US Tour – Leg 1: San Francisco

I’ve always thought San Francisco would be a cool place to visit and I had been told by several people how great the city is. So it seemed a good place to start the first leg of my holiday.

To save money, I chose to use a Super Shuttle to get from the airport to my hotel. I’d been warned about the Tenderloin district as a place to avoid. Unfortunately my shuttle driver had to make a stop near this district so one of my first experiences of San Francisco was seeing the hundreds of homeless, mentally ill and drug addicts who sleep rough in this district. I’ve never seen this level of deprivation in my life. It’s not something I expected to see in one of the richest cities in the world and I’m afraid it influenced my view of the city. How can a city as rich as San Francisco not help these people?

My hotel, the Argonaut, was situated in Fisherman’s Wharf. This is the area that overlooks the bay, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge. It kind of has a tacky ‘seaside’ feel. With lots of concession stores selling tat at inflated prices. Fisherman’s wharf is probably best known for Pier 39, with it’s resident sea lions. It’s a quiet nice area to be based in. It’s well served by the tram and the cable cars, with one of the two main stations next to my hotel.

The Argonaut - My hotel

On my first full day in San Francisco I’d went on an Alcatraz and sightseeing tour. I don’t usually do sightseeing tours. Electing to walk around and get the lay of the land. But with the hilliness of San Francisco I thought it wise to use the a tour for this.

First stop was Alcatraz. I wasn’t sure what to think of the place before visiting. After all, it’s just a prison. But when you make the trip across to the island I did realize the significance of the place. The tour bus guide had told us that he would be leaving at 1.30 on the dot and it seemed that we’d have to catch an early return boat to make the rendezvous time. This basically left us enough time to follow the audio tour and catch the boat back. I would really have liked more time to walk around some of the places not covered by the tour and to take more photos. Annoyingly, the bus driver who picked us up for the afternoon tour told us that leaving time was 1.40, not 1.30 which would have allowed us all to have stayed another 40 minutes.

Alcatraz
Alcatraz island

The afternoon was spent touring the major areas of San Francisco such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park etc. It was informative and enjoyable and helped me plan the rest of the week.

Golden Gate Bridge
Gold Gate Bridge

The rest of my time was spent visiting some of the local attractions and museums, such as the Aquarium on the Bay, the de Young museum and Coit Tower.

Jellyfish
Jellyfish at the Aquarium on the Bay

Coit Tower
Coit Tower

de Young Museum
Sculpture at the de Young museum

Rainforest enclosure at the California Academy of Sciences
Rainforest enclosure at the California Academy of Sciences

Cable Car
Riding a cable car

Our tour driver had suggested that we visit Chinatown at night to see the place lit up. But I’d definitely recommend you do not do this. Basically everything but the restaurants are closed and it’s very quiet.

I would have liked more time in San Francisco as I’d liked to have had time to go round more of the city’s museums. But I never got over the homeless problem. So it wouldn’t be a place I’d rush back to.