Heading To San Francisco
Leaving Napa, we arrived to find San Francisco in the fog!
We left late but in time to avoid any rush hour traffic going into San Francisco. The GPS was programmed to get us on the Golden Gate bridge. But we were not sure what to do about the signs as we approached that advised there was “no cash” on the bridge.
By the time we had read the small flashing signs and really started to worry, we had passed the “no return” point on the bridge. Driving through the automated gate, we figured that our license plate would trigger some bill to show show up to the rental car company. And at some point in the future a wildly inflated charge would be sent to us by the rental company.
As we approached the bridge we saw San Francisco in the fog. The drive across was a damp drive through the fog. Kinda weird to feel like you were in the clouds with no visibility.
The GPS faithfully got us off the bridge, on the right one way streets and to our hotel in the wharf district.
Touring San Francisco In The Fog
When we planned our 4 week west coast trip for June, we were told about “June Gloom”. During this time, the fog settled onto the west coast for good parts of the day in June. We saw a bit of this on our visit to Seattle and when we drove the Oregon coast. But we got the full experience of San Francisco in the fog.
While we were there, never saw the Golden Gate bridge with no fog clinging to some part of it. On our first day we wandered about the wharf area. We were amazed at the number and variety of coats and fleece for sale at incredibly cheap prices. We figured we were ok with the windbreakers we brought with us. So we passed by for the first few days. But the cold and the damp finally convinced us that we indeed did need one more layer to be comfortable in San Francisco in the fog.
Using a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus (“HoHo”) two day pass let us get a good overview of the major attractions. We even got a night tour. This was supplemented with a day pass for the trolleys. We tried both trolley lines, hanging out like a silly tourist as the trolleys went up and down the hills of San Francisco.
Wandering On The Waterfront
We wandered around most of the wharf area and tried seafood from different places. It was a quick 2 days. The city and sites were quite spread out. But with good public transportation, we figured that the next time we would stay outside of the touristy wharf district. And explore in more detail another area.
As certified chocoholics we were always on the lookout for good, dark chocolate when we shopped, when we wandered markets or in tourist destinations. No true chocoholic can miss a trip to Ghirardelli’s in San Francisco. Even if everyone did tell us to buy the chocolate in the CVS drugstore at much lower prices. It was still fun to look at the variety of chocolate for sale. Even it is no longer made at the San Fran location.
Leaving San Francisco in the fog, we stopped at Lands End for our last view of the Golden Gate bridge. And while it was a different view of the bridge, it was still in fog.
San Francisco Hotel
Best Western Tuscan (San Francisco)
We picked this hotel to be close to the wharf district. And it was less than 4 blocks to walk to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was easy to find (although we did have to work around one way streets).
As we unloaded the car, the staff wondered if we were moving in for good with all our bags. We handed our car keys to the valet. The hotel parking rates were high. But we opted for hotel security over the public lot across the street. It was particularly expensive to have the car parked when we did not use the “in and out” privileges.
But when we initially priced out our rental car, multiple starts, stops and drop off charges ended up being way more expensive than paying for occasional parking costs. However expensive they ended up being.
We were not really checking in too early. But as usual, the clerk tried to pawn off the “room of last resort”. Room 201, just two doors from the elevator, overlooked the hotel front awning. While we may have stretched to see a brief bit of the waterfront, this would not be a quiet peaceful spot to return to.
David made his demands clear and we got a quieter room on a higher floor. While it had no view, it was a much nicer spot for us. The room had a refrigerator for our picnic supplies. Coffee was available in the main entrance in the morning to supplement the one pack a day of coffee in our room.
There was a wine reception between 4 and 6pm. But we never seemed to be there for this. Breakfast was not included in this hotel for us. But we had no trouble walking into the wharf area to find a breakfast spot when we needed a bigger protein boost than our morning shakes were giving us.
San Francisco Things To Do
Hop On Hop Off Bus (City Tour Line) (“HoHo”)
After 3 unsuccessfully attempts with the portable Visa machine, we went into the office to finish the transaction in cash. David watched his credit card for days, not sure if the hustler that pulled us in from the street had not skimmed the card in his 3 attempts to do the Visa authorization.
Visa’s fraud system kick in quickly. They saw this unusual behaviour and put a block on David’s Visa card until he called. He confirmed that it was him trying the transactions out of his home area. It was annoying and embarrassing to have our credit card refused when the fraud alerts flagged the card. But it was reassuring that really weird transactions were caught and quickly cleared up with one Skype call.
Our first HoHo trip was in an older double decker. It was more picturesque to be sure. But as we bumped up and down, a new bus suspension system would have outweighed the interesting older bus design.
Coming with this older bus was Willie the driver. He had been doing bus tours for a long time. And he entertained us with his sing song patter non-stop through the entire tour. We strained to figure out what he was really saying. But many foreign travellers missed most of his humour.
He knew everyone along the route. And had great suggestions on his favourite places to see when we got off at each stop. It was a fun way to see San Fran for the first time in a very long time!
It was interesting to see the various neighbourhoods and to see the picturesque houses, often interspersed with new architecture.
We looked forward to a night tour. It is always nice to see a city at night. And this tour took us over the “other” bridge (the Bay Bridge) and gave us a panoramic view of San Francisco in the fog from Treasure Island.
We bundled up in our new fleece with many layers. But we shivered through most of the trip. It was so bad that at one point I gave up the view and went inside. Only the hardiest of tourists braved the wind to get their pics.
The main pier offered a variety of fresh seafood that kept David’s eyes wide. This ranged from takeout stalls to fancy restaurants and everything in between. We saw in the restaurants and got a good view of the boats in the harbour. But we never found the spot where the “real” fisherman brought their daily catch.
The pier provided a good view of Alcatraz in distance. But the Golden Gate Bridge was in fog (and stayed that way for 3 days).
Pier 39 (K Dock – Sea Lion “Sea Lebrities”)
This pier was about a 20 minute walk from Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a stop on the HoHo bus. This provided another good variety of places to eat. The Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant attracted a good number of tourists.
The big attraction on the pier was K Dock. This provided a great view of the floating docks covered with lazing sea lions. They rolled over each other to get better spots, nudging others over or off the dock. They often “talked” to each other, nose to nose, looking like lovers until the cacophony started.
It was good entertainment to watch. We were pretty excited to see the sea lions. But this excitement waned as we encountered sea lions and harbour seals all the way along the coast until we arrived in San Diego.
San Francisco Cable Cars
The cable cars were an icon of San Francisco and everyone wanted to ride the cars up and down the hills. The braver ones hung on the outside step. We initially thought it was just a ride up or down the hill. But the cable car rides were much longer than you expected. They provided a bit of a tour. Even if the line ups took longer than the tour!
It was a musical ride – the clack clack of the cable and the bells played various tunes. Each had its own meaning between the driver and the back brake person. We took both lines (Powell-Mason and Powell- Hyde) from the waterfront up to Union Square.
It was interesting to see the crew manually swing the cable cars around on the turntable. Then they sent them back up or down the hills.
San Francisco Places To Eat
The menu had a broad selection and we again passed on the seafood bucket. I was far too hungry to work that hard to get my food out of the shells. My mussels were a bit too garlicky (didn’t know that was possible). And this time we left the sauce behind. David’s crab salad had so much cilantro that we left most of the salad behind.
The Cheesecake Factory at Macy’s
We thought that this was a unique place until we kept running into Cheesecake Factories all over California. The one was located on the top floor of Macy’s. This gave us a view from the outdoor patio.
While the view of Union Square was interesting, it was windy and cool so we really did not relax and enjoy. David spent some time trying to get just the perfect picture of the California flag. This kept us amused for a bit of time. But we finally realized it had been 45 minutes and we had no food, despite every table around us turning over at least once.
We finally got the attention of the floor manager who then put our order in. But by then it was too late and we left hungry and pissed. No customer service recovery at all. Not even an offer to cover the cost of the take out slice of cheesecake we purchased as we left. The cheesecake was yummy. But at $8+, not really worth the experience.
A Busy Time In San Francisco In The Fog
We were amazed at how much we saw and did when we visited San Francisco in the fog. We got a great taste for this city. And we returned many times to enjoy it more.
From San Francisco, we headed to Carmel for a week of relaxation!
Did you visit San Francisco in the fog? What else should we do on a return visit?
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I’m very curious, did you buy the t-shirt! That’s good to know that they no longer make it in San Fran but it looks like they are proud of their legacy still. I’ve not been to San Fran…yet. It’s one of the few US cities I have on my list. I would like to visit the famous market, ride a trolley and admire the architecture this city is so famous for. Thanks for the inspiration, it looks like I need to add a few more activities to my list.
We have been to San Francisco many times and every time there is something new to discover. Sadly the chocoholics did not buy the t-shirt!