Last known location: London, England

Garlic and the Golden Gate!

Our brief but very pleasant stop in San Francisco began with some more of my erratic city driving. We almost crossed the Golden Gate Bridge after some roadwork’s closed the exit we wanted to take off the Pacific Coast Highway. But thankfully we managed not to leave the city before we’d even arrived and stopped at the Golden Gate viewing area to check out the famous red landmark. It’s an impressive sight; a soaring art deco design opened in 1937 but still managing to fit in with oh-so contemporary San Fran.

After admiring the view we jumped back in the car and braved the city traffic to search for a hotel. We’d done a bit of research and decided we wanted to stay in the North Beach / Fisherman’s Wharf area. Fortunately we lucked out on our first stop, the San Remo Hotel in North Beach, a real bargain in an otherwise pricey town. And parking nearby, too! The hotel is really quaint with lots of old fashioned charm and lovely Victorian furniture. Plus some of the best shared bathroom facilities we’ve encountered on the trip so far. Because we’d arrived late afternoon we decided to head out more or less straight away to make the most of the evening sun. We wandered along the busy Columbus Avenue, which runs right through the Little Italy area, and found a small wine bar with outdoor seating to stop to have a quick drink at. Continuing along the same road we were lured into another Italian bar by the promise of $3 Bellini’s. Irresistible!

After 2 glasses of fizz and my pondering upon a 3rd Dan decided he ought to take me to dinner. We went to The Stinking Rose, a place that is very much garlic focused, so much so it holds the record for having the longest string of garlic in the world hanging from the ceiling! Not the sort of place you’d go for a first date but the food was great and we even finished off with garlic ice-cream! Another fab recommendation – thanks Vee! After dinner we went to nearby Chinatown which is the largest of it’s kind outside of Asia. We hit a couple of bars, which did seem quite authentic, before heading back to the hotel before things got out of hand!

The next day we were up and about fairly early. We found a great spot for brunch near the hotel and then jumped on one of San Fran’s famous cable cars to ride to the Civic Centre area of the city. We stopped at the impressive City Hall which was built after the devastating 1906 earthquake. We then walked across to Union Square and the designer shops nearby. En route we went through Tenderloin which serves as the red-light district in town. For once we weren’t staying in that part of town! From Union Square we trekked up a few of the city’s famous hills to reach the Coit Tower. Secretly thrilled that the stairs were closed for maintenance we got the lift up to the top of the tower. Stunning views of the city and bay area, and we’d arrived just as the morning fog had cleared. We also got a glimpse of our next stop – The Rock.

Alcatraz, or The Rock as it’s otherwise known, has served as a fortress, military prison and was even occupied by protestors fighting for Native American land. It’s best known asĀ  a maximum-security federal penitentiary, which closed in 1963. We caught the ferry service over to the island and did the audio tour which includes sound bites from former inmates, officers and island residents. It was really interesting and we learnt a lot about the place and some of its infamous prisoners like Al Capone and Robert “The Birdman” Stroud. There were also a few clever escape attempts, but obviously the choppy Bay waters put a stop to pretty much all of them! The once-desolate island is now a national park with historic gardens and impressive bird colonies. We spent a couple of hours on the island, inside the cells and exploring the gardens.

Our last evening in San Francisco was spent around Fisherman’s Wharf. We stopped for a while to watch the very lazy sea lions by Pier 33 – they didn’t seem to do much other than sleep and occasionally bark! For dinner we had a San Francisco classic at Boudin’s; clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. It was really good but, as usual, enormous! Mindful of the long day’s driving the next day we had an early night, watching a film on the laptop and doing a bit of laundry. Less exciting than some nights, perhaps, but necessary!

  1. Julie 14 Jun, 2011

    Happy Birthday Dan,

    We hope David helps you and Gem celebrate in style!

    Much love Mum & Paul x x

  2. Rose 14 Jun, 2011

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAN!! Not too many beers!

    Drive carefully! Watch out for bears.


    Mum x x x

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