Explorastory: San Francisco

The first thing we did when we arrived in San Francisco was visit Alcatraz (after dinner at the local pub and an early night). We picked Alcatraz first due to its special relationship with the 7 day city pass. This would be the first prison-type tour we’ve done that didn’t live up to its reputation and we were underwhelmed. Port Arthur (even in the sunshine) and Sachsenhausen were much more ominous.

Our absolute favourite experience was the Academy of Sciences. I wanted to say Yosemite, but while the valley was INCREDIBLE, spending 6 hours in a bus to get under 2 hours free time in the valley was not great. CalSci was lovely and full of interesting bits to explore. We would totally go again by ourselves, and we reckon Mr3 would have loved it too.

The hardest moment of the trip was definitely saying goodbye to Mr3 on our last Skype session – from SFO. He thought that because we were at the airport it was time to pick us up, and was very upset when we explained it wasn’t yet.Untitled_Panorama1b

The moment that sticks in my mind the most is definitely the sunset we saw over the city on our way home from Yosemite. It was incredible, and the only sunset we actually noticed. I will be forever glad our tour driver took the initiative to pull off the bay bridge and on to Treasure Island.

We wish we had had more time (and energy) available to explore the Botanic Gardens. On the maps of the city that are printed for tourists, that part of the city is compressed to a tighter scale, so the size of the gardens is way under represented. We only walked a really small section (from CalSci to the close end for a bus), and it took a solid 25 minutes.

An unexpected highlight was the Whale Watching tour we hadn’t planned to do, but picked up on a whim. We saw a handful of humpback whales and a huge pod of dolphins. Well worth the effort.


High on our list is going back to Yosemite, as a trip on its own. In fact, more than once if we can swing it. I would love to see it in winter, and we would both love the chance to do some of the walks, even just the “short” ones around the village.

Our worst experience was probably when I got haggled / bullied into buying a lens adapter I wasn’t intending to buy. I had gone into a shop to look for pancake lenses and instead walked out with a “super discounted” fisheye adapter for the front of my 18-135mm lens. Way not worth the money I paid for it, I got played for a sucker.

The most random moment of the trip was the busker who complained because our line of tourists waiting for a cable car weren’t ‘tipping’ him enough. Since when?

The most physically demanding thing we did was riding over the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a must-do, right? So we did. I’m not much of a cyclist, but I survived. The ride down the hill in to Sausalito was well outside my comfort zone, and I was really glad we opted not to ride back.


Our very last thing we did was go up to the Coit Tower, after enjoying an awesome and huge baked potato at Fishermans Wharf. We then walked all the way back across town from the North Beach area, via the Transamerica Pyramid, and back up to the backpackers. I should have slept the whole flight home. Didn’t!

Learn a lesson from us – you actually have to go a LONG way around the inner coastline to view the Golden Gate Bridge. We tried to walk to a view point from the end of the tram line at Fishermans wharf on our last evening, and gave up after about 20 minutes walk.


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