THE PALACE OF FINE ARTS
Roughly 3.7 kms to the West of Fisherman’s Wharf and just before you reach the start of Marina Boulevard you can find the eloquently imposing Palace of Fine Arts. It is fairly hard to miss as it stands impeccably tall in its Roman style architecture amongst the suburban streets of Lower Pacific Heights, San Francisco. The Palace was originally built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Art Exposition and experienced renovations to develop the walkways and the lagoon in both 1965 and 2009.Today it still plays host to art exhibitions but now it is a popular venue for weddings and tourist outings. Well worth a look and can be seen on a trip to Marina Boulevard where you can admire the marina and the Golden Gate Bridge.
GOLDEN GATE TO SAUSALITO BY BICYCLE
A great place to start when you want to experience the Golden Gate Bridge is to hire a bike at pier 39. It’s best to book online as you often get a little discount which is always good when traveling on a budget! The cycle is relatively easy with a few up hills to tackle along the way. The most difficult part is probably navigating the sea of tourists both walking and cycling along the paths and on the bridge itself.It took me probably about an hour and a half to cycle over the bridge and descend in to Sausalito and thats with a few photo stops. The bike hire is for the whole day (about $29 USD) and allows you until 8 pm to catch the ferry back from Sausalito ($11 USD). This is probably one of the best tourist activities to do in San Fran and it is so worth it. On a sunny day the scenery is stunning and spending the afternoon in Sausalito by the wharf is extremely relaxing. I would recommend getting priority boarding for the ferry as soon as you reach Sausalito, this is free but I didn’t do it and it was touch and go whether I would make it on to the ferry at the time I wanted to. Also wear sunscreen!!! The fresh sea breeze makes you think it’s not that hot but I learnt the hard way that the sun is very deceptive here!
Just south of the Mission district one can stumble across the popular and laid back destination of Delores park. When I first approached the park and took in the hundreds of people laid out across the blanket of fresh and vibrant green grass in packs, couples and singles, I looked for the stage or the market shops bringing in the crowds. To my surprise there was no concert, no shopping, no food stalls, just a playground and a vast park area with a view. This is one of my favorite places in the city where all types of people come to purely just sit and enjoy. It is odd at times as most people come to drink and smoke in the areas surrounding the children’s playground but there is an understanding that everyone is there to relax and enjoy so there never seems to be any threat of aggression or angst. I liken this to what we would do at home on the beach and so it seems kind of special to be able to enjoy the park this way in the middle of a bustling city.
NAPPA AND SONOMA WINE TASTING
There is nothing I love more than having a midday glass (or three) of my elixir of choice, wine, beautiful wine! This is why I could not go past a tour of wine country in San Francisco, the valleys of Nappa and Sonoma. After checking out all of my options I went with the limo bus tour via guide you.com. And what a great choice this was. It was about $15 more expensive than a lot of the others but it was in a limo!! And not only that it involved a mimosa breakfast with bagels, croissants and a cheese board, a trip to four wineries, an olive oil tasting, a Mediterranean style lunch and even a quick stop to Angelo’s World Famous Jerky store for an impromptu tasting. With the engaging scenic views from the limo and the depth of the San Francisco wines this trip was well worth the money.
The very first winery stop (Jacuzzi wines) had a beautifully smooth Arneis white wine that became my favorite of the trip. It is also where we did the olive oil tasting and I was able to try oils and balsamic vinegars of the most exotic flavor combinations. These included jalapeño olive oil with peach balsamic vinegar and lime olive oil with coconut balsamic vinegar. Both my favorites and I was highly disappointed that there were no travel sized bottles for me to purchase! We were able to squeeze in three other wineries over the day and all boasted some beautiful views and wines. What I noticed most about the wine is that this area produces a lot of reds with spicy and smoky notes which are not my first choice in wine but by the end of the day I was thoroughly enjoying the smoky reds (:
Our tour guide Abe was an Egyptian born middle aged man with a killer sense of humor and a vast knowledge about the area and the wineries. He provided great entertainment along the way, joking several times about him being a terrorist and taking on multiple personalities during the day just to get a laugh. He was a great contributor to my wine tasting experience. The tasting in Nappa was the one tourist activity that I really wanted to do in my time here and I am so glad I got to do it through such a great company and with some great people from all over the world. The tour cost $99 USD and went from 8.30 am to 4 pm. If you want to feel a little fancy then the limo bus is the way to go, I mean if you’re going wine tasting you may as well do it right! Wine, mimosas, limos and olive oils make for a great way to spend a day.
For a day away from the crowds in the city Angel Island is a beautiful place to visit. For $17 return you can take the ferry from Pier 41 in the early morning and return at 3pm (at the latest) I went here with two couch-surfing friends and we spent about four hours walking around and up the Island. If you manage to pick a sunny day (which we did not) the views here would be amazing, we managed to get some good shots when the fog burnt off but for the most part it was a delightfully eery foggy morning. The Island has a small beach and a cafe and some historical buildings along the way to investigate. the cafe closes the kitchen at 2.30pm so It’s a good idea to bring snacks in case you get caught out! And if you miss the last ferry home… you’re spending the night under the stars until 9.30 the next morning. Doesn’t sound to bad really, the views alone would make up for being left behind.
After walking through the Haight-Ashbury district that show cases the hippie lifestyle and the 70s history of San Francisco, I finally came across Twin Peaks Boulevard the road to take me up to the second highest spot in the city (Mount Davidson is the highest). At an elevation of about 280 m the Twin Peaks are a relatively easy walk and provide an epic panoramic view of the entire city. The peaks are 200m apart and both provide their own unique view. The wind at the top is intense and liberating, a jacket and a hair tie is a must when packing to go out to the peaks. This is an easy and cheap way to get some San Fran tourism in and a great view without the effort and planning of hiking a mountain!