The very first thing to pack when staying in the heart of the city is earplugs…
Because, unless you posses the sleep of the dead, you won’t get a second of shuteye at night! Lucky for me, I always travel with earplugs (husband pretends he’s a semi-truck at night), and our fabulous hotel, the Parc 55, provided some in the room. I was doubly prepared for the city night sounds!
As I said, our digs were at the Parc 55, a sleek and modernly renovated Hilton hotel just south of Union Square and right next to the trendy shopping area known as The Westfield San Francisco Centre. We booked our stay through our travel club and it didn’t disappoint. Rooms here start in the $299 a night range (!). We booked for 3 nights, all breakfasts included, a chartered bus wine tour to Sonoma Valley for 2 people, and 2 24 hour Hop-On/Hop-Off tickets for $488 total. Yeah, I’ll let you choke over that amazing deal for a second or two…
Our first day in the city we did a lot of touristy sightseeing. The classics, you know: Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, City Hall, the Castro, and random neighborhoods to admire amazingly steep parking jobs, the architectural flavor of different areas, and test our car’s hamster engine.
Spot #1 was obviously the Golden Gate Bridge. I spent my childhood in southern California, but my family never it made up north. So, San Fran had long been on my bucket list, along with the iconic bridge. Everyone knows it’s a huge bridge, but you don’t really feel how huge it is until you cross it for the first time. No wonder it’s considered a modern day wonder of the world. It beats out any bridge I’d been on before! The photos above are taken from Spencer Battery on the north side of the bay. The bridge photo is looking southeast, while the cove photo is looking west toward the Pacific Ocean.
Another bucket list item was to go down Lombard Street, AKA The Crookedest Street in the World. Guys, this is an impressive street! It feels like something out of Alice in Wonderland. For starters, don’t attempt driving down unless you’re in a tiny car. Seriously, there was a dude trying to go down in a truck…. Anyway, the street is on a 27 degrees angle and has 8 hairpins turns!
Remember that 27 degree hill I mentioned? Well, there happens to be a lovely view at the top of Lombard Street. I took my favorite photo from this trip here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:
You can see a few things from Lombard Street as you look west:
- Coit Tower – white tower top right
- San Francisco Bay
- Treasure Island – small hill in middle
- Oakland Bay Bridge – white triangle middle
- Berkeley and Oakland in the distance
One of the earliest adjustments I had to make on this trip was being “okay” with urban distraction in my photos. I’m not the type that likes a lot of people, cars, signs, or even power lines in my photos. It’s just not how I like to capture things. However, San Fran taught to me appreciate these staples of the busy urban life and see the authentic beauty they could add to my photos and memories. I’m super grateful for this lesson because I think it has added diversity to my photo collection.
I’ll end this post on a grand note, with a photo of City Hall. The whole concept of city hall, in my mind, conjures up bland office buildings, or, at best, a small historic building in a downtown area. I had no idea to expect grandiosity from San Francisco’s City Hall. I now understand why it has its own google maps page. Having not expected it to be so, um, impressive, we didn’t schedule any time to go inside and check it out. What a regret! Considering that this building blows away the Ohio State Capitol building, I’d like to see what’s on the inside….
If you made it to the end of this lengthy post, congrats! I hope I didn’t bore you to death, because next up will be about our day trip while in San Fran to Muir Woods National Monument – think giant redwood trees : )