What I love most about some of my travels is the way a destination, a city falls in the itinerary enroute. Just the same way San Francisco became a part of my trip on the way to the Hawaiian Islands. A quick 3 days getaway to "City by the Bay" was on my mind. And even before setting foot in the city of San Francisco I knew there was so much more the city had to offer than just cool weather and the Golden Gate! Making through the 19 hrs. long flight I was all excited and ready to explore the city built on 43 hills within a 7 by 7 mile radius fringing the Pacific Ocean.
Landing in the city of SF (yes that's how the Americans have named the city) the city vibes were so eclectic. The first time I was in the city, I found myself racing around and barely getting anything in. There was something new and exciting going on each moment. I only had three full days to see everything and I wanted to make the most of it. Having my notes, research and maps by my side, I knew San Francisco's attractions are spread out and aren't always convenient to reach, there's a lot of travel time involved. So I figured out to catch the sights that were the highlight of the city and save the rest until next time. At least a promise I made to myself to be back in the city! And so did my SF sojourn began.
My very first day in SF has to be spent walking the legendary Golden Gate Bridge. All this while I was pondering over all the hype around this bridge that I had to see it for myself, walk it, sink in the feeling of actually being on it!
Stretching an enormous 4,200 feet wide and towering a mammoth 750 feet above the sea level, the majestic 'Golden Gate Bridge' is one of the internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco and has been declared as one of the wonders of modern world. Connecting the Marin County and the city of San Francisco this monumental structure stands strong as a piece of engineering art. Yes I had to stare at it from every angle and take a stupid amount of pictures like I did to truly sink in the immensity of Golden Gate Bridge.
Also near the bridge as you walk along, the harbor toward the center of town is this park, which features a beautiful beach, restaurants, piers for fishing, and parks for Frisbee. You'll find a lot of locals running, walking their dogs, or lying on the beach. It offers sweeping views of the entire harbor.
Walking the upstreet lanes of SF you cannot miss visiting the Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and Ghirardelli Square.
This area covers numerous blocks along the waterfront and is one of the most popular places you unwind. And you will know it only once you are here. There are street performers, souvenir shops, and tons of spendy restaurants you keep you hooked all evening.
While at this square be prepared to get transported into a world of aromas, chocolate and lots of chocolate from the famous Ghiradelli. I am sure you cannot leave this place without getting indulged in some chocolate therapy!
After a hearty indulgence to give your feet a rest hop on to one of the cable cars in the city and experience the other neighborhoods in San Francisco. I caught one from the Market Street and they were indeed fun to ride and saved lots of time walking up and down those hills.
I got off at the Lombard Street to catch a glimpse of the world's windiest streets. It was really fun to Watch the cars and bikers navigate the crooked narrow lanes with sharp turns as tourists gawk at them.
Before the sun could set, heading to The Top Of The Mark, the highest building in San Francisco is a must.
Later in the evening I saved some energy to witness the The Palace of Fine Arts
Though it was late evening the views were grandeur. All lit up at dark, no wonder the outdoor rotunda and the lagoon are one of the city's most photographed sights. This Roman-style remnant sight surely did add to my list of must see sights in SF.
Not having witness enough, another major city landmark that I was stubborn to fit in todays plan was the Coit Tower, perched atop Telegraph Hill. Though I couldn't make it to the top at night, grasping the view of 27 fresco murals by different artists from ground level, with cold breeze brushing past you at 7.C was definitely worth it.
Catching very little sleep with the excitement of next day, my morning started early by visiting the Twin Peaks. The drive itself to the top was quite exhilarating.
On arriving I realized no better place than the Twin Peaks could offer the spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of the whole city. A monumental natural wonder standing up to 920 ft above the sea level offered some breathtaking and stunning views of some of the most iconic symbols of the city like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the Alcatraz and the Market Street. More than just a sight to see for me this place was a solace to relax for a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The rest of the day was planned to make a visit to the Alcatraz. Catching a ferry from the pier to the island "The Rock" looked calm and serene far away from the chaotic streets of San Francisco.
However as the name goes the story of this prison island unfolds quote differently, a prison which anyone will never dare to escape from. Reaching the other side of the pier it stood right in-front of me in complete isolation in the never ending sea with a promise of so many stories to be told.
Exploring this former federal prison on Alcatraz Island which was home to some of the worst criminals in the US, was nerve-wracking yes exciting. It was shut down in the 1970s and has since become a national landmark people like us to explore. There was so much to see and do. Especially exploring the dark corners of this island.
Here's a peek at what some of the cells were like when actual inmates were in them.
What took me by surprise was that San Francisco looked glorious from the prison and I couldn't help but think, that for the criminals it must have been such a sore sight! Like imagine the good life was right in front of them at all times almost within their reach except for no way to escape and a freezing sea between them. No wonder it would have turned their hearts into "rock".
Having explored so much of the city in just 2 days I planned to take the next day off to Napa Valley. All prepped up to raise a glass to myriad adventures that was about to begin at the top of the Napa Valley.
With 50-plus wineries in this small town, and so much of aromatic cheese flavors surrounding it, the options to visit the tasteries are boundless. Boutique wineries, plethora of cheese varieties, a Tuscan-inspired castle winery with authentic dungeon and torture chamber, this little town houses it all.
After sinking in the vastness of option I did find myself amidst the Sonoma Winery, which was a win-win for both wine and cheese tasting. They had some of the best pairing to go with and that too with a view. Yes, I did enjoy my glass of poison amidst the wilderness. Here's one in the name of SF.
On the way back I stopped at the Mount Tamalpais to catch my last sunset of the city. This easy 1.2-mile loop will set up your evening with an amazing sunset viewing and scenic landscape for photography.
There's no other place that you will feel closer to heaven than here. Being at the highest peak, just above the clouds as they roll in, this real life place and feeling transported me into a dream for a moment. One of the best sunset memories from the bay city I can say! Walking back the mount at 2,570 feet, my heart baffled to leave the place.
Overall my 3 days spent in and around this city of bay was incredible and I would 100% go again in a heartbeat. All I can say is that San Francisco by far is the easiest city to love and the hardest to leave. Its vintage charm is enough to capture the hearts of travelers like me from all over.
Make a tour to Alcatraz
A wine visit to Napa Valley
Exploring the city by foot or take the tram
Spend a sunset at Mount Tamalpais
This post was originally posted GlobeTrotting 365Days