10 things to do in San Francisco

San Francisco is a fascinating city with lots to see and do. Take the first day to familiarize yourself with the city, and do a few basics, such as a visit to Alcatraz or the Golden Gate Bridge. Then you can visit some or all the places below.

  1. Chinatown

Chinatown is demarcated by Bush, Broadway, Powell, and Kearny Streets. Its maze of streets and alleys hide state-licensed pharmacies selling traditional herbal medicines, shops offering anything from trinkets to jade carvings, and restaurants serving dim sum and regional Chinese dishes.

  1. Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies

Alamo Square Park is located on top of a hill overlooking downtown San Francisco. From here you can see stunning views, including the world-famous Painted Ladies, a row of colorful 19th-century Victorian houses.

San Francisc - Alamo Square & Painted Ladies

  1. Japantown

Japantown is demarcated by Fillmore, Sutter, Geary, and Laguna Streets. The main event is the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in April, with a parade, traditional music, and food. Look out for the Japan Center, the Peace Pagoda, and the Nihonmachi Mall for Japanese culture.

  1. Mission Dolores

Spanish colonists built the beautiful Mission Dolores in 1791, and it is San Francisco’s oldest building. The baroque altar came from Mexico in 1796. The museum displays religious articles from the Mission period in California.

San Francisco - Mission Dolores

  1. Cable Car Museum and Cable Car Rides

San Francisco’s cable cars replaced horse-drawn carts in 1873 because it was hard for horses to drag so much weight uphill on the steepest streets. All three cable car lines are towed by a loop of cable beneath the street. You can see the giant wheels in action inside the museum.

San Francisco - Cable Car Museum

  1. Lombard Street

Called “the crookedest street in the world,” Lombard Streets drops from Hyde Street to Leavenworth with a series of switchbacks and hairpin bends. If you walk down the steps, you’ll be able to enjoy the fantastic views without having to negotiate the tight curves.

San Francisco - Lombard Stt.

  1. Boudin Bakery

The Fisherman’s Wharf flagship store is the home of the mother dough, which Boudin Bakery has been making sourdough since the 1840s. While you wait for a table at the bistro, you can visit the museum and follow the bread-making process from the 30-foot observation window.

  1. Hyde Street Pier

Five historic cargo vessels from the late 1800s and early 1900s are moored at the wooden Hyde St. Pier and are open to visitors. The nearby Maritime Museum and Visitor Center highlights San Francisco’s role as a seaport.

San Francisco - Hyde St. Pier

  1. Muir Woods National Monument

This amazing redwood forest, with specimens as tall as 254 feet and as old as 1,000 years, is located across the Golden Gate Bridge down the Panoramic Highway. The Cathedral Grove and the Bohemian Grove contain the largest trees.

  1. Sausalito

Sausalito is a quiet town that hugs the hills above the harbor and is a ferry ride away from San Francisco. Go see the shops, galleries, and restaurants along Bridgeway and the houseboats moored at Gate 5.

Enjoy your stay in the Bay Area!

San Francisco is a fascinating city with lots to see and do. After the basics like Alcatraz or the Golden Gate Bridge, visit some or all these 10 places.

*This post is a collaboration with GoDoTrip. As usual, the opinions and photos are all mine.

Notes from a trip to Northern California

There are flowers every which way one looks: roses, foxgloves, California poppies, snapdragons grow in wild profusion, even in the vineyards. The rose bushes planted at the end of each vine row not only serve an important purpose (as a kind of fungus alert), they make a beautiful place even more beautiful. All the wineries we visited had gorgeously manicured gardens and the sides of the cliffs, hills and roads were covered on a carpet of California poppies and lampranthhus (which I know as rayito de sol, a ray of sunshine. A fitting name for such a beautiful flower).

Gorgeous! Wild California poppies

Wine versus olive oil. The climate of Northern California is also ideal for growing olives and some wineries produce olive oil as well. In one particular winery, while my husband and friends were busy tasting wines, I drifted to the olive oil area and spent a delightful half hour stuffing my face with crusty bread dipped in different kinds of olive oil. After all, there’s so much wine one can drink.

All my life I’ve lived far away from seismic areas. Visiting Grgrich Hills Estate and seeing the clever way in which they store their oak casks and the cracked floor brought home to me the damaging potential of earthquakes.

Cask "cradles" at Grgrich Hills Estate

Highway 1 is an incredibly beautiful and at time hair-raising coastal drive. Hairpin turns, sheer cliffs, boulders down below in the cold blue Pacific tested my nerves even though I wasn’t driving. One of our stops was Bodega Bay, the setting for Hitchcock’s The Birds. I had wrongly assumed that the area was named after the wineries (bodega is Spanish for winery) but it’s actually named after the Spanish explorer Don Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra Mollineda.

Somewhere along Pacific Highway 1

Point Reyes was another place I wanted to check out because it’s mentioned in one of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club novels. There’s not much going on in Point Reyes but at least it was a pleasant drive.

I’ve wanted to take the Napa Valley Wine Train ever since I saw it on a Top Chef episode. We chose to do the Grgrich Hills Estate tour that included a gourmet lunch on the way to the winery and coffee and dessert on the way back, as well as a guided tour. It wasn’t cheap but it was for our 6th wedding anniversary. The food and the service were very good and the inside of the old train had an old-world elegance that appealed to me. We shared a table with another couple. His facial features reminded me of the men in my mother’s side of the family. We struck up a conversation (kind of difficult not to) and at one point I asked whether he was of Catalan descent. He was. Since all four of us at the table love Spanish food and travelling, that’s all we talked about over lunch. However, my favourite part of the trip was sitting on a plush chair, sipping coffee and eating a delicious crème brulee while watching the grapevines roll past. A very special and decadent way to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

View from the trainInside th trainVine rows rolling past

We spent one night in the lovely historic La Rose Inn in Santa Rosa. The town is quite pretty but what sets it apart are the statues of all the Peanuts characters dotted about. Charles M. Schultz, its creator, was living in Santa Rosa when he died and these statues are a tribute to him.

Snoopy and me

More friends

An impromptu walking tour in San Francisco

 Achy feet. Time to sit down and rest. Sean had been waiting for me in this quaint coffee shop in the Mission District Continue reading “An impromptu walking tour in San Francisco”

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