IMG_3050Golden Gate Bridge (August 2010).

San Francisco needs no introduction: vibrant and progressive, this northern Californian city is only rival to Los Angeles in terms of history, culture, and things to do and see. Its famous Golden Gate Bridge and steep hills have inspired plenty of movies and TV shows, all the while having some of the most breathtaking views of what Californians call “the Bay” (i.e. the Pacific Coast). Millions of tourists visit San Francisco every year (at least, pre-pandemic) to take in a piece of the diverse state of California.

I visited San Francisco for the first time when I was 17. The visit was in conjunction with my college road trip visits in central and northern California. My family and I spent close to a week going north from Los Angeles, where we checked out the campuses of UC Santa Barbara, Stanford, and UC Berkeley. In the meantime, we spent time sightseeing in Solvang, Cambria, Hearst Castle and, of course, San Francisco. In fact, San Francisco was the northernmost I have gone in California, and I have actually not returned since.

IMG_3057Foggy views.

What makes San Francisco (and the Bay Area, in general) different from Los Angeles is the weather– while still pleasantly “Californian,” it is a lot cooler than down south, with much more of a marine layer covering much of the city. We experienced this famous “San Francisco fog” as we drove in, crossing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

Fun fact: the bridge gets its name from the Golden Gate Strait, a narrow waterway that connects the San Francisco Peninsula to the Marin Peninsula (and the rest of the state’s mainland). As the gate is painted red, it is important not to confuse its name as deriving from the color gold!

We stopped for some photos of the Golden Gate Bridge at a look-out point upon crossing, specifically at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. The mid-afternoon fog added a mysterious atmosphere to the icon, and it was truly a sight to welcome us to the city.

It was time to try our hand at navigating Lombard Street, hailed the “crookedest street in the world.” The one-way street consists of eight, hair-pin turns down its 27-percent grade of a hill– it might not sound steep, but in fact, it was EXTREMELY so! Constructed in 1922, Lombard Street was created as means of lessening the pressure for vehicles that needed to descend the hill, and today it has become a huge tourist attraction to try out. We did just that in our Toyota Prius, with my dad cautiously maneuvering the vehicle at a treacherous speed of 5 miles/hour (8 km/hour) as the rest of us took in the experience with thrill. It was certainly a relief once we made it down!

IMG_3062 - CopyFrom Lombard Street.

Next up was a stop at the Fisherman’s Wharf, particularly Pier 39 where we strolled the boardwalk to check out the gimmicky shops and restaurants along it. We eventually popped into Ghirardelli, as the chocolate shop originated in the city after Italian immigrant and chocolatier Domenico Ghirardelli founded it. As I grew up having Ghirardelli chocolates as gifts from friends and family (and enjoying them), I was keen on checking the store out and buying some for the road. We ended up buying two bundles of assorted chocolates, which funny enough melted in central California on our *hot* drive back home– we refrigerated them upon returning to Los Angeles, so we still managed to somewhat save our goodies!

IMG_3064On the pier.

IMG_3063The iconic trolley.

From Fisherman’s Wharf, you can also see Alcatraz Island in the distance. Infamous for its now-closed federal prison, the island has seen a fascinating history in long-term detention for some of the most-notorious criminals in US history, including Al Capone. Although it has been closed since the 1960’s, there are plenty of tales of Alcatraz being haunted, which makes me nervous to even get near the site…

IMG_3067Alcatraz Island.

As we only had one night in San Francisco, we decided to grab dinner at an Italian restaurant and call it a day. We did not spend much time in the city, but we got to have a taste of what it had to offer. I had thought about returning in the years since, but as mentioned, it appears that it has taken a turn for the worse over the past few years, with increased crime, homelessness, and rent– even the locals say that it has become egregious, and sadly, I’m also seeing it here in Los Angeles. It is a shame, because I enjoyed my time over a decade ago– I hope to return someday and discover more of the Bay area, though!

— Rebecca

43 thoughts on “Destination: San Francisco, California

    1. I think that’s the dilemma of such large cities in the US: even a city’s “Downtown” may not even be an actual centre ville, as more-notably marked in European cities. But having a decentralized system makes for an adventurous visit, as you get to explore all sides of a place wherever you go!

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  1. This brings back nice memories of the 1960s, when I lived and worked in Berkeley and often went over to San Francisco. One day I went to Alcatraz Island while it was occupied by the American Indians; we set up a transmitter so they could do a daily live broadcast on our radio station.

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  2. I enjoyed reading about your visit to my hometown. An Italian dinner, a visit to Pier 39, and catching Karl the Fog – these are some of the top things to see/experience in SF! I love how you captured Coit Tower in your photo from Lombard Street, too. The City awaits your next visit!

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  3. This post brings back fond memories of our two visits to San Francisco, the last being just over ten years ago. Both times we rented a car, the first driving south after a few days in SF and the second driving north through Sequoia National Park right up the coast. Never been to LA but perhaps I’ll get there one day. Hope your are having a good week Rebecca. Marion

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    1. Thanks, Marion! I’m glad you had a good time in SF during your two stays there. Sequoia National Park is such a wondrous place; I went there when I was really young and still remember the towering trees there. Hope you can make it over to LA someday!

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  4. San Francisco is one place I would love to go. I have seen so many photographs of it, even back to the when I used to collect postcards as a young boy and I received one of the crookedest street in the world. I thought “I have to go there one day”.
    I would love to see the sights, including Alcatraz. One day hopefully. I just need Covid to be over and to have a BIG lottery win!

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    1. I hope you can visit SF someday! I think it’s feasible to go without a lottery win, as long as you can budget, but a post-COVID situation would be ideal!

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  5. I would love to visit your hometown one day, Rebecca as there seem to be many amazing reasons to visit, the climate, the culture, attractions and many photography opportunities including. Not to mention, you can also go for a day trip to see some of the tallest trees in the world – redwoods. But then again, it would be challenging to choose between the ancient grove of 2,000-year-old redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument and Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Thanks for sharing and reminding me how beautiful and diverse San Francisco is 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. San Francisco is not my hometown; it’s Los Angeles. But my home state is California! I’ve not been to the Redwood forest, but I’d love to someday, should I find the time to make it up north again. Hope you can come and visit!

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  6. Ahh Lombard Street! I remember watching cars navigate that very steep section when I was in San Francisco six years ago. I didn’t really get what all the hype was about with SF, but I did enjoy the time I spent in the city and the day trips out to Yosemite and Muir Woods. Thanks for sharing your experience of the city 🙂

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    1. To drive down Lombard Street is just as thrilling as going over 100mph/160kmh on flat surface: because it’s so steep AND it has such hairpin turns, it’s stressful-fun to be able to navigate it successfully! San Francisco may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is true that it’s the perfect getaway to the famous national parks of California, which you certainly did when you went! Glad you enjoyed exploring northern California (and my home state, in general)!

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    1. I think San Francisco is a worthwhile place to visit. Things have definitely changed for the worse since I last went, but you could also say the same for other large cities, including my hometown, Los Angeles…I hope you can make it to SF (and northern California, in general) someday!

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  7. Haven’t made it up that far north in Cali yet, but it’s on my bucket list! Driving on those steep roads does seem daunting though… But it sounds like it was a nice, albeit short trip with your fam!

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  8. Just catching up with your recent posts Rebecca, which seem to have not showed up in my reader for some reason!? Strange. Anyway, San Fran is a dream destination for me, so enjoyed this post very much indeed. I agree with Ruth, driving down Lombard Street…. props to you guys! Love your shot from that street. I once made a little list of things to see in Sn Fran and was amused to see that the first thing I wrote was ‘Mrs. Doubtfire House’.

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    1. I’ve actually never watched “Mrs. Doubtfire,” which is a shame given that it’s an American classic. But it’s no surprise that San Francisco is used as the setting, since it’s so lovely! Hope you can take a trip to California someday to see everything from north to south!

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