TRIP TIPS and a Surreal Golden Gate Bike Ride in San Francisco, California
I have always been curious about the United States. I have been curious about California in particular. As a child, when curiosity struck about some far away foreign land, I always thought first of the United States as a land where opportunities for a better life are endless. So I oftentimes wondered how beautiful it was to live in the US. So many of my relatives chose to call it home.
Growing up in the island of Masbate in the Philippines, my mother would usually receive cards and pictures and gifts from my aunts and cousins. Even though I lived in the province, my generation already had access to electricity and MTV. This made watching MTV and listening to American music and watching Hollywood movies my past time. I remember how I once dared break the rules by cutting classes just to go home and watch Michael Jackson’s and Madonna’s special show on MTV. I was also a big fan of Spice Girls, All Saints, Backstreet Boys, The Moffats, Hansons, etc.
I was finally able to visit San Francisco this year. It was exactly what I expected to see. Beautiful, clean, cool weather, and great food. It was also the first time I saw how my family lived their lives in the land of milk and honey. The first time I met my first cousin from my mother’s sister. It was simply a special memory I will never forget.
Here are the places I visited during my stay and my impressions on each one of them. Thanks to my dear auntie, my first cousins, relatives and new friends for taking the time to see me. I hope you learn some valuable insights about San Francisco, California from this article. A place where the sun shines and the fog visits so mysteriously once in a while.
If you like spending time in the outdoors, then definitely a hike along the trails of Land’s End will satisfy your nature-loving and adventure-seeking spirit. Whether you like lingering in front of the shoreline or testing your feet on a trail walk or run, you will find both activities equally rewarding in this lovely part of San Francisco.
Baker beach is just a few kilometres away from Lands End. If you do a trail walk or trail run starting from Lands End to where the Golden Gate is located, you will arrive in Baker Beach. There are many stops you can do along the way. Instead of going straight all the way to the beach, I suggest you stop every time you see something that catches your curiosity. These stops will make you climb a few rough stairs or dip your head down to avoid hurting your head against a fallen branch of a tree. But it will definitely be worth your time and effort. BE AWARE though that Baker Beach is a place where it is optional to go NUDE so be ready.
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
You can’t miss the bridge! You shouldn’t. It is the most-widely known symbol of San Francisco. Even those who stayed only for a day in San Francisco probably had to make sure that they see this iconic bridge. It was a cool and foggy day but I was so glad because it made my experience a little more magical. I didn’t sweat too much on my bike ride because of the cool weather. As someone who likes cycling, the best way to explore it was to rent a bike and ride across it all the way to the chic and quiet neighbourhood of Sausalito and back. Here is a video of my adventure!
What a chic, quiet and beautiful neighbourhood at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge! Right after crossing the bridge, don’t turn back yet and be braver instead by continuing to pedal until you reach the highway. Bike more slowly to make sure you are on the right track to Sausalito. Once you see a crossroad, take the road at the right side, the one that seems to be a steep slope going down. It goes down for a reason. You will be treated to a very scenic and chill spot where you will see cool restaurants, impressive houses and numerous yachts. With the number of yachts I saw in this neighbourhood, it seemed to me that every household had its own yacht! I felt really special during my short stay here. It is a federal law to give priority to pedestrians. ALL TYPES of vehicles stopped every time I had to cross the street. Every time.
If you feel more adventurous or you want to save money, you can bike all the way back to the centre/Fisherman’s Wharf for you to be able to return your bike. If you prefer to relax and want to spend a little more, you can take a relaxing and scenic ferry ride back to the wharf which will cost you 11 USD.
I chose to ride my bike all the way back. It meant I had to make tremendous effort because the road on the way back is elevated. I took the wrong turn as well so I ended up on this mountain. It was hard for me as a cyclist so it will even be harder for those who are not so physically fit. But I promise that the way up is worth it because you will see a different side of the great Golden Bridge as shown here.
What a physical adventure! I reached the top and lingered there for almost an hour but I had to hurry and figure out how to get back on track and find the road that connects to the Golden Gate Bridge before it turned dark.
Embarcadero is a three-mile long port in San Francisco which connects The Financial District and the Ferry Building all the way to the Fisherman’s Wharf. The best way to explore this port is through a slow, leisurely walk. You can start from The Financial District all the way to The Fisherman’s Wharf. Here are some shots I took during my walk. Along the way you will see artists performing on the streets. Click here to see an amazing musician perform live! Remember, you will see many of them in front of PIER 39.
This is where you can find many bike rental shops. I highly recommend SAN FRANCISCO BICYCLE RENTALS which is one of the bests in town. They have a high positive review on YELP and I had great fun riding their comfortable and efficient bikes at a very good price! My San Francisco experience was even more unforgettable and adventure-filled because of it. Go to their website for more details.
I remember a Hollywood movie called Alcatraz. This historic spot looks mysterious 2 kilometres offshore from San Francisco bay area. This island served as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963. There are many companies that offer island cruises to and fro the island. Many of them can be found along The Embarcadero near Fisherman’s Wharf.
Along the wharf you will pass by many companies that offer tours to the Alcatraz prison island. I chose not to see the island and rather enjoy it from afar.
So many souvenir shops are also found along Fisherman’s Wharf
There are so many places to witness amazing sunsets in San Francisco. In fact, I have already mentioned them above. You can see them a lot better at Twin Peaks, Lands End, Golden Gate, Mission Dolores Park and of course, the COIT TOWER. You can reach this place with just a short walk from the Fisherman’s Wharf. Be ready for some serious climb to the top though. Don’t worry because you will be rewarded at the top with a beautiful view. It is worth it!
HALF MOON BAY
Half Moon Bay is a fast 45-minute drive from the city centre. Enjoy a 5-dollar fish and chips under the mild sun, spend some barefoot walk along the white sandy beach, and drive back and spend some more relaxing times surrounding yourself with different kinds of plants at Highway 92 Succulents.
Twin Peaks are two famous hills with 925 feet of elevation. Go to this place in the afternoon and stay until you see the whole area lit up. Bring a blanket or a nice jacket to make you feel comfortably warm since this place can be a bit windy and chilly especially at night. My wonderful first cousin, Mariela, brought me to this place in her car because there is no public transportation all the way to the top. If you can’t go by car, take the 37 Corbett Muni line which stops on Crestline Drive and walk further up the hills. If you want two distinct experiences of TWIN PEAKS, I suggest you go and see it during the daytime and at night.
It was bittersweet to leave a very charming place like San Francisco but the memories were more than enough to take with me as I continued exploring other places. The place I used to fantasise about as a child is not a fantasy anymore. Cheers, San Francisco!