After leaving Yosemite we headed back to the coast to soak up some NorCal vibes and some of the general entertaining weirdness in sunny Santa Cruz, on our way to San Francisco.
It’s a really cool little town, with a pier, a boardwalk and an old school funfair, where I let Sam kick my ass at air hockey.
I got my revenge by taking him for an American diner experience in a couldn’t-tell-from-the-outside-but-actually-completely-veggie restaurant. Fortunately it was a completely authentic American experience, because we ordered two things from the appetisers menu and this ginormous feast arrived…
We won’t be going hungry again!
We then had a lovely walk around the West Cliff to watch the expert surfers and sea otters surfing so close to the cliffs. Beautiful, but scary!
The next day we drove up some more of Highway One’s beautiful coast on our way to San Francisco, stopping for lots of pictures along the way.
We stayed in a nice and cheap Airbnb in a suburb of SF and spent our first night eating clam chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf out of a sourdough bread bowl (I am definitely going to try this at home when we get back) and visiting the late night Exploratorium, a very cool science museum full of weird and wonderful hands on experiments. Thursday night is adults only and costs just $15 and I think the alcohol only enhanced our scientific understanding.
We then had a full day of exploring the city, visiting City Hall (where my cousin got married last year), the really crooked Lombard Street, Jack Keruac Alley, the Beat Museum and Chinatown. And eating some really good Vietnamese sandwiches as recommended by the Lonely Planet. If there is a queue of cool looking people, you know it’ll be good food.
One of the biggest tourist attractions in the city is Alcatraz, the former high security prison on an island in the bay, which housed some famous inmates including Al Capone. The tours seem to sell out weeks in advance, but Sam managed to get us some tickets. The boat trip out to the island is pretty cool, with lovely views of the city and bridges.
On the island itself we took the really fascinating audio tour of the cell block, narrated by former guards and inmates. The notorious prison closed it’s doors in 1963, but was a really eerie place to be. Apparently it was voted in the Top 25 Scariest Places in the World. The tour definitely had some interesting stories of failed escape attempts, riots and prison life.
Back in the city we decided that, even though San Francisco is famous for being incredibly hilly, we would hire bikes for the day. And also, there was a voucher on Groupon. We cycled round to Golden Gate Park and across the famous bridge itself, around to a cute little town called Sausillito. It was a really fun way to explore these areas, but some of the hills were pretty tiring on the legs!
That night, we had a final dinner in San Francisco in a local style Mexican restaurant, complete with Mexican soap operas and a Spanish language fist fight between the owners and some disgruntled patrons!