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SAN FRANCISCO

25 August 2016

When we were over in Los Angeles last November for a friend's wedding, we took the opportunity to drive up the California coast on a road trip to San Francisco via the wonderful, magical Big Sur. We spent four days in San Fran, staying at the iconic Fairmont Hotel and squeezing in as much as possible before taking the red-eye back to London after ten days in the Californian sun.

Lombard Street, San Francisco - California travel blog

I visited San Francisco with my family as a kid and it was great to rediscover as an adult; I did some of the typical tourist stuff again like visiting Alcatraz Island, going to see the famous Painted Ladies at Alamo Square, taking a cable car and walking amongst giant, ancient redwood trees in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  Visiting Muir Woods was one of my highlights, sitting quietly surrounded by the tallest living trees - over 250 foot tall and over 1,000 year old redwoods - rustling and swaying in the breeze.  We carried on heading north for a quick trip to Sonoma and Napa for some wine-tasting and to see the autumnal colours spreading across the vineyards.  Another afternoon we hired bikes and cycled over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge for coffee in Sausalito before cycling back along the beach cycle paths.

Visiting Alcatraz, San Francisco - California travel blog

The famous Painted Ladies, San Francisco - California travel blog

Muir Woods, San Francisco - California travel blog

San Francisco Bay - California travel blog

My favourite foodie discovery was the gorgeous Belga on Union Street where we had brunch and bubbles on our last day. A modern take on the classic Belgian brasserie with a polished, casual ambience, Belga serves up delicious wood-fired sausages with frites, alongside which we had half a dozen oysters, a couple of glasses of fizz and brioche beignets sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  We took advantage of the great local seafood with more oysters and crab at The Franciscan Crab Restaurant in the touristy Fisherman's Wharf, watching seals pop up in the water through the windows and we had even more fresh crab for lunch another day at Joe's Crab Shack (the awesome neon sign drew us in).

Brunch at Belga, San Francisco - California travel blog

Joe's Crab Shack, Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco travel blog

Brunch at Belga, San Francisco - California travel blog

Boats, San Francisco - California travel blog

Alternating between taking ubers (those hills...) and walking around the streets admiring the eclectic mix of chocolate box Victorian buildings, colourful rowhouses and modern architecture, we discovered hipster bike stores and hippy lunch places near The Haight and Duboce Triangle, we walked up and down the incredibly steep Lombard Street and stumbled across the weird and wonderful Musée Mécanique on Pier 45 filled with old-fashioned penny arcade games, coin-operated machines and vintage photobooths.

Walking up Lombard Street, San Francisco - California travel blog

San Francisco architecture - California travel blog

California sunlight, San Francisco - California travel blog

Chinatown, San Francisco - California travel blog

My favourite evening was spent in the company of Strauss and Schumann performed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, led by Michael Tilson Thomas. I listen to their work all the time, so it was great to experience a performance first-hand; we dressed up and had champagne in the interval in the glass-front concert hall bar before heading down to Market Street for roast chicken at Zuni Café and drinks at Absinthe.  Another night we had cocktails and watch the marine fog roll in at sunset from the rooftop bar Top of the Mark opposite our hotel.

Emma Louise Layla at the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra - SF travel blog

Sunset cocktails at the Top of the Mark, San Francisco - California travel blog

San Francisco skyline - California travel blog

If we'd had more time, we would have carried up along the west coast towards Portland and Seattle, or ventured inland to visit Sequoia (home to the largest tree in the world) and Yosemite - the beauty of which was probably lost on me as a child - and stayed at the historic landmark Majestic Yosemite (formerly the Ahwahnee hotel) again.  But there'll always be a next time in CA...


Boat trip in San Francisco Bay - SF travel blog

Oysters at Belga, San Francisco - California travel blog

Red trees in Sonoma, California wine country - travel blog

Emma Louise Layla at the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra - SF travel blog

Golden Gate Bridge up close, San Francisco - California travel blog

Beautiful Muir Woods, San Francisco - California travel blog

Alcatraz, San Francisco - California travel blog

Hiring bikes, San Francisco - California travel blog

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco - California travel blog

Muir Woods, San Francisco - California travel blog

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco - California travel blog

Franciscan Crab Restaurant, San Francisco - California travel blog

Lombard Street houses, San Francisco - California travel blog

Fog rolling in, San Francisco - California travel blog

Sunlight in Muir Woods - California travel blog

Musee Mecanique, San Francisco - California travel blog

Redwood trees, Muir Woods - California travel blog

Lombard Street, San Francisco - California travel blog

The Scarlet Huntington hotel bar, San Francisco - California travel blog

Walking through Muir Woods - California travel blog

Zuni Cafe, San Francisco - California travel blog

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