Spring Break Road Trip: So much to do, so little time – San Francisco, CA

There is a German song that features the lines

 “Ich war noch niemals in New York, ich war noch niemals auf Hawaii, lief nie durch San Francisco in zerrissenen Jeans”

These translate to

I’ve never been to New York, I’ve never been in Hawaii, I never walked through San Francisco in torn up jeans.

Well as you can see in this blog, my travels during the past year have brought me to both Hawaii and New York. Thus, the last thing on this bucket list is San Francisco. So that’s where we headed next.
On the way from San Jose to San Francisco, you pass Palo Alto. Now as millenials and Social Media enthusiasts, it would be weird to drive through the cradle of Facebook and not make a stop. A few years ago, Facebook moved their headquarters from Palo Alto to the nearby Menlo Park.

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Our stop here was shortly before they opened the new Facebook extension just on the other side of the interstate, so we could see builders putting finishing touches on the grounds… from a distance. We walked around the giant Facebook office campus and I was quite impressed with some of the things.

  1. Facebook appears to offer free valet parking to their employees. Finding a parking spot is never fun and valet parking optimized the limited space.
  2. The parking lot has a great number of hybrid/e-car charging stations. In combination with the solar penals on the roof of most buildings, this makes for a great system and may encourage people to switch to more environmentally friendly cars.
  3. There are not only the standard disabled parking spots but also designated parking spots for pregnant women and parents.

After a picture with the huge ‘Thumbs up’ symbol at the entrance of the campus, we hit the road again and made the way to San Francisco.

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In comparison to the other cities, it was surprisingly hard to find a student-budget-friendly place to stay in San Francisco, even though it was not main season or any big event in town. We ended up choosing a place close to Chinatown. It was so underwhelming that by now, I have forgotten the name of it.

There is a lot to do in San Francisco and we tried to get as much done in the time we had. It would be stretch to dedicate a post to each attraction, thus, this is going to be a long post about San Francisco:

Alcatraz

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When one thinks about San Francisco, many things come to mind. The Golden Gate Bridge, the Painted ladies, the steep streets, and Alcatraz.

Our first stop of this list was the former high security prison in the bay of San Francisco.

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We had purchased the tickets online the day before, so we could skip the long lines. With a ship, we were brought onto the island. The entrance fee covers the ferry ride, admission, and an audio tour. The audio tour is very informative and the museum very interesting. While the main prison building is still in good shape, many of the other buildings have not been cared for in many years.

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My favorite probably is a building you pass rather soon after getting onto the island. When you peek through the windows of the ruin you can spot the remains of a bowling alley that is being ranked over by plants.

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Other buildings just stand tall as skeletons.

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There is much to learn about the life on the island inside and outside of the walls and in overall a very entertaining and educating experience. When we visited Alcatraz, there was an Ai Wai Wai exhibition in one of the empty buildings. The admission for this was also included.

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San Francisco Piers and the seals of Pier 39

The docking point for the ship to Alcatraz is right by the piers, so it was a given that we would take a stroll down the piers and visit the famous seals.

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It was a beautiful spring day and a bunch of seals were relaxing in the sun on their main gathering place or between boats.

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Full House Facade

One of the arguably biggest TV shows in the 90s was Full House. This show was set in San Francisco. While many people believe that the Facade was one of the Painted Ladies, it actually is another house nearby.

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So on our way to the Painted Ladies, we drove past the house that lend its face to the show. The inside scenes apparently were shot in sound stages and not in an actual house…
Since shooting the scenes, the house was dark blue and a large tree was planted in front of it. Thus, it looks slightly different than it did in the show.

The Painted Ladies

I don’t think it is possible to find anything about San Francisco that does not include the painted ladies or cable cars. It was a given that we would pay a visit to these famous Victorian Style houses overlooking the nearby park.

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The road that these houses are build on is quite steep and makes for a nice incline between the rooflines of the individual building which adds additional contrast aside from the different colors.

Sutro Baths Ruins

The Sutro Baths are one of these things that you stumble upon in a side note. It made me curious so we decided to go there… and it left great impressions.

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The Sutro Baths burnt down in 1966 and the ruins still lay by the sea for everyone to visit.  Later, when I did some research on it, I learnt that it included seven pools – six salt water, with ocean water; and one sweet water pool, an ice skating rink, an amphitheater, and much more.

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Old pictures I found only suggest how breathtaking it must have been. I mean look at this and this picture.

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The ruins don’t do it any justice, but are a serene place to unplug and contemplate. We spent at least a good hour there looking around and sitting in the grass in silent watching the sun set.

Twitter HQ

Turns out, the Twitter HQ was really close to where we were staying. So we decided to stop by there, similarly to what we had done at Facebook. Unlike Facebook, Twitter has an office building in a big city. This is why we got to see even less of the actual HQ and were left with this picture…

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But at least we tried. It is the thought that counts, right?

Filbert Street and Lombard Street

The city is notorious for it’s ups and down… when talking about streets. These particular streets are noteworthy, as the former is the steepest, the latter the most famous street in this city.

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We made a point to drive through both of them… well… sort of. We were planning to drive through Lomard Street in the middle of the day to enjoy the views… we were not quite planning on driving down Filbert at 10 at night after dinner in the pitch black…

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I guess you can imagine the squeal that went through our car when we suddenly went down the second most steep paved road in the worlds (-31.5%!!!!!).

Golden Gate Bridge

Many people say that it is really hard to get a picture of the bridge or with the golden gate bridge, as San Francisco has a tendency to be quite foggy. It might have been sheer luck or just because we were in the bay area during spring but every time I looked for the bridge, I could see at least 90% of it.

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We took advantage of one particularly nice morning and took pictures from afar, drove across the bridge, and made a stop just on the other side of the bridge to take pictures of and with the bridge from a different angle, with the city in the background. When I come back to San Francisco, what I plan on doing at some point in my life, I definitely want to walk across the bridge. This time, however, time was limited and we had to hit the road to drive down to Los Angeles.

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Every time people talk about San Francisco, they are awestruck or just very excited about this city. I certainly can cosign their statements. I got to see quite a bit but would not be resisting much if I was given the opportunity to return and explore this city some more 🙂

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