In September, I started a new job. So it was pretty clear that I won’t get any more holidys for this year. But I was wrong… In October ,we got told that we need to take our holidays until the end of the year. Jackpot! I had 8 days left. So, what happend? I found a cheap flight to Miami and thought I just go for it. But after talking to my American friend I only met a few month ago in Italy, I decided to visit her in San Francisco and experience a real American Thanksgiving.
My trip to the US was a different than usual. It was about exploring a bit San Francisco and the surroundings and spending a lot of time with my friend and her family. That’s why this blogpost will be a bit different 😉
I stayed with my friend in Oakland, which is about 20 minutes away by train from San Francisco, that’s why I cannot recommend any accommodation to you.
By the way, it was not my first time in the US. I’ve been to New York City, Boston and the Cape Cod before, but this is already 10 years ago so I didn’t write a post about that trip.
I went from Duesseldorf to Munich by plane, had a stopover of around 4 hours and then I boarded the plane towards SF. Total travel time was 15 hours. On my way back I had a short stopover of 1,5 hours in London and then took the plane to Duesseldorf. The return flight took me 13 hours. I booked my flight with United Airlines and paid 560 Euro which was a good deal for SF in my opinion.
DAY 1 ARRIVAL to San Francisco & Oakland
My flight was quite early in the morning at 7 AM. I arrived the same day at 3 PM to San Francisco. My friend picked my up and we went to her place in Oakland. My first day was very chilled after the long flight and a time difference of -9 hours. It was really nice to see her again. We spent the afternoon talking and updating ourselves about each others life. At night we went out for dinner in Oakland but by that time I could already feel the jetlag. After dinner we walked home so I got to see a bit Oakland. I was damn tired but still I managed to stay awake until midnight. By the way, Oakland is a really cool city, I liked it a lot.
DAY 2 Visit to ALCATRAZ and a Drive through NAPA VALLEY
If you doubt visiting Alcatraz I advise you to visit! I wasn’t very keen but booked the tickets and it was a good decision. It was really interesting! Make sure to book the tickets a few weeks, dependant on the time you’re traveling maybe even months in advance. You can choose different tours and timings. A day tour costs around 40 Dollar. Book your ticket here. We were really lucky with the weather, it was a nice, sunny and warm day. At the same time I got to see the famous Pier 39, which is part of the Fisherman’s Wharf.
After our Alcatraz visit we went to my friends fathers house in Sonoma to attend a Pre-Thanksgiving celebration. The views on our way were really beautiful and you could tell that you’re in a wine region.
DAY 3 Exploring SAN FRANCISCO
On Monday, I went to explore San Francisco. I walked to the train station and bought a BART card and took the train to San Francisco. If you travel within the Bay Area you need to buy a BART card (around 3 Dollar) just top it up and that’s it. It’s valid on all buses, trains and trams. Keep in mind: You cannot just buy a ticket, you need that card! I got off close to the Civic Center and started walking. At 12 I was meeting a friend for a lunch so I just walked and went by the beautiful Civic Center building. I also saw some really cool Street Art on my way but San Francisco has a lot of cool Street Art as I found out later.
Where did I go? After I had lunch with my friend I walked all my way to:
1. Alamo Square – Painted Ladies
Here you can see the so called „Painted Ladies“ which are famous from the intro of the series Full House. I really enjoyed this area as it was so quiet and peaceful. There is a park and you get to see the city from the top. I spent about 1h there just strolling around.
2. Haight Ashbury
From Alamos Square I walked all the way to Haight Ashbury. Walking is a quite a workout as the city is very rangy. Haight Ashbury is the district known as the birthplace of the hippie culture in the 1960s. Here you can really feel the hippie vibe! It reminded me a bit of Camden in London.
3. Castro District
The Castro is the gay neighbourhood of San Francisco. It was one the first gay districts in the United States. Through the 1960s and 1970s it has transformed from a working-class neighbourhood to one of the most prominent symbols of gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender activism and events in the world. It’s a very colourful and lively area. I actually only walked through and didn’t spent too much time as I was on my way to the Mission District.
4. Mission District
The Mission District is also a very lively part with a lot of bars, restaurants, clubs and street art. Some part of it is the Latino Cultural District. When I got there, it was already getting dark but still I managed to see some of the Street Art and life in this part of the city.
My friend recommended a small chileanen place to me called: Chilean Deli & Coffee Shop. Apparently, I was lucky that it was open and after 10 years I got to eat a chileanen empanada and an alfajor (south american cookie). My lucky day 🙂
I was also really lucky with the weather that day, it was nice and sunny but unfortunately that changed the next day…
DAY 4 BERKELEY and SAN FRANCISCO Part 2
As Berkeley is just around the corner I wanted to see the famous University of Berkeley. After an 30 minute ride by train I arrived. I went straight to the campus (where I was feeling really old, haha). I walked around but to be honest I was expecting something more spectacular…Still, it was nice to see and a nice walk around the campus. I only spent 1h here and then made my way back to San Francisco.
2. Cable Car San Francisco
Back in town, I went to check out the famous cable car. A drive costs around 9 Dollar and there is a huge line to get on. I wasn’t too keen to have a ride even though its a special and very famous thing to do in SF. But I know these cable cars from other places and decided to skip the ride. The only thing I wanted was to get a nice picture of it 😀
3. China Town San Francisco
I also went to China town which is a really cool and huge district in San Francisco. You can find shops, chinese restaurants, cafes and a market there. Also here, I found some really cool Street Art. You shouldn’t miss that part of SF!
4. Lombard Street (& little Italy)
After strolling around in China town I made my way towards Lombard Street. I passed little Italy, which is a small but really cool Italian district. Lombard Street is famous for a steep, one block section with eight hairpin turns. It’s a very famous tourist attraction and yes, I was in the middle of all the selfies and pictures which have been taken there 😀
5. Filbert Street
In the afternoon, a really heavy rain caught me and luckily I found one of the plenty Starbucks Shops and stopped there for almost 2 hours because of the rain. As it didn’t want to stop and I didn’t want to spent more time at Starbucks I just continued towards Filbert Street which is said to be the steepest street. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to experience that part good because of the rain so I just passed by.
6. Market Street
It’s one of the major streets in San Francisco where you also can find a lot of shops and stores if you want to do some shopping 🙂
Of course there is much more to explore in the Bay Area around San Francisco such as some nice beaches, the Golden Gate Park, Silicon Valley… In my case, I didn’t have enough time to see and go everywhere that’s why I’ll be back one day to San Francisco 😉
One thing really shocked me. There are so many homeless people around the city which is really sad to see. Living costs are very high in SF and that’s only one of the many problems the city has to face…
Gambling in California
One form of legal gambling are Indian Casinos in California. These casinos are built on land which was given to the native Americans. On this land apply different rules. On our way to Redding for Thanksgiving we stopped at one of these casinos and had some fun…
DAY 5 – 8 THANKSGIVING in REDDING
Redding is a city in the county of Shasta in California. It lies along the Sacramento River. The area is really beautiful as it is surrounded by mountains. We came here to spent Thanksgiving with my friends family. I really enjoyed the nature and the peaceful area compared to big city life. It’s the perfect place if you want to escape and spent some peaceful time out of hectic life.
I had a really awesome Thanksgiving experience, I was welcomed very warm. I felt comfortable and that is the most important thing 🙂 Thank you for that!
The food was very delicious and we had a lot of fun. I won’t bore you with details, haha! I am really grateful and happy that I was able to make this experience and spent this special celebration in the US with my friend and her family. I got to know really cool and friendly people, so happy about that! Because its the people who you meet while traveling who make your trip special 😉
DAY 8 SAN FRANCISCO NIGHT OUT
Today, we made our way back to SF. On our way we shortly stopped at an outlet and YES, I did some shopping, haha! At night, we went out to San Francisco to have some drinks and we ended in a small but cool club in Mission District.
It was a fun night and I got to eat my American HotDog sold by a real Mexican HotDog shop 😀
DAY 9 MIMOSA BRUNCH, GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, TATTOO AND RETURN FLIGHT
Ok, so a few days ago my friend told me about the Mimosa Brunch. I didn’t know what it is so she promised to take me. Well, now I know what it is. We call it „Champagne Brunch“. This brunch made me do something crazy, haha! We went to Aunt Mary’s Cafe in Oakland. Really good! Days ago, we somehow started talking about making a tattoo, some kind of travel tattoo or whatever meaning it would have to each of us. But we wanted the same. We started to look up some things on the internet, we were drawing, discussing but in the end we couldn’t find the right thing for us and me, who has wanted a tattoo for 5 years but never had the courage to do it, got afraid and I actually decided to not do it 😀
Well, at our Mimosa Brunch, after I had my „Mimosa“ drink, all of a sudden we took a napkin and my friend started drawing something again. Here it was! Yes, let’s do it! Just a 10 minute walk away, there was a tattoo shop with a good rating...We went. They had time to do it. OK! Where? Here! The guy who made our tattoo is called Chummy Alexanian – just in case you also want to get one 😀 All that happend 3 hours before my departure. I was almost dying because I was so scared. But within 10 minutes it was done – my friend told me to go first as she was doubting that I would do it if she will do hers first 😀 Anyway, I did it and I like it and I’m happy.
Oh, before we continued to the airport I badly wanted to go that famous Golden Gate Viewpoint. Unfortunately the road was closed so we couldn’t go up and the weather was awful – another reason why I need to go back 😀 So, I only got that one:
The tattoo has a few meanings for me as I had a really tough year. So, I did an awesome last trip and ended it with a bit of craziness. It was a great (travel) ending for 2019 🙂
2020 will come very soon and with it also some new travel plans and adventures – stay tuned!
Some more San Francisco impressions: