The perfect 5 days

San Francisco Travel Blog

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cable car ride
Before leaving for San Francisco, I had a pretty extensive list of things I wanted to see and places I wanted to go eat. I happy to say that I made it to all but a few, and it was all worth it. Each day was a very different type of exploration and I would highly recommend this itinerary to anyone.
My friend and I arrived at about 2:30am Tuesday at the Golden Gate hotel. I can not say enough about this hotel - it was absolutely charming with all the comforts at hand, and quite moderately priced. It is also located very conveniently on Bush street close to Powell. Some of my favorite things about this hotel (really a B&B): the orange cat, the golden retriever, the large bowl of Jelly Belly beans, the hot cinnamon croissants, the historic photographs lining the hallway, and finally our gracioius hosts.
crooked lombard street


We were out the door by 10am with the idea to spend the day walking the city. As soon as we stepped outside we thought it was about to rain because it was grey and I could feel a very light sprinkling. However I soon found out about San Francisco's unique climate - in the summer it is foggy nearly every morning, but it usually clears by afternoon. I don't think I quite got used to the coolness or the wind - I definitely needed warm clothes. Tourist shops here make a killing selling fleeces and wind breakers to tourists who arrive unprepared.

Starting at the Ferry Building, we took the historic Cable Car on California St. Not alot of people take this line, but it gives you a good view of the city and Bay Bridge as you go up the hill. We got off at the end of the line - not very long for $5! and walked up Polk street which was pretty interesting.
From there we walked into the Pacific Heights neighbourhood. I totally love the colours of the buildings here - sandy beiges, sky blues, tangerine, lime green and violet for the exteriors of houses - a far cry from the red brick and forest green of the northeast. It was also at this point that I realized that San Franciscans probably never have to go the gym. The city has steeper, longer hills than any other metropolis I've been. This geography was useful, seeing as how I was starting all my mornings with buttery croissants. On the way to Aquatic Park we went by the crooked part of Lombard st. If you have the energy you really should go to the top because there is a great view and the landscaping of the street is also gorgeous.

We stopped at Ghiradelli square where they have a famous chocolate factory (you can get delicious sundaes there) and nearby in the square is an excellent cup cake shop.
V. Sattui Winery
From aquatic park, we walked along to fisherman's wharf - a must for all tourists. It has a bit of a disneyland feel to it, but as a tourist you can't help but give in. Plus, this is where you really have a great selection of seafood and can get chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. This led us to the Bedouin Bakery. We paid $3 for the tour which was well worth it and included a tasting. Not only did we learn alot about why sour dough bread is so special to San Francisco but we also found out a bunch of interesting facts about the city (such as being home to the Martini, Fortune Cookie, Popsicle, Mai Tai and Chop Suey.) Also a must see here are the sea lions at Pier 39 - so hilarious.

From here we walked to telegraph hill and walked the gazillion steps up to the top (warning - do not attempt if you are not in pretty decent shape or at least allow for breaks.
Napa Valley
) Again, once you get to the top, or even half way up, you realize it was worth the effort. I'm curious to know what real estate prices are around that hill - it is truly spectacular. Since we had a dinner reservation in Berkley to make, we set off fairly directly back to the hotel, walking through Chinatown. This area probably would have been more interesting to me, if I didn't already live in a city (Toronto) with a pretty extensive Chinatown, so we didn't really stop here.

Although I didn't see much of Berkley, I was really interested by what I did see on the way to the restaurant Chez Panisse. I would like to go back and see more of it since it really isn't very far out of San Francisco if you take the rapid transit system. I had a wonderful meal at Chez Panisse with goes with out saying considering its global acclaim and that fact that it has been talked about ad nauseum.
Napa Valley
But do go there if you can.

On the second day we went on a Napa Valley wine tour. This was sheer bliss. We visited four wineries - Domaine Chandon (sparkling wine), V. Sattui, Rutherford Ranch and Andretti Winery. Each was very different and amazing. I am especially jealous of the tour guide at Chandon whose job has her drinking Champagne before noon. If you do this, you should buy some bottles while you're there. After the second winery visit, my palate lost focus and I just drank and enjoyed the atmosphere. It was beautiful, sunny and the air had a dry warmth - just perfect. It was only after our time in Napa that I realized everything I had been drinking since just wasn't good, so I was glad I had brought some home to enjoy.
The ferry ride back from Napa really revitalized us - it goes fairly fast and its almost too windy to stand in one spot - but still fun and better than a bus!

For our third day we decided we would "bike the bridge!" as the Blazing Saddles employees holler at you as you walk along Fisherman's wharf. This was a comfortable ride, mostly on a bike path along the water and it built up your anticipation to see the bridge getting closer and closer. The best view I had of it was on the far side (the Sausalito side), there's a nice rest point here. From the rest point it is all downhill. I am not joking, it was like riding down to a magical paradise. All of a sudden it was no longer cold or foggy. The sun was beaming, the sky and water were bright blue and the only fog was just a mist dancing along the roof tops of houses that were built into the hills on the waterfront.
sea lions
We spent a long time here - lounging by the water, eating, drinking, looking at shops and galleries. It was hard to leave, but we wanted to bike to Tiburon and catch the ferry back to San Francisco from there. The bike ride was incredibly scenic, although we did get lost at one point, we were still in good time so it didn't matter. Tiburon was a nice quiet town and for the people who live there and work in San Francisco - the commute is a relaxing ferry boat ride! This really struck me as an ideal way to live.

Day four we caught the bus to Haight and Ashbury. Even though I had no particular interest in hippie culture, I can at least appreciate that alot of great music came from here and the hippie lifestyle ("If you're going to San Francisco" and all that.
) This area is filleld with such bright colours it is really very cheerful, and the place is packed with cool little shops, cafes and creperies. In fact, I was surprised by how much I liked the shops in this area - very unexpected. It was hard for me not to blow alot of money. We walked along Haight to the Golden Gate Park which is enormous. The japanese tea garden was our first priority and it was really beautiful - I had never seen one other than some people home made attempts in their back yard. We stopped by the De Young Fine Arts Museum - really interesting architecture, although not a style I find especially appealing. We also walked by the Arboretum. That night we went to TWO restaurant. This place has great food served in a casual fun, retro style. I think it is important to eat well in a city that is known for such good food.


Our last full day, day five, started off at the Grace Cathedral which was not far from our hotel. My friend was not so interested but came along anyway. I was really glad I went to, it has an interesting history and I especially wanted to see the bronze doors which were from Ghiberti's molds in Florence. Since it was Saturday, we walked over to the Farmer's Market at the Ferry building. This was really an awesome experience. Where I am from, our farmer's market is pretty standard in its selection. Here not only were there varieties I'd never heard of, but you could TRY anything. We litteraly feasted on samples alone - peaches, tomatos and lavender salt, goat cheese, boysenbery yogurt, pecan shortbread, fresh squeezed juice, and even "necta-plums" (cross between nectarine and a plum).
Sausalito
The artists stalls are also here. Buying local art in any city is a souvenir I always like to pick up. After this I wandered off to the Museum of Modern Art, with no knowledge of what was in store. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover an exhibit of Henri Matisse as Sculptor as well as the regular collection that included Picasso, Cezanne, George Braques, Marcel Duchamp, Warhol, Jackson Pollack, Piet Mondrian, Georgia O'Keefe and just about every other major modern artist. I had to pull myself away in order to meet my friend at City Lights bookstore in North Beach. I definitely have never been to another book store like it and I was impressed at how it had maintained its beatniks feel. I didn't know anything about it previously but was able to read up on its history while I was there.
Sausalito
After walking around North Beach, going to the original Cafe Trieste, I headed off for sushi at Atami Sushi on Lombard (this was recommended to me by a local). Although off the beaten path, it was definitely worth it. The walk back to the hotel on Polk Street was also pleasant and I found a good Morrocon restaurant there where I was given an impromptu belly dancing lesson.

After that all I can say, is that don't count on taking the BART to the airport Sunday morning at 7:30 if you have an early flight - you might just miss it (we didn't miss ours but almost did!)
viciousv04 says:
San Fran sure is nice!! I miss it!! Nice pics!
Posted on: Oct 14, 2008
gmontesa says:
How did you enjoy my city? Five days really isn't that long but it looks as though you were able to cover a lot of ground! Good job Anne :)
Posted on: Mar 28, 2008
Kramerdude says:
Great trip blog. One of my college roommates lived across the Bay for a few years and it was always a convenient excuse for a visit this to amazing city.
Posted on: Oct 07, 2007
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cable car ride
cable car ride
crooked lombard street
crooked lombard street
V. Sattui Winery
V. Sattui Winery
Napa Valley
Napa Valley
Napa Valley
Napa Valley
sea lions
sea lions
Sausalito
Sausalito
Sausalito
Sausalito
Haight and Ashbury
Haight and Ashbury
Japanese tea garden
Japanese tea garden
museum of modern art
museum of modern art
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