The golden gate city: San Francisco

Picking up from where I left it in my last post on Grand Canyon, now starts the "fun" part. So, I had just boarded my shuttle from Maswik lodge at Grand Canyon to get to Flagstaff. Now, I'll be honest, I was already quite exhausted from the day at the canyon, but I was also quite eager to get over with the bus ride... It was going to be long :/... After about an hour's ride, we arrived at Flagstaff. There, I walked lugged my baggage to the greyhound coach station 15 mins away from the shuttle stop, awaiting for my coach to San Francisco (S.F. in short). At about half past 1 in the morning, my coach arrived to take us to our first stop, Phoenix. Now, everything would have gone smooth and dandy hadn't it been for the coach change over at Phoenix, which was late by 2 hours. It was already wayyy past my bed time even by US standards, and I had not had a good night sleep for past 48 hours, so yeah, things weren't as merry as they could be. Finally, the 2nd coach arrived at Phoenix, and we all got into the already packed bus for our 7 hours trip down south to LA. But good luck if you are planning on a long trip via greyhound in the future. Some of the passengers can be a little unsavoury as I personally experienced (hint: drug pimps aren't the most gentlemanly kind), but on the other hand, you could make some friends too, like I did :)... However, the most unpleasant part of the trip arrived in the form of 3 hours delay at the L.A. coach station, all due to a quarter of an hour delay at arriving to the station from Phoenix. Now I understand rules are rules, timings are required to be kept, and places are needed to be visited, but the delay was the responsibility of the company, and an agreement should have been reached between the 2nd bus driver and the L.A. station, which was not done so, resulting in a few of the passengers due for S.F., stranded at the L.A. coach station for three hours, on a sunday... I mean, it's L.A., how can you not have frequent buses departing from here, especially on a sunday? Anyway, after a 3 hours stop over at the station, I made a few friends, Richard, a 51 year old Venezuelan man who had already been travelling for three days all the way from Florida, to get his passport done at San Francisco, and  Mo, a cool and lively 40 something San Franciscan guy who kept the conversation going. Well, all's well that ends well I suppose :) 

The trip wasn't over yet, we still had another 7-8 hours left to get to S.F.  I know, bus rides are not always the most ideal means, and if it's a particularly long distance, might as well just fly over, but since I had to be economical, especially as the flight prices spike sky high during weekends, I really didn't have much options frankly. It's in fact lucky that I even got this cheaper option... Anyway, the way to S.F wasn't without its rewards, the coach runs through some of the Californian vineyards and farmlands, which are HUGE beyond comprehension and all quite impressive, from grape vines to cherry trees, fresh green produce to oranges, for hours on end, acres and acres of automated farmlands. I personally could never get tired of that... 

So, after about 20 hours of tedious bus ride, tracing the southern borders of U.S.A, crossing 2 different states from Arizona to California, I had finally made it to S.F. And so, bidding my new found friends good bye and good wishes, I took a cab to my own destination, a friend's abode. Next day was allllllll about the beautiful city of S.F. itself.

Now, I have to say, San Francisco is by far my most favourite city in America. It is a major IT hub and also contains the Silicon Valley itself, home to the world's largest high-tech corporations like Apple, Google, twitter, etc. and thousands of other IT related startup companies. It is also renowned to be one of the greenest, most environmental conscious cities of America (although my european hosts had differing opinion of the green-ness of the city... Saying it is only relative to the rest of the States). It is also one of the LGBT friendliest cities in the world (contested probably only by Canada). Well, It does have a completely different feel to it when compared to all the other american cities that I have been to, in fact very European. The townscape can be described as something out of a movie, with steeply high and low streets, lots of pretty ally ways and junctions, beautifully well kept neighbourhoods, lots and lots of colours, pastel painted houses, and to top it all, lovely piers, beaches and harbours. The weather is also quite gentle with cold gusts and frequent showers, just like home :p (well, for me, just like home in both UK and Assam, so yeah, perfect!)...

Pastel city scape
Lovely city scape of San Francisco from a hilltop
Way up the hill
I had a brief but good time with my hosts the night I reached and the next morning, who were obviously busy since they had to get to work early. So, to keep myself busy the next day, I decided to explore the city on my own. I had been told that bikes are some of the best ways to go around the city, so, I did just that, all thanks to my host who very generously lent me her bike, which is great for me as bike rentals coast about $35-40 a day. Although I did have to take it with me everywhere since it didn't have padlocks, meaning I couldn't sit and sip a nice cuppa in a restaurant if I wished to, but hey, that's what the Fisherman's wharf is for! So, what transpired next was my 6 hours of tour de San Francisco on bike, covering most of the amazing touristic and historic spots of the beautiful city. A small tip when you go travelling to S.F., the city is a little chilly in general and gets a good amount of its share of rain, so please do a rain-check and pack a nice warm jacket, waterproof clothes and shoes, and an umbrella just in case. 

The idea was to go all the way to the famous Pier 39 via Alamo square park, the city hall, the Fisherman's wharf, and the Marina. The trip itself may not take too long but because of the steep hills, massive ups and downs on the road way, and the mandatory frequent stop-overs for pictures, the bike ride took me a little more than an hour. From there I would trace the bay area until the Crissy field, the park closest to the Golden gate, and then ride back via Golden Gate Park. However, in the end, I did the Palace of Fine arts at the Presidio of San Francisco instead of the Golden Gate Park and rode straight back to Duncan street.

See below my first map for the bike trip enroute to Pier 39 across all the major attractions... 

Route 1: Off to Pier 39

So, my first stop was the Twin Peaks which was just 10 mins bike ride away from my lodge. I didn't go up the hills (that would have been great) but I was more interested to see my next stop, the famous array of pastel painted beautiful houses called the Painted ladies across the Alamo square park.
Picture perfect
Painted ladies
The houses down the street weren't too shabby either...

Pretty neighbourhood
Sigh! This place is literally what romantic stories are made of... The perfect neighbourhood meant for the perfect maid :p Next, I rode the adjacent street towards the city hall to get a good look at this architectural renaissance inspired beauty.

City hall
City hall garden
City hall
A historical building, this City hall is actually a replacement to the original that was destroyed in an earthquake in 1906, which itself took about 27 years of planning and construction. Well, at least this one is also an eye-catcher :) Fun fact: Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe had their wedding woes taken right here in 1954. 

It was only a brief stop over at the City hall until I zoomed through the streets, all the way up to the Fisherman's wharf... The wharf is quite famous for its many fish markets, seafood restaurants, street venders, retail shopping centre, tourist attractions like Madam Tussaud's museum and the Aquarium of the Bay, 3D virtual rides, Marinas, waterfront parks, a boat trip to the infamous island of Alcatraz, and also, the very famous sea lions infested Pier 39. Indeed, I had a wonderful afternoon eating seafood lunch, shopping for souvenirs and postcard, taking photos, and promenading through the Wharf in the sun... Absolutely perfect!

Fishermans wharf sign
The prison of Alcatraz
City of San Francisco
Lock bridge
S.F. skyline
Fishermans Wharf
Finally arriving at one of the best highlights of the day, I spent a good long stop at the most visited spot of S.F.:  Pier 39Pier 39 is a very interesting spot to must-visit in San Francisco Bay which gives a spectacular view of the city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, and the little island of Alcatraz. A 45-acre waterfront complex owned, leased and managed by Moor + South/PIER Management Co., it is the most visited attraction in San Francisco as of this year, which is not surprising since it is known to be colonised by California sea lions at the K-Dock since 1989. They come here every year to sun bathe, with numbers going  up to about 1700 each winter! Quite an exquisite area for marine biologists and zoologists I presume! Read all about them here.

Pier 39
Sea lions in the sun
Proof that I was there... LOL
Sleeping puppied... Must be cozy in there
From Pier 39, I traced back through the Wharf towards the Golden Gate along the Marina blvd via Bay St (see map 2). From there, it was a pretty straight forward ride to Presidio of San Francisco that leads up to the Golden Gate. Thankfully, the road was mostly flat from here on to Crissy Field. Although the main goal was to be able to see the Golden Gate up close and personal, I stopped short a few yards shy of the main entrance since, I was running out of time, and the view from the beach at Crissy Field was near good enough in itself. May be perhaps next time I will even cross the bridge to the vista point.

Route 2: Bay ride
Anyway, on my way to Crissy Field, I took a detour of the Aquatic Park Pier, which is the small C-shaped arc you can see on the map, which falls under the Maritime national historical park of San Francisco. The pier itself is a simple concrete structure over the water but it curves at the farthest point, giving a breath-taking view of the city.

The view of the city from Aquatic Park pier
From there, I proceeded onwards to the giant red bridge which was a good 30 mins away on bike. While riding through the parks along the water front I passed many a sandy shores that were both inviting and enticing but I didn't stop just yet. I also came across a very ancient roman looking building, which I made a mental note of to come back and explore. Until then, to Crispy Field ahoy!

Once at Crissy Field, I decided to walk up the foot passages, park my bike nearby and spend some time basking in the sun, all the while sinking in the majestic view of the wondrous Golden Gate from the lovely blooming sandy beach.

Golden gate view from Crissy Field
Golden gate view from Crissy Field
Floral bloom and the Golden gate view from Crissy Field
Golden gate view from Crissy Field
Succulents at the park
The waterfront parks and the whole city itself are all beautifully kept. Sitting on the sand I could only cherish my luck for being able to be at this remarkable place, watch such bewildering work of engineering ingenuity, breathe in the fresh air in a foreign land, far far away from home... I could sit here all day by myself reflecting on what was, what is, what will be, and what isn't...

After about an hour of sun bathing, I finally decided to ride back home in order to get back for the evening plans. I took a much more direct route (see map 3) this time since I was actually getting late for the few things I had planned for the night (like meeting a friend, yikes!) and the road was not short of steep uphills that would require me literally stopping my bike and actually walking up the darn hill, while lugging the bike up, that too on two really sore calves acquired from the whole day of hiking at the Grand Canyon (sigh! Things I do for fun...).

Route 3: Straight way back home
However, on my way back I did make a small stop at the structure with roman architecture I had made a mental note of. Now, here is a place that can whisk you away in time, to a period somewhere during the Roman empire... It is the Palace of fine arts which was apparently built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, along with many others, however it is one of the only remaining structures due to it being such an exemplary work of art. It has since remained standing as a tourist spot that does intrigue the interests of many a folks visiting the city, makes for a lovely wedding venue, and even hosts several art exhibitions every year. The Palace of Fine Arts is surrounded in both sides by an artificial European style lagoon to reflect the monument's beauteous structure, which only adds further charm to the already enchanting park.

Palace of Fine Arts
Roman and Greek influence
Such finesse...
Beautifully ruined
Palace of Fine Arts lagoon
Natural floral exposition
For the rest of the day I had a gala evening going out for dinner with my hosts at an Italian restaurant, while the next whole day was spent catching up with my best friend who, to my utmost delight and surprise, was visiting California from Madison to spend time with her husband. The best way to spend a whole day in my most honest opinion. 

And so, with that ended my beautiful time at the beautiful city of San Francisco. Gutted I only got two days here. True as they as that a trip to S.F. is totally incomplete without viewing the city scape at night too, which is also quite breath-taking I should add (I did get a glimpse during my coach trip down town). If there is a chance even in the slightest to visit California again next year, I definitely would come back and spend a bit more days just in S.F.

Until then... 

Next up, the Magic City of Miami!