I hope you have some spare time because this one is quite long, I've tried to write as much detail as I could to hopefully help with any holidays you might have coming up to California.
After 12 days in California I touched back down in London on Wednesday afternoon, spending most of my time in San Francisco. This was my first trip to America, I never had a real urge to travel to the U.S. I always thought it would be cool to visit New York as I have a few friends who live there but on return I can say this is one of the best trips I have ever been on.
I arrived Thursday night after about a 11 hour flight from Heathrow with British Airways, flying on an Airbus A380 I pre purchased a seat on the upper deck which I hoped would be quieter and it was. As an added bonus the flight was half empty so they gave me an exit row seat for my long legs.
After a bit of turbulence and watching three movies, my aim was to stay up to adjust to Californian time, we arrived at around 8pm at San Francisco airport or SFO. It was about a 30-40min UBER to Russian Hill where I would be staying while in San Francisco, only a short walk to Lombard Street, the famous curving road tourist attraction.
Friday was spent exploring the inner city, popping into shops and just soaking up the atmosphere so not much to report on.
Saturday lunch was booked at the recommended Nopa restaurant which is a short walk from Golden Gate Park and this is where the adventure started. As I was up early due to the time difference, we thought it would be fun to check out the California Academy of Sciences located in Golden Gate Park before lunch at Nopa. To my surprise it was quite expensive to get in, tickets were $39.95 each but this gave us access to the Aquarium, Tusher African Hall, Earthquake exhibition, Human Odyssey, The Swamp and Colour of Life.
After a couple hours of exploring it was time to head to lunch, by this time we were starving and were looking forward to the famous Custard French Toast at Nopa. I went for the Wood Grilled Hamburger, which was delicious and we shared the Custard French Toast which I can only describe as epic, one of the best things I had tasted in a long time.
One thing I had to get used to was the minimum 15% you had to add as a tip for each meal you had, so if you ever travel to America keep this in mind when you're out and about.
Now we were fuelled it was time to go for a bike ride, we chose a bicycle rental company which was at the very east point of Golden Gate Park right near the Whole Foods. We hired two bicycles and cycled all the way through the park to the coast where we parked up our bikes and walked around the coast to see the Golden Gate Bridge. After that we headed back home and relaxed for a while before heading out for drinks with some friends.
Sunday afternoon was already booked, we would be heading to Alcatraz on the night tour, a ticket was about $45 and included an audio tour once on the island. We headed to Pier 33 which is where the ferry would set off from and involved a 15-20min trip to the island itself.
To start the tour the ferry takes you around the island before docking, during this time we were given some history on the island. Once disembarked we were greeted by a tour guide who would walk us up to the main building with some insights along the way. When we arrived in the main cell block building each person was given a audio device which would talk us through the jail and its history.
The tour takes about 60-90mins and walks you through the whole prison building feeding you information and history along the way and I can say this is probably the best audio tour I've ever been on. The voices on the audio tour were both convicted felons and guards who worked during the period of the jail. As it was a night tour we also we lucky enough to catch a magical sunset as we looked back onto San Francisco and its hills.
Monday morning we ventured to Coit Tower which gives visitors a vast look over San Francisco and its bay. Monday night we were headed to the NBA in Oakland so we spent the day venturing around the city. Which started off with a walk through China Town and a visit to the famous Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory where we discovered how fortune cookies were made and we also learnt that this was where fortune cookies were invented and that they have no link to Chinese culture.
We purchased a couple of bags of fortune cookies and next we ended up at lunch at a very nice spot, China Live, which looked brand new and had a nice little shop that we ventured through after our meal.