Visiting San Francisco – Mini Itineraries

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San Francisco is one of my favourite US Cities. I have been there quite a few times over the years and each time I try to discover something new to see and do. I usually spend my time in San Francisco as a local and don’t tend to do a lot of touristy things. But if you are visiting for a first time, here are some of my suggestions.

These series of tweets were suggestions I made for a twitter competition held by Air France recently.

Nothing like a good American diner, a stack of blueberry pancakes with bacon while watching the waves crash onto the beach below. if you go during the weekend, expect to queue. I always take a walk along the beach after breakfast/brunch and dip my toes into the Pacific Ocean.

Filimore Street is a bit like Hampstead High Street, a nice residential area, lots of lovely boutique shops and local Californian restaurants. Lovely street for shopping and nothing like the big departments stores or touristy crowds around  Union Square.

The Pork Store Cafe is another old American diner. I love the retro decor and their pulled pork is just superb. A walk around Haight is a must as this was at the centre of the Hippie movement in the 1960s. Now it is an area full of new age book shops, psychics and quirky shops. I heard that it has got a bit dodgy of late so go with care.

The Mission is a uber trendy area now that is has all been regenerated. You can get there by the Bart. The first time we were taken there for the best tacos in town by some friends, we were told to not look at the cars around us if we stopped at the traffic lights and to just walk straight into the restaurant when we parked. It was not safe to linger on the streets. Nowadays, Mission is a not only safe to walk around but is also home to a lot of innovative new restaurants. We went for some superb Cuban food here and will have to revisit on my  next trip.

Travelling by boat across the bay is just such a treat, especially coming from London. The views of the City from the Bay is stunning and you can see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz from the ferry. You can get to Sausalito by car too but it is no where near as fun.

The ferry building is now a bustling food centre with numerous eateries and a fab cook shop. On sundays, the Embarcadero hosts an enormous farmers market, Californian style. A great way to spend a Sunday morning, grazing your way through the stalls.

The Slanted Door is one of the most talked about Vietnamese restaurants in town. It serves a Vietnamese (pseudo fusion) in a contempary and stylish space. If you are after something more authentic and down to earth, I found a few places for great Pho in Chinatown and the new Chinatown on Geary.

If you are already in SF, a visit to the Bay Area is incomplete without a visit to Napa Valley and doing some wine tasting. You can drive yourself or take one of the organised tours. The tours takes you to a champagne tasting, a brandy distillery and some vineyards. it’s easy and efficient way to do Napa but you can’t pick which vineyards to visit. My top pick was the unforgettable Carneros Brandy which has since closed. Maybe one of the other ones will offer an equally good product. Best of all about the tour is that you can snooze on the bus back. If you plan ahead you can book a table at Auberge du Soleil and even stay over in their hotel. I have not managed to book a table there so far.

If I venture away from the City, I usually drive. Driving towards Napa Valley allows you to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. Along the way, you have to stop at an In and Out Burger and order from the secret menu. As you get closer to Napa, you will see signs for the Outlet shops. It’s not the biggest outlet mall but it has some great brands. Well worth a shopping detour.

Beyond Napa Valley, you will find Calistoga. This is a little town that has one main street with buildings like in a cowboy film. This town is famous for it’s spa hotels. I usually stay one night and book in for a full day or volcanic ash mud bath, mineral soak and massage. It’s all quite reasonably priced too. One of the hotels has a massive pool filled with hot water directly from the Geyser on the property. It’s pure bliss here. Try and fit one night here or a day trip at least.

I will update with some newer tips and things to do on my next trip. There are so many more things to do and see around San Francisco and the Bay Area.




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