My travel generally is my hols – any city breaks are European – and I don’t travel with work, so the idea of going to the far side of a different continent and back for less than 2 days is somewhat alien to me.
However, when the opportunity came up earlier this year to do just that – Dublin to San Francisco return! – I grabbed it with both hands! Another trip? Sign me up!
A bonus was it was the first direct Dublin to San Francisco flight on the newly launched Aer Lingus service. For the length of flight, it was comfortable and the onboard WiFi was quite impressive – certainly worth buying for a trip of that duration.
48 hours meant no checked bags – so it was straight out and on to the BART into the city, deposited at the Civic Centre. Sure I’ll walk to my hotel! The Fairmont! Atop Nob Hill! You’d think that detail would have reminded me…..
It had been 14 years since the one and only time I’d been to San Francisco, so the epic scale of the hilly streets had faded from memory. Nonetheless, up I went, and it’s as good as way as any to take the place in on a crisp, sunny April afternoon.
San Francisco has bags of character. That layout alone lets you know you couldn’t be anywhere else in the US – add in the trolley cars, the Bay, the Bridges, and the nearest-thing-to-European world view you generally encounter, and it’s utterly unmistakable.
So, what did I squeeze in
– Several wanders! Including any number of a myriad of craft beers in a myriad of hipster-type bars. Being asked for ID entering a bar on California Street was somewhat pleasing at first for a (then) 41 year old, but it was less about youthful appearance, and more about daft regulations that still pop up and surprise some time in the land of the free (I mean seriously, how you can talk about liberty and put so many restrictions on something like poker!)
– Sears Fine Food – The breakfast to end all breakfasts. Al’s Special. Arrive hungry, don’t book dinner.
– The must-do. Biking the bridge. I went with the omnipresent Blazing Saddles from their Hyde St spot. Obviously biking the bridge is a draw in itself. But the staff at Blazing Saddles made this fun from start to finish. The welcome, setting up and cheers and good humour as you arrive back create a great atmosphere. The city could do a little bit more in marking the bike trail at the very start. However, the views are fantastic, there’s only a couple of short steep uphill sections, the bridge is great. The highlight for me was freewheeling at high speed down into Sausalito, I felt like a kid again!
– Sausalito. What I wouldn’t have given for more time here. I realise the stunning sunny day I had was a bonus for April. But Sausalito sparkled. Boutiques, bars and some beautiful restaurants. I however spied Copita for some margarita refreshment. It’s pricey, but fun, and straight into conversation with Carlos behind the bar and a lady who wanted to sell me some of the outrageously priced local real estate. I missed my intended ferry back, but enjoyed it all the same.
– Michael Mina – Now I like all sorts of food, including fine dining. All the dishes were wonderfully presented, real works of art. However, starter sashimi was beautiful if small even by fine dining standards. A main of lobster tagliatelle was quite bland. With a dessert, pleasant thin slivers of chocolate cake with a little ice cream, it wasn’t long after leaving that hunger pangs returned. Easy on the eye, heavy on the pocket, light in the stomach.
Aside from that, it was more wandering – watching skateboarders risking life limb and passers-by over pedestrian crossings. Feeling the sun down by the Golden Gate. Looking out to Alcatraz (which I’d visited in 2000) and thinking “water doesn’t look THAT cold.”
And on the return flight two days later, thinking San Francisco deserves a lot more than 48 hours, and that the wider region including Big Sur would have to come right up that never ending travel “to-do” list.