San Francisco To Do

August 30, 2012

So I wanted to write a post about all there is to do in San Francisco…

Of course you don’t need to do anything special, it’s a beautiful city to explore and you can do so by walking, cycling, using the various trams and cable cars too.

But there are some great tourist attractions too…

This is the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

We didn’t go inside due to time but the exterior is amazing. If I make it back here one day I will go inside…

We did visit SFMOMA which we loved.

The entrance is spectacular.

I loved this piece… 

You stand opposite, and then when the lights change you see an image. We missed a ballet dancer by a few weeks, so gutted by this one of birds was amazing. So beautiful, I wish I could have captured it for you. 

We also joined a tour, something we never normally do but I would highly recommend. This one took us around all the Andy Warhol pieces and the very knowledgable guide told us all about his life and his art and explained some key pieces to us.

I love art but I don’t always understand it and my appreciation goes ten-fold when I do so I will definitely do this more often when I visit a gallery.

Next up… Alcatraz.

This is the main attraction in the city, and the company that run the tours is a slick machine. My husband wanted to take the night tour, which means you get to wander the prison in darkness and with far fewer people… Luckily we didn’t book in advance so our options were limited (I am a huge scaredy cat it would not have ended well) so we went one afternoon.

It’s a really great tour that I would recommend you try. 

The boat trip is short… and you get some great views of the city and the island. 

As you can see there are a lot of people here… 

You get given headphones when you arrive and the tour guides you around the island telling its history and famous stories. So very interesting. 

Alcatraz was notorious because the most dangerous or repeat escapees were housed here.

The state maintains that no-one ever did escape, many tried and failed, only a few have never been found, either they failed and drowned or, did they make it?

 I cannot imagine living in a cell, no privacy ever.

I know it sounds strange feeling sorry for criminals, but the US system is so harsh. No rehabilitation… no chance to change.

This is the yard, you can imagine how bleak life was for the inmates when they were here, seeing life going on as normal just across the water.

 This is the view from the wardens office. Pretty amazing.

A really fascinating trip.

Next up… Lombard Street.

 It’s not really crooked but super curvy.

It’s so pretty though, and great exercise just to get here let alone to walk up it. 

 The street is lined with what can only be described as mansions… such amazing buildings and all different.

Pretty cherry blossoms and great views await you at the top…

Another thing you must do while in San Francisco is take a ride on a cable car. 

It feels crazy dangerous, like you could lose control at any moment. The only thing between you and the car running away down the big hills is a guy with a break. 

We found out once on board you need to buy tickets in advance, we had our cash already but the guy couldn’t take it.You can find more information here

One activity recommend by a San Francisco native was to visit the Ferry Building and try food from lots of stalls…

Jordan from Oh Happy Day has a multitude of Eating recommendations and more to do here

My husband immediately  made a beeline for this place…

A huge pulled pork sandwich… so messy but oh so tasty. 

I headed straight to Miette… again as recommended by Jordan but I would have spotted this place a mile off, its ridiculously cute. 

I really wanted everything. I really was like that child who having been told they can only have one thing wanted to make sure they were making the right decision. I swear I stood there for 15 minutes trying to decide. 

I got there in the end and my treat did not disappoint. 

 Banoffee Cream Pie. Banoffee is my all time favourite. This pie was insane. I couldn’t even share.

This is where we spent our last dollars before we flew home… taking a last look at the Bay.

You should definitely go check it out, and try to leave room in your suitcase, as we didn’t and there were all kinds of amazing treats that would make amazing presents for friends and family… or souvenirs for you. 

That’s it… Honeymoon blogging done.

You can see any one of the posts by search the tag honeymoon.

I had an amazing time and feel very lucky that we had three months of travelling just the two of us seeing lots of very different places.

It really opened my eyes.

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San Francisco – The Bay

August 29, 2012

I thought the Bay area of San Francisco deserved it own blog post… we spent quite a bit of time down here, in evenings and during the day. It’s quite a touristy area to be but if you walk away from the main strip a little you can find some amazing spots…

Pier 39 is fun…  but be warned it is tourist central.

You gotta get an ice cream (or Fro-Yo)… 

It’s definitely a fun place to visit with children, there are little rides and points of interest everywhere, and don’t forget the ice cream. 

And you must visit the sea lions, we watched them for ages. They are very noisy and it’s funny to watch them flop all over each other basking in the sun and falling in sometimes. 

You can see Alcatraz from here too… we’ll come back to this place tomorrow. 

You can easily walk here form the centre but it’s fun to take a tram ride… and while in San Francisco you must do this. 

We also hired bikes and rode around down here which was great fun. You can cover a much bigger area. 

We rode right up to the Golden Gate bridge… 

A great tip is to ride right over, take a picnic and enjoy the view from the other side. You can even ride to a cute little town and get the ferry back.

We didn’t have time with all our other plans so we rode halfway before turning back. 

I love these houses up by the bridge, real Americana. 

And I loved checking out the mansions on the Bay…

And we were told to visit Boudin’s… it’s fun to see the bread being baked into shapes but we ate better food elsewhere, service was actually shocking. We never had anything but amazing service in the US so here was strange. 

I had to have some Chowder served in the sourdough though. Had to be done.

I do recommend visiting the little restaurants at the end of the strip towards the Ferry Building, we went into one and had a seafood feast!

It’s very pretty here at night… 

And we chose to spend our last few hours down here before we drove to the airport… 

 This is a very confused me… I was so ready to go home but I really didn’t want to. I wanted more adventures.

I have one more post about San Francisco for you… as there is so much to do here I have picked out my favourite activities to recommend for you…

San Francisco – The City

August 28, 2012

So the week we reach our first anniversary is the week I will finish blogging our Honeymoon.

This is it people, the last stop… San Fran!

We loved it here, being able to walk around and be in one place for 4 days was great.

The city is so fun.

Silly amazing hilly streets to more than rival Bristol…

 

I love a tree-lined avenue, my dream is to live on one… this is a good’un.

 

 

Such beautiful houses and apartment buildings.  I saw so many I could have just moved right in to…

I love this tall white building, they gotta have window seats in those big bays or they’re not living there right.

The big grand houses in the bay ruled.

 

And we had some great shopping here… I went on a Kate Spade spree. Man I love that store, so glad we have it here now.

San Fran has more than its fair share of buskers and street artists. This kid down by Bloomingdale’s was amazing. His Mum was sat with him too, great way to earn your pocket money.

 

A great looking dive bar we found near our hotel… we’ll come back to this spot later.

Some really lovely evening walks taking us anywhere and everywhere in the city and capturing some great city scape sunsets.

We walked everywhere everyday, my Husband loves to walk and explore. Morning strolls were always short, ending as soon as we found a good-looking breakfast spot…

I couldn’t help but stop at all the beautiful doorways around our district.

This was the morning we found a real live bagel bakery. Good Morning!

And more strolls. It was so cool being in a city I have seen so much of not just in movies but so many blogs I read are written by lovely people based here.

We tried to go to a super cool bar here, recommended by many it sounded amazing. It’s an old prohibition era place called Bourbon and Branch. We couldn’t book which is advised as there was a large event on in the early part of the evening so we thought we would try our luck

This was the queue.

Except when we got close it wasn’t a queue but a mob of people freaking out because they couldn’t get in. We tried to have a very English and polite word with the doorman to see if it was worth us coming back later that night but people were being so rude and desperate to go in we realised we probably didn’t want to be inside with any of them anyway.

So we left.

We instead went to a bar opposite our hotel… no idea what it was called but they barman loves Hip Hop, as does my Husband so they went on a full on geek out and go on so well the barman bought us drinks. We left quite drunk after $1 mojitos and freebies.

Then we visited another recommendation from a native; Colibri for some Mexican food. This wasn’t the kind we had been eating the whole time we were in California, but almost fine dining Mexican.

We started with more drinks… the best margaritas I have ever had. For food… you can visit Full as an Egg

After which we headed back to Gold Dust, that dive bar we spotted earlier. The bar is being closed down so they were having a massive party to protest or mourn I wasn’t sure which.

 

It was rammed and they had an amazing band of 3 old guys and the whole bar was singing.

We positioned ourselves by a waitress station… big mistake, they were working so hard!

We had the best time, I am gutted I can’t remember the song we heard when we went in because for weeks it was stuck in my head and reminded me of that night.

Needless to say we were super drunk by the time we left… all my photographs were terrible, but it was one of those stand out nights that I loved.

On our last day we headed to Chinatown…

 

It’s like all Chinatown’s, mental… busy and a little world all on its own.

 

In our drunkenness I dropped my bag, which held my camera. This was me trying not to cry while we took it to get fixed. If you can get a camera fixed anywhere its Chinatown right?

Luckily it seems to work itself out.

These were little snaps of the neighbourhoods we managed to see… much more to come!

We stayed at the wonderful Hotel Adagio

One winery I was excited to visit was Frances Ford Coppola’s, mostly because his director cut Chardonnay is one of my favourite wines ever and is available in Bristol… We had been warned off, told the wine wasn’t the best in the area and that it was a bit of a tourist trap.

We were tourists… so we went anyway, and loved it. 

I would love to visit in the Summer… check out these cute beach huts you can hire for the day… 

 While you frolic in the pool!

As you can see it’s a bit wintery at this moment.

The tasting rooms, shop and restaurant are filled with movie props. This was fun to see…

 

Mostly I love the company’s branding. The bottles are all labelled so beautifully. I have to admit it’s why I picked up my beloved Chardonnay from the shop in the first place.

Lots that we cannot get in the UK have very arty labels…

My favourite… 

And more that we hadn’t seen before… 

And one we had to take away with us, Sofia (named after the lovely Sofia Coppola of course) is so good. It’s so very popular in the US and even comes in cans… sacrilege? Or really handy?

All I know is I wish I could get it here. 

Ignore any critics we loved it here, we wished we had time to eat here too; the menus looked amazing.

Frances Food Coppola Winery – Sonoma, California

After a mostly cloudy first day in Sonoma County we were pleased to watch up to clear skies on our second and only full day… this is the lovely view from our hilltop Bed and Breakfast… 

Every morning we ate an amazing spread of coffee, juice, fruit platters and something hot, we ate scrambled eggs and bacon one morning and waffles and syrup on another all on beautiful china plates.

 

The view over to the mountains… 

And the swimming pool we didn’t get to use! 

Then we headed off for a scenic drive and to find some more vineyards… 

 Our first stop was Alexander Valley Vineyards

 This guy was guarding the door but eventually he let us in…

 They have won a ton of taste awards here…

I told you it was chilly, they even had the fire going here.

So worth a visit just for the beautiful setting. We also learnt a lot from our server about how things work out here… once again he explained about shipping; the sheer volume of US customers meant most of the wine from smaller vineyards never leaves the country.

He also told us about the tastings… the time of year where you can buy futures. This is the time to visit (I believe it’s March) where all the vineyards open up to ticket holders and you drive (or more sensibly get driven) around and pick out your future cellar wines.

I’d love to do this one day, obviously minus the buying unless we could sort out a shipping method, hire a driver and set up a route around all the vineyards. People get very merry apparently!

This was my favourite winery and I cannot remember the name unfortunately but the family owned vineyard is beautiful as is the main house (how classic?!) and we were served by the grand-daughter of the third generation owner. This family had been here since before they owned vineyards, they used to grow prunes!

This is where we brought our final present for my Father-in-Law as their Chardonnay was just amazing. I was so sad we don’t get this at home… 

We did make one more stop but I am saving that for its own post…

Then we went back for Cocktail hour for more cheese and wine and booked a taxi for dinner so I could finally get involved. 

And heard more stories!

 

Our hosts had crazy stuff all over their house including lots and lots of these crazy silver animals… this one is a wine cooler…

The great thing about all the restaurants here is that you can bring your own wine pretty much everywhere, it works well for everyone.

The restaurants charge a $15 corkage on average but given that your amazing bottle of wine would be worth a lot more it’s worth paying that small charge to drink something great from your cellar.

 We were also surprised that the mark up on wines in restaurants was quite small, purely because they can’t get away with it I guess, people with either just complaint because they know exactly how much that very local bottle was or they will always bring their own.

We visited Zin, which is a proper California bistro the food was beautiful, classic and light while the service was amazing and I really enjoyed drinking our bottle of Zinfindel from Zichichi.

And that was our whirlwind two days in Sonoma… which we picked over Napa Valley because we wanted to visit smaller vineyards and winerys which are here in abundance.

Really lovely place to visit… and I would recommend staying in Healdsburg itself which would have been more convenient and there is a really great hotel which is where I wished we had stayed.

Moving up from Santa Cruz we had to drive through San Francisco to get to our next destination… 

We also got to go over the Golden Gate Bridge… our first look was stunning, pure sunshine and blue skies. We kept the top down and drove on over.

After San Francisco we really felt like we were north, the palm trees has changed into firs and it had definitely gotten chilly…

We arrived at our next Bed and Breakfast which was in Sonoma, we were here for a couple of days of vineyard action.

The bed and breakfast was in a grand house at the top of a hill… we had a strange time here, I don’t want to bad mouth it because it really was great but it wasn’t really the right place for us so I cannot recommend it either.

We checked in and immediately got sent off to a few vineyards not too far away…

The first being Ferrari Carano… a very grand house and gardens (although compared to some gardens in England they were not amazing as we were told)…

This wild boar statue was a present to the lady of the house, you’re supposed to rub its nose for good luck. I lvoe that its nose was all worn.

We went straight down into the cellars for a tasting…

In California most of the vineyards hold tastings which you pay a small charge for, we much preferred this as it meant we could just do a tasting without explaining our situation; that we couldn’t take any wine with us as we were going back to the UK in a week, even if we wanted to we didn’t find one vineyard that would ship to us.

We tried some really delicious wines here but they were not our favourite, and neither was this vineyard. It is a stunning building but we felt other places so much friendlier.

 These were little chocolate covered berries… served with the above. Really amazing.

Ferrari Carano had lots of these White House menus on the wall, for which they had provided wine.

By this time we were starving so we took a little de-tour into the town for a snack… We were staying near Healdsburg and it is such a pretty town. Once again… I wished we were there longer! How many times have I said that? 

There are so many nice restaurants, boutiques, tasting rooms and theatres, this small town is quite sophisticated. I could live here for sure.

We loved the Flying Goat Coffee house…

 

I loved the space… 

 And we had some amazing coffee and pie. Really good pie.

A little like Santa Barbara, this town has plenty of cute… 

So filled up a little we hit another vineyard. Please remember I was driving, this was like torture. I was able to have little sips of some at the tastings but my Husband enjoyed it a lot more.

The Zichichi vineyard was so lovely, the people were lovely, the wine was delicious and they gave us a little tour and told us all about the family owned company. 

All in a really pretty setting, I love this truck in a field.

 

We actually did try to buy some wine here, even looked into how to ship it home (as they do not ship outside of the US, I guess they don’t need to since the country is so big) but we couldn’t.

The best thing about Californian vineyards is that they sell futures, so you can buy bottles of wine from a barrel that isn’t ready yet, saving a fortune and building yourself a cellar. This is what we wanted to buy into. So gutted we couldn’t.

We did buy ourselves one bottle we would have to drink at some point before flying home. Their zinfandel was so good, I think its something we don’t really drink much of in this country because we only get bad ones… but here it’s major.

So like I have mentioned Bed and Breakfasts in California were all about cocktail house, nearly always serving cheese and wine. At this b&b it was taken to another level, both nights we were here our hosts opened an amazing bottle of wine and served us proper cheese (who knew they even had it here!) and told us so many stories…

Before recommending us a spot for dinner in town, this bar and grill was so fun, a sports bar in that they had a couple of tv up in, that does posh bar food. Our hosts said they go here every Tuesday for a Hamburger.

 

I had mac and cheese taken to another level

And that was just day one, and we arrived at lunch time!

More to come tomorrow…

Santa Cruz

August 21, 2012

After leaving Carmel and dropping into Monterey Bay we drove further North and had a one night stop over in Santa Cruz.

This place must be amazing in the summer, the California version of Blackpool; there is a boardwalk and a proper fair ground with a huge ferris wheel and everything. Unfortunately we were there in February so most of this was closed.

This was the view from our amazing hotel room. This hotel was extra lovely, probably because we were only there for one night but they upgraded us to an ocean view room right at the top of the building. 

To the left we could see the rest of the hotel, with an amazing pool area. Gutted we couldn’t use it but the further north we went the colder it got.

  

 We didn’t get much chance to explore as we arrived early evening, I went out for a walk to stock up on shampoo etc (I loved the US drugstores and we were near the end of the tip) I loved the small town feel Santa Cruz has.

Then I got back to more treats from the lovely hotel staff… how cute is that? 

Then we went for a stroll along the boardwalk and checked out the cheesy fairground bits there were open…

 Before an amazing dinner at our hotel, I had some beautiful scallops with a mushroom pasta dish…

But my Husband totally out menu’d me with his choice of fried chicken with mac and cheese, now I adore scallops but look at that…

And then at the end as a nod to the seaside fairground location they gave us some candy floss for dessert. 

 This little bed and breakfast across the road looked so spooky!

We stayed at the lovely Dream Inn and we were only there for 1 short night and morning but I couldn’t fault it, I loved our room and would really love to visit during the summer. I think it would be a really fun place to have a break.