We had a great week in San Francisco and the Bay area it was as good as I remembered it from 18 years ago and a place I definitely want to return to. A couple of things struck me, first the number of homeless is very high everywhere, even around Union Square where we were staying. They was no sense of danger but a little surprising for such a rich country showing the great contrasts of this huge country. The weather in San Francisco, due to its location next to the Pacific Ocean is always a surprise. The cold from the ocean meeting the heat over the land causes enormous rolling banks of fog. So early in the morning there is a chill as the fog rolls in and then dissipates as the heat gets up returning again in the late afternoon or evening, meaning you have to be ready for all types of weather.
The city itself is only about 7 miles long but is very diverse and hilly. On our first day we took a day tour with Dylan tours, Dylan himself was our guide and driver and we had a very enjoyable and leisurely day visiting all the different quarters of the city as well as the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito and Muir Woods. Dylan is very knowledgeable about his native city and gives a great commentary with plenty of stops for photos and a bite to eat. A great way to get to know the city.
The next day we took a tour of Alcatraz which is a great tour and one of the highlights really recommended in particular the audio guides which works really well and a pleasant way to spend a good few hours, since we were down at the Pier 33 we took the opportunity to visit pier 39 for lunch. A bit kitsch but none the less enjoyable. The 8 hour difference really begins to take its toll by the time the late afternoons when a siesta is called for.
We had decided to hire a car for two days on Wednesday and Thursday, our first surprise was the huge queues at the Alamo car hire desk it ran down the street fortunately we had picked the Dollar car rental company next door. Things were a bit manic there particularly for those that wanted convertibles or SUVs, fortunately we only order a bog standard full size car, and we got a brand new one with only 17 miles on it. So off we headed for Napa Valley. We head towards the I80 and the Bay Bridge but the car sounded very funny like it was stuck in first gear. We try all sorts of changes but no luck then just as get to the other side of the bridge and the 8 lane highway divides in two the car loses power and I have to let it coast to a stop at the side of the road where the highway divides! Now what do we do, well after 5 minutes we start her off again and she springs into life and all is well again, thankfully!
I was really looking forward to getting back to Napa Valley and visiting the wineries and I wasn’t disappointed. Being away from the coast the weather was sublime and we visited a number of different wineries and had a great lunch. Next time I think I would spend a couple of nights here to enjoy the place even more. On the way home a quick stop in Sausalito to enjoy dinner but another place I’d like to visit again as everything was closed.
Next day a trip down south along the highway 1 to see the coast, unfortunately a few poor navigation decisions meant it took us longer to get out of the city than it should but anyway we eventually we get out and head towards Half Moon Bay. But the fog isn’t lifting and we don’t really get to see the coast too well. We then pass Half Moon Bay mainly because we thought it would be on the coast side of the road. So we turn around and head back to it. A nice sleepy village with plenty of crafts etc. Then it struck us why it was built away from the direct coast line. It was lovely and sunny here while the coast was still covered in fog! Next Santa Cruz for lunch and a stroll on the wharf. We decide to head inland to San Jose, my wife deciding a little retail therapy was called for! The last time I was here I spent some time in Palo Alto and I decided to head there next. This is as lovely as I remembered it. A lovely University Town (Stanford) the home of Silicone Valley, and a very lively place with plenty of places to drink and eat. Next we head home to the City and again we experience some navigation issues i.e. we get lost! Parking is a big problem in San Francisco so we need to park in the large parking lots around the city but they were nearly as expensive at the car.
Our last three days were more easy going and reserved for visiting parts of the city. The cable cars, China Town, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Embarcadero, commercial centre etc. We stayed in a nice little boutique hotel off Union Square called the Hotel Rex. Some nice touches link a free glass of wine from 5-6pm, free tea & coffee in the mornings, a singer or music on Friday evenings, movie projection and nice decent size rooms.
Then on Sunday off to Las Vegas.
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