Did I mention that San Francisco is misty? Our apartment is on the 21st floor of a modern block and we wake up to a view that enables us to see the other side of the street and very little more!
Golden Gate Bridge
After our rude awakening, we start our second day with a two-day ticket for the big bus tour. Its decent value for money and to be honest a good way of getting a good overall impression of the city. We take the bus out to Golden Gate and then walk back across a very misty bridge along with hundreds of others and along the shore to the Observatory – quite a long walk (probably longer than we would have liked) but at least it gives us the opportunity to walk out some of the stiffness from multiple days in the car. The bridge is iconic but unlike some other equally iconic global attractions that we’ve had the fortune to see (Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House for example) it somewhat fails to live up to expectations. Maybe it’s the constant stream of traffic across the bridge or the fact that while parts of the Park surrounding the bridge area are nice other parts are full of discarded waste. Is it disappointing? Well, not disappointing as such but better photographed from a distance rather than experienced close up.
The big bus does not always run as often as one would like and as a result, we rather late arriving for our afternoon activity, a trip to Alcatraz, meaning little time for lunch. We’re taking the official Alcatraz trip run by the national parks authority which is a no-frills trip including the 15-minute boat ride across the bay (with some decent photo opportunities) and an audio tour when on Alcatraz. On the Island, there is very little in the way of “touristification” of the island evident (which is a good thing) and the 45 minute guided audio tour of the facility is pretty good. I think the visit to the island is one of those things you simply need to do when in the city. If you’re really not that interested in the island itself or its history then at least you can enjoy some great views back to the city (which by the way is pretty small in terms of the skyline).
As the ferry leaves from and arrives back into Pier 33 we’re only a short walk to the famous pier 39 where there are a lot of shops and places to eat and also the location for viewing the local population of sea lions. If you’ve seen sea lions anywhere else in the world then you will be underwhelmed by this but if this is your first experience then its ok (provided you can elbow your way through to get a photo or selfie).
We had dinner at Pier 39 in one of the fish restaurants, Eagle Café which, given the mass tourism feel of the area was surprisingly good.
The end of a busy first day … and this is just the warm up!