San Francisco in the early morning light

Seeing San Francisco on Foot

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Look! It’s the Golden Gate bridge, all crooked and far away!

And it’s one of those, “I am taking this photo myself!” photos! And it’s obviously completely freezing! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we got here, to this freezing pier with its view of the bridge, we had first of all to survive the taxi ride to our hotel, which was completed at breakneck speed, with the driver simultaneously listening to music from his iPhone and the car radio, and not paying much attention to the road. It was our first experience of San Francisco taxi drivers, and we were all pretty relieved to emerge from it alive.

We were also relieved to check into our hotel. We stayed at The Chancellor, which is right on Union Square, and right in the middle of the “action”, as the guide books all say.

The Chancellor Hotel, San Francisco

Our room was on the 12th floor, with a view over the city.

That large white roof you can see in the foreground? Saks Fifth Avenue. We were so close I could actually see all the little duds hanging in the women’s department. The brown building next to Macy’s? Neiman Marcus. I went there as soon as I’d unpacked. I would’ve just remained there, too, but Terry wouldn’t let me. Spoilsport.

(A quick aside and then I promise I’ll stop talking about shopping: San Francisco is possibly the best place I’ve ever been for it. Shopping, I mean. All of the big stores are within easy walking distance of each other around Union Square, and there’s also no end of vintage and second hand stores, plus numerous little quirky boutiques. It was bliss.)

Anyway! The Chancellor was built in 1911, which makes it pretty old by San Francisco standards. Because of its age, it has small rooms, no air con (not that you need it in San Francisco in June…) and only three stars. All of the rooms have been renovated, though, and what it lacks in mod cons, it makes up for in character and service: it’s one of those little boutique hotels where nothing is too much trouble, the waitress always remembers your drink order at the bar, and you could eat your dinner off the floors if you were that way inclined. We all loved it, and for me, the age of the building was definitely a plus point: before I’d visited San Francisco, I’d always associated the city with the hippies of the 70s, but so much of the architecture of the city centre made me think of the early decades of the 20th century instead. I could easily imagine the flapper girls of the 20s and the glamourous women and dapper men of the 30s and 40s walking through the lobby and having a drink at the bar. Oh, and they also give you ducks:

I ended up with two ducks: this baseball-playing duck (because ducks and baseball go together like me and Neiman Marcus, don’t you know…) and another one in a scuba mask. It was my mum’s fault, really. She decided to wind me up by telling me they’d been getting a new duck every day. I had to find out if the Duck-a-Day policy applied to everyone at the Chancellor, or if my mum was just some kind of crazy duck whisperer, so I put this one in my suitcase (don’t worry, you’re supposed to take them with you: I am many things, but ‘Duck Rustler” isn’t one of them. Yet.) and sure enough, as soon as this one disappeared, my scuba-diving friend showed up. Awesome! Then my mum revealed that they’d only been getting a regular amount of ducks, anyway, so all of my fears about being slighted by the ducks had been for nothing.

On our first morning, Terry and I were both awake at the crack of dawn, so we decided to get a head start on the day by heading out to explore.

We walked from the hotel down to Fisherman’s Wharf, and that walk is one of my favourite memories from San Francisco: the city was still waking up, the streets were quiet(ish), the morning light was filtering through the clouds… We got both Lombard Street and Fisherman’s Wharf all to ourselves, and if you’ve ever been to San Francisco, you’ll know how much of a treat that was.

San Francisco in the early morning lightSeeing San Francisco on foot

Lombard Street, San Francisco

Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

So we went back to the hotel, collected my parents, had breakfast… and did it all again.

Before we left the UK, we’d all agreed that on our first morning in San Francisco we’d all still be jetlagged from the flight, so we’d just take it easy, and not try to fit in too much.

Ha! From our hotel, we walked through Chinatown and back down to Fisherman’s Wharf, stopping on the way at Lombard Street, which was now absolutely thronged with tourists: Terry and I were really glad we’d taken our early morning walk. We had lunch at Ghirardelli Square, next to the famous chocolate factory, before walking out onto one of the piers for a view back to the city, and over the bay.

the view from the top of Lombard Street, San Francisco

San Francisco StreetHilly street in San FranciscoView of San Francisco from teh top of Lombard streetSan Francisco grafitti

After that, we wandered back along to Fisherman’s Wharf, and Pier 39..

When you tell people you’re going to San Francisco, they instantly start telling you not to go to Pier 39 under any circumstances: not even if someone holds a gun to your head and tries to force you.

The reasoning for this is that Pier 39 is OMGTOURISTY and is therefore SO! AWFUL! that death would be preferable to a few minutes on its boards. We were given this sage piece of advice numerous times by various people, so naturally we went to Pier 39 as soon as we possibly could. Well, you see, we ARE tourists. And it’s not like we’re going to travel all that way and then not see the pier, is it? So we went there, expecting it to be some terrible, Hades-like place, and of course, it wasn’t at all. Actually, we quite liked it. And we wouldn’t have wanted to miss seeing these faces:

San Francisco seals

seals in San FranciscoVisiting Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CaliforniaFisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CaliforniaPier 39, San Francisco, CaliforniaSan Francisco seals at Pier 39

In fact, want to know JUST how shamelessly touristy we were? We even did THIS:

We can do it sign San Francisco

Well, can you even say you’ve been to San Francisco if you haven’t taken a photo of yourself in this? I think not. And now that I’ve totally disappointed you all with my tourist ways, it’s time for me to wind this post up. Don’t worry, though, if that wasn’t quite enough photos for you, there’s still more to come…

San Francisco on foot - how we spent a day wandering around the city, with no transport required

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books by Amber Eve
  • I’m one of these sad cases who loves reading about people’s holidays and looking at their photographs, so keep them coming.Seeing all of those seals must’ve been wonderful, I’d love to go to San Fran.

    June 27, 2011
      • I’m the same as Louise. I want MOAR HOLIDAY PHOTOS!

        June 27, 2011
  • Seals! I love seals – they’re goofy and bumbly. And slightly smelly but they can be forgiven that, considering their diet. Can’t wait to read more of your adventures!

    June 27, 2011
  • Panthera


    Yay! Seals!
    Keep em coming i say, especially since SF is one of the places i’d love to isit, as well as California.
    The hotel Lions lovely, i’ve noe put it on my “if i’m ever going to San Fransisco” list. Plus, i love ducks!

    June 27, 2011
    • Panthera


      Pff. The iPad shows way too small letters in these reply boxes..
      That’s supposed to be *visit, *looks (lions? Really?) and *now..

      June 27, 2011
  • hehe, my dog always reminds me of seals, whether sleeping or just being, but then he has short dark hair and a long face 😉
    Love the ducks, want one want one want one!
    Didn’t realise it could be that cold over at S. Francisco this time of the year.
    More holiday pics please, I’m really enjoying these. xxx

    June 27, 2011
  • Haha, there I go, thinking “Hmm, something is wrong with that ‘We can do it!’ picture”. LOL. Thankfully it only lasted two seconds 😉

    June 27, 2011
  • Thanks for sharing these photos 🙂 I love San Francisco so much and I’d move there tomorrow if I could get a Visa! x

    June 27, 2011
  • Lovely photos! I’d love to see more too!
    I also love reading about other people’s holidays! So, I’ll be waiting for you next posts!

    June 27, 2011
  • lila


    I could read about your holiday all day, everyday and never get bored, san francisco is such a interesting place and your photos are so good, keep em coming please!

    June 27, 2011
  • Lovely pictures! Especially the seals, they are adorable.

    June 27, 2011
  • Stacey


    I’m another one that loves hearing/reading about other people’s vacations and seeing their pictures. I’d love to go to San Fran but living in the middle of the US, it’s actually cheaper and easier to fly to the UK than it is to go to either coast. Can’t wait till next year when I’m moving to the west coast so maybe then I’ll be able to go to San Fran one day. We have some family friends that live only about an hour drive away and they just got back from a weekend trip there, so jealous!

    Love the seals, I probably would have spent way too much time there just watching them!

    June 27, 2011
  • I live in San Francisco and I still go to Pier 39. WHAT DOES THIS MAKE ME?! (I take it you did not meet The Bushman?) Anyway, having walked the same route you described, I am in awe that your feet did not fall apart after the second round. My little heart is swelling with pride that you enjoyed the shopping and that San Francisco summer feels like San Francisco winter. And spring. And fall. /lurk

    June 27, 2011
  • Carys


    *ahem* Well, I must be a dreadful tourist too, because when I saw Pier 39 I got very excited! I had the most AMAZING strawberries I’ve ever had there, and generally thought it was fab. I loved Pier 39, so there, haterz!

    Also, did you spot a guy hiding behind a bush (I use this term loosely – more of a massive bunch of twigs) on the pavement along from Pier 39? He jumped out at me and my Dad and terrified the living daylights out of us. A bush. On a bare-assed pavement. You would have thought we’d cotton on sooner….

    We also stayed at Union Square (I want to say it was called Hotel Union Square, but I might be wrong) and it was *amazing*. The hotel and the place.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve left the country, can you tell?!

    Looking forward to lots more pics 🙂

    June 27, 2011
  • I love looking at the photos, they’re so interesting ^_^ sounds like you had a good time 😀

    June 27, 2011
  • Saliendo


    I think the photo of Terry picking you up has to be one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. You make such a lovely couple. 🙂

    I’m also in the ‘more photos please’ camp.

    June 27, 2011
  • This brings back such memories! I loved San Francisco and would go back again in a heartbeat. We actually stayed at Fisherman’s Wharf and it was wonderful. I can’t wait to see what else you got up to.

    p.s. I bought my first every pair of Louboutins at that Saks.

    June 27, 2011
  • Nikki G


    Looking at your pictures of San Francisco makes me want to go back! We did the whole walk of the city on the first day, and that is no easy trek. Our friend that lived there at the time warned us that San Francisco in August(when we went)is a lot colder than one would expect. We were prepared with our jackets and long pants, but there were a lot of people wearing San Francisco sweatshirts and hoodies. That was the easiest way to spot the tourists. They were all wearing the same shirts! Your pictures are lovely and it seems like everyone had a great time.

    June 28, 2011
  • Jessica


    Beautiful photos! So glad you had such a great holiday. Did you make it to the Benefit store? Oh, I love the original Benefit store.

    June 28, 2011
  • Love love love the holiday photos, so I think it is fair to conclude their are tons of us who happily gobble them all up.

    As for the San Fran taxi drivers, but parents were there one hippy day in the 70s (don’t ask), and my poor father was rather aggressively attacked by a random passer by. Unprovoked. He had long hair. This might be the reason. My parents ran off in different directions, causing my directionally-challenged mum to get brutally lost. A nice taxi driver drove her around for three hours trying to find the hotel, and he was so appalled by their (very unusual) treatment that he refused to let her pay him. I have a soft spot for San Fran taxi drivers, therefore!

    Can’t wait to be there myself later this year!

    June 28, 2011
  • Ooh yes, I argee, San Francisco is a shopping heaven! These pictures make me want to go back there… I spent hours shopping and nosing around in Haight Street. The Bettie Page Boutique is so nice to snoop around, and when I was there they had some sales going on! Also, walking around in SF is probably the best workout ever… those steep hills, my god! 😀

    June 30, 2011
  • Myra


    We went to San Fran one year for New Year and loved it. The seals were so huge I thought they were walruses – lumbering smelly great things. We also stayed in a grand hotel from 1930 with small rooms. It was a recommendation from a local as they did a New Year banquet in their Starlight lounge overlooking the city and my husband was chatted up bt a Dolly Parton lookalike.
    Visited a fab jazz club, never seen so much rain and there was a poor man holding an umbrella over people while flagging taxis, for tips.
    R was like a kid hanging off the back of the street cars, or trams as we know them. He loved them. And the shopping was great – how can they sell British brands cheaper than here.

    February 13, 2019