After years of thinking about it, I finally got round to planning a US road trip this year. The trip was a little over two weeks, heading down the west coast to LA, over to Palm Springs and ending in Vegas. So earlier this month, we packed our bags, bid goodbye to a grey London and boarded a plane bound for San Francisco.
Armed with jeans and light jumpers, we arrived early afternoon ready for the cool San Francisco temperatures that everyone (and I mean everyone, every weather site, every blogger, everyone I know that has been) had warned us about. Cue a record breaking heat wave (we’re talking 100+ Fahrenheit people) and two extremely over dressed and perspiring Brits. Making the most of the heat (and attempting not to melt), I donned a hat, grabbed an Uber and we headed to our hotel. Using Uber was handy during our trip, just be sure to pay attention to the pick-up/drop off points at the airports to avoid dragging your bags around arrivals like we did...
We stayed at The Warwick hotel near Union Square which was recommended (especially for first time visitors), because of its central location, meaning its super easy to get around and explore. It is on the touristy side though (think Oxford Street, lots of shops, malls, restaurants and people), so if that’s not your thing then check out Nob Hill (yes, that is actually what it’s called), Pacific Heights or the Marina areas, for a more laid back stay. Poorly attempting to keep jet lag at bay, we dumped our bags, had a quick freshen up and headed to check out Alcatraz.
I pre booked our tickets with Alcatraz Cruises a few months before (they sell out pretty quickly) and chose the evening tour, hoping it might be a little less crowded than during the day. We jumped on the boat at Pier 33 and after a quick cruise around the island, wandered off to take a look at the prison itself.
Windswept Titanic moments...
Side note, something that no one seems to mention is the flies. Sounds ridiculous I know, but these little suckers were everywhere (the tour guide referred to them as zombie flies because they don’t die easily, lovely right?) and they were a bit of a low point. Since being home I’ve spoken to friends that have been and they didn’t notice them, so maybe we just had a bit of bad luck. Back in the prison (and thankfully fly free), I found the whole thing quite eerie. Maybe visiting at night was partly the reason (although it was still light when we arrived), but more than just being in an old disused prison for some of America’s worst criminals, was the realisation that people actually lived in these (very) tiny cells. You can stand in the middle of one and pretty much touch all the walls and ceiling without moving. I don't doubt the prisoners were no Mother Theresa, it was just a strange feeling peering in to spaces smaller than a standard bathroom and imagining them being crammed full of people. Clearly, I’m not cut out for prison life!
The tour is definitely worth doing but was a little bit too long for me, that was more than likely a result of being awake for 27 hours, rather than there not being enough to see and do (you’re free to wander round the non-restricted parts of the island too or hang back from the group tour and wander at your own pace). During the day, boats are coming and going, bringing people back and forth for various tours so you can make the trip as long or as short as you like but during the evening it’s a little bit more restricted, so make sure to check out the timetable before going. A plus of the heatwave meant no fog (which I’d heard is pretty constant in SF and apparently referred to as Karl, who knew?), so we had amazing views from the island over the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge (and a good photo opportunity for those Instagram worthy snaps, of course).
After heading back to the bay (on the fly infested boat), we made our way to North Beach (little Italy vibes), to scope out Tony’s Pizza. A no reservation zone, we arrived at 10pm to a packed restaurant with over an hours wait for a table. Just about ready to fall asleep standing up, we decided to head two doors up to the Slice House which is owned and run by the same people, has exactly the same pizza (the menu is just shorter I think) and had a 10 minute wait (it was a no brainer).
Designed as a take-out, they do actually have a few tables outside so we grabbed one, ordered the biggest pizza they made and ate as much as we could manage (easily done, it was seriously good) before we were ready to nap face down in the pizza box.
See, I wasn't joking about being tired...
If you're in to pizza, the Slice house and Tony's are definitely somewhere to check out (as long as you don't mind a bit of a wait or eating out of a box). Day one done, we dragged our tired butts back to the hotel and crashed out!
Pop back for the rest of the adventure soon...