Thursday, 2 December 2010

I love San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

San Francisco is a great city, I would call it golden gateway to a fun fill holiday. There are so much to experience in this city and it surrounding area. We were there just for the weekend. Having a limited time at hand, one can only try to squeeze in as much "let's go, do this, do that" (one can only hope weather will be on our side). So here's our "To Do List" in San Francisco:

1. Arrive on Friday morning , take the cable car ride down to Pier39, then walked to Pier 33 for short ferry ride to Alcatraz Island.

For almost three decades, this island served as the most well known prison in the States. The ideal location with it's surrounding very cold, strong and hazardous undersea current make escape almost impossible. For obvious reason, this prison became the choice to place most serious offenders in those times. Of course the upkeep of the prison became very expensive, as all neccesary items has to be shipped in from San Francisco. The prison was closed down after 1963. We were on self audio guide tour, which were really well explained, I highly recommended it if you were visiting San Francisco.

Alcatraz Prison

2. San Francisco is also well known for it's unpredictable weather, it could be raining heavily one moment, could be sunny next, could be shrouded in thick fog etc. As weather is a bit cloudy and cold, we thought of heading down to "Slanted Door", a contemporary Vietnamese restaurant for an early dinner. However, we were turned away as we were too early and no advance booking allowed. Trust me this place is buzzing every evening. Instead of loitering around the place without any purpose and with an empty stomach, we forego this restaurant and decided to try out the famous San Francisco Clam Chowder at Boudin which is located near Pier 39/41. As we're there early, we're in for the Happy Hour menu deal, awesome. So we ordered clam chowder in sourdough bread bowl, it was absolutely a comfort food for a cold and chilly evening. Very tasty I must say. The only regret, my DSLR camera run out of power, so instead my friend offer to take picture of the clam chowder with his phone.

Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bread Bowl-Boudin

After dinner, we went back to Westin hotel and decided to go for a quick look around Macy's and The North Face flagship store just a few blocks away. I really like The North Face outdoor jacket, they look so versatile and of quality make (I bought some good deal jackets and ski gloves from The North Face outlet in Berkeley instead-love them)

3. Next day, it was pouring down hard early morning, we're about Pier 39 at around 8am deciding whether we should do the whole day cycle ride across Golden Gate to Sausalito and end at Tiburon which covers about 35km. So while waiting for the rain to stop, we decided to take our breakfast at Boudin again, which served really nice pastry with a grande hot chocolate top with whipped cream....... sinful but nice.

After our breakfast, the rain too had stopped, we decided we had to do the cycle ride.... but we had to decide whether we would like to go on tandem or individual bikes. After a try out on tandem, we decided we had much fun if we could go on individual bikes instead, absolutely the right choice. First we cycled to Pier 39 to see the residence seals. They're always there irregardless. It has become the iconic "to do" thing while in San Francisco beside the cable car ride. So we cycled through a bit of hilly terrain to reach Golden Gate. Along the way, weather turned out well, there are lots of photo opportunity, we just can't resist to snap on.

A wonderful day for cycling

The wind from the Pacific is quite strong and chilly as we stood on the bridge, absolutely lovely view of the ocean and the hilly terrain that encased the Bay Area. The cycle ride took us through coastal ride to Sausalito. A nice feel to this place, further ride north reveals a lot of houseboats near the marshlands. After that we decided to side track to Mill Valley to see the redwood forest. If you're nature lover, you'll probably spend the whole day trekking in this park.

Very nice post box near Mill Valley, in the redwood forest

After that we decided to take a short lunch break at Pearl's Phat Burger, noted the best burger place in this side of Bay Area. We deserved the fulfilling burger after burning quite a bit of calories cycling on the coastal and hilly terrain.

Pearl's Phat Burger-Yummy

Soon after, we left Mill Valley around 215pm and headed to Tiburon which will need around an hour of pedaling. The rides took us through scenic coastal route with San Francisco city at the backdrop. We reached Tiburon around 315pm which left us with ample of time to stroll around before catching the last ferry back to San Francisco at 430pm. Around this time the weather had turned a bit of the wild side, with high winds and rough sea, we wondered whether we'll be stranded on Tiburon. Finally the ferry arrived around 5pm, it has started to rain again. We were soaking wet when we returned to our bike rental area. Wet, cold but the whole experience is totally worth it. We enjoyed it very much. Returned back to hotel to freshen up and decided to give another try at Slanted Door, this time around the whole place was filled up to the brim, even the bar and waiting area people were savoring food, the atmosphere quite buzzing and exciting. Anyway....
In San Francisco there are no lack of good restaurant, so we decided to go back to Union Square and by chance we spotted this lovely Italian restaurant, Kuleto's. This place has very nice feel about it, I totally enchanted by the nice decor and ambience. It was already 930pm, so we decided not to eat too much but go easy on antipasti instead. We ordered fried calamari, insalate, carpaccio with shrimp to go with Italian red wine. The portion is huge to share between us. Elegant and gorgeous meal, with excellent service. I highly recommend this restaurant. By the time we finished our meal it has way past midnight, luckily our hotel just a block away. The only setback, my camera run out of power again.

4. On Sunday morning we went out really early again to see Lombard Street, well known for it's one way only steep, tight hairpin turn, if it's not's the most winding street in the whole world. It was interesting to see line of cars traveling down the street.

Lombard Street
After we headed up Coit Tower to get a bird eyeview of the bay area. It was pretty steep climb up the hilly road, now I started to see why the San Francisco residents are way much fitter. After the climb down, we decided to go for an early brunch at a well known Dim Sum Restaurant-Yank Sing. Apparently it get quite a good reputation on travel books, so we thought why not give it a try. I was so happy, finally I get to try dim sum.
Yank Sing Dim Sum, dissapointing

We ordered the usual dim sum items, apparently we felt that the waitress with the dim sum carts seem to push the food items quite easily onto our table before we even have chance to say we don't want it. The dim sum was nothing to rave about, my friend even commented the shiu mai tasted like processed meat, for me the Har Gow skin was totally thick, nothing special really. After we've done with the meal it took ages for the waiter to come back with an official receipt. The service was appalling . Would we go back there again.....the answer is NO. So we checked out from hotel and headed to Berkeley for outlet shopping before heading to San Jose.

Bay Bridge by nite

If I would go back to San Francisco, I would definitely take more time to explore the Napa Valley and perhaps to trek in Yosemite National Park.

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