It’s funny that vacations usually mean that you’re going to relax and do very little, but in our case, we typically go and do as much as we can! I rarely have a vacation where I actually catch up on rest and do little. Anyway, now that that bit of Hobie Trivia has been revealed, let’s get to the insane amount of pictures I have for this day – and it’s no joke – I took 500+ pictures for JUST that day.
Getting the Day Started
The Sir Francis Drake Hotel is very centrally located in the city and as such has a lot of great amenities nearby – most importantly was a good place for breakfast. The Sears Fine Food restaurant right across the street was fan-fuckin-tastic for great food at a good price. We even got to play a token in their slot machine to see about winning prizes – spoiler alert: no prizes were won this day or the next!
The theme for the day was Super Tourist. I had wanted to do one of those Big Bus tours during our last trip but that didn’t happen, so this visit it was going to happen. We talked to our hotel’s concierge and he upsold us on the 2-day pass which was just fine with us. With the City Sightseeing Tour pass, there were 3 tours to partake in, so this day we took 2 of the 3, saving the third for tomorrow.
The Downtown Loop Tour Begins
We joined the tour right nearby in Union Square – so convenient! It takes you immediately through the Tenderloin area of SF and then into the City Civic Center area.
Apparently it was refurbished to now completely sit on rollers so in the case of the next big earthquake, City Hall should survive quite well. I think both Larry & I were stoked to just see another element from A View To A Kill.
Meandering Towards Fisherman’s Wharf
You wind through Chinatown on the way towards Fisherman’s Wharf, which is where we actually got off this bus, as we then jumped to the Purple Line of the tour. The Purple Line drives you over the Golden Gate Bridge and then explores the areas near the Presidio. Very cool – and as you’ll see below, very photogenic!
Change to the Purple Line – Heading to the Golden Gate Bridge
Approaching the Bridge
There’s quite a long highway approach to the Golden Gate Bridge so I feel like putting those pictures separate from actually crossing the bridge. So here goes!
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge
I have to admit at this point that crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on the top deck of a double-decker tourist bus, plus being on the slightly-raised last row of seats, may have been one of the most terrifying periods of my life. I fucking hate heights and to feel like San Andreas could come true at any moment while up there, or hell, Superman or Terminator: Genisys, even, just made me almost nauseous. My hand was gripped so hard on the seat handle in front of me. I did take pictures throughout, but it took all my courage to turn to the right or left and look out over the bay and take pictures. Seriously.
The Super-Scenic Vista Point on the Sausalito Side
Our bus stopped for about 15 minutes to let us take some pictures at this oh-so-scenic vista of the Golden Gate Bridge and of San Francisco. It was a stellar day weather-wise too, so basically the pictures are awesome.
Back Across the Bridge
It was not easier to go back across the bridge, for me. Now we were just closer to the Pacific Side of oblivion. I’m a giant baby, obviously.
Into the Presidio
I imagine you could spend a nice afternoon walking around the Presidio – we didn’t have that kind of time though. I was glad we could see it though as I’d never actually been through there before. It’s a gorgeous preservation of a military base, although it’s purpose is not that anymore. In fact, some of the officer housing is now some of the most highly-sought after places to live due to the ridiculous view.
It’s also home to the only cemetery in San Francisco, at least according to the tour guide. It’s a National Cemetery, and very beautiful. The main grounds of the Presidio are simply stunning too, and extremely well-maintained.
The Palace of Fine Arts
After leaving the Presidio, the bus was headed back to the starting point at Fisherman’s Wharf, but we had other ideas. The bus seemed to have other ideas too, as it seemingly broke down. We decided to get off there – perfect timing! – and walk a few blocks through ritzy SF neighborhoods to the out-of-this-world Palace of Fine Arts. You’ve likely seen this in pictures before as it demands you photograph it at all times, but it really is such a strange piece of architecture. It was originally constructed for the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 along with a whole set of other Greco-Roman constructions – but only this was saved when it came time to wrap up the Expo. I mean, I get it, but can you imagine 9 more buildings like this all along the SF waterfront? It would be so jaw-dropping. Anyway, marvel at the pics below – it really is like out of another world.
Walking Back to Fisherman’s Wharf
We had the energy and the drive to leisurely stroll back to the Fisherman’s Wharf area. The plan for our next activity was to take the Bridge-to-Bridge Red & White bay cruise – and we had plenty of time for walking back and grabbing some food before that. So we walked back along the route we had bicycled back in 2012 in our ride across the Golden Gate Bridge back then. It was a gorgeous day for doing this and just man, San Francisco on a sunny, mild day is just spectacular.
Bay Cruise: Sunny San Fran
We filled the time up before the cruise pretty effectively, first with the walk, then with a light snack at a pub, then killing time at the Musee Mecanique. I still can’t believe how terrible I am at the Indiana Jones pinball machine. WTF. So the first part of the bay cruise we went on was to go towards and under the Golden Gate Bridge – but as we quickly noticed, by 4pm, the fog had rolled the hell into the bay and the Bridge was no longer visible. That didn’t cancel the cruise but probably bummed some of the passengers out – but not me. I couldn’t wait to snap some shots of the bridge emerging from the fog – and I am stoked at how cool some of these turned out. But during the approach to the fog, it was pretty damn awesome to see the city of San Francisco in all its glory.
Bay Cruise: Foggy Golden Gate
Bay Cruise: Off to the Sunny Bay Bridge!
The fog seemed to stall out around Alcatraz, which was indeed engulfed in fog too at that time, but once you headed away from there and towards the Bay Bridge, the sun emerged as bright as ever. My camera batteries were now close to drained and I kept fearing that I’d lose the ability to take pictures at the Bay Bridge, so I avoided taking many pics at all by Alcatraz since Larry & I documented that pretty well the last trip. But man – the setting sun and the dramatic clouds in the sky made the pictures around the Bay Bridge pretty awesome. It’s such a marvel of engineering – and I love seeing the new part of the bridge too, although we didn’t go under that as it’s on the Oakland side of Treasure Island. Doesn’t mean you can’t see it quite clearly though!
Bay Cruise: Returning to Port
Not much else was left to see during this cruise but it is pretty impressive to cruise by the Embarcadero and see a great view of downtown and the shore line. I think the PwC building is down by the Embarcadero building but I only know that after-the-fact.
Strolling Back to the Hotel
By this point in the evening, the Hop-On/Hop-Off Sightseeing buses have stopped running, so for us, we had to figure out our own way back to the hotel. We decided to walk it, as why not? It was still a beautiful day, full of daylight, and Google Maps said it was about 1.5 miles back to the hotel. Done.
Dinner and Lounging
We ended up choosing an Italian restaurant a few blocks away from the hotel called Fino – it got good Yelp reviews and it was also where Michelle Obama and her children dined when they visited the city! Good enough for them is good enough for us! It did end up being really good food. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and enjoyed a nightcap at the Starlight Room, the Sir Francis Drake hotel’s lounge and nightclub up on their 21st floor. They were very accommodating and we got a great table right by the window and enjoyed some great drinks and some fun music played by the DJ. A wonderful way to close out this very long and enjoyable day.