Pacific Paradise – Day 2/28

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Easter Monday, 10th April:
San Francisco

Well, this is the BIG one! Probably the most varied and lengthy holiday we’ve ever taken!

As you can guess from the title, this 28-day jaunt near and around the Pacific Ocean involves land, air and yes (a lot of) sea! We originally planned to do this one a few years back, but Covid got in the way! But on a positive note, at least we’ve had plenty of time to pack!

Our Pacific Paradise began by heading to Heathrow by taxi, then taking the Virgin flight to San Francisco – we’re spending three days exploring the city. Next, it’s back on a plane to take us to Tahiti for two more days. We then pick up the Oceania Regatta for an 18-night cruise exploring French Polynesia (taking in the islands of Bora Bora, Rangiroa and Nuku Hiva). It’s then north towards the Hawaiian Islands. After twenty-six days, we disembark in Los Angeles, where we round it all off with two days in Venice Beach, before flying home to Heathrow, again courtesy of Virgin. Phew! 😁

Morning all! 😀

Here we are in San Francisco (population: c815k spread across 232 sq. miles) – and it’s our first full day having arrived at the 252-room Argonaut Hotel last night, after an 11-hour flight from Heathrow. The Hotel is in a good location – Fisherman’s Wharf – we’re close to the Cruise Ship Terminal in one direction whilst in the other, we’re next door to trendy boutiques at Ghirardelli Square, the Powell & Hyde Cable Car Turnaround and relaxed green spaces like the Maritime National Historical Park.

Given that we didn’t get to bed until the early hours (UK time), I didn’t sleep too well, but Ann managed a good night’s rest without a problem!

That’ll do nicely!

The weather forecast looks good, and let’s hope it stays that way for the rest of our short stay here (we leave on Thursday). There’s a lot to see, and I guess we’ll only ‘scratch the service’ this time around – but it’s the perfect excuse to come back again ehh?!?!?

If you missed it, for a quick summary of our holiday plans, click on ‘Paradise Found!’ above 👍

The Docks

But you can’t enjoy all this sightseeing without a good breakfast inside you, so our first priority today was to find somewhere to eat! And boy! Were we hungry!? (Must have been the sea air!) 😮

A beautiful morning at Fisherman’s Wharf

So, at the unearthly hour of 7.25am, we could be seen wandering around the Docks and enjoying the views…

A beautiful day promised!

I can think of less attractive places to wander around at this time of the morning! With the cool breeze and the spotlessly clean paths and roads, it felt good to be out in the fresh air and enjoying the scenery.

The Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in the morning mist

The Breakfast

Phew! (and it’s only 8.30am!)

And there are plenty of eateries to choose from, all within easy walking distance (even MY walking distance!). In the end, we settled for a small establishment called ‘Eightam‘ (guess what time it opens?) 😉. It only seated around 20 people but what it lacked in capacity, it more than made up for in service and tasty food! It soon filled up, so we were glad that we arrived when we did!

By now, the temperature was on the up, and we chose to sit outside – it was perfect weather for it, probably the first time we’d eaten outside this year! Not too hot, not too cold, and where eventually, I had to take off my coat! (racy ehh!?!?) 😉

A perfect start to the day!

Mission accomplished and with the batteries recharged, we were ready to soak up the sights and sounds of San Francisco!

The Big Bus

All aboard (from 9.30am!)

Thanks for all the recommendations to use The Big Bus Company. We’ve used them before around the world – even in Hong Kong, back in 2019 – and we find it a great way to get a sense of size and scale of unfamiliar cities/towns.

We booked this one via their free App (Android phones HERE, fruit-based phones HERE) and saved 10% on the price of two Adult tickets (totalling a slightly scary $131.40). They offer three routes (‘red’, ‘blue’ and ‘night’) and we selected the ‘Red Route’.

We’re on the Bus!

What followed, was just over two hours of informative pre-recorded commentary that taught us a lot about the city. Traffic was quite light, but San Francisco does love its traffic lights, so we were stop-starting quite regularly.

A word to the wise though! It’s a popular attraction, and even though we thought we’d timed it perfectly for their 10am start at ‘stop 1’ just up the road – err, we didn’t! 😮. On arrival, the first Bus was already full and so we were ushered to the waiting second vehicle. It appears that although they don’t open until 10am, they begin the boarding process 30 minutes earlier (we’d missed that in the small print). Still, at least we were first on the second Bus and therefore got the pick of the seats. 👍

In truth, I’m not sure what we were expecting for a typical American city in 2023? Rows of non-descript skyscrapers maybe? What we got was a pleasant surprise!

Yes, of course there were skyscrapers, but there were also more than a few older buildings that nestled in perfectly with the more modern stuff, where in many cases, ‘colour’ was the name of the game. It was all very beautiful!

And if you thought that all those buildings left no room for the natural world – you’d be wrong! (as were we!) 🤔

There were plenty of green spaces too, including the Botanical Gardens (opened in 1940) – a day-trip in itself! Just beautiful! 55 acres with over 55,000 plants.

But for me, the lasting impression will be that of the above building. San Francisco’s City Hall. Opened in 1917, it simply dominated the immediate area and looked somewhat out of place, sharing the space with modern vehicles. In perhaps a small gesture of ‘one-upmanship’ its dome is actually taller than US Capitol Building by about 40 feet. Ouch!😉

Ahh, a trip across the bridge. Blue skies, 17 degrees – what could possibly go wrong?

Towards the end of the Tour included crossing the iconic mile-long Golden Gate Bridge (and back again). Eventually opened in 1937, its construction took longer than expected (read about the details HERE). Today, the experience will be firmly etched in our minds for the rest of our lives, but unless you’ve done it too, perhaps not for the reasons you might imagine! In spite of the very pleasant 17℃ and the oh-so-blue sky, crossing the bridge turned into the equivalent of being thrust into a wind-tunnel with the air temperature set at MINUS 20℃ – and the experience seemed to last forever. We wondered why the group in front, who boarded with us, had dressed as if they were about to ascend Everest – hoods, face masks, gloves etc etc). Initially, we thought ‘what a bunch of wooses!’ but someone had obviously briefed them beforehand! Not an experience either of us would want to do on a regular basis (or, in fact EVER!) but certainly one to tick off on the bucket list. 😀

The Cake

Only about a gazillion calories per millimetre!

We arrived back at where it had all begun, just before 12.25. It had been an excellent tour (well, maybe not the ‘wind tunnel’ experiment) and we’d thoroughly recommend this if you’re spending more than a few days here in San Francisco. As we wandered back in the direction of the Hotel, we were still freezing from earlier and ideally looking for a coffee bar. But in the end, we settled for the restaurant that’s part of our hotel… with a beer… and a coffee… and some cake! Ahh, that felt better! 😉👍

The Pizza

We’re pretty close to the Italian Quarter here, so it’s not surprising that many of the restaurants offer Pizza. Well, it would have been rude not to absorb some of the culture would it? 😉. We dropped into nearby Fisherman’s Pizzeria and settled in for some freshly made Pizza.

In spite of the TripAdvisor reviews, it was all very tasty. Prepare for a raid on your wallet though! We knew eating out in America wasn’t going to be cheap (mainly down to the relatively poor exchange rate currently) but $74.42£60.11 – for a couple of 10″ pizzas plus a soft drink was pushing it a bit! 😮. Well, the service was good and they did offer to box up what we couldn’t manage tonight! (I think a 10-inch American pizza might actually be bigger than its UK counterpart!).

In an attempt to walk-off the American ’10-incher’ we wandered over towards the waterfront and Musee Mecanique.

This is a family-owned Museum (since 1933) and houses a wide range of coin-operated slot-machines. And, better than that, they all work! Clearly a labour of love, and not surprisingly, it was very busy! It might have been me, but I found it somewhat prophetic that it also housed a cash machine inside too – and it WASN’T an exhibit… yet! 😟


Well, that’s it for our first full-day here in San Francisco. Tomorrow, we’re off to Alcatraz (and yes, it is a return ticket!). See you tomorrow!

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