On 24 February the husband and I along with two friends boarded a flight to Gatwick; it marked the beginning of our 10 day whistle stop tour of the west coast of the US.
Our itinerary was jam packed, our suitcases not so much (I'd need space to bring back all that shopping I was going to do, right?) and my excitement levels were simmering away on the verge of spilling over.
Whilst I've been on holidays before and I've been to the US before, I've never had a "touring" holiday, the sort that you have to live out of a suitcase on because you're never in one place long enough to justify unpacking. And to be honest, not only have those sort of holidays never appealed to me, the thought of those sort of holidays made me turn my face up in what was arguably a really ugly way!
Because when I go on holiday I want a relaxing time, I want to do nothing, I want to sit and read and chill and I want the most demanding decision I have to make to be what to wear to dinner that night. So whilst I was excited about this trip I was also a teeny bit reserved about how I would feel about the nomadic experience.
So the plan for our trip:
24 - 26 February: San Francisco
26 - 27 February: Napa Valley
27 - 28 February: - Lake Tahoe
28 February - 3 March: - Las Vegas
3 - 4 March: Escalante
That's 888 miles according to Google Maps if you go direct from one to the other. We didn't do the route direct and we had (planned) de-tours in between and annoyingly not one of us thought to check the mileage in the hire car at the beginning and the end of the trip, but we definitely did more than 1,000 miles over the course of the holiday!
24 - 26 February 2017: San Francisco
Where we stayed - Stanford Court
Whilst the hotel's location was great and not too far from the touristy things we wanted to do, the biggest pain in the backside was the fact it was situated at the top of a hill! Which meant at the end of the day when we were tired and aching from being on our feet all day, we had a ruddy steep hill to hike up before we could collapse in a heap and give our feet some much needed respite.
As we were only going to be in San Fran for a couple of days were didn't spend that much time in the hotel aside from sleeping and eating breakfast so I can't tell you much about the facilities it had to offer, but the bed was comfy and I don't remember having any issues with the shower. The hotel certainly fulfilled our needs and I don't think it was overly priced either.
**Top Tip** If you're booking a hotel check their cancellation policy. We were able to cancel up to 24 hours in advance without having to pay anything, and this allowed us to search for the same room at a cheaper price a few days before we were due to arrive. This paid off as we found the same room on a different website for. We booked with that website and cancelled the original booking without incurring any lost deposits etc...
OK enough of the boring stuff already. You guys want to know what we got up to right?
Day 1: This was a nothing day as we arrived at the hotel at 10pm and we did nothing more than find our toothbrushes and wash kits before falling into bed.
Day two: We were booked on the official Alcatraz Tour and after having breaking at the hotel we wandered down to the pier at a leisurely pace, making our way through China Town and tackling some of the mighty hills that San Fran is so well known for.
I'm going to shut up now and let my pictures do the talking...... (warning...there are a LOT of pictures, so you might want to grab a cuppa before scrolling any further)
What's really annoying is that the camera doesn't capture the gradient of the hills and they actually don't even look that steep! But they were!!! We were told by a local resident that this was the steepest hill in the city. Yup, I marched up that hill like it was nothing.......I may have needed a gallon of water at the top though ;-)
Those pastel colours are just too cute!!
Not sure I'm loving the shower room set up!
And I definitely would not be happy about the loo situation either!!
I'm pretty sure I heard the husband asking an Alcatraz official if there was room for me here on a permanent basis.... ;-)
We took the audio tour of Alcatraz and would highly recommend it. Without it you're not going to have a clue what you're looking at or the history behind it. I don't think it cost any extra, but be sure to check whether it's included in the type of ticket you're buying.
After we escaped from Alcatraz we strolled along the harbour towards Pier 39, we saw the Sea Lions that languish in the sun there, we ate lunch at a great place called Baudins (home made tomato soup poured into a sour-dough bread roll.....it was soooo good!) and we rode the tram from the harbour the whole length of the line to Union Square....
Just hanging out, lovin' life, as you do....
Day 3: Something we all agreed we wanted to do while in San Fran was to hire bikes, and we lucked out as our hotel had bikes that guests could use free of charge!! (More shopping dollars for me - Woo hoo!!!)
We cycled from our hotel through the streets of San Fran and in true tourist style we followed all signs to the Golden Gate Bridge. We were so lucky with the weather; whilst it wasn't boiling hot, the sun was out and the sky was blue.
After a million stops for photo opportunities, and a few breathers after being challenged by those infamous hills, we made it to the bridge. It was gorgeous. Whilst it would have been nice to see the bridge immersed in the low lying cloud that is a common sight if the Google Image search results are anything to go by, I was more than happy to forgo the cloud in favour of the sun and warmer temperatures!
Cycling across the bridge was an amazing experience and it wasn't until I was half way across it and looking out at a huge expanse of water that I really appreciated how wide the bay is and how huge the place is!
Not sure why but I love these two pictures of me :-)
As this was our final day in San Fran before making our way to Napa Valley, and in a bid to save time, we decided to take the ferry back to our side of the bay. It was a welcome relief for our legs to be ferried back.
Once back on familiar turf we headed towards our hotel and took advantage of the flat streets while they lasted and cycled as far as we could. It wasn't long before we were faced with the the prospect of those dreaded hills and so we de-saddled and huffed and puffed our way back to our hotel, pushing our bikes alongside us.
We lunched in one of the hip neighbourhoods and I felt well at home......NOT!! I was about as far out of my comfort zone as it's possible for someone to be! This place looked nothing from the outside but the huge queue of people waiting to be served was a sure sign that this place was a gem. So we took our place in the queue and waited. And waited. It was a very informal set up inside with people encouraged to share tables with strangers. It was either that or you didn't get a seat! That's not quite how I'm used to having my lunch but when in Rome and all that.
On our way out of San Fran we navigated the Windy Road which, as the name suggests is a road that is really windy. It's difficult to get pictures of it in "real time" because the hedges and the angle of the camera mean you can't actually see any of the windy-ness. But here's a picture I found online that shows you exactly what I'm trying (so badly!) to explain!
Then it really was time to leave San Fran behind....
I don't for a second think that we covered everything that San Francisco had to offer in the two days we were there (actually it was more like a day and a half) but we had a blast and we didn't feel cheated out of anything. But it was time to get our skates on....Napa Valley was calling us and I couldn't wait to get there!
Part 2 is coming soon. I've got a cracker of a castle to show you :-)
Have you visited San Francisco? What would you recommend that I didn't see? Let me know in the comments below; as always I'd love to hear from you.
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