We had been planning our girl’s trip to California, San Francisco and Napa Valley, for months. It was the most organized I’d ever been, planning daily itineraries complete with restaurants, shops, and tourist sights for each day. It left us with very full days, but very little decision making on the trip. Each morning we just got up, looked at what we planned, and headed out for a cup of Blue Bottle coffee.
It was our first time visiting San Francisco and we spent the entire first day seeing the sights. Once we got to our hotel room at the Executive Hotel Vintage Court in the centrally located shopping district of Union Square, we refreshed ourselves, we headed out to ride the cable car to Fisherman’s Warf to try a bowl of clam chowder, a tourist must do. We watched several cable cars full of tourists go past us and finally decided to bag it and walk. We walked down Powell Street past people tending to their daily needs. Buying groceries, walking to run errands, and getting local gossip over a newspaper stand. Laundry hung from clotheslines on balconies and children peeped through open windows. Housecats stoically guarded their domiciles while dog walkers tended to packs of tiny beasts. The streets weren’t terribly busy though, all of this taking place over many, many blocks. We connected with fellow tourists again along The Embarcadero. We spent the rest of the day like this, walking from destination to destination through the everyday lives of San Franciscans - from Fisherman’s Warf through secret gardens to the top of Coit Tower in Telegraph Hill (recommended for the views) and then back to our hotel via Taylor Street and the grand hotels of Nob Hill. Taylor Street being one of the steepest streets I’ve ever walked up/down. We were impressed with the accuracy of parking and dizzying slope changes. It was terrifying to think about having to drive a stick shift car or even wear heels around this city.
Almost every local I talked to never rode a bike over the Golden Gate Bridge. “It’s a tourist thing,” they would say, with a tone of distaste, every time I asked. “Tourists, ride bikes over the bridge to Sausalito, a touristy town, and then take the ferry back. It goes past Alcatraz so you can get some good pictures. But it’s for tourists.” Needless to say, all of our friends who did it said it was the best bike ride of their life, a once in a lifetime experience. So we had to see for ourselves. Most people rent bikes at the pier but we took a taxi to Sports Basement and rented bikes from an outdoorsy shop in a retrofitted grocery store. The space was so raw that they didn’t even bother to paint over the “dairy” “meats” and “bakery” signs leftover from the building’s previous life. Biking proved to be fun and challenging to us Florida girls trying to navigate the steep inclines. Although the bridge was insanely crowded, the view was picturesque and we were lucky enough to see the fog lift.
Once we got the hang of riding bikes, it was fun to jet down to Sausalito and spend the day tooling around the shops, galleries, and checking out the architecture. We went to a great dive-y Mexican place for lunch, which I highly recommend. It didn’t have views of the bay, but it did have Tecate, tacos, and a casual and festive atmosphere with outdoor seating. The weather was out of this world perfect – in the 70s with a slight breeze and lots of sunshine. The only stressful part of our day was getting on the ferry to go back to San Francisco. I recommend getting a token (there’s a stand in the bike parking area, you can’t miss it) as soon as you arrive in Sausalito as it will reserve a spot for you and your bike on the ferry at a specific time. If you do not have this token, you could be left for hours waiting for the next availability. Once back in San Fran, we rode our bikes through the city and along the beaches back to the shop. It wasn’t until then that we realized taxis don’t normally go out there, so we ended up walking back to a busier part of town. We definitely earned all of our calories that day!