Day Three of our California Adventure in San Francisco was very quiet. Lots and lots of rain. We had a much-needed sleep in, hung out on Union Street, shopped and took long reprieves in Starbucks.
That evening, we dined at – where else? – a diner. Johnny Rockets was super kitsch but so much fun. Such lovely staff, classic takeaway food and that authentic 50s diner feel, right down to the kids’ paper hats. There are even little mini juke boxes on the counter top where the kids can feed in a dime for a song. Make sure you sit at the diner’s bar for a really authentic experience, or you can slide into one of the booths with your bobby socks and ponytails on.
On Day Four of our glorious San Francisco stay, we took to the road in our hire car to explore the city in greater detail. Looking back at these photos is so emotional for me… San Fran would have to be one of my most sacred places on the planet. Yes, all the stories about this city’s beauty are so true.
Our first stop was that magnificent Golden Gate Bridge – a feat of manmade construction. Built in 1937, it was once the world’s longest suspension bridge and has become an internationally recognised symbol of San Francisco.
The kids loved the views across the bay to the city, and Riley took particular interest in a maritime bronze statue overlooking the Bay.
Next stop was Golden Gate Park where we wandered the magnificent Japanese gardens, sipping green tea and nibbling crackers at the Tea Garden. It’s a real feat climbing a traditional ornamental bridge over a trickle of water, but it just has to be done.
The entire park (it’s enormous) is just a joy to wander in – kids will love it. There are several small lakes, a model yacht club, anglers lodge, a boat house and boat rentals, and fly casting pools. There are barbecue pits, picnic areas, playgrounds, sporting fields (including soccer, handball and baseball) – even a dog run, beach chalet and Dutch windmill.
We loved it. If only the kids were interested in seeing the Asian Art Museum and the MH de Young Memorial Museum, but you know – this was their holiday, not mine. Oh sigh. The things we do for our kids (must go back… must go back…)
Even though San Fran is really easy to get around, it is so much more fun with a car. The traffic is by no means horrendous thanks to well-planned streets, and you can just do and see more so easily. We drove around the western coastal road to see the Cliff House (sea lions lounge around here)…
…and then on to the famed Alamo Square…
… which is breathtakingly stunning. I was so mesmerised, you could have clocked me on the head with a miniature trolley car and I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Oh yes, I’ve clocked up owning one of these houses on the To Do List.
The kids loved playing in the park with Husband while their mother stood in a mesmerised stupor, ogling the houses and the view.
Next stop was absolutely and utterly THAT street. You know the one. That crookedest one in the world – Lombard Street. Amazingly, it is the street we actually stayed in. Well, down the road a bit from this zigzaggy bit – but close enough to get there on foot.
All we had to do was walk up a 90 degree slope and down the other side was this incredibly novel zigzag of a rue – all studded at its corner points with more luscious houses and stunning views. It’s even more fun to drive down, with the kids going ‘weeee!’ all the way.
It was wise to be there driving down wriggly streets in winter. Even then, there was a queue to go down (it’s a one-way street) – I can’t imagine how horrendous it would be in summer and I also can’t imagine the frustrations of the people living on the street.
From the top of Lombard, you can see right across the suburbs, whitewashed and looking suspiciously like a spot in the Greek Islands. The Greek-style Coit Tower (well, more Babylonian) added an interesting eye-break on top of Telegraph Hill.
We headed on over to the tower, climbed up Coit Tower and got an amazing view back to Lombard Street… and then there was this view to Alcatraz. Yes, it was a moment.
And we also spied a little something called the Golden Gate Bridge, which was special. It was so tempting to get the kids on the water and to visit Alcatraz. There are a dozen tours that leave for the island and tour the bay but it was cold and most take at least a half day. Seeing as though we had little time to explore the rest of town, we decided not to do it (much to Husband’s disappointment).
San Francisco is truly a magnificent place to see with kids – there is so much to enjoy and it was a delight to see the kids appreciate the beauty, the great food, the people, the sights. Alas, we didn’t get to Chinatown (we were living in Beijing at the time, we’d had plenty of China) but of course, now, this is a major regret. It is the biggest Chinatown outside China, after all.
I suppose there’s always next time. And oh yes, there will be plenty of next times. Miss you, San Fran.