Our time in San Francisco was more about hanging out with friends, playing bike polo, riding around the city and checking out all the things we could do for free. A normal trip to a city like San Fran, you would come with a substantial spending pot, stay in a nice hotel, do some shopping, check out a lot of the cool eateries and bars, cafe’s and maybe some touristy attractions. But when you’re visiting a big city whilst on a round the world trip, things are a bit different. You have to do a city on the cheap.
We were lucky enough to stay with a friend we know through bike polo. Sam was a great host, she gave up her bed for us to sleep in and made us coffee every morning. Which was, for the record, the first decent coffee I had since entering the United States! She also gave us maps and tips of what to do, where to go, what to see and more importantly how to avoid the infamous San Francisco hills. Which is very useful when you’re getting around by bicycle.
There was no fancy shopping, unless you count window shopping of course, no cool expensive bars and restaurants, no Alcatraz visit or other exciting touristy things. I think that when you’re visiting a city on a tight budget and staying with your friends who are locals, you get a great insight to what it’s like to actually live in that city. So we still had a brilliant time! Even though we witnessed a drive by shooting shortly after arrival, on our way to return our rental car. Scary stuff, that really shook us up, but it is a sad reality of this country I think. But we still like the city and we didn’t let it get us down.
The area we spent most time in was the Mission District, which is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in San Francisco, but also home to some of the coolest independent shops, bars, restaurants and cafe’s. We found great coffee at the anti Starb***s cafe – Four Barrel Coffee, their unique angle of offering no Wi-Fi and no charge plugs for laptops, has seen their customers actually hanging out, socialising and chatting to each other – just the way a cafe should be! We also found an awesome cheap Japanese restaurant Cha-Ya, where we had a great Miso Ramen for less than $7 each! Great brunch, can be found at Boogaloos, although the staff could spend more time on offering friendly service then being a hipster. There are plenty of great cheap eats around Valencia Street and Mission Street. We had the biggest and best tasting burrito ever at a small, no name, hole in the wall type of place. Our friend Brian, took us there and I can’t remember the exact address, but it was somewhere around Mission District too.
We went to check out Golden Gate Bridge on a very cold and windy day, but at least this meant it was all clear from fog and we had a nice clear view of the bridge. San Francisco is famous for it’s fog and changeable weather. You can have two different seasons within a 15 min ride from one another. Since the wind was so strong we decided against the original idea of riding across the bridge. In fact, it was so strong that on our way back, we didn’t have to pedal our bikes the whole way along the beach promenade. The wind behind us pushed us along and quite fast too!
We cycled onwards and checked out the famous sea lions at Pier 39. They were noisy, smelly and lazy. You can check them out yourself from this live webcam. Another free tourist attraction we checked out was Lombard Street. San Fran is also famous for it’s very steep hills, and this is probably zigzag road is probably the most photographed street in the city. We carried our bikes up the steps and rode down the one way hill.
I have a strong connection and love towards wooden houses and I absolutely love the architecture and the classic San Fran houses. The old Victorian and Edwardian wooden houses are nothing short but stunning, the wood work, attention to detail, the sheer size of them, with some of them looking more like a wooden castle than a house. They are usually painted in beautiful, bright and often bold colours. These wooden houses really set San Fran apart from other cities I’ve visited. So my love for these kind of houses led us to walk around Alamo Square and the surrounding area and of course, The Painted Ladies, most famous for the old 80’s-90’s TV-series Full House and around 70 films they have featured in. It’s another great thing you can do for free, walk around and admire these fantastic wooden mansions! So there you have it, you don’t have to have lot’s of money to enjoy a big city break!