My dad always had a painting hanging above our sofa of a darkened bridge at dusk with a sailboat in the foreground and ac its skyline in the background. It’s not of the Golden Gate Bridge but I always imagined it was for some reason and it became a bucket list to see it in real life. Originally San Fransisco was on our trip itinerary but when the trip plans changed I decided I was only going to go to Los Angeles. Something inside me didn’t sit well with my new plan and I debated back and forth for a while before finally deciding to add San Fransisco back in. I couldn’t be that close and NOT go!
I also desperately wanted to see Hearst Castle after my aunt and uncle raved about it and so I hatched a plan to fly into San Fransisco, see a couple key sites and then drive to Hearst Castle and then LA that first night. A lofty goal, I know, but I was sure I could do it. Then I arrived in San Fran and my heart was stolen. Needless to say, I did not make it to Hearst Castle.
I began my day on a 6:55am flight from Toronto to San Fransisco, landing at roughly 9:30am. I napped briefly on the plane but was pretty tired when I arrived. I found my way to my rental car (I had a previous reservation) and made a beeline for Lombard Street. Driving in a new city by yourself is always a bit intimidating but navigating the sloping streets of San Fran was a very different experience for me. I made my way down the winding Lombard Street, trying not to hit any of the tourists that were already out and snapping their photos. I quickly found a parking spot at the end and ran back to take my own photo from the bottom of the hill and then proceed to try and get out of my parking spot. Try was the operative word and after a few failed attempts where I kept rolling forward toward the car in front of me, I opted to find someone to help. I saw a landscape nearby and figuring he must be a local, I begged for his help in getting out of my spot. He explained a trick where you put your feet on the gas and brake simultaneously and then slowly remove the brake so that you’re able to move backwards up the hill. IT WORKED! The relief I felt getting out of that spot cannot be explained and I was thankfully on my way again.
I made my way to the Fisherman’s Wharf next and found a much flatter parking spot this time. I walked around the wharf taking in the sights and sounds of the restaurants and shops lining the streets. The wharf is a hubbub of street musicians, tourists and seagulls and just has an electric sort of atmosphere. I loved it and decided right then and there that I was not going to make it to Hearst Castle after all. I made my way along the water’s edge and snapped a few pictures of Alcatraz, Pier 45 and the historic WWII war vessels docked there. I then stumbled upon Musée Mechanique, which is a fun museum filled with unique and vintage arcade games, all of which are still usable today. I spent quite a bit of time playing some games, snapping photos and checking out all the weird, quirky and sometimes creepy arcade machines.
It was lunchtime now and I was feeling hungry, so I started looking at my available options. I’m not and never have been a fish or seafood person and being on the wharf, that was the majority of restaurant offerings. This is when I stumbled upon Boudin Sourdough and remembered another famous San Fransisco delicacy! Established in 1849, Bourdin is where sourdough is said to have originated (although some debate is out there). Since it was such a lovely sunny day this day, I opted to not eat at their restaurant indoors but instead purchased a loaf for the road. Their claim to fame is the unique shaped loaves they make fresh daily, such as bears, turtles, bunnies and other fun shapes. I chose a turtle and a souvenir baguette magnet to add to my fridge collection and headed back towards the pier. I found an outdoor local fast food type restaurant and sat in the sun enjoying some fries and a beer while people watching enjoying the view of the water.
Conveniently, the stop for the historic cable car system was beside where I had parked and so I bought myself a return ticket to ride the route, which I was told was about 20 minutes total. There was barely a line but I had to sit inside, as the outside seating was full, vowing I’d get a standing position on the way back. After a fairly short ride, the cable car stopped at the end stop and I got off, expecting to turn around and hop right back on. Boy was I wrong. The line up at this end was 6 times longer than at the other end and I had to wait nearly 45 minutes before finally getting onto another cable car headed back. I luckily got myself a standing position on this car that was both exhilarating and terrifying. I also managed to get a few photos and videos (thank you random strangers) without dropping my phone which was an amazing feat. I thoroughly enjoyed the cable car and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting San Fran, even with the wait times at the end stop.
After the cable car, I headed to Trader Joe’s (because wellness blogger) to get a few snacks to go with my loaf and headed off in search of the Full House hill from the opening credits. This hill is actually in a park space called Alamo Square and looks over the famous Painted Ladies, which are a group of Victorian homes that were re-painted and restored in the 1960s and are now historic landmarks. The actual Full House home is not here but about 10 minutes away and currently under extensive renovations. This was another bucket list moment as I grew up watching the show and definitely took too many photos and videos at this location.
By now it was nearing 3:30pm and it was time to get my butt to the Golden Gate bridge. My first glimpse of the bridge literally made me squeal with excitement and I pulled over to get a few shots. As I drove closer and closer, my insides were jumping and I could hardly sit still. I found a section of parking just before the bridge but parking was a nightmare so I decided to just drive over it. I don’t know why driving over a bridge elated me like it did but I was overjoyed. On the other side, I found parking and took some more photographs before taking a short walk along the bridge itself (and of course taking more photos). I knew I need to get on the road at this point if I wanted any hope of getting to LA before midnight but my GPS was trying to take me away from the bridge and so I found my way over it one more time instead, navigated through San Fran rush hour and then began my trip to LA.
I had planned to drive on the highway straight to Hearst Castle originally and then drive a bit of the coast once I was on my way down to LA. But since I was no longer needed to go to the castle and realizing it would be getting dark soon, I decided to head to the coast first and then make my way at dusk to the main highway, so I wouldn’t be on the coastal highway in the dark. By now it was closer to 5:30pm and traffic leaving San Fran was awful but once I was driving along the coast and looking out at the spectacular view, I was so content. I ended up driving past a beautiful little town that looked like something out of a “Visit California” guide book and ended up driving back to stop and take it in. I don’t even remember the name of the town but the whole place smelled like wildflowers and the surf was leaving a mist that twinkled in the setting sun. It was breathtaking. I just stood there for a bit taking in the view, the smells and the crashing sound of the waves. I didn’t want to leave, but sadly I had to keep going. I made my way to the beach front restaurant next to me only to realize it was the nicest Taco Bell I’d ever seen! I got myself a Pepsi (if you know me, you know) and got started back on the road. After a couple of wrong highway turns, a few GPS re-routings and a gorgeous sunset, I was finally on the main highway heading towards LA.
By now, as you can imagine, I am exhausted. Three times I stopped at a rest stop, debated getting a hotel room for the night, cried in my car, got another coffee and headed back on the road. Construction brought a 5 or 6 lane highway down to one, very slow, lane that barely crawled along and made me cry at least one more time. At 4:00am on Saturday morning, after being up for over 24 hours, I finally made it to my hostel at the Freehand Los Angeles and to a whole new adventure!