New Years in San Francisco – Day 1
A warm place to spend the winter weekend at
I had been planning something special for New Year’s this time, something that I had not done before in my life. I decided for an end to end solo trip, starting right from planning to execution. I stumbled upon a few places, starting from the nearest cities- Portland, Salem, Eugene (in Oregon) to farther ones like Orlando, Salt Lake City, San Francisco.
Seattle being a cold and rainy city, I wanted someplace that was warm and in addition to that had a good number of things to take a tour of, and that is when I decided to visit Orlando. It had warm temperature and a lot of Disney world kind of places. I did a pretty good research but was confused up until I thought of finalizing San Francisco.
I don’t remember why it hit me, but I am glad I decided on SF!!
Stay on budget at Green Tortoise Hostel
I planned to stay in SF for 3 days and 2 nights. I looked at flight rates- the rates were still pretty cheap. Post that, I searched for available accommodations for the time I’ll be there. I planned to stay in a hostel, for two reasons: to meet new people and to stay in budget.
Green Tortoise was the best-rated hostel on hostelworld.com. It is by Broadway St and Keary St with good proximity to restaurants, fisherman’s wharf, China town, Telegraph Hill and much more.
The only thing that you would need to take care of is that though the hostel had good connectivity to most of the places, it was in a block full of strip clubs. So, if you are uncomfortable with it, choose your stay accordingly.
How to reach the hostel
I landed in SF on 30th Dec at 8:15 am. As suggested by the hostel, I took BART train from airport to Montgomery St. station which was $8.95 and approx. 30-45 minutes ride. Montgomery St station is a 15 min walk to Green Tortoise Hostel. BART was the most convenient option for me but you can also take Amtrak shuttle bus or other shuttle services that are available at the airport for additional 10$.
What to do if you reach before check-in time
I reached Montgomery St station at around 9 and I was thrilled to see the sunny town with tall architecturally beautiful buildings. From there I walked straight to my hostel appreciating the beauty around me. Now, check-in times for hostels are usually 2:00 pm or after that. It was 4:00 pm for Green Tortoise Hostel. I reached the hostel pretty early, but the hostel staff was very accommodating. They considered me for early check-in and suggested that my room would be ready by 1. I kept my bags in the locker room and had some breakfast (they have breakfast till 10:00 am).
What all to see
Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill
After some freshening up, I started towards my first target spot, Coit Tower. It is an uphill climb from Green Tortoise hostel towards Telegraph Hill. It was this place that made me fall in love with San Francisco. There were numerous closely packed pretty little houses on the way towards the tower adorned by the greenery around them. There is a good view of the beach from most of these houses.
The stairs to the tower had names of different people engraved on them signifying their donation to the restoration of the tower. This set of steps is Filbert Street Steps. There is another set of steps, the Greenwich Stairs that you can take to reach the tower.
Inside the tower, you’ll see paintings on each of its walls – also known as Murals. A Mural is a kind of art that is done directly on the wall. These paintings depict different aspects of life in San Fransisco and other parts of California. Some of these painters currently take classes in different art schools in and outside SF.
The tower itself is a 13-floor tall building that gives a 360-degree view of the city. Ticket for going to the top of the tower is $8 for non-SF residents. You can stay on the top of the tower for however much long as you want (of course unless they are closing). I stayed there for around 15 minutes enjoying the beauty of the city underneath and took some pictures. After coming down, I took a small stroll around the tower enjoying the narrow path along the tower walls.
While coming down the tower stairs, I saw an old-aged main selling lovely paintings done by him. I bought myself one of his artworks, a simple yet so beautiful painting of Yosemite Park (partly complete I guess).
1) Coit tower is 84 years old and stands 210ft tall on the top of Telegraph Hill. It was commissioned by Lillie Hitchcock Coit who left 1/3rd of her fortune to the city as a tribute to the firemen of San Fransisco and her love for the city.
2) The other two famous hills in SF other than the Telegraph hill, are the Russian Hill and Nob Hill.
Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour
After coming down from the Telegraph Hill, I first went to my hostel and checked into my room and headed for my next spot. I had pre-booked an “Afternoon half day tour to Muir Woods and Sausalito” via Viator in partnership with Gray Line of San Francisco. The tour was to begin at 2:00 pm and it was already 1:30 pm. I rushed to the Gray Line‘s office. I decided to stop by a cafe, Cafe La Taza near their office to get some sandwich and coffee. Apparently, this cafe has a good rating on Yelp, but my experience of both food and beverage was really bad. This makes to my list of places to not eat in San Francisco.
SF streets are really busy on weekends because of which the tour bus was late by half an hour. It arrived at 2:30 and all the people in the group got settled in and we started off crossing some of the very famous streets of San Francisco, like Lombard St., Pacific Heights (also known as Billionaire’s row), and the guide telling us about some historical facts about the city. Muir woods is approximately 16 miles from the main city across the famous Golden Gate Bridge. We reached the forest around 3:30 and had 90 minutes to take a stroll in the woods.
Muir woods had one of the most spectacular views. These are the giant redwood trees that have their roots intertwined which helps to hold together the soil against winds or floods. There are 2 to 3 trails in the woods, you can take whichever you prefer. All of these go through the whole forest. The best part about Muir was that the area was so dense and yet so quiet.
Small Tip💡: There’s a cafe as you enter the Muir woods and washrooms just beside it, outside of which you’ll see a huge queue on a busy day. Better to use washrooms that are just outside the entrance.
Key Fact⚠: there is no phone network in and around Muir Woods. You’ll have to travel around 2/2.5 miles till you get the network back.
The exciting part
After spending an hour and a half in the woods, I came out to realize that my bus has left. It was already getting dark, the main office had closed and all other people were slowly leaving. With zero network connectivity, I could not make a call to either the tour company or any other person that I might know. Throwing away the idea to walk till I get a network, I hitch-hiked with a family back to San Fransisco.
Dinner at New Woey Loy Goey
By this time, I was literally starving, so I looked for the best oriental restaurants that would be near my hostel. I found this top-rated Chinese restaurant, Chong Qing Xiao Mian and booked a cab from Pier 39(where the family dropped me) to the restaurant. There was a long queue outside the restaurant and it was already 6. I had planned to reach the hostel by 8 to get a good night’s sleep for an early beginning the next day. So I wandered a bit and stopped at “New Woey Loy Goey“, another Chinese Restaurant. It was full too, but since I was alone I managed to get a seat at the bar. I ordered Vegetarian Chowmein and though the quantity was huge, I did not like the taste of it very much. But it was good enough to satisfy my hunger. Oh Oh, and there was free Chinese green tea served as a welcome drink.
After finishing the dinner, I walked to my hostel. On my way, I crossed a group of Chinese people singing and dancing to authentic Chinese music. I stood there listening to them for a while and then continued on my way back to the hostel.
I dozed off within few minutes after reaching the hostel.
Next day to be continued...