Separated for a semester by study abroad, The Wander’s Editor and Graphics Editor are reunited in California to spend New Years together.
Chad: “So where are y’all from?”
Jenny: “I’m from England she’s from Norway, but her parents just moved to San Francisco…..”
Victoria: “…And she’s visiting from Florida…but we both go to school in Scotland…although she’s studying in Virginia…”
Brought together by Owl Eyes’ travel section, it seems rather appropriate that most conversations during the trip began in this manner. Here is a little of what we learned, enjoyed and experienced in San Francisco.
1. Head for the Frisco Bay
Brave the tourist crowds at Firsherman’s Wharf and pay a visit to the Sealions who make Pier 39 their home. The shops and restaurants are best enjoyed lit up by fairy lights in the evening.
Top Tip: don’t be put off by the rain. A foggy day makes the piers look even more beautiful
2. Have your Princess Diaries moment
Spend an afternoon at Musée Mechanique. Come armed with quarters (dollar bills for photobooths) and channel your inner Mia Thermopolis in this throwback arcade. We recommend checking out the kiss-o-meter, typewritten fortune teller and vintage baseball cards. Victoria protested that the accuracy is somewhat debatable and that she is not a “harmless kisser”, while Jenny fared rather better.
Top Tip: Blend in with the locals and bring your own roller skates.
3. Ghiradelli squares in Ghiradelli Square
Visit the restored Chocolate factory, Ghiradelli Square. Browse the shops (make sure not to miss out on the free samples) and get your sugar fix at West Plaza Ghiradelli chocolate shop and café.
Top Tip: It is worth waiting for a seat in the side room, to get a sea view.
4. ‘Pika Pika’ Photoshoot
Travel the world without leaving the city and spend an afternoon in Japan Town. Re-discover your inner thirteen year old in the Japan Centre Malls. A $12 photoshoot at Pika Pika is a little pricey but when else will you get to take photos with flawless skin and manga eyes and decorate your photobooth pictures with ridiculous cat ears and cheesy phrases?
Top Tip: It’s in Japanese, but just go with it!
5. Die and go to Crêpe Heaven
Recover from your modelling session at ‘Belly Good Cafe and Crepes’. Die of adorableness at the animal face ice-cream scoops in a deliciously warm crepe. Take your pick of ice cream and sauce. Our suggested combos are double chocolate ice cream with caramel sauce and green tea ice cream with condensed milk!
Top Tip: Be sure to photograph every angle for that perfect instagram!
6. Create your own fortune (cookie)
Step off the beaten track in Chinatown and hunt out the ‘Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.’ Step inside and the mystery behind the magic will be revealed once and for all. Sample freshly made cookies and create your own destiny for a dollar.
Top Tip: Go with a friend and swap fortunes to maintain the element of surprise!
7. Cable Car Chaos
Be sure to find the cable cars to experience San Francisco’s iconic mode of transport. Unlike the other trams and buses, the trolleys are not run by electricity, but actual cables that are pulled underground.
Top Tip: If the queues or breakdowns put you off, find an abandoned cart for a photo shoot.
8. Painted Ladies tête-à-tête
Take the bus to Alamo Park to create your own postcard-perfect photographs of the “Painted Ladies.” Be sure stroll around the park, so as not to miss out the pastel Victorian houses over the hill.
Top Tip: Chat to a local, in our case ‘too-good-to-be-true-Chad’, a young trumpet playing conductor who has travelled the world. Although he only talked about himself, he joined us in marvelling about San Francisco’s architectural beauties!
9. Golden Gate Road Trip
Get hold of a car for the day and drive over to the Golden Gate bridge. Enjoy the views of the bridge against the city, then head back to the Golden Gate Park to see the bridge against the hills.
Top Tip: Take a detour to Rodeo Beach and watch the surfers show off. We weren’t quite brave enough for a January swim, but the tide took us unawares and our feet got an unintentional soaking.
10. Welcome in the New Year
Begin the new year with fireworks on a rooftop terrace. The fifteen minute fireworks show looks spectacular against the lit up Bay Bridge towards Oakland. Join the crowd in cheering when the smiley-face and heart shaped fireworks are the right side up!
Top Tip: Bring Champagne!
Photos courtesy of the authors