Barry, one of our USA team who visited California this autumn, shares his impression of the City by the Bay.
I flew out to San Francisco with United Airlines with a smooth connection through Newark where you clear Immigration. You then pick up your bag, clear customs, place your luggage onto another belt for its ongoing journey to San Francisco and then head for your gate.
I didn’t have a lot of time at Newark Liberty but was invited to visit one of the United Club lounges (there are three at Newark Liberty). Even if you’re not in United’s frequent flyer programme or flying in Business or First, you can buy a one-time pass. The United Club is a relaxing haven in this busy airport and worth considering if you have a longer connection time.
Flying west helps gain time so I landed at San Francisco in the late afternoon, and was soon heading to my hotel – Fairmont San Francisco – which I had chosen because of its central location – it’s only a cable car trip from Downtown San Francisco, Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Fairmont San Francisco has been one of San Francisco's grand hotels for more than century, and has an amazing history – it where Tony Bennet first sang “I left my heart in San Francisco” back in 1961. There’s even a suite honouring him here.
The hotel is very elegant but not the slightest bit stuffy. The staff made me feel very welcome and my room was quite traditional but with all the up to date amenities anyone would want.
San Francisco has a fantastic mix of attractions, museums and of course is a very friendly and slightly laid back city – it’s where the hippie movement started back in the sixties.
On my first morning I headed for Fishermen’s Wharf but quickly passed the souvenir shops and Chocolate factory as I was heading for prison! Alcatraz – on an island in the bay is probably the most famous prison in the world and is now a museum that has won tons of awards for its tours – don’t miss it.
After a brilliant trip, we tried some local street food at Fishermen’s Wharf then headed for Union Square for some serious retail therapy.
Next day we planned a full day tour of the wine country, joining the coach that took us across the Golden Gate Bridge, past the marinas at Sausalito and into the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Our tour included three winery visits (and tastings) and a stop at another for lunch. The weather was nice so we bought some gourmet cheese and meats and dined at the outdoor picnic tables.
For the next couple of days we relaxed a little but still manged to see some of San Francisco’s neighbourhoods like the Mission District (with great views from Dolores Park), Haight Asbury – birthplace of hippie culture and Chinatown – considered one of the best in the USA.
It was then time to collect our car and head north and west to Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe. San Francisco ideally located to explore all of California attractions, so it’s a great starting point for a West Coast tour.
San Francisco weather is pleasant throughout the year especially in the autumn where there is no humidity and Fall days can be surprisingly warm.
- Walk or cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge
- Telegraph Hill – for it’s beautiful houses and views from Coit Tower
- Ride the trolley cars
- If you're heading for Alcatraz, go for an early ferry as it can get very busy
- Take a packed lunch for the winery tour, if you don’t want to buy lunch at the gourmet deli
- The 1920’s trolley cars from Embarcadero to the Castro – a great way to see the city for $2
Did you know?
- The Beatles gave their last full concert at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966
- Irish coffee was perfected and first became popular in the City by the Bay
Call our USA team on 0141 955 4000.
Happy holiday planning!
Barry, your California specialist