City Break,  Travel Diary,  USA

An open top bus tour of San Fransisco….

Wherever we visit a new city, it seems to have become a bit of a tradition to spend a day on a hop-on-hop-off open-top bus.  You know the kind I mean, the ones that go in a loop around all the major tourist attractions with a tour guide who spouts random facts about everything you see along the way.

I love them for a couple of reasons:

(a) You get to see just about everything you want to see in one day – even if it’s just a drive by.

(b) You can get off at any or all of the stops, spend a little time there and then get on the next bus that comes along, which if you choose a good company, will be every twenty minutes or so.

(c) If you do it early on in your trip then you can see most things in a day and then choose if there are places you want to go back to later in your trip to see more of.

(d) The bus stops are usually super close to the attractions so you won’t get lost and don’t have to spend forever walking about.

So, this is the story of my first full day in San Fransisco…

I woke up super early (I’m talking SUPER early like 4.30am super early) and gave up trying to sleep after laying in bed for an hour with my eyes wide open.  I called an Uber about 9 am and headed to Pier 39 which wasn’t fully open at that point so I stopped for breakfast:

NOT avocado on toast

In case you’re wondering, I do not think this is a true reflection of avocado on toast!  It is definitely avocado and it’s definitely mushed into toast but who puts cold boiled egg on top!  It was so dry that I left most of it and went to get a pretzel. 😉

I wandered down the Pier and wondered at how close Alcatraz was to the mainland and also how small it was.  I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t what I saw:

Alcatraz Island

I considered a little cruise around the bay to get a closer view of Alcatraz but it was a nice day and I have visions of Alcatraz being quite dark and gloomy so I decided not to bother and instead I went and watched the famous Pier 39 Sealions for a little while:

Pier 39 sealions

Apparently, these guys just turned up at Pier 39 a few years ago and have been there ever since!  They’re really cute to watch but there are no words that can explain the smell of them so I didn’t hang about for too long.  If you head over to my Instagram profile, I have a San Francisco highlights bit on my profile page which has a video includes showing just how noisy these little guys were – just thank your lucky stars Instagram don’t yet do smelly-vision!

Next up, I walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf which is only a few minutes walk away:

Fishermans wharf - San Fransisco

I was a bit underwhelmed by Fishermans Wharf and ended up buying a ticket for the open-topped bus here at around 11am.

The bus made it’s way along the coast to the Golden Gate Bridge and I can’t remember much about this part of the journey as I was Face-Timing the kids.  I do remember a road that was famous for being in a Steve McQueen (maybe) film and also a chocolate factory of some kind but that’s about it for that part of the journey.

I was all ready to get off at the Golden Gate Bridge stop to take some Instagram-worthy photos when I realised that the bus wasn’t actually stopping at the Bridge – it was going to drive over it!

I was really excited at the thought of driving over the bridge for about 17 seconds.  That’s the point that I realised that I needed to take my hat and sunglasses off and put my phone away because it was so windy that it took my breath away, literally!  I got my camera out and anchored it around my wrist with the strap and blindly took photos hoping for a good shot and spent most of my time on the drive across alternating between fearing for my life as I was convinced the bus was going to be blown over and fearing for the man sat in front of me who was determined to get a good shot so was standing up and wobbling horrifically in the wind!

The Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

After my attempts to take the perfect photo, we pulled into a stop on the other side to allow me the chance to calm down and get my breath back.  Rather than the bus leaving anyone who wanted to take photos to wait for the next one, the bus driver said we could have twenty minutes at the viewpoint so I had a wee and got snapping:

The view from the Golden Gate Bridge

The photos don’t do the view any justice at all but to be fair, I didn’t get that many shots as it was so busy.  I think half of San Francisco was at the viewpoint that day as it was such a nice day with not a hint of the famous San Francisco fog so I ended up getting back on the bus after ten minutes to escape the crowds.  I did get a picture of this fella on my way back to the bus though:

Teddy in a car

The next couple of stops that I remember were at the beautiful Golden Gate Park where I stopped for a little while to have a hot dog but I decided to go back another day to visit Japanese Tea Gardens and the Conservatory of Flowers when I had more time.  A good decision as it turns out as I ended up spending almost the whole day there before I came home just wandering with my camera and reading my Kindle on the grass.  It was such a beautiful place that I would be there

We continued along the bus route past a couple of sites that I’m sure were interesting but not interesting enough that I can actually remember them – remember I’d been up since 4.30 am after a very long day of travelling the day before so a lot of my time in San Francisco was a blur!

Anyway, the next place I remember was Haight and Ashbury which is somewhere I absolutely loved.  The whole area is like a hippy district filled with colour, vintage shops and tie-dyed fabrics and I could have spent all day there.

Haight and Ashbury

Haight and Ashbury

Next up was possibly my favourite stop – Alamo Park for a visit to the Painted Ladies which is a famous row of colourful houses.  They’re in all sorts of TV shows and I think they’re in the opening credits for a show called ‘Full House’.

It was a pretty steep climb up a hill through Alamo Park to reach the Painted Ladies but I could have sat there all day taking photos and enjoying the view and the sunshine from my vantage point:

The Painted Ladies

Tiredness started to kick in massively at this point so I went back to Union Square on the bus where my hotel was, grabbed a Chipotle to go, a slice of cheesecake from the cheesecake factory and went back to the hotel where I fell asleep fully dressed with my head on my Kindle!

Looking back, I managed to fit a huge amount into just one day and I would never have been able to do that if I hadn’t got on the open-top bus.  I think it cost $33 as I managed to negotiate a cheeky discount by pretending to change my mind as it was midway through the morning and saying that I thought I’d catch the bus from the stop near my hotel earlier in the morning the following day.  The lady obviously didn’t want to lose the sale so she gave me $10 off and sent me off with a can of Pepsi for free too!

One of these days, I’ll get around to sharing our New York open-top bus tour day and I’ll definitely tell you more about my day at Golden Gate Park soon too!

Until then, here’s that slice of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory that I told you about!

Cheesecake Factory

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