. If you love to hand glide, surf or fish the nearby beaches as you can imagine have loads of activities to offer.

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Like I said before, if you have time to spend a week in San Francisco, you really should take a journey to the Napa Valley. Regardless if you are a wine lover or not, it’s a beautiful road trip with endless fields of wineries and vineyards with some very familiar names. Both myself and my family, visited Sattui winery and sampled the produce (someone has to do it lol !!) which was enjoyable and also got to witness a surprise engagement which was very sweet. Wandering around the rose garden and having some BBQ, which was available on the day made this a very pleasant stop.

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My favorite part of this holiday was hiring a bike with my parents to cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, I really don’t have words to describe this so I won’t try but it was easily the highlight of the trip riding over the bridge into Sausilito and catching the boat ferry back to San Fran giving us fab’ views of the bridge, bay & San Fran skyline. It really is the most enjoyable way to see the city, on route to the bridge, we made sure to stop at “The Palace of Fine Art”. I still don’t understand why its not more well known but to say it is breath taking is a real understatement. Along the way from the Ferry Building were we hired our bikes and started out from there is so much to do and see with numerous shops and restaurants but my favorite was to pick up an Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream from and relax on the nearby beach. This beach was one of the most enjoyable parts with a great view of the Golden Gate bridge in the distance, to seeing an old classic sail boat nearer to shore. Our bikes came with a built in bag at the back so take a small handbag and a bottle of water you will need it. If you were to do one thing in San Fran, it has to be this, there really is no better way to take in all the city has to offer. I could have spent the entire day taking pictures especially when we arrived at the Sausalito Southern waterfront. With houses stacked neatly together on hills over looking the bay, to old shop fronts where you could buy trinkets and souvenirs. You can easily pick up a sandwich or better still treat yourself in “Scoma Cusines” with lobster and a wide variety of seafood delights. This restaurant is not only loved and frequented by locals but is also adorably cute, sitting on top of the water. Picking up a ferry here is easy and after cycling so far it’s the only thing you want at that point. Arriving back to the city, you will be dropped off at were you commenced the day at the Ferry Building, where you can also get a bit to eat from the amazing farmers market inside. I did this all in five days and four nights, so there is no excuse to not be able to do it but it is important to plan your days right. Thank you so much to my dads best buddy Mal for making this trip that extra bit special.

Stay Lawless,

Niamh X

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