San Frantastic

After two rocky days aboard ship, we alighted in the hilly, eccentric, free spirited city of San Francisco. I felt as though we had properly started ‘travelling’; the Alaskan portion of our adventure feeling more of a splurge, a calm before the storm, an expense before the backpacking penny pinching – and we were excited.

As we checked into our city centre hostel we soon found out that the US Government had ‘shutdown’ and as such our plans were to change as we couldn’t hit Yosemite National Park unless it opened in time (which it wasn’t to do), giving us 5 nights in San Francisco to explore, navigate and enjoy before deciding to head North by an hour and camp in the state park of Mount Tamalpais.

San Francisco was a great energetic city. It boasts to be very liberal with a lot of history in the gay rights movement, and this eclectic and diverse energy and culture seemed to ooze from its pavement pores as we wandered around trying to visit the main tourist sites along with pounding the streets of the more eclectic areas.

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With the US government shutdown an Alcatraz visit was out of the question, but after trekking for a day from our hostel, through the city, over the famous “most photographed bridge in the world” Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito, we caught a ferry back during sunset and drifted slowly past the infamous prison. Even at this relative distance ‘the rock’ intrigued and fascinated me – maybe due to the copious amount of films I’ve seen about it – and it didn’t let down my over zealous imagination as I imagined breakouts and film-esque plotlines playing out within its shores.

We had also landed on the eve of a world famous music festival – Strictly Blue Grass – and when checking out the acts saw that one of the bands we both like, First Aid Kit, were playing on the Friday evening at 4pm. The festival that boats 5 big stages over the urban sprawling 1.5mile square Golden Gate Park has been held for the past 10 years after the philanthropist creator of the festival donated millions of dollars when passing away to ensure the festival would run, free, every year for the next 12 years.

We headed down to the free 3-day festival and listened to the music, ate from the copious amounts of amazing street food vendors and relaxed on the grass watching the world and all of its eclectic individuals pass by.

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When I first arrived in San Francisco I put out a message on Facebook to ask for suggestions in this city, and my brother who had visited a couple of years previously suggested checking out Bourbon and Branch, a speak easy where booking is essential and cocktails are the order of the day. After finally getting a table (this place is popular) we had the secret password and location by email and headed down to the bar. Knocking on the non-descript, non-signed door, we were presented with a woman asking if we had the password, where upon giving out the secret information were allowed into an amazing 1920’s speak easy bar. This place almost invented the world cool; 1920’s décor, low level lighting, a set of rules (no phones, no pictures, no asking for a cosmo, and of course, speak easy) and the bartenders and waitresses dressed up accordinly. We stayed there for a couple of hours before dinner having an amazing time, tasting our way through some seriously stupendiously tasty cocktails before wandering back to our hostel, slightly inebriated, way beyond our budget, but thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

Throw in a random condimental selection of watching the gawping sea lions at Pier 39, moving to a disgusting hostel for a couple of nights due to availability at our original one, hitting an amazing beer-specialised bar owned and operated by a famous brewer called Mikkeller, lazily wandering around fishermans wharf, and randomly bumping into a friend from Birmingham Korfball on a bar crawl one evening, we packed up our copious amounts of luggage and set our alarms for the early start to Mount Tamalpais.

San Fran had been a blast, we experienced some great eclectic places and energy throughout, found some gems hidden away as well as out in the open and walked its many hills, piers and walkways. After 5 days there we were ready for a change, but we left with a good feeling about the place.

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