travel notes | san francisco

San Francisco has always been on my must visit list, probably since I watched The Princess Diaries and decided to stan Anne Hathaway forever more. When we headed out west to Las Vegas, we added on San Francisco as the second part of our trip and I’m so grateful we did. California is amazing and somewhere I would love to go back to as soon as possible – especially to see Yosemite, more of wine country and the cities of the south as well as more of San Francisco. 

I had done plenty of internet researching prior to going and had found myself a bit apprehensive about the perceived dirtiness and dangerousness of San Francisco, especially as a young woman. We did good – only once did we stumble into an area where we wondered if we would actually get attacked – but it is definitely somewhere you need to keep your wits about you, perhaps slightly more than usual.

getting there & getting about. 

We flew from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas to San Francisco International Airport with Frontier with a flight time of about 1hr and costing $50. You can fly to San Francisco from the UK direct (we flew home direct to Manchester with Thomas Cook RIP) and there are layover options through LAX and others. 

San Francisco is filled with public transport options: the BART, buses and trams. Uber/Lyft is very prolific and you can walk in some areas although you have to be careful where you wander into. It is also very hilly in San Francisco so oxygen may be required. At least I felt I needed it when we walked to Lombard Street.

where we stayed. 

After much browsing of booking.com and hotels.com we ended up at the Axiom Hotel after screaming fuck it and booking. Accommodation in San Francisco is £££ and all we knew is that we absolutely did not want to stay in the Tenderloin district as it is sketchy as fuck. Our hotel was not far from Powell St and Union Square, making it perfectly central.

The room was small but there was enough room for two with a comfy bed. We unfortunately didn’t have a window with a nice city view of San Francisco (which we could not afford) but it didn’t matter as we weren’t in the room all that much. The bathroom was really lovely however with a big powerful shower and plenty of space. The highlight of the Axiom however? The robes provided in the room. Highlight of the holiday. 

It had a really nice reception/bar area as well with costs charged to your room. We had mimosas a couple of times which were priced at $5 each and I had a boring chicken sandwich when I was extremely hungover and regretful of all decisions made in the last 12 hours.

And Janet, amazing cool wine expert Californian mom Janet, told us it is her favourite hotel to stay in SF and she always pops in for a mimosa when she is in the city.

what we did. 

San Francisco has so much to offer and I could have stayed a lot longer if budgets allowed. We didn’t even touch the surface with cool neighbourhoods, eateries and shops. Still a bit sad I didn’t get to go on a good thrifting adventure but hopefully I’ll get to go back.

We missed going to Alcatraz as we didn’t book tickets far enough in advance and there were none left for when we were there. I was a little bit disappointed as I was desperate to visit (clearly not desperate enough to get my shit together though) but hopefully one day soon I’ll get to go back to California and see the infamous prison up close. 

We did see Alcatraz from a distance on a boat trip we did of the bay. It was a little rickety fishing boat where we sat with about 35 other people on garden chairs with the cold spray of the sea splashing in our faces several times. It took us under the Golden Gate Bridge and round Alcatraz Island for the cost of $15 in an hour. 

Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf were two of my favourite areas. Pier 39 is so cute and exactly like you would expect – great food, atmosphere, bustle, sea lions. I loved the performers, the carousel, the delicious looking food in restaurant windows and the noise of being so close to the sea. We wandered a bit further down to Fisherman’s Wharf in search of a lobster roll and it was the perfect way to wind down a busy day of exploring San Francisco. 

Briefly we headed to Golden Gate Park which is absolutely fucking massive and we saw not much as we were both really hungover and it was pretty cold and windy which we were not prepared for. We ate some hotdogs by a boating lake and drank a lot of Diet Coke for a couple of hours before retreating to our hotel before going out for sushi that night. 

One of the biggest highlights from the whole trip was a winery trip to Sonoma Valley. We were forty minutes late (!!!) as we slept in due to being hungover and the driver and tour guide Alan, who is from Paisley, kindly waited for us. It was him calling me over WhatsApp that woke us up. Luckily our fellow wine goers didn’t hate us and by the end of the day everyone was good friends. I’m still in such awe of these four Californian moms (who were sisters) in their matching t-shirts and bougie lifestyles. I want to be Janet so bad. 

First the tour stopped at Armstrong Redwoods so we could see the Redwoods which was really fun. The trees are magnificent and whilst we were both a bit hungover and I realised my dress was on back to front, it was fun and Alan gave us some extra tips about the local fauna and flora as we were back to the bus first. 

We then stopped at the first of three wineries, Harvest Moon, where we also had lunch before heading on to the next two, Taft Street and Kendall Jackson. The whole day was so much fun and we got to try so many nice wines. The whole tour did run around 40 minutes late thanks to us but no one minded and the tour guide was the loveliest man ever. We had one final stop at the Golden Gate Bridge for some hilarious pictures before Alan dropped us back at the hotel. 

We booked through Viator but the tours itself was with Best Bay Area Tours and was about £120 with all the wine fees paid for and lunch included. It was one of my favourite days of the whole holiday and basically I need to go a vineyard every time I go to wine-making regions from now on. 

The hilarious photos we have from the Golden Gate Bridge are all we’ve got as we never made it across via bike (we had such grand plans to cycle across and eat lunch in Sausalito) but we were too hungover and instead had a pitiful afternoon in Golden Gate Park as it was all we could muster. 

We also explored the Financial District, having a few drinks there a couple of times, and Chinatown where we had good Chinese food and mooched around the souvenir shops which was lots of fun. I also spent $120 on Lychee martinis in one bar so I think that sums up San Francisco. 

where we ate. 

On our first night we popped out for pizza at around 9pm after getting to the hotel. Rachel found Delarosa through a quick google search and we really lucked out. It reminded me a lot of Paesano with communal tables and affordable, delicious pizza. We got seated straight away and the staff were super friendly. 

We grabbed lunch from Sajj where we had delicious rice bowls (I went for falafel) in the sunshine whilst planning our afternoon. It was busy with people on their lunch break and situated on the end of a tiny pedestrian street with each restaurant having outdoor seating, giving it a real buzz. 

I also had crab macaroni cheese in Leo’s alongside all the happy hour wine we drank and Paper Plane cocktails. The seafood in San Francisco was incredible and the lobster rolls we had at Alioto’s in Fisherman’s Wharf still makes my mouth water when I think about it. You are really spoilt for choice for good seafood in that area and all the restaurants on Pier 39 were packed. One thing we didn’t try in this area but did look incredible was the hotdog stands which are all over the pavements in this area and they looked so tasty. 

We also had good Chinese food from a restaurant in Chinatown and amazing sushi from Mikaku on our final night which was exactly what I wanted from San Francisco: incredible Asian food. 

San Francisco is a beautiful city and I feel we only touched the surface of what to do there. I can’t wait to go back in the future and go to Alcatraz, learn more about wine, see the Golden Gate Bridge up close and eat all the good food, drink all the coffee and finally do some thrifting. 

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