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I enjoyed a fantastic spring break in California’s San Francisco Bay Area.
As you know, I had been forced to make a difficult travel decision and cancel my trip to Spain. My anxiety was out of control, so I needed to decide whether or not I wanted to travel and feel miserable, or do a shorter trip closer to home.
I debated posting about my decision, because I didn’t want to disappoint my readers. Although I have a sassy personality on this blog, I also have thin skin and don’t like to upset anyone. However I also value honesty. Canceled trips are a lame part of the less fun side of travel. They happen.
I gotta say: your comments on my Spain post have been so comforting to me and reaffirmed I made the right decision. My readers are the best readers, haha. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Luckily, I was able book a last minute journey to California.
Before I embarked on this trip, I had never, ever, ever visited the West Coast of the United States, and wondered what my first time to California had in store for me. My mom visited San Francisco a lot for business and praised it to the skies, yet I couldn’t help but worry if the city would be decent for young solo travelers like myself.
Oh my god.
You guys, I made so many terrific memories to last the rest of my life. If you haven’t visited this part of California, you need to book a ticket and go, go, go!
When I returned to Newark Airport on Friday, I experienced wicked plane and train delays, and didn’t crash into bed until one in the morning, but the pain and suffering was more than worth it. Because San Francisco? Is amazing (I”ll probably say “amazing” a million times in this post, forgive me).
Now I’ve been very fortunate in my twenty-eight years on this earth. I’ve had the privilege to visit cities all over both North America and Europe, and each place had its own unique qualities that made it special. I don’t think I’ve visited a city I absolutely hated, though I’m sure it’s bound to happen one day.
However, I gotta say… San Francisco was one of the coolest, most delicious, most beautiful, quirkiest cities that I’ve ever been to! Natural beauty fills every inch of the Bay Area, too, and for the first time, I found myself wanting to pack my bags and relocate for good (sorry, mom and dad!) because visas? What are those? Not for my pretty American face!
I want to return as soon as possible in any case.
So, how did I spend my Californian Spring Break? Here’s a quick summary of my seven days and I made sure to include plenty of photo candy to feast your eyes on.
Don’t worry. I plan to write much more detailed posts soon, I promise. By the end of April, I’ll probably have a million comments telling me to “be quiet!” about California. I loved it THAT much.
One more important FYI: stay tuned to the end of the post if you participated in my Reader Survey. I’ll be announcing the Amazon e-card winner. Thanks so much for all your thoughtful responses and suggestions. Your ideas really do fuel the fire that is this blog.
Off to California!
1. Took a free walking tour with USA Hostels San Francisco
I’m a huge fan of free walking tours, especially when I travel alone, because I get a good overview of the city and meet other travelers. These tours are even more awesome when they leave directly from the hostel, because if you’re like me and require some privacy (aka feel too old for dorm rooms), you can meet other people staying at the same place without needing to stay in the shared rooms.
USA Hostels had its own tour at 10 in the morning, and since I didn’t have time the previous night to explore (jet lag hell), I rolled out of bed and braced myself for socializing and picture taking.
Our walking tour took us to some of the most familiar sights in San Francisco: Union Square, Chinatown, Saints Peter and Paul Church, Coit Tower, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
2. Explored Fisherman’s Wharf with new friends
Okay, I’ll be honest and admit to you guys that Fisherman’s Wharf is very touristy.
… nah, scratch that. Fisherman’s Wharf dances beyond the realm of touristy. The area is actually kinda tacky. I don’t thumb my nose at tourist spots, but this place fit the stereotype to the letter.
But, if it’s your first visit to this city, you really can’t skip over Fisherman’s Wharf. My new walking tour friends and I had a great time taking pictures of seals at Pier 39 and poking our heads into cheesy souvenir shops, before embarking for Ghirardelli Square and eating fattening sundaes.
However, visiting once is enough. I returned to Fisherman’s Wharf after my ferry trip to Angel Island and Alcatraz. The only reason I hung around was to eat an In-And-Out burger. We don’t have them in Jersey.
There were so many people clogging the streets that I couldn’t wait to leave!
Tip: I know a few people whose hotels were smack in Fisherman’s Wharf, too. I highly recommend staying in other areas of San Francisco. For example, I was about a block away from Union Square and the location was perfect!
3. Ogled at the Golden Gate Bridge
I think I have over fifty pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge on my camera and iPhone combined. No joke. You always see this famous bridge in magazines and movies, and there are similar red landmarks all over the world, but of course, there’s nothing quite like seeing a famous attraction in person. And yes, you can remove yourself from the crowds, which makes for some excellent photography! My favorite views of the Golden Gate Bridge were taken at Fort Port, which is free to enter and explore. You are literally right under the bridge. It’s amazing.
How do you reach the Golden Gate Bridge? Well. Don’t do what I did if you value your time and your feet.
We walked all the way from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge, and uhhh, it’s a very long walk. A very, very, very long walk. We joked about how even though the distance was shrinking, the bridge itself never appeared to come any closer.
My hostel had bike tours to the bridge, too, and we saw a ton of tourists peddling to reach the opposite side of the bay.
4. Was “wowed!” in Muir Woods and Sausalito
If you have a lot of time in the Bay Area, like I did, then it’s important to venture to Muir Woods and Sausalito for a nature and small town fix. I had heard all about Muir Woods in film at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History.
Despite being younger and smaller than the Sequoia trees further away, Muir Woods gives you the “Redwoods experience” only half an hour away from San Francisco. On my tour, we were given an hour and a half, which is plenty of time, to admire these trees and commune with nature.
Also Muir Woods provides super easygoing hikes if you’re anything like me and struggle with huge uphill treks. I had a more difficult time trekking in San Fransisco, haha.
As for Sausalito, the small town offers sweeping views of the Bay and many delicious little options for lunch. It has a nice Mediterranean vibe, too.
5. Ate “farm-to-table” food and drank incredible wine in Napa Valley
My trip happened to coincide with my uncle and aunt’s trip to Napa Valley. I was invited to join them for two days and had an terrific time! If you have a few days to spare in the Bay Area, I highly recommend going to either Napa or Sonoma to experience a more rural setting. After all, the best trips encompass both worlds, am I right?
I especially recommend a trip to Napa if you’re a foodie. Food doesn’t necessarily play a huge role on this blog, though I know a lot of people travel solely for their taste buds’ enjoyment. There are so many different options here ranging from the highest end restaurants imaginable to organic supermarkets.
And don’t get me started on the wine.
This part of the trip was a highlight because even though I travel solo most of the time, it was refreshing to be with family for a change.
6. Admired the Bay from Angel Island
Uh, full disclosure. The only reason I bought the Alcatraz-Angel Island combination ferry ticket was because the trips to just Alcatraz were sold out until well after my departure date. Whoops.
Once we stepped off the ferry, the park ranger actually joked about this, and asked us upon arrival if we didn’t plan for Angel Island in our Californian itineraries. Angel Island, while not a must-see for your first time in the Bay Area, provided a lot of sweeping views of San Francisco and had a delicious little cafe for visitors to snag some lunch. There’s also plenty of Civil War Era buildings on Angel Island if history is your thing.
7. Went to “prison” in Alcatraz
Alcatraz was so damn good. It’s a very popular tourist site, but absolutely worth your time. You cannot visit San Francisco without going to this infamous Island prison.
In fact, I’m going to dedicate an entire post about why Alcatraz is worth the hassle of booking a ferry ticket way in advance.
8. Simply enjoyed San Francisco’s atmosphere
San Francisco is perfect for travelers who wanna “get lost” and melt into a city. There are many cool neighborhoods ripe for exploration. I loved the architecture in Chinatown, as well as the top-notch Mexican food in the Mission District. My personal favorite neighborhood was Haight-Ashbury, which is known as the origin of the hippie subculture in the 60s, and wished I had more time to spend tons of money at the quirky boutiques.
For the most part, I felt perfectly safe wandering most areas of the city, and each section had its own “feel” to it.
And now for my Reader Survey winner!
Dun, dun, dun….! BIG CONGRATS TO KELLY WILLIAMS! Happy shopping on Amazon.com!
Where did you spend your Spring Break or Easter holiday? Have you ever been to San Francisco? Did you like it? Share!