The Slow Burn of San Franciso
I had expected that my love for San Francisco would be instant and all-consuming, that I would fall hard and quickly. You see, San Francisco is a city I have wanted to visit for most of my life. Ever since seeing those pretty pastel houses on the TV, or reading about how hippies flocked there in the 60s, I have been desperate to see this city with my own eyes. In truth, it wasn't love at first sight for me and the city by the bay, but it's safe to say that we got there eventually. It might not have been instant, but San Francisco now has a special place reserved in my heart, and I truly hope I get chance to visit again one day.
I think there were a few reasons why I didn't spark with the city straight away, but I'm sure the biggest one was that we didn't do enough research before we got there. Sure, I'd read a few blog posts before we left for our trip, but unlike when we usually go on a city break, we hadn't mined the internet for every piece of information we could find. As a result, I had no idea about three very crucial factors about San Francisco - it's huge (and not super straight forward to get around), it's windy (even when the weather forecast predicts 28 degree sunshine) and it's hilly. Okay, I did know it was hilly, but I don't think I had comprehended just how huge those hills were and just how many of them there are.
As a result, I spent our first full day in the city wearing a pretty floral dress that kept blowing up in the wind, caked in sweat because we hadn't realised we'd have to conquer one of San Fran's steepest hills to get from our hotel to the Alcatraz ferry station and feeling frustrated that we couldn't just hop around the city ticking sights off, like you can in say New York or Paris.
But I quickly realised that therein lies San Francisco's magic. It isn't a city that can easily be conquered by tourists, a list to be ticked off before heading on to the next destination. No, this is a city to be savoured. It's a city that if you let it, will get deep under your skin with it's epic bridges and beautiful views and incredible food and friendly people.
And so I relaxed. I worried less about trying to see every single sight in the city (impossible in 2 and a half days!), and instead focussed on truly soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the time we did have in this beautiful place. I wore my least Instagrammable outfit (apologies to all the super hip locals who had to see my strolling around in gym leggings and a t-shirt...), got my head around the local transport and decided to focus on just one or two things to do with the rest of our time in San Franciso.
We spent our last full day there hiring bikes and cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge (an absolute dream come true!), having a long, leisurely lunch in the sunshine in Sausalito, and exploring the area near our hotel during golden hour. We didn't get to check off every single thing on our San Francisco bucket list, but we saw a lot, and what we did see we thoroughly enjoyed once we started to relax into it. It was a good lesson for me in acknowledging the vibe of a city before just running around like a mad woman trying to see every single thing on offer. Because really, visiting new places is as much about soaking up the atmosphere as it is about seeing all the sights, isn't it?
If you were to ask me if you should visit San Francisco, my answer would be a huge yes. I will be putting together a little city guide when I'm home with some more practical information about this gorgeous place, but I'm so glad that we relaxed into our time here and enjoyed the city for what it was, rather than trying to compare it to other places we've visited. We ate incredible food, watched a ball game with the locals, and took so many photos of pretty pastel houses that I could start a whole new Instagram feed. We learnt so much about Alcatraz on the incredible tour (would 100% recommend), hung out with the sea lions at Pier 39, and felt the wind in our hair cycling along the water front.
We made a lot of happy memories in this city, and honestly? I'd go back in a heartbeat.