After two flights and approximately 15 hours from Sydney to San Francisco, we arrived on an uncharacteristic warm, humid day and caught the shuttle to Richmond, San Francisco. Thus began our three week adventure along the West Coast. Our first day didn’t involve much activity-blame jet lag-but we did walk down to Baker Beach to check out the view (slightly overcast but that didn’t stop the locals getting out for a swim or sunbake) and we had our first much anticipated maple bacon donut (it was as good as we thought it would be, but not as good as the best donut we will ever have…more on that later). We were staying a few nights with our lovely Airbnb hosts John and Alexis, we were staying within walking distance of some great food on Clement Street and longer walking distance of Baker Beach. This was our first experience with Airbnb, and we have already recommended it to our friends (some of whom have just starting hosting their first guest). If you want a real experience of a city try it! Our hosts generally gave us great tips for visiting local spots and we had some great conversations even dinners and city tours. We booked a bike tour of the city with Streets of San Francisco, starting in Hayes Valley. We checked in early and while we were waiting we went to one of San Francisco’s best coffee roasters: Blue Bottle Coffee Company. To explain the coffee thing; for the Australians, American coffee is not drinkable and even the stronger roasts are not strong by Australian standards. For the Americans reading, sorry for insulting your coffee, but honestly we couldn’t even stand the smell of a pot of Folger’s. Thankfully, espresso coffee is on the rise in the U.S. and we researched some of the best spots in each of the cities we visited.
The tour itself was excellent, Josh our guide (in the hat) was so knowledgeable and although my wife was worried by the size of the hills on the bus on the way in, the route was definitely manageable. He gave us a great idea of San Francisco’s history turns out it has a bit more in common with Australia than we thought. San Francisco’s gold digging past features a famous criminal known as Shanghai Kelly, no doubt a distant relative of our own famous criminal Kelly, Ned the Bushranger. Perhaps Shanghai inspired our Ned, in the 1870s (Ned still a tender 16), he’d already Shanghaied 100 people. Josh shared all sorts of gems with us, such as the 19th century bar which also featured a urinal trough at your feet so you never had to stop drinking. The other thing we had in common were the gum trees, I was almost expecting koalas and drop bears. Although the gum is one of Australia’s icons, it is a noxious weed in California, a weed which loves the sandy, beach climes from which it came.
We did the classic tour, which covered Alamo square where we learned about San Francisco’s fascination with fire and burning bacon. Thankfully the fires don’t happen as often anymore and they have the bacon cooking down pat (the donuts are a testament to that). Josh knew great spots for street art including murals in The Mission and some international street art from German duo Herakut. One of our stops was the De Young Musuem in Golden Gate Park, which among other things has a great observatory with free access which has great views of the park and the city (when it’s not foggy that is-so not that often). The exterior of the De Young Museum is constructed of copper which is embossed with indents which create some very cool patterns as the walls oxidize, particularly where the sprinklers hit it.
We stopped for lunch at Civic Center Plaza while the FIFA world cup was showing (while the US were still in the running). The patriotism was out in force to say the least.
The entire tour also covers, Nopa, the Panhandle, Haight-Ashbury, Lower Haight, the Castro, SoMa, Haight Ashbury.
The plan for our trip was to visit San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Crater Lake, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, with a stop in Eureka and a second stop in Portland because we liked it so much the first time round. I hope you enjoy the photos.