Last week was our last one at work, and it was a bit emotional! Regardless of our reasons for going back to the UK, we have made some good friends here and I personally can say that I’ve never worked with so many lovely people all at once, so I was very sad on my last day. I had a leaving lunch with everyone from the office, my boss gave me a gorgeous necklace and bracelet as a leaving present, and I had leaving drinks with people on my last day. The girls from the office also got some amazing pictures of Vancouver printed out so we can take them home to put up in our new flat! Nick also had a farewell lunch and his colleagues gave him a Neil Young record as a goodbye gift!
As we’ve mentioned before, we wanted to do something fun before going home, and seeing as San Francisco has always been at the top of our lists, there wasn’t anywhere else really! We managed to do it pretty cheaply, but some of the trip was a bit of a hassle. On Sunday we got a Bolt Bus from Vancouver to Bellingham and then stayed in the Comfort Inn near Bellingham Airport. The bus cost about $40 total return for both of us and the Bellingham hotel was $90 for one night. The hotel was actually really nice, it seems like it’s just been refurbished, the rooms were massive, it has a swimming pool and a free shuttle to the airport too which was handy! Best of all there was a proper American bar just across the street from it called Billy McHale’s which was awesome! This was where we first discovered the joy that is happy hour in America! I think we’ve been in Canada too long, as we were constantly amazed at the price of alcohol on this trip!
The next morning we got up pretty early to head to the airport for our 7am (!!) flight to Oakland. We flew with Allegiant Air who are a bargain basement type of airline, but with flights costing $49 each way (about £26!), you can’t really complain! Well, we did complain actually, but more on that later! One thing to note with Allegiant, if you are travelling as a couple, when you check in, you are automatically assigned seats one row apart and then given the ‘option’ of ‘upgrading’ and moving seats for $12.99 each. They did this to us both ways. Thankfully when we boarded the flight there a man offered to swap seats with us though. We only realised the night before we left for our trip that we were flying into Oakland and not San Francisco, but OAK and SFO are actually the same distance into the centre of San Francisco so it wasn’t a big deal! We didn’t fancy getting a bus, train and cable car to the hotel so just got in a taxi which cost about $65, which seemed a rip off when the driver quoted the price, but it was actually quite a long journey!
We stayed in the San Remo Hotel in North Beach which is an old, European style hotel. It was pretty cheap ($296 for 4 nights), and was the quirkiest place we’ve ever stayed in! It’s a cute little hotel, built in 1906 and I don’t think much has changed since! There’s all sorts of random stuff all over the walls, the rooms are tiny, the beds are noisy, there’s shared bathrooms and showers, and best of all, most of the bedroom windows look out on to the corridor! The hotel was actually fine, it’s in a brilliant location and the shared bathroom thing wasn’t a problem at all. What was a problem was everyone else in the hotel. They were so bloody noisy! Every morning from 6-8 someone above us would constantly move the furniture around, someone was playing a trumpet (badly) one night, and the cleaners had no regard for anyone else and would shout to each other all morning. By the end of the week we couldn’t wait to leave but, if you can put up with the noise and small rooms, it’s worth it as it’s so cheap and in a good location. One thing we wish we knew beforehand is that the hotel is apparently really haunted! We never felt uncomfortable there, but that may explain the noises we heard every morning?!
Once we checked into the hotel we went out towards Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. We walked about there for a bit then stumbled upon this really amazing old school arcade at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s full of old arcade games, ‘fortune telling’ things, old photo booths etc. We stayed there for ages, Nick beat me at a hockey game, I got told I should be a ‘Hot Air Artist’, and Nick set off an alarm trying to get a free shot at the basketball game.
It turns out that San Francisco is pretty big on Fish & Chips, and we stopped by at one of the Fish & Chip shops at Pier 39 for some lunch. I was met with a look of utter confusion when I asked for “a portion of fries and a bun”. I then tried “Roll”, “Bread Roll” and then back to “Bun”, when the girl said “Oh, a dinner roll?” Hmm..
We stayed there for a while, watching some pigeons who were fighting each other for a chip (we are easily amused), and then headed down to find the Sea Lions! Pier 39 is famous for them, and I love Seals and Sea Lions, so I was pretty keen to find them! You can hear them before you see them, they are hilarious! They are all lying on-top of each other, fighting for space, and all you can hear is “Owww owww owww oahhhhh”. It was pretty funny!
That evening we made 1 of 3 attempts to go to Tony’s in North Beach, supposedly the ‘best pizza in SF’. It was closed, so we went next door to Cafe Divine, which was actually pretty nice, plus they had some woman playing an accordion which was good!
The next morning we went to Mama’s in North Beach for some breakfast. If you ever plan on going there, get there early as there always seems to be a line up outside! We waited for about 45 minutes to get a table but my god was it worth it! We both had pancakes as it was pancake day. Best pancakes I’ve ever eaten!! After that we walked around the area for a bit and went to the cable car museum in the Nob Hill area. The museum was free (a shocker for us, having lived in Vancouver for the past year!), and was really interesting. We took the time to read things for once, and found out how the cable cars work, and a bit about the earthquake in 1906.
After that we got on the cable car to downtown. The cable cars are $6 each way and run pretty regularly. Aside from being a tourist attraction, they are actually a pretty useful and quick way of getting places, plus they are fun! Once we got downtown we got on a bus to Haight.
Haight was the epicentre of the 1967 Summer of Love, and the No.1 place I wanted to visit in SF, and it’s awesome. It’s about 15-20 minutes west of downtown SF and feels like completely different world. I’m pretty sure it’s no-where near what is was like back in the 60’s, but the laidback, bohemian feel of the place is still kind of there and is right up our street! There are a lot of tourist shops selling ‘bargain’ tie-dye t-shirts at about $80, ripping people off, but there are also loads of cool independent stores, selling everything from records to vintage clothes.
We stopped for a drink at lunchtime and the rest of the day is a bit of a blur after that. What I do know is, we visited a lot of bars, we stood outside the house that The Grateful Dead lived in, I bought a Bob Marley t-shirt, we chatted to a guy from Liverpool for a long time, plus someone from Ireland, then we walked around for a long time trying to find Smuggler’s Cove, a pirate bar. We found it eventually, but both have no recollection of being there, or getting home.
After that mess of a day, we weren’t really feeling up for our planned drive to Yosemite the next day. However, it turns out that Yosemite isn’t really accessible at this time of year due to the weather, (which was probably a good thing as it was going to be an 8hr round trip) so we decided to just drive around the city instead. Nick had booked a convertible Mustang for the day through Budget, but when we turned up we were told that it “needs to go in for a service”, so we were given a Mini Cooper instead. Nothing wrong with Mini Coopers, but they don’t really fall in to the category of ‘Mustang or similar’. Anyway! We drove around the city, over the bridge and back again. Here are some things we saw:
- Mel’s Diner – a proper 50’s style diner (but actually opened in 1985). We ate here and it was really good!
- We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge which was awesome!
- We stopped at Vista Point, which has incredible views of the city and the bridge, although the fog was coming in at this point
- Bonita Cove – would offer good views of the city normally but it was so foggy by then
- Baker Beach – really nice beach with views of the bridge
- The house that was in Mrs Doubtfire – at 2640 Steiner Street. We stopped outside and hadn’t even been there 30 seconds when a lady who lives across the street pointed to the house as if to say “It’s there”. It was pretty funny, they must be so used to people coming to look at it!
- The cross section of Washington & Cherry where Zodiac killed a taxi driver in the 60’s
- Twin peaks, which offer amazing views over the city
- The section of Lombard Street that is in a ‘squiggly line’, as we put it! We drove down it!
That night we tried to get to Tony’s again for dinner, but there was an hour wait for a table so we went across the street to Original Joe’s, a huge Italian restaurant. They had a bizarre amount of staff there who all had a different function. We had one guy who told us how long we’d have to wait for a table, then one girl who took us to our table, then a guy in a tuxedo who Nick likened to ‘a serial killer’ who took our order, then someone else brought our drinks, someone else brought our food, another person took our plates away, tuxedo man gave us the bill, then we paid with another person. So that’s a total of 7 different people! It was a bit impersonal being served by that many people, but the food was good.
The next day, we thankfully felt a lot better so we got up early and went to Pat’s Cafe round the corner from our hotel for some breakfast. We then walked to Ghirardelli Square, which is where a famous chocolate factory is. It was ok, if a little touristy. The chocolate there is amazing though! We then went down to the water as we spotted some old ships that you could go on and have a look at. It was $5 each to get on to about 5 ships. It was actually really interesting, plus one of the ships came from Glasgow which was weird!
After that we had a drink and some lunch somewhere before heading to Pier 33 for our trip to Alcatraz! This was probably our highlight of the trip, highly recommended! We got the ‘night tour’ which was $37 each but well worth it. There are two options when you get to Alcatraz, depending on your patience level. One is to get a group tour with about 100 other people. The other option if you are impatient like us, is to get an audio headset and do the tour yourself. We both found it so fascinating, eerie and awesome. And because we ran ahead of everyone who was doing the group tour, we managed to get some cool pictures of the inside looking empty. You have to really concentrate at points doing the audio tour, as sometimes it skips ahead really quickly, but overall we found it a much more enjoyable way to do a tour!
That night we tried (again) to go to Tony’s and got told there was a 1.5 hour wait for a table (SF people just love to go out for dinner!), so we gave up and went to another Italian restaurant around the corner.
The next morning we tried to go to Mama’s again for more pancakes but this time the queue was even longer than it was the first time we went so we went elsewhere! We then checked out of our hotel and got on a cable car to downtown. My brothers, for an engagement present paid for us to stay in a really nice hotel for our last night. We stayed in Hotel Union Square which is right bang in the middle of everything and is a lovely hotel. They got us a suite, and we couldn’t believe the size of it when we walked in! It was bigger than our whole apartment! They also arranged for champagne and chocolates to be in the room for us which was lovely and an amazing way to end our trip!
That day we went to Haight again, as we wanted to visit a few more places there. We went to Amoeba Music, which is ‘The World’s Largest Independent Music Store’. It was bloody massive! We bought a couple of records and then wandered around the area again for a bit. Quite nearby to Haight are the famous ‘Painted Ladies’ houses which look on to Alamo Square. They are in loads of films and I’ve always wanted to see them for some reason, so it was an exciting moment! The sun then finally came out, which was amazing, as it had been pretty overcast all week, and we sat in Alamo Square for a while.
That night, on my brother Mark’s recommendation, we went to The House, which does ‘Asian American’ food. It is really small and popular, so get there early if you want a table. We had to wait around an hour for a table. Thankfully there was some street entertainment in the form of this poor girl trying to parallel park her car in front of the restaurant, and doing it really badly. She must have attempted it about 50 times before finally driving off. Some other person who patiently waited behind her just reversed straight into the space once she left. It was a shame, but it was pretty hilarious! Oh and the food was really good!
The next day, sadly, we had to start our long journey home to Vancouver. We got the BART (haha) to Oakland Coliseum and then a bus to Oakland airport which cost around $7.50 each. The flight back to Bellingham was pretty horrendous. I was sitting in between a rather large lady and a man who kept hogging the arm rest and elbowing me. The cabin crew were pretty terrible too, one of them was texting when we boarded the plane and didn’t even look up. Then the same guy was doing an announcement, messed it up, then stopped before saying loudly “no-one’s listening anyway”. Nice! When we landed at Bellingham, which is a pretty tiny airport, we had to wait an hour for our bags, which really wasn’t what we wanted! We then got a taxi to the bus terminal to catch our Bolt Bus back to Vancouver.
The whole trip was amazing, we really love San Francisco and I really miss it now! The city has a really nice vibe and has really distinct and diverse areas to suit everyone. It’s the only other place apart from Vancouver and the UK that I feel I could live.
So here we are, back in Vancouver with only 9 days left until we move back to the UK. We are both feeling pretty mixed about it, probably the same way we felt this time last year, when we were preparing to move to Canada. We feel a little numb about it, like we are in limbo. We’re excited to see people and excited to get settled somewhere, but really sad about leaving this city. We have a long list of things we want to do this week, and we are determined to do it all!
Here are some more pics of our trip, plus a little video we made 🙂
Switch to 720p for best quality.