TravelWest Coast USA

Day 12 – Fairfield to San Francisco


As I mentioned in my previous post we had elected to stay in Fairfield for one night given that (a) it was a points hotel stay so free, and (b) we hadn’t originally planned that we would need to pick someone up from SF Airport.  On reflection, we should have canceled the reservation and stayed another night in SF.  Or should we?

Anyway, as this is a family holiday we decided to take a trip to the Jelly Belly Factory which runs free factory tours.  In my working life, as part of the job, I’ve been on a lot of factory tours and I would say the Jelly Belly tour was one of the more interesting.  As a family company Jelly Belly has an aura of authenticity but, as with many both small and large companies, the factory tour is largely about a transition from the history of manual processes to ones which are largely automated.  Robots are very good at repetitive tasks and especially anything which involves simple processes such as squirting (accurate amounts into moulds) or measuring (accurate quantities into bags).  What robots are not good at (apparently) is complex multi-faceted processes (such as shirt folding).  We’ll come back to robots in a later ERF post but for the moment let’s just say it was an interesting tour and worth doing if you’re in the area but not worth making a detour for.

We were not very far away is one of California’s principal wine growing regions but as I’m the only wine drinker in our party and also the (self) nominated driver it’s not on the agenda for this trip (maybe next time).

The Air B’n’B experience

As we were booking this trip it was apparent that the sort of hotel accommodation we would normally look at in San Francisco is prohibitively

Our Air B’n’B apartment (or rather one very similar)

expensive so we’re staying in an apartment booked on Air B’n’B booked for the first time (which by the way also was not cheap).  Initial impression overall of the Air B’n’B experience is good.  Communication with the owner was straightforward and the owner was quite accommodating when we changed the number of people in our party.  The apartment is also pretty much as expected although of course unlike a hotel there is no regular cleaning (our apartment was spotless when we arrived), so no change of towels or anything like that.  In addition, there were some things missing that might have seemed obvious (toaster etc.) but overall as the price was only about two-thirds of the corresponding hotel then I think it was a decent decision from the perspective of the accommodation.

First impressions of San Francisco

Our first day in SF is about settling in and getting an initial impression.  I’ve been to a few American cities over the years (in particular New York) and one tends to form a point of view about that city from what you read and what you see in movies and TV.  Our image of San Francisco comes mainly from what we have seen about it being a very liberal place but also from watching programs like ‘The Street of San Francisco’ (showing my age!), perhaps updated with a more modern hipster image of people sitting in cafes, growing beards and smoking exotic cigarettes.

Our first impression is slightly different.

There are a lot of homeless people here and it seems to be a problem that’s difficult to solve.  Having worked for many years in London the problem seems a lot worse in San Francisco.  Maybe that’s not right but as a result, our initial walk from the apartment suggests we’re in an area that is a bit grubby.  That was a big surprise (not the fault of the homeless but rather the fault of a modern western city that is unable to make adequate provision).  Our apartment is in the Mission district which is only a few minutes from the main downtown action area but it also seems to be one of the areas most impacted.  We clearly hadn’t researched well enough but it’s definitely not an area we would feel comfortable walking at night.  Never mind at least San Francisco seems to be well served by Uber.  Note to self – do your research.  This is one of the downside of Air B’n’B compared to TripAdvisor as the feedback on TA is anonymous whereas on Air B’n’B it is not which may reduce the tendency of people to give negative (honest?) feedback.

We’re in San Francisco for four days so we could have given our car back and booked another one but frankly, there’s so much accumulated junk in the car after nearly two weeks on the road that we decided to keep it.  Just a tip here – it’s not easy to find free parking in the center of the city so you may decide to your car back or pay the $35 a day parking fee.

Anyway, after our initial acclimatization, we’re resting up for a few days of intensive sightseeing!

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