It’s surprising that I have never been to San Francisco but its true. 26 years and the only thing I’ve seen of San Francisco was the airport. And I’ve always heard great things, “Shawn, you will love the hills and city!” So now that I have friends who live out there I decided it was time to go. I decided to go for 5 days and I wanted to explore downtown San Francisco, Napa Valley and anything else that caught my interest.
This time I used my SouthWest points and flew from Chicago Midway direct into San Francisco International. I recommend the early morning flight, which got me into San Francisco at about 11:00 am. I had one of my friends pick me up, (thanks!), which saved me money on a taxi. The city of San Francisco is located about a 30 minute drive north, depending on traffic. Since I had no idea what to do first my friend decided to take me to Chinatown first.
City of San Francisco
Luckily he is Chinese too so he knew some of the better places to actually go to. If you’re driving into San Francisco parking isn’t as horrible as I thought it was going to be, especially in Chinatown. My friend took me to this place called R&G Lounge. It’s the kind of Chinese Restaurant where menus are served in Chinese first and then English second; luckily I had someone by my side who spoke Chinese.
First off try to go with someone who knows anything about Chinese food because it may be hard to know what is legit or not. We had some beef, noodles and seafood which was all delish. After some food we explored Chinatown which is actually pretty cute. But if you’re not really going to buy anything than you don’t need to spend too much time here. It’s similar to New Yorks Chinatown actually. Anyways I didn’t charge my ultra nice camera from the night before and only snapped a few photos.
And for the rest of the day I didn’t have my nice camera so most of my photos from San Francisco are off my GoPro and iPhone. which I guess is fitting since Apple is based in San Francisco.We then went to Coit Tower, which offers some of the best views of downtown and the surrounding area. The wait was long to go up and it was a little expensive but it was worth it just for the views. We had this worker take photos for us and she was right, she took better photos.
On to Lombard Street which is so touristy but kind of essential. I mean San Francisco has hills and crazy streets but Lombard Street somehow became famous because of the way it slopes down. And it is beautiful but not too exciting. I snapped a few photos and walked up the street and back down. Go if you must and at least you do get great views of most of the city.
So I always wanted to see the Painted Ladies and the park that is opposite to them called Alamo Square Park. One of the most famous parks in San Francisco because of the views you get, its iconic and should be visited. There is nothing to do there per se, but to take pictures and sit. On a great day there are stunning views of the Painted Ladies with downtown San Francisco in the background. I stayed here for a good hour, just watching other people relax and take the atmosphere in.
Dinner time in San Francisco at a really nice French restaurant called Amelie. I love French food and this place is owned by legit French people. For anybody else touring San Francisco, this place is kind of expensive but in terms of San Francisco prices, it’s not bad at all. I had a great evening with my friends talking over lovely wine, cheese and delicious French food.
And we wrapped up the evening with a drive to the Golden Gate Bridge and Presidio which is the lovely area just south of the Golden Gate. It’s a pretty bridge but it doesn’t oo and awe me like it does for others. Anyways it was super windy that night, cold and getting dark so we only stayed for maybe 10 minutes. One of the highlights was passing the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, which is just gorgeous.
Another Day in San Francisco
So I’m going to skip ahead to the other day I was in San Francisco. In between I visited sites around the Bay Area including Napa Valley, San Jose and Big Basin but those will be on a later post. By the way, I didn’t pay for a hotel in San Francisco, allowing me to save literally $1,000. I recommend staying with people you may know in San Francisco although that may be difficult since rent and space is a luxury.
On the 4th day in San Francisco, one of my good friends and I commuted back into San Francisco from Hayward. It’s actually pretty convenient and easy to do but it took us about 45 minutes to get into the city center. We got off near the center of San Francisco, known as Powell Street. This is where you come to shop as all the major brands are here or ride the Powell Street cars.
We started with a little shopping before we got back on the BART system and headed to Mission District to see The Castro. As a gay man I kind of owe it to myself to see where the gay movement began. The walk there was pleasant although Mission District is not really known for being one of the best neighborhoods. It kind of looks run down, and is considered one of the worse parts of San Francisco even though apartments can go for easily $3,000 a month.
The Castro borders Mission District and is actually disappointing if you’re expecting a lot. It really is just a small neighborhood and the sad part is that only a few people can actually afford to live there now. That mere fact and the fact that it’s kind of hard to get to makes it not so gay as it use to be. Today it consists of rich older gay men living in really expensive apartments. To me the gay-borhood in Chicago is so much better on basically every level. Although I did hear at night it livens up, which god I hope so because what I saw was limited.
Anyways I did tour with my friend and took the obligatory pictures but that’s really all we did. I didn’t really see the nightlife but honestly I’m not sure it would have been any different from Chicago. Of course the area is cute and expensive as hell but that just makes less attainable for everybody else and not as much fun.
Also food is kind of expensive. You’re not going to find much for under $10. We decided to eat at a place called Kasa Indian Eatery in The Castro. Pretty standard Indian meal for around $30 bucks for two people. And I guess at least the plates where pretty big. We wanted to try this sandwich shop called Ike’s Place nearby but the line was out the door insane. Must have been some amazing sandwiches.
After some eating we went back towards the center of San Francisco to ride some cable cars. Now this is very touristy and $6 a ride but it’s actually a really fun thing to do. The hills around Powell and Pine Street are steep and the cable car is great way to climb both of those hills. You can actually get on at any stop but you will see long lines outside of the Powell and Market street. That is the most famous cable car but my advice is to go to Pine and Market street and take it up from there. Then head down on the cable car once you cross Powell street.
Don’t over do it in San Francisco! There is so much walking that it can become kind of ridiculous. My friend and I grabbed some Starbucks and then walked over to The Embarcadero Ferry Terminal. My friend told me that there is always a market every morning up until 4ish. It’s a great place to just kind of hang out around. Once in the terminal you will see food shops, stores and restaurants that over look the Treasure Island and Oakland. After that it was getting late and we had enough “touring” around for a day so we decided to take the BART back to Hayward.
What I Think?
I love San Francisco and it truly is a great place to visit. However I don’t think I would ever want to live there since the prices for everything are truly insane. Think long and hard if you’re considering moving. Also it’s over hyped and way over priced. Sure you have beautiful weather but if you’re living in a dump downtown, what’s the point?
But as a tourist I had a great time. The California weather is truly why people love San Francisco so much. Of course it’s kind of pretentious with the amount of money and tech people going around but that can be overlooked pretty easily. Is there much to do in San Francisco? Yes if you know what to do and where to look. There is especially a lot to do just outside of San Francisco which is what I will cover in my next post.
Simply I do like San Francisco but for ordinary tourists it’s a hard place to stay for a long time. Prices for hotels in the city are kind of insane and you probably won’t walk out without paying at least $1,000 for a 4 day weekend. Use your points to fly there and for hotels. That’s something to consider when thinking about visiting. Is it my favorite city in the world, no but it’s a city that grew on me after a while.
images by: shawnvoyage