San Fran was always the pinnacle for both of us on this West Coast tour and somewhere we looked forward to visiting, even more than the other locations on the tour and I have to say that it didn't disappoint! Having researched this relatively compact city, at least by American standards, we knew that we didn't want to drive in it - or more specifically, didn't want to have to park a car at c $70 per day!
Being the pinnacle of our trip, we'd planned 4 nights here, arriving Sunday afternoon. On the route from Yosemite, we experienced driving on the classic multi-lane motorways - the widest being around 12 lanes at one point passing by Oakland where three routes joined. Ours took us over the Golden Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate's older but lesser known sibling. After checking into our hotel, Sunday afternoon was spent orientating ourselves to the city centre.
We'd pre-booked a tour for Monday taking in Alcatraz and then around the wider city, so it was an early start as we had to be at Pier 33 by just after eight. Alcatraz was amazing - now part of the California National Parks organisation, it was a really immersive, self-guided audio tour. Our particular one was enriched since a former inmate was visiting that day as part of his book promotion tour. In his 80's at that point, William Baker was still a lively spirit. Of course, we bought his book from which I learned that he'd actually returned a number of years previously to spend a night in his original cell! The afternoon tour took place on a converted cable car, adapted to run on the roads. We took in the harbour area, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point, the Presidio, Pacific Heights & Lombard Street - a great way of covering a lot of ground in a short time. After the tour, Pier 39 was our next stop to see the sea lions basking on pontoons in the harbour & catch something to eat.
Tuesday was a walking day, starting with Japan town - hadn't appreciated that there was such a large Japanese population in the city nor that it had been there for so long - since the early 20th Century.Was also great to see the City's connection with Jazz memorialised in the pavements. After that, Alamo Square & the "Painted Ladies", followed by Haigh & Ashbury; the episode-centre of the "Flower Power" movement in the 60's & then onto Golden Gate Park. Despite being there for a couple of hours, it was so large that we felt we only scratched the surface! A couple of local buses back to our hotel for some downtime before heading out for something to eat in the evening.
Our final full day was another walking day, starting with the Cable Car Museum, which was utterly fascinating; not least with the revelation that the system was invented/developed by a Brit! Onwards to the Harbour area again to explore the even-numbered piers then heading back into the city through the financial district. We finished the day's exploration with a Cable Car ride on the California Street line - when in San Fran, you just have to, well worth the $7 each, especially as this seemed to be the longest line & also finished relatively close to our hotel.
Up early the next day beginning our homeward journey with a flight to New York for a few days stop-over to break up the journey. Glad we did since with the airport procedures, flight time, time difference & journey into Manhattan we wrote off the whole day!