Before arriving my knowledge of San Francisco was pretty basic, there's a huge bridge you must see, good food, cable cards and lots of hills - oh and of course Full House was filmed there. One of the great things about visiting 'tourist cities' is that it's super easy to plan your trip after you've arrived. I grabbed both a BART transit guide and city map at the airport before making my way into the city (via BART which is super easy to navigate and cheaper than your other options). My first day was mostly spent in transit and getting situated with my CS hosts but after that I was off and running, as I soon found out there was LOTS for me to see and do in the City by the Bay.
I woke up early Sunday and decided to take advantage of doing so, by 12 o'clock I had already transversed the city seeing the Embarcadero (from my streetcar), Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill and Fisherman's Wharf. I had to be in the Haight by 12 to secure my free bike (not spilling my secrets) so I caught a bus and enjoyed the views down Van Ness Avenue. Equipped with a bike, and not one that read advertised "Bike the Bridge" I was on my way to Golden Gate Park, but not before tackling a few hills and some traffic. Once you're off the city streets the bike ride to the park (and through it) is extraordinary, especially the stretch of paths winding through The Panhandle between Oak and Fell Street. I met up with my host Jimmy, biked through the park, enjoyed a delicious Malaysian lunch and gorgeous sunset views at the Lands End trail.
Monday Jimmy had to work so I was left on my own for a second day of city exploration, but not before taking advantage of the empty apartment for some morning yoga. I wound up starting in much the same fashion as the day before, but this time actually walking around the Embarcadero, stopping for coffee and almost feeling like a local. I caught the F line (as close as I got to a Cable Car ride) with the throngs of tourists and soon arrived at Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. My stomach was growling but I remembered Jimmy's advice that I should have lunch in the Mission so I caught a bus headed that way. Thankfully his advice was spot on and my stomach was happy as I stuffed my face was a delicious yet affordable and completely authentic burrito at El Farolito. Although the food baby inside of me begged for a nap I opted for a walk around the neighborhood where I discovered the stark contrast of the older Mission street to the completely gentrified Valencia. I browsed some shops and stopped at Dolores Park before the temperatures dropped and I decided it was time to head home.
My final day in the city started with cool weather and foggy skies which almost crushed my plans to travel out to the bridge, but thankfully I persevered. I could have taken the bus down to the Presidio but I chose to walk instead, checking out the Lyon street steps where I saw loads of crazy women working out (running stairs is a punishment not a workout) and discovered what my job should be ($90/hour to tell the women to run said stairs). The walk through the Presidio and onwards to the bridge was gorgeous although I could have done without the construction that obstructed my views and accosted my ear drums. I was alone for most of way until I eventually found myself on the path to the bridge and was joined by dozens of tourists, walking, biking, busing and driving.
I've probably seen thousands of pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge throughout my life but seeing it in person was a whole different story. The size of the bridge is truly impressive, not to mention the wind in your face feeling when you're walking across it. I didn't bother venturing all the way across (my 3 mile walk there seemed like enough) so after reaching the first pillar I turned back and made my way down to Crissy Field. All the walking left me with some stiff legs so I took advantage of the wide open fields, picked a spot and broke into a few yoga poses, which of course elicited stares from a few passing by.
The day ended with an awesome experience thanks again to my CS host Jimmy. Upon hearing that I am a Yogi and always up for a good dose of Yoga he recommended that I try out the donation class held on Tuesday evenings at Grace Cathedral. My friend Ella, who I completed YTT with in Thailand decided to come join me before returning to Oakland to spend the night at her place. If you have any interest in Yoga and find yourself in San Francisco on a Tuesday evening I would highly recommend checking this out, the sound of music echoing through the halls while you move through your flow is unlike any class you can take elsewhere.
Although it was a fast moving, fully packed schedule for three days I thoroughly enjoyed my time in San Francisco. Before (and after) visiting I continually hear how expensive the city is but I didn't actually find that to be a problem. Just like most large cities your budget determines your spending, if you're okay with walking a few miles, eating at a few low budget restaurants and sleeping on strangers couches you'll be able to do San Francisco on the cheap just fine.
I grew up hearing "California, you don't want to live there" but after finally visiting, it's the one place in the US I could actually envision myself 'settling down'