Well after a 10½ hour flight we landed safety in San Francisco. The flight was lovely and as we flew over Greenland and Iceland out of the window I captured these lovely snowy mountains.
Some people decided to catch a few hours sleep whilst flying… me I was too excited and was just admire the view from the aircraft window. The Airbus A380 was a beautiful plane to fly on.
Mind you there is a lot to be desired with regards to the food that is served by British Airways… aircraft food hasn’t really improved as it. But on saying that when we eventually got talking to another couple on our holiday who flew by Virgin.. they told us what their meals were and how they got cream cakes and teas.. and how I wish we had flown Virgin.
San Francisco is normally renowned for having a slow customs procedure and it can take up to an hour standing in a queue to go through immigration. We had luck on our side that day and there was only our plane going through immigration and the queue wasn’t bad at all. In fact our tour guide did say this is quickest she’d been through immigration.
It wasn’t long before our suitcases arrived at the carousel and then off to find our coach that was to take us to the Holiday Inn on Van Ness, in the heart of San Francisco.
The sun was shining, and even though it was now gone two in the morning our time, I was as fresh as a daisy, all excited like a child at Christmas.
We were staying at the Holiday Inn for 3 nights, which gave us 2 full days in San Francisco, our first day was taken up with a pre arranged guide of the city and and a boat trip to Alacatraz in the afternoon.
On the night of our arrival, our tour guide Juila (a lovely lady, so friendly and helpful and a credit to Great Train Journeys) took us on a walkabout. She had booked us all in for dinner at 9pm at the Grubstake Diner just around the corner from our hotel in Pine Street. She only walked us around the block and showed us where New Village Cafe was if we wanted breakfast. Where the cable car terminus was in California Street and where Walgreens was, which was a shot that sold just about everything.
Then it was off to the Grubstake Diner for our evening meal and for us all to get a chance to get to know each other. For the next 15 days, we would be travelling in a group and I do have to say that our group was brilliant.
The restaurant was set inside an old train car… it was run by Portuguese people and they offered a wide range of dishes. We settled for American Burgers and our meal was served hot and plentiful. The service was friendly, but soon the tiredness creeped in… in our time terms it was now 4 in the morning.. (isn’t there a song there) and after the meal we headed back to the hotel.
The next morning, we decided to go the the New Village Cafe for breakfast… the cafe our tour guide had recommended. As we were meeting at 9 am for our guided tour of San Francisco… we were up and down at the New Village Cafe by 7.30 am.
Hubby had the full breakfast and I just wanted toast… The owner of the cafe was friendly and he asked what I wanted my toast make with… white bread, wheat bread, sourdough bread (a speciality of San Francisco). I asked for white, Julia our Tour Guide was in the cafe at the same time and said try the sourdough but I stuck with the white, just to be on the safe side.
It wasn’t long before our food was served and boy did his breakfast look delicious, and again it was plentiful… oh boy they do big portions in the States… your waistline is not going to be same again… I can assure you. Within seconds of serving our breakfast the owner arrived with two slices of toasted sourdough bread free of charge for us to try. And that is one thing I did find hard to get accustomed too, and that was them keeping filling your cup up with coffee. Here, back in the UK, if you want more coffee you pay for it… in the States, they are forever topping your cup up.
I took one bite into this sourdough bread and I was hooked… it was lovely… and I am not one for putting jam on toast, but they do serve Welch’s Grape Jelly in portions that you can put on your toast. It was delicious… and I do wish they sold it back here in the UK. If anybody knows where I can buy Welch’s grape Jelly back here in the UK, please post a comment and let me know.
We then strolled back to our hotel and met up with the group and then boarded the coach for our Guide Tour of San Francisco. Our tour guide for the trip was Steve and he was lovely… talk about laugh a minute… he had us in stitches. On the coach we toured around the streets of San Francisco and he asked us where we wanted to be taken. Laura Macky had told me once to visit the Palace of Fine Arts so I asked Steve if we could do a stop there… and he agreed to it.
One of the well known landmarks is Crooked Street and boy is it crooked and steep. The coach dropped us off near the top of Crooked street and we took a stroll down … It was beautiful… and did it make your knees ache as you tried to stop yourself from running down…
He took us to many places, some we stopped at and others we just saw from the coach… but as we had a free day the next day, he told us where we might want to revisit. He did take us to the Palace of Fine Arts, and we stopped for a while just to take a couple of shots and then it was back on the bus, to our next stop. I can’t remember what ordered we visited places, but I do know we stopped at the Hamon Observation Tower and headed up to the top to take a look of downtown San Francisco.
As the coach went through the Golden Gate park he told us about the Conservatory of Flowers and Golden Gate Park is just beautiful. We drove through Presidio, Russian Hill, the Haight District (remember the 60’s) and we even went through a part of Paciffic Heights. He told us to steer clear of the Tenderloin area on our free day but the rest of San Francisco is fine for us to wander around in.
We also drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, but unfortunately the mist was coming in.. and it wasn’t in clear view. San Francisco we found had very many mini climates… one minute you were in a location that was warm and hot, the next you were being blown to bits, like it was when we visited the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped at a place just on the other side of the bridge and got a wonderful view of the Bay and the mist rolling in.
There are many sites and places in San Francisco to visit and I was taking a mental note of where I wanted to go on our free day. Our tour ended at Pier 39 around lunch-time and we were shown where Pier 33 was, which was our meeting place to get the boat over to Alcatraz in the afternoon.
Steve even got the driver of the coach to show us where the bus stop was for the 47 bus back to Van Ness, and by luck the bus top was directly opposite our hotel.
When we left the coach we spent some time on our own for lunch and we were to meet at Pier 33 at a certain time in order to catch the boat across. The afternoon was free… after our tour of Alcatraz… we could catch the boat back when we wished bearing in mind the last sailing time, and our tour guide was returning on the 4.15 pm boat, so we opted for that one.
I didn’t like the boat ride to Alcatraz…the waters were choppy and I am not a water person.. Getting to Alcatraz involves walking up a steep hill… if you have any disabilities they do run a buggy service to the top. Already my hip and knees were giving me jip so I took the buggy to the top and hubby walked…
Alcatraz to me seemed cold, but one thing me and him kept doing was thinking about the film ‘The Rock’ with Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery… and comparing the film to the actual place. My god I would have hated being a prisoner in that place… and some of the cells have been restored to show you exactly what they were like. We strolled around Alcatraz and then then headed back to the mainland.
We took a walk back to Pier 39 and then onto the 47 bus eventually… and back to the hotel. It has been a long day, so in the evening we decided to find a place to eat close to the hotel and we had a walk through the streets of San Francisco.