Let me just start off by saying that San Francisco is not a vacation for the lazy, unfit, or easily tired (unless, of course, you plan on spending an exorbitant amount of money taking public transportation everywhere— not recommended since the buses are filled with crazy people…much like NY…). It shouldn’t be called the “City by the Bay,” it should be called the “City of OMG how is that big and steep of a hill even possible in an urban environment?”
I went to the airport straight from work on Sunday evening and caught a 6:45 flight with a connection in Denver. The connection ended up delayed by about 20 minutes, which was just enough time to ensure that I missed the last metro train from SFO into the City by literally 5 minutes, though I did give it the old college try of running through the airport and hoping against hope. Defeated, I hung my head, schlepped back through the airport, and found a shared ride van service in which seven or eight of us piled into a van and paid an overpriced fare (though still less than half what a taxi would cost) to get downtown. The guy who was directing the vans seemed like he would be more at home as an extra on Boardwalk Empire than on the laid back California coast. He had the 1920s gangster style hat and everything. I really wanted to snap a picture, but unfortunately the service was too quick for that. I arrived at the hostel around 12:30am, fell into bed, and for some inexplicable reason, was awake and ready to go by 5am. Needless to say, I made myself chill until 6:30ish.
Shortly after 7 I hopped on a bus which took me over to the Coastal Trail and gave me my first ever look at the Pacific Ocean. It looks just like the Atlantic…. Happy as a clam (yes, EK, I really did just use that expression), I hiked on the trail for a good couple of hours, climbing up and down cliffs, getting my first views of the Golden Gate, and enjoying the sight and sound of the ocean with very few other people around.
The mood was dampened slightly when the trail diverted into a richy-rich neighborhood with homes which looked like they belonged in 1920s Hollywood, but I soon reached the Golden Gate and the charm returned. It sounds presumptuous to say the Golden Gate is nothing spectacular (and the number of photographs I have on it would belie any claim that I wasn’t taken in), but being familiar with the imposing spectacle of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate seemed very…simple. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was red and iconic, it probably wouldn’t have merited more than a second or third look. But red and iconic it was, and of course I couldn’t visit San Francisco without walking across.
After I grabbed lunch, I headed to Ghiradelli Square for one of the best hot fudge brownie sundaes I’ve ever had. It was the kind that you know is going to make you feel sick for hours afterwards, but it tastes so good at the time that you can’t bring yourself to care. I strolled along Fisherman’s Wharf (one of the main tourist attractions) while I chowed down. I did some window shopping, strolled down piers to look at old ships and sea lions, visited an old arcade game museum, and got my very first look at a cable car.
It was only 4:30 or so, but I’d walked at least 20 miles (no, I’m not exaggerating) on less than 4.5 hours of sleep, so I was pretty much done. I headed to the hostel, took a shower, ate some dinner, ventured out briefly to check out the nearby Union Square (which is much like NYC’s Union Square), and then headed to bed.
(PS: Did you know that nudism is allowed on San Francisco beaches? I was not aware, and was therefore caught somewhat off guard when an old guy in a shirt, with the rest of himself hanging free, came up and offered to take my picture in front of the Golden Gate. Thank goodness NYC helped develop my poker face because I just kept my eyes level, gave a small smile, and answered “thanks, but I got it” lol)