Travel Journal: Back to San Francisco

After a only a short stay in Yosemite National Park, our next stop was San Francisco which for me is the second time in the city. I was not a fan of the city during my first visit but was hoping that this time round may prove more interesting and less…scary.

After more than an hour of confusion and frightening U-turns while our driver gets hopelessly lost on the way out of Yosemite National Park we finally get on our way to San Francisco. Having already seen the top attractions in San Francisco such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz and even the California Academy of Sciences – which no matter how enthusiastic I am about it none of the other travellers are interested in – I’ve have a far short must see list than the rest of my fellow group. Instead I had been looking forward to just have a nice hotel stay after a few days camping.

Unfortunately, our hotel is located in the same rough area of town I had been staying in on a previous visit. At least this time my accommodation is a hotel on the edge of Tenderloin rather than a hostel, but it hasn’t made the area feel any safer staying in this area of San Francisco.

Our evening was a pre-booked  group activity with a sunset sail of the bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge. It sounds a nice trip but there is one detail of the even that really got to me. While I am very aware of the customs and systems of tipping in America, I will never really understand it. Tipping, for me, is an option and a reward for good service. It is not, and in my opinion, should not be automatic but on this occasion the whole thing was even more incomprehensible to me. Our evening trip came along with the clause of a non-optional tip. Not just a case of you will be frowned upon and judged but actually a forced $5 tip from each of our 15 strong party and as the sail boat excursion was been organised through our camping tour the tip is taken from us while we are still in the hotel before I’ve even seen the boat I’m going to be sailing on! That’s a $75 tip from our group on top of the ticket price before we’ve even experienced the service we’ve supposed to be rewarding.  While a lot of people will probably think, hey what’s $5 to you but I do feel quite put out by the experience.

In the end the sail itself was a pleasant one. There were some very pretty views even if it turned out exceptionally cold on board due to pretty strong winds out on the bay. Helpfully, the boat company give out nice big jackets so we can go above deck without freezing. We sail around the bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge while hearing stories from the captain about how many suicides he’s witnessed, where are the favourite spots for jumpers and where he usually finds the bodies. It is….an odd boat trip. Nonetheless, its exciting to get a different view of the bridge from my previous visit and to get a few more pictures.

A cold and breezy shot with the Golden Gate Bridge from our sail boat
A cold and breezy shot with the Golden Gate Bridge

Photos on board are however a very tricky affair both from the movement of the boat to the strong wind and the very apparent threat of either the camera or you going overboard. I think this is the only time I’ve found a wrist strap on a camera helpful and as for a phone? Just forget it!

Sun setting on over the San Francisco Bay
Sun setting as we head for home

Once back on dry land I made my way back to the hotel and was happy to just have an early night in a comfy bed and even decide to treat myself to a lie in in the morning before some afternoon exploring. With my second day I opted to take another trip down to Golden Gate Park and unlike my previous visit I I’m actually able to use the public bus system so it’s only $2 to get across town.

I headed straight to see the buffalo who are resident somewhere in the Golden Gate Park and after a while I do find them though they aren’t too keen on being friendly and are perhaps a little photo shy. My other planned stop in the park was the Flower Conservatory but it turns out to be closed so I headed back to the hotel via the famous Painted Ladies.

San Francisco Architecture
San Francisco Architecture

I love the architecture of all the houses including the famous “Painted Ladies” which are some of the most photographed spots in California but as I take a few pictures I am very aware of the number of cars around me with smashed in windows and so make a quick exit. Are there any nice areas of San Francisco? Have I just been really unlucky? What do others see in this city? Sorry, San Francisco lovers I gave the city two trip and I still found it a scary, dirty place with a serious homeless problem.

What do you thing of San Francisco? What are the things you love or loath about the city?