Ahh, San Francisco (SF), such a lovely city. Honestly, the first time I visited SF, back in 2013, I wasn’t impressed and had a terrible “view” of the city until a few days ago, when I came here for the second time. Flying straight from hot-weathered Orlando to SF’s chilly evening, I found myself falling in love with the city’s abundant nightlife, exotic neighborhoods of Chinatown and North Beach (Italian Neighborhood), the great Golden Gate Bridge, the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, and the historical neighborhood of Presidio. Because of our tight schedule, my family and I went “straight to business” and didn’t waist a second while exploring SF. We didn’t go to all of the most touristy spots-such as Alcatraz, which I do recommend you to visit-but I’m sure we covered a great deal of them!
PS: I do highly suggest to explore SF by foot, bike, or bus/bonde (just like you would do in New York City).
This was more of a “first night” instead of a full day; however, we still got to enjoy the city’s nightlife. I got picked up by my house, literally, at the airport and we set off to SF’s downtown hunting for dinner. Well, let me tell you something-when in SF, you must eat Italian food! There are no “ands” ,“buts”, or “I’m on a diet” (trust me, I’m very strict with my diet), just go to an authentic Italian Restaurant and indulge on some pasta, bread, and whatever there is on their menu! North Beach, which bordered with Chinatown, was quite charming and old-fashioned-low, lean buildings glued together stretch for a few blocks, the streets were skinny and dotted with holes just like the sidewalks, cafes and family-owned restaurants occupied every tiny spot, and the smell of fresh past filled up the crisp night air. We parked our house and strolled around the streets in search of a restaurant called Vieni-Vieni-which my mom claimed to be the “best restaurant” of the entire Italian neighborhood-that we ended up finding about half an hour later. Why go to that particular restaurant while we were surrounded by hundreds of restaurants which offered pasta and pizza as their main entree? Well, Vieni-Vieni offered simply the best potato gnocchi with bracciola, but there was a catch, the bracciola was only available on Fridays and it came separated from the gnocchi; however, we made a deal with the owner and got to come the next day for some bracciola with potato gnocchi (ask for two gnocchis and two bracciolas if you are a party of four).
Our day started early, at 7 am precisely, when we rented bikes and set off to explore the city on two wheels. Our first stop? Fort Mason’s Farmers Market. This little, all organic/local, outdoor market offered many fresh products as well as food: Greek, American, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. But my favorite part was the free samples! I have no idea why, but California’s Farmers Markets have free samples of everything-from hummus of diverse flavors to pieces of the most exotic fruits. Once done feasting on the free samples-and of course, doing a little grocery shopping-we biked towards the Golden Gate Bridge passing through the lovely Marina Drive, which was an exceptionally good place for outdoor activities.
Crossing the Golden Gate is a must when visiting SF-whether by foot, two or four wheels-and so is checking out Sausalito, a tiny city situated by the water across the Golden Gate. Sausalito was a high-end town near SF-quite accessible by car or bike-that was beyond picturesque; additionally, it was packed with charming boutiques, little cafes and restaurants, and Victorian-style cabins-well worth the visit!
Instead of biking all the way back, we grabbed a ferry which took us straight to the Fisherman’s Wharf’s heart-Pier 1. This pier might not be as famous as Pier 39; nevertheless, it had excellent restaurants to pick from. If you ever find yourself in doubt of what to get, please, pay a visit to El Porteno-they offer delicious Argentinian enpanadas and alfajores-as well as Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Shop.
From Pier 1, we biked through the Fisherman’s Wharf, passing by all of the other piers and the famous Pier 39. We kept going until arriving in Chinatown, where we locked up our bikes and walked around to explore the intriguing neighborhood. The streets were crowded with people, most of them just doing their daily chores such as grocery shopping; similarly, we did a little shopping of our own too. As we went in and out of the small stores-most of them offering Chinese products only-I checked out some of their typical food (yes, that’s what I like to do on my free time) as well as unusual products. The Chinatown reminded me a bit of Brazil-older buildings, skinny roads packed with family-owned stores, clothes hanging outside of windows in order to dry, tiny markets displaying fresh products-which was somewhat comforting.
Like day two, our day started very early. We dropped off our bikes in downtown and walked towards the Fisherman’s Wharf for some additional exploring. Once done eating there, we headed to Presidio-a historical neighborhood North of Golden Gate Park. Founded in 1776 by the Spanish, the Presidio is today a national park which faces the San Francisco Bay. This old neighborhood was quite charming due to its all white military archicteture, bright-green lawns, majestic palm trees, and forts. There were numerous things to explore at the Presidio: the Presidio Museum, the military cemetery, and Fort Point. While on wondering around Presidio, we met a family who lived around the area and they kindly invited us over for dinner. During our stay, I was pleasently surprised by the hospitality of the citizens of SF-I normally don’t expect much from people who live in huge cities-since they let us leave our bikes at their house, park our rv in their property to spend the night, and invite us over for some home cooked meal-gotta love San Francisco!