After spending our time so far mostly eating and drinking our way around town, we decided a little culture wouldn’t go amiss and if brunch happened to be at the end of the trail, then so be it. Setting off in the direction of Alamo Square, we wandered our way across the city, passing City Hall and walked up Hayes Street (which is a great pit stop for little boutiques, cafés and home shops).
Walk far enough and you’ll find Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies. Anyone watch Full House when they were a kid? Nope, me neither (it was all about Kenan and Kel when I was growing up…orange soda anyone?), but if you did then you would apparently recognise this spot from the opening credits of the show. A row of 7 houses faces the square (there are others but not as cute as these), painted in all different colours, hence the name I assume, although why the reference to ladies I have no idea (what am I missing?), and attract visitors all day long. Beautiful they may be but I can’t say I would want to live in one; I imagine it would be a lot like being in a goldfish bowl, what with the copious amounts of people outside your front door taking photos all day long. Taking a minute to sit down, admire the houses and watch the guys filming a rap video on the stoop of one, I snapped away and we waited until it was time for brunch, wondering if Mrs Doubtfire’s house was close by (it wasn’t, its across town).
Spot the film makers?
Just a short walk away is Nopa a brunch intuition in San Francisco. I reserved before we left London and I would recommend doing the same if you want to have a chance of grabbing a table. We chose an early sitting so that we could cram as much as possible in to our last full day in town, so making the most of it we grabbed a bloody mary whilst our table was being sorted and checked out the menu.
Before getting everyone to their table, the staff crowded around the kitchen and tried out various dishes. This pays off when you ask the waiter for a recommendation because they actually know what they are talking about (handy when you travel with someone that is super indecisive over food choices like I do...). Our table was upstairs which meant we had a nice view of the restaurant below and also means you can sneak a peek in to the open kitchen.
I opted for the burger (which sounds somewhat predictable but I love them and they are known for their burger - plus the waiter said it was as good as I had heard, so win win) and he went for the harissa braised lamb. Brunch served, it all went rather quiet as we worked our way through our respective dishes, tried each other’s and also the ‘sharing’ side of homemade cinnamon raisin toast.
Tasty as hell, all of it. I suspect all of the menu is, although I’ll have to go back and try it all...just to be sure you understand. The menu changes often, so you’re unlikely to get bored of what’s on offer.
Full from brunch and in need of some air to walk it off, we headed down Divisadero street (you’ll find more cute shops worth popping your head into)
before getting an Uber back to the hotel for a quick outfit change and heading out to cycle the Golden Gate Bridge.
Having only seen the bridge in the distance so far, I was intent on getting across it. We strolled through Ghirardelli square and grabbed an ice cream at the Ghirardelli ice cream shop (not worth it – don’t waste your time or money), picked up bikes from the Blazing Saddle hire shop just below the square (it was $60 for the both of us, if you have the bike for a short time its just $8 and hour, go over a certain time and you get charged the daily rate) and set off with the bridge in our sights cycling along Chrissy Fields beach, which gives you an amazing view of the water and the bridge growing bigger in the distance.
Now...large stretches of the ride are flat…but…don’t let anyone fool you, there are bits that are most definitely NOT flat. Ever the fitness fanatic (that is an absolute lie, can you tell) I ever so gracefully panted and puffed my way up to the bridge, desperately trying to remember how the guy in the hire shop said the gears should be set to travel uphill and failing miserably, at one point I hopped off and walked my bike uphill to avoid falling off the damn thing, smooth. All the uphill cycle dramatics aside, once you are on the bridge itself (watch out for those serious cyclist types who wear the super tight clothes and sperm like helmets and get pretty pissed at tourists in their way as they hurtle towards you) it is unbelievable, perhaps a tad scary but seriously unbelievable. The sheer scale of the bridge alone (it looks so tiny from far away…obviously) and the height above the water is enough to keep you well and truly away from the edge on a hire bike you aren’t sure how to operate (just me?).
Always keen to capture the moment, I attempted some one handed photo taking but almost lost my balance and headed towards some oncoming bikes so gave that a miss for the rest of the ride and instead took in the view. Do you ever feel like you’re so focused on getting a picture that you don’t feel like you actually saw it for yourself? Guilty over here.
Once we were off the bridge, we were headed for Sausalito, a little town on the water front. Again, everyone sells this as a ‘downhill’ cycle…err no. Sure, once you get of the bridge there is a nice long downhill stretch and then bam…back to dragging my butt back uphill (I got off again and walked my bike, because you know…I’m just not made for the bike life). Some 20 minutes later, I finally cruised into town, with my cycle partner waiting patiently for me (and laughing to himself). Remember I said it was hot, like record breaking hot? Yeah that didn’t change the whole time we were in SF and cycling is thirsty work, so we parked up the bikes (there are people who will direct you to where you need to go) and walked (ran) to the nearest bar, Barrel House Tavern.
I’d love to tell you that we re-hydrated ourselves and then set off to take a look around town. The first part is true, if by ‘re-hydrating’ you mean, sat at the bar for hours drinking gin and tonics chatting to locals until we realised we were probably going to miss the last ferry back to the bay if we didn’t drink up and leave, then sure that’s exactly what we did…we were ‘rehydrated’ (and drunk). I have barely any photos from that afternoon, which although not blog friendly, I’m fine with because we were just propping up the bar talking rubbish to each other and anyone else who would listen and enjoying ourselves, that is no bad thing. So you’ll just have to take my word for it, it’s super cute, the people are fab and you should go.
Making a quick ice cream pit stop at Lappert's, we grabbed the bikes and jumped on the ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Once back in the bay, the bikes dropped off, we had all intentions of freshening up and heading to dinner at Waterbar. Instead, we got back to the hotel and I climbed straight into bed for a 5 minute power nap which turned in to a 3 hour nap which turned in to us both deciding it was too late for dinner, we were too tired and so curled up and fell back to sleep. It must have been all that exercise and fresh air…or maybe all the gin…
Our time in San Francisco was almost done, next stop...Carmel.