Trip Summary

Reflecting back on our time in San Francisco we had a great time. While Deniz had been there before years ago it was my first time. It was great to see somewhere new and experience new things. For the most part everyone we met from servers at restaurants to Uber drivers to store clerks were all very friendly. We had some nice conversations with some of our Uber drivers.

We stayed at the Chancellor Hotel which is an old family run hotel. Great service and very clean. It was also pretty cool staying in an old rustic hotel. The rooms were a good size complete with walk in closet! During our travels in Japan we didn’t even have a closet so this was very nice.

What we liked.

We really enjoyed visiting Sausalito. The views of the bay were amazing. While very touristy it was also quite nice and clean. Lots of nice looking places to eat and many shops to pick up some souvenirs. We also enjoyed all of our tours starting with the city tour by Painted Ladies Tour Company. Getting a tour while riding in a cool vintage Volkswagen van was awesome! Our driver, Mike was a wealth of information despite being on the job for just two months.

Next was our Bridge 2 Bridge tour by Red and White Fleet. We had a nice sunny day for it (and paid a little through some minor facial sun burns). After departing we made our way along the coast towards the Golden Gate Bridge, passed through under it, turned around, passed back under it and towards the Oakland Bay Bridge. We passed close to Alcatraz Island on our way by. We then passed under the Oakland Bay Bridge, turned around and passed back. We then made our way back to our port. This was a 90 minute tour with headsets providing audio history from start to finish. Fabulous tour!!!

Last but not least was our tour of Alcatraz Island. For this tour you need to book at least three months in advance through Alcatraz Cruises which is the only website authorized to sell tickets. After booking your tickets and departure time, you need to arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of your departure time. Once you are on the island you can stay as long as you like. There is a ferry back to San Francisco every half hour and you can take whichever one back that suits your schedule. The cell house was a guided audio tour with headsets to guide you through and provide history and stories. The audio included narrative from some of the inmates themselves. It was so cool to walk down the cell block and hear some of the stories and events that happened right where we were standing.

The steep streets were astonishing. We thank one of our Uber drivers for providing us with a “San Francisco” experience. After asking him where some of the streets were where that cool chase scene in Bullit was, he took us to one that was close. The intersections are all flat but passing downhill through a steep hill makes you feel like your driving off a cliff. You see nothing and then the front nose drops! Quite the experience and we are thankful to our Uber driver that evening for giving us this.

The seafood is amazing. More selection and fresh seafood was so delicious. Being able to order crab and get real crab meat instead of imitation crab meat was a real treat.

The calamari and pizza at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana was amazing! Our leftover slices were breakfast two days later and still delicious.

Maru Sushi was so good that after opening our trip there, we returned to close off our trip.

What we did not like.

The homeless situation is a big problem. I am still shocked by the numbers (140,000 people). I am also still shocked of seeing a couple of homeless men urinating right on a busy street with crowds of people around. I still can’t get over how they don’t even try to conceal themselves. Of course this leads to the other problem, the smell. Everywhere we walked smelled like urine. It was so bad some days I started to call the place San Franpissco. This leads to yet another problem. Almost every store had either a security guard or police officer. These people go on the streets because stores don’t want them using their washrooms. At Macy’s department store the washrooms have a combo lock on it. You need to obtain the code from a sales representative. Jeez!

The cost of eating is also quite expensive there and our low Canadian dollar does not help. A simple breakfast with eggs, bacon, hash browns, orange juice and coffee for both of us was over $50 Cdn. Every meal ended up being between $50-100 for the two of us. This compared to having a top quality sushi meal in Tokyo for around just $30 for both of us. Incredibly, it is easier to eat well and much affordably in Tokyo.

What we missed.

In a week it is obviously difficult to accomplish everything so not surprising that we missed some things on our list. First, we never did ride those cool streetcars. As mentioned earlier it was simply more cost effective to take an Uber pool ride. Unlike public transit that does not go everywhere, Uber pool pretty much picks you up and drops you off where you want. Too convenient. Considering the cable car is $7 per person compared to an average cost of $8-10 for both of us in an Uber pool ride, the decision was easy.

We also did not get to Amoeba Records. It was close to Golden Gate Park when we were there but everything adds up and we scratched it off our list in order to save some money.

While we saw Coit Tower, we did not get to it. Lack of time and again trying to budget the cost of getting around.

We also made it to the top of Twin Peaks on our city tour but it was an extremely foggy day and we saw nothing unfortunately.

Some final thoughts.

We thoroughly enjoyed this trip. We met some really nice people and enjoyed some really nice tours. I am so thankful for seeing the many places around San Francisco. While the food was expensive it was delicious! So glad to have had their famous clam chowder at a couple of places.

Would I go back? Perhaps. But at the moment I am quite content with our trip and have no current interest in going back. There’s no negative feelings behind this. It’s simply that we’ve been there, done that and happy with the outcome. I would though, like to see more of California. Somewhere different. It’s all good! 👍

Last Afternoon/Evening in San Francisco

After leaving Golden Gate Park we made our way to the Mission District to Taqueria Cancun. On our city tour the guide mentioned this was one of the best Mexican restaurants. We decided to stop by to try. We both ordered a chicken taco.

Deniz also ordered a Seafood Ceviche.

The taco was delicious! Both were pretty spicy for us, though. The Ceviche was really spicy and we were not able to finish it, unfortunately. There were many awards hanging in the walls. Definitely a good place! Just a bit too spicy for us. I remembered this area was were Carlos Santana grew up and looked up where his mural was. Fortunately it was right at the corner near to us. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture while on our city tour.

We then returned to our hotel to change a rest a bit before heading back to Maru Japanese Restaurant for our last supper there. We opened our trip by having dinner at Maru and wanted to return. Figured it was nice to close out the trip there too. This time I ordered sashimi. This was delicious but I preferred the chirashi I had the first time as it had more variety. I got the 9 piece but perhaps should have gone with the 12 or 15 piece to get more variety.

Delicious meal again. Best part is being able to get actual kani (crab) sushi instead of imitation stuff we get here.

Golden Gate Park

On our last day here in San Francisco we visited Golden Gate Park. It’s huge and we only covered a small portion of it. We first arrived at the Japanese Tea Garden. After paying our $9 per person admission fee we entered the garden. Very nice and almost made us feel like we were in Japan.

After touring the garden we went to the tea house to get ice green tea and kurumochi refreshments. We then walked through the souvenir shop but everything was quite expensive.

We then exited the Japanese tea garden and proceeded to walk down a path. This brought us to a rose garden.

After the rose garden we walked out n and found Stowe Lake. We walked around the entire lake stopping occasionally to take a break. It was a really nice and relaxing way to end the trip.

Alcatraz Island Tour

Today, we boarded the ferry on our day tour of Alcatraz Island. It’s incredible how many people there were. The tour operators mentioned Alcatraz is the number one attraction in the USA. You need to book this tour 3 months in advance. All day long the ferry goes back and forth every half hour transferring around 300 people each time.

The barracks building.

As we arrived on the island we made our way to the top to tour the main prison building.

We entered through the shower area….don’t drop any soap!

We then entered into the cell blocks. We were given audio devices that guided us through. It was intriguing to be walking through the same areas as many of the worst criminals in the US did. To hear the stories and to be standing in the same place or in front of their cells was a very cool feeling.

The solitary confinement cells were all open for us to walk into while listening to a firsthand account by one of the inmates. He explained how he’d sit with his hands over his eyes and how in time you’d start to believe you are seeing what you’re thinking about.

This next picture is the lunchroom. The people in the picture are gathered around where inmates would get their food. There’s an open slot in the bars where the kitchen staff would pass the food through to the inmates. Everyone was given a fork, spoon and knife. After the meal the inmates would return their cutlery. Everything was counted so they’d know if one was missing. The lunchroom was considered the most dangerous area of the prison given that every inmate had a knife.

The control room.

This is the remains of the Warden’s house.

Just outside the main prison building is the morgue.

Now that I have been on Alcatraz I want to watch “the Rock” and “Escape from Alcatraz” again. This was really an interesting tour. It is well worth the time and money.

Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise

Today we went on a Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise with Red and White Fleet. Taking off from Pier 43 1/2, the boat first makes its way to the Golden Gate Bridge, passes under it, turns around and heads towards the Oakland Bay Bridge passing by Alcatraz. It turns around again and passes along all the piers. All through out the cruise we have headsets providing us with audio commentary explaining about the area and history.

Our vessel.

Golden Gate Bridge.

Alcatraz.

Oakland Bay Bridge.

Homeless Problem

The homeless problem in San Francisco is truly a shame. According to our guides and drivers, the information technology companies started it all. Tech companies moved in and caused a housing boom. Price of homes sky rocketed pushing it out of reach for many. There was what is called “evictovations” where people got evicted, new owners renovated and pushed the value up. The real sad part is over 65% of the homeless had homes ten years ago.

It took a few days to experience more of the homeless problem but we did today. We took a walk down to the shopping area where there are many stores. Many high end stores. Being Sunday, it was quite crowded. Yet, the homeless think nothing of it to urinate right on the sidewalk. It doesn’t matter how many people are around. They relieve themselves right there in public. Then, we were returning to our hotel and another homeless man was urinating against the building creating a stream across the sidewalk for everyone to have to step over. We also had to avoid a bag on the sidewalk that looked like a bag of feces. The sidewalks here have little water grates and they’re all wet from homeless people urinating on them. It’s disgusting.

It’s not everywhere nor every street but patchy all over the city. It’s really sad. I feel so bad for all these people. And the government here, according to many locals are doing nothing about it. There are shelters in the city that provide free showers and other services but there doesn’t seem to be anything to help these people earn money. One person on YouTube suggested paying these homeless people to keep the streets clean. That’s a great idea. Same with the heroin addicts. The city gives them clean needles which they in turn dispose of wherever. Why not offer these people jobs to clean up the city and keep them busy so they won’t have time to shoot up and dispose of their needles across the city where it creates a danger for the general public.

If this continues it’s really going to hurt tourism. Everyone here has been really friendly so this is most unfortunate. I have to say, even the beggars are not yet a problem. They ask but they’re not persistent nor are they abusive. But to have the sidewalks be a toilet for the homeless along with all the spit, it’s just disgusting and takes away from all the good experiences unfortunately.

San Francisco City Tour

Today, we went on a city tour with Painted Ladies Tour Company. They have a small fleet of vintage VW vans. Our vehicle was a white 1968 VW Type 2 Transporter bus named “Pearl”. A manual shift kept our tour guide attentive on the steep hills.

First stop was the Civic Centre.

Next stop was a residential women’s building with a huge mural painted by a group of women.

We then drove to the top of Twin Peaks but it was so foggy we could not see anything. There would have been a fantastic view of the city.

Next, was Alamo Square to see the famous Painted Ladies, Seven Sisters. This consists of the home where Full House was filmed.

Palace of the Fine Arts was next. This was one of ten structures built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo. The structure today was rebuilt in 1965.

Next was Presidio to view the Golden Gate Bridge. Being an overcast and foggy day, gave the bridge some character as its peaks disappeared into the clouds.

Last was Lombard Street. The famous twisty turn stretch downhill. It was originally a straight street until the owner decided to make turns to make it easier for people to access their homes. He also had forward vision that many would be attracted to its design. That’s an understatement as today there are crowds of people all day long at the bottom taking pictures. Also, many drivers wait 30 minutes on average to simply drive down the twisty stretch which only takes about 30 seconds.

Not captured here in photos was the informative discussion while on the city tour with music played by artists of the area. Often, the song would synch up with area. For example, Santana’s song played as we passed by his childhood house. Just down the street was a huge mural of him. We also drove through some areas highly populated by the homeless. Such a shame. Often these areas are right next to highly built up neighborhoods with designer shops and boutiques. We drove by the mansions of high profile people like the owner of Oracle. We also drove through areas where the movie Bullitt was filmed. We passed by the house where Mrs. Doubtfire was filmed.

All in all, it was a great tour! I highly recommend Painted Ladies Tour Company.

Pedometer for Saturday

From walking up to the Ferry Building, to walking around the Farmer’s Market, to walking around Sausalito, to walking from the Ferry Building up to Fisherman’s Wharf, to walking back to our hotel from where our shared Uber dropped us….and a short walk up to CVS Pharmacy……grand total today ….24,125 steps, 14.80 km achieved today!!!