Favourite Sights in San Francisco

San Francisco 2

I recently got back from a weeklong trip to San Francisco with my Mom. To be truthful San Francisco has never really crossed my mind when considering places to visit but my Mom had been talking about it for a while and was really keen to go. She mentioned it to my step-dad who didn’t want to so I offered to go with her. Booking the trip was a nightmare because my Mom’s so fussy but in the end we chose a week, Mom found some flights she was actually happy with and before we knew it we were jetting off!

There was a lot about San Francisco to love so I thought I’d write a quick blog post about some of my favourite sights!

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Probably the most obvious and iconic landmark in San Francisco. Most people hire bikes and cycle there from the city centre and then cycle across the bridge, either by themselves or in a group tour. This is sensible as although the bridge looks relatively close it is quite far. Nevertheless me and my Mom decided to walk towards it from Fisherman’s Wharf  – we did mention the bikes but I’m not sure I’d remember how to ride one. I know they reckon you never forget but I have serious doubts about that.

The walk wasn’t horrendous compared to central San Francisco as after the first hill it was pretty much all flat until you’re almost right at the bridge and then there is a bit of an uphill climb. It’s just quite long and on the day we walked although the sun was shining the wind was horrendous.

Golden Gate Bridge 2

By the time we reached the bridge we were quite tired so we only walked halfway across it. I think we’d have only done that anyway as the bridge was so windy that my Mom was holding onto the poles as she was worried about ‘getting blown off the bridge’.

I’m normally the type of person to be like “it’s just a bridge, big deal” but there was something about it that just made it seem special and I’m glad we decided to walk there.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

Another obvious ‘must see’ whilst in San Francisco. My Mom was stressing me out by telling me how quickly they sell out and that we needed to book it in advance but she didn’t seem to do anything about it until luckily one day she forwarded me a confirmation email to say she’d booked it. Make sure you buy from the official website though, there are a lot of rip-offs and we even heard one Australian family on the boat coming back talking about how they’d been scammed on one of these sites.

There are a few buildings on the island but the most interesting one is obviously the Cell House. Upon arriving you’re given an audio tour guide which I normally avoid like the plague as they just irritate me but I was keen to learn more about the prison so I accepted it and I’m glad I did. It was really interesting and kept you moving from one place to the next. At first it was a bit annoying as everyone was clumped around the one section of where the tour was meant to be but it thinned out as the tour went on making it less frustrating.

What I liked was that it wasn’t just ‘the building was built in this year, it served this purpose’ – there were stories about the prisoners and life there. My favourites were about the attempted escapes. There was one where supposedly in the canteen the prisoners began to riot because they were served spaghetti again or something? Either way, the audio tour was really interesting.

Alcatraz 2

Also I never knew that the prison officers lived on the island too with their families. They’d bring their wife and kids with them and they’d just live on the island – they never had any contact with the prisoners but it’s bizarre! The kids would catch a boat to the mainland when they went to school and I believe there were a few boats a day so families could go over to San Francisco, do what they fancied and then return back home at the end of the day.

Anyway, Alcatraz is a must see when in San Francisco but make sure you book it in advance. There were still some available tours when we went but my manager at work told me she’d visited and unfortunately it had been sold out when she was there. Don’t risk it as Alcatraz is not somewhere you’d wanna miss visiting!

San Francisco Play House

San Francisco Playhouse

My Mom knows I’m a massive theatre fan so before we left she researched some theatres in San Francisco and some shows that were on. One of the shows she suggested was one called ‘Significant Other’ – we weren’t sure but decided we’d make our minds up when we arrived.

In a weird coincidence it turned out that the show was actually playing inside our hotel! On the second floor of our hotel was the ‘San Francisco Play House’ and any hotel guests got a discount on their tickets. On our second night we decided to get tickets as we couldn’t miss out on seeing a play right inside our hotel.

More people turned up than I’d been expecting and it was an interesting show. I wouldn’t say it was ‘ground-breaking’ or anything but I’m glad we saw it. The basic plot is about a gay guy who watches his three best friends get engaged, married and essentially move on with their lives whilst he worries he’s getting left behind. It was quite a simple show but I was impressed at how they all remembered their lines – I know that’s their job but there was one scene with just two actors where they both had long lines of speech at a time and it was just pretty impressive.

My favourite part was probably that once the play was over instead of having a long walk back to our hotel we literally just jumped in the lift and we were back in our room within minutes. How convenient!

Pier 39

Pier 39

I think this place was somewhere I would’ve spent more time with my friends. It’s full of gift shops, arcades and places to get food. Me and Mum did spend some time here more than once and it was strange because it didn’t feel like America, I could’ve just as easily been at Blackpool. It was a lot of fun though.

There was a carousel at the end of the pier and I’m normally a sucker for carousels but to ride this one cost like five dollars so me and Mum gave it a miss. Behind the carousel was a stage – I’m not sure if they have different shows every so often but while we were there it was one guy called Bob who put on a show. I’m pretty sure he had different ones but the one we saw he rode a unicycle and stood on some cylinders – it’s difficult to explain but it was pretty impressive.

Pier 39 2

My favourite shop on Pier 39 had to be the Christmas shop. Whenever I go away my Mom always asks me to bring back a Christmas decoration themed like the country I’ve been to which is usually the most difficult thing ever to find so to find a whole Christmas themed shop in San Francisco was awesome. There was literally a decoration for almost everything in there. We’d actually already bought a Cable Car themed decoration from one of the gift shops in China Town but the shop was still amazing, a must see for any Christmas fan.

Beach Blanket Babylon

Beach Blanket Babylon

I didn’t really know much about this show but Mum was adamant it was ‘the’ thing to see whilst in San Francisco. Apparently the show began in 1974 and is the world’s longest-running musical revue. Mum was even keener to see it when we found out the show was actually ending later this year – it would be our only chance to see it.

Unfortunately we waited until the night we wanted to see it to go to the box office to enquire about tickets (fun fact, the Americans kept calling it ‘wilcol’). We were told tickets were sold out until the following Wednesday (when we’d be back in England) but if we wanted we could wait outside the theatre as sometimes people came along to sell their tickets. The show didn’t start until 8 and it was 6:30 by this point so I wasn’t keen as I highly doubted we’d get two tickets but Mum was determined, especially after one woman told her she had just one ticket. We only needed to find one more and then we could both go.

It got very complicated, the woman with the original ticket went outside and then we found another woman selling one ticket but we weren’t sure they were in the same part of the club (I said it wouldn’t matter but Mum wasn’t sure) so she went in then very kindly came out to tell us she had been seated in the part the woman with the original ticket had also been seated. It was getting close to show time so I paid the money for this woman’s ticket, my Mum went in with that ticket, bought the ticket off the other lady we’d originally seen, came back out to get me and soon we were both inside. I was originally seated away from Mum anyway but it turned out the seat next to her was free so I moved. I had a worse view next to her but it didn’t matter.

The show was bizarre to say the least. It was basically a musical following Snow White was looking for love and all the characters wore bizarre costumes with oversized hats or wigs. There were a lot of pop culture references and I was surprised at the scene where they took the piss out of Donald Trump and his family as all the Americans thought that was hilarious – which to be fair, it was. I’m so glad I got to see it and it was definitely worth the wait outside the theatre.

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Pier 39 Sea Lions

Probably my favourite part of Pier 39 was that off to the left of the pier there was a large gathering of Sea Lions. They’re below the pier and unless you jumped into the water or had a boat you can’t get near enough to teach or harass them so they’re pretty much left alone. There are a few signs up asking people not to feed or bother them and people stuck to that rule. There’s usually a crowd of people on the pier watching and taking photos of them but the sea lions are still pretty much left alone.

As there were so many of them I wondered if they were there of their own freewill and it turns out that yes, they are. There was a sign up nearby that said the sea lions had shown up a few years ago to the annoyance of people who had boat slots in that particular area. There was a debate apparently but it was decided the sea lions could stay and a lot of boats had their slots moved to a different part of the pier.

The area didn’t smell brilliant and the sea lions made a lot of noise but it was interesting and nice to be able to see the sea lions without feeling guilty the way you do when you visit a zoo or aquarium. I’d definitely recommend giving them a visit when in San Francisco.

Cable Cars

Cable Car

Everyone at work kept telling me I’d need to ride the cable car and I assumed they meant the ones you get that take you over the city, you know the ones I meant? It turned out they were cute old fashioned trams and there was a stop at the end of the road where our hotel was. On our first day we walked pretty much everywhere and I had not realised when people said San Francisco was full of hills they MEANT it. So when we next needed to get to Fisherman’s Wharf from Union Square we paid the seven dollars each to catch the cable car.

We rode it twice and both times managed to get the best seats – there are two compartments to the cable car, one indoors section and an outdoor one where you can either sit or stand and hold onto the pole. It did look cool to stand and hold on but my legs were already aching and we had two seats in the front of the outdoor section so they were good seats!

The ride on the cable car was amazing and a bit scary at times – whenever it went downhill I’d be struck with the worry that the cable car would just start rolling down at full speed but of course it didn’t, they were driven very well. It was an absolute must in San Francisco and I’m glad we got to ride it twice.

So there we have it, those are my favourite sights from San Francisco! If you’ve visited feel free to leave me your favourites or let me know which ones you’d love to see one day.

Five Favourite Places I’ve Visited (So Far!)

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It’s no secret that travelling is my favourite thing to do. At any given time I normally have a trip coming up to forward to. It’s become a bit of a running joke at work that the moment I’m back from a trip everyone starts asking “Go on then, when’s the next one?” It’s a reputation that I quite enjoy having.

I decided to write a list of the five top places I’ve visited so far. I have no doubt within the next few years this will change as I tick off more places on my travel bucket list but as of right now, in April 2019, these are my five favourite places I’ve visited.

5. Crete, Greece

Crete 2

It’s rare for me and my three best friends to hit lucky with the weather when we travel. On our first trip abroad to Paris I don’t think it stopped raining all week. We booked Greece for the end of April 2018 and everyone warned us it wouldn’t be as warm as we thought and we should just pack our normal clothes. Turns out they were wrong, it was boiling in Crete for the entirety of our visit which definitely helped the overall experience of the holiday.

I’ve written a bit about Crete in other posts but for this holiday we realised there was no public transport so we hired a car and once Jess got the hang of driving on the other side of the car and road we were cruising through Crete without a care in the world. Everything was perfect – the weather, the scenery, and the absolute bangers we were listening to.

Crete 3

The country itself was just beautiful and the people were so lovely. Every time we went out for dinner we were given something for free at the end of it which although was a bit hit and miss was still an added bonus. My favourite was when we had dinner at the place overlooking the lake because we got a plate of fruit afterwards which was lush.

I wish we’d had a bit longer to spend there exploring the island but we had to face reality and come home after three nights but overall, I wouldn’t have changed anything about our trip to Crete. It was pretty much perfect, even the little squabbles with my friends and the plain bizarre moments – even when the car started rolling backwards down that steep hill! I had an amazing trip and would love to return to either Crete or any part of Greece one day.

4. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam 12

The first time me and my friends ever caught a flight together was for Amsterdam. It’s crazy now ‘cos we’ve caught so many flights together that I don’t even think twice now, I’m like ‘yep we’re back at the airport again’ but at the time it was crazy! I mentioned Paris was our first trip but due to money we’d had to catch a coach. Now we’d all sort of settled into full-time work we could finally afford to fly and it was so much better than a 12 hour bus journey.

The trip itself wasn’t perfect although it did have a lot of fun moments, what I loved was just the city. It had such a calm vibe, you always seemed to be near water and it definitely helped that for once the sun was shining during our trip. Amsterdam was beautiful and I’ve love to explore more parts of the Netherlands.

Amsterdam 13

There were some things we didn’t get to see like ‘Anne Frank’s House’ and other stuff which make me want to return. Even revisiting parts we already saw would be interesting. I do need to go back to Amsterdam one day because I’ve started collecting snow globes for every country I visit and Amsterdam is currently the only one I’m missing. Obviously that’s not the only reason I’d go back, I just loved the place so much!

3. Seoul, South Korea

SM Town

When I was about seventeen or eighteen I started listening to more K-Pop which admittedly is what got me interested in South Korea. I remember when I was nineteen I received a message off Becca saying ‘Hollie if you ever go to South Korea I want to go too’. At the time I thought it was impossible and assumed we never would. Last year we went.

We were going to Japan and spending the majority of our time there but decided to slot in a few nights in South Korea before we came home. I’m so glad we did because it was such an amazing experience and we packed in a lot for the few days we were there.

I’ve said this for everywhere so far but I’d love to go back and explore more of South Korea, especially Busan but I don’t think I’d have the confidence to go on my own. As I mentioned in my ‘Asia Travel Fails’ post, Google Maps doesn’t work properly in South Korea – instead of giving you precise directions it will show the distance in a straight line ignoring things like roads and buildings. This meant South Korea was difficult to navigate but Jess managed it and we got to see a lot of amazing things.

I’d love to go back and do a ton more stuff so we’ll see if that ever happens!

2. New York, USA

Grand Central

For my 21st birthday I had originally asked my Mom to fund my flights to Japan but then realised I could probably do that myself with my tax return money so I decided to ask for something else instead. My Mom had previously visited New York with her uni friend Sue and had loved it. When I asked her she initially said it would be wasted on me since I’m scared of lifts so suggested we went somewhere else instead. I was so desperate to go that I finally worked up the nerve to get in the lift at my work and overcame my fear – in the long run it has really helped and made life 1000 times more convenient.

Anyway, about ten days after my birthday the two of us jetted off to New York together. It was my first time in America and also my first time going on holiday outside of Europe. I was excited but to be honest when I first arrived I felt very overwhelmed and wasn’t sure if I liked it. We left our hotel to find somewhere for dinner at about 5:30PM so of course the streets were packed with people as it was the rush hour and I was exhausted from the flight so I wasn’t sure. However the next day, after an early night, was a lot better.

New York 4

The only downside I can think of is that I ended up getting really bad blisters so by the last day of the trip I was limping everywhere but other than that it was amazing. We did all the typical tourist things like going up the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Centre, our hotel was literally right round the corner from Times Square. When my Mom had been she hadn’t found time to see a Broadway show but as a massive theatre fan I insisted we had to. I chose Anastasia as that’s not performing in the UK at the moment and I couldn’t have asked for a better first Broadway show experience. We had our own box and the show itself was amazing.

It’s on my bucket list to visit America with my friends one day and it’d be cool for us to go to New York but it was very expensive! I think I only had the amazing experience I had because my Mom was with me. Our hotel was literally perfect, there was a view of the empire state building from our window. One of my favourite places I’ve visited!

1. Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo

I could’ve also put Osaka and Kyoto on this list as I loved them as well but decided to stick with Tokyo so that the list wasn’t just full of my one trip to Asia! To be honest I don’t think I’ll ever love somewhere as much as I loved Tokyo, it was the perfect city for me as it had a bit of everything – the traditional side with museums, shrines and temples whilst also having the fun side with Disneyland, arcades and whacky themed cafes.

I can’t remember when I first realised I wanted to visit Japan but it had been several years. I remember talking about it with Jess in college, watching Dan and Phil’s vlog with such jealousy and thinking about how I’d most likely never be able to afford to go. Thankfully due to tax returns and two other friends who wanted to go/could afford to, the flights were booked and before we knew it we were off!

If I could return to any trip I’ve ever been on it would definitely be Japan, any moment would be fine with me but my favourite to return to would definitely be watching the electric parade at Disneyland at the end of a fun day. I think that’s probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life.

Tokyo 2

I’ve made up my mind that I want to return to Japan in 2022 but we’ll have to see as there are lots of places in the world I want to tick off but I did really love Japan. I’d like to return to Tokyo, see a new part of Japan and then maybe catch a plane to somewhere nearby? I’m not sure, we’ll have to see!

So there we go, that’s my list of my five favourite places I’ve visited so far. Feel free to leave a comment with your favourites!

Top Ten Countries I’d Love to Visit

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I absolutely love travelling. Flying absolutely terrifies me but there is no greater feeling in the world than landing in a new country that you’ve never been to before. Unfortunately due to work, lack of money and a lot of other things I haven’t travelled an absolute ton – slowly me and my friends are starting to explore more countries and we’re learning the cheapest ways to travel.

Because of my love of travelling I wanted to write more travel themed blog posts. I’ve written a couple in the past including accommodation advice for solo travellers and advice for nervous flyers. But as I love lists I thought I’d write one of my top ten places I’d love to visit one day!

10. New Delhi, India

India

To be honest India has never intrigued me that much until I saw a girl I used to work with had travelled there. She spent a few months in New Zealand and then went to India. I don’t know how she can afford this much travelling since we were both earning minimum wage at the time but I’m jealous and I wish I had her life.

I really don’t know much about the country at all but her travel photos have got me interested and it’s a place I’d love to visit one day. It’s not somewhere I’d want to travel on my own and it wouldn’t be top of my list but if I ever got the opportunity I’d definitely take it.

9. Vienna, Austria

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Okay so I write this list last year back in like November and at the time I had some holiday leftover at work so I tried to convince my Mom that we should come here but she was all “oh it’s too cold, we should go in the summer” so in the end I booked Poland for myself AND THEN SHE MOANED I HADN’T INVITED HER? This has been on my list since last November and I’ve just found out today that my friend Becca has booked a holiday there for March! She’ll have to tell me how it is.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Vienna off a lady from work who’s been a few times and says it’s lovely so I’d love to see it for myself one day.

8. Brussels, Belgium

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This is one my Mom got me interested in. She specifically wants to go to Bruges but to be honest I’d be happy going to any part of Belgium. I’d been looking at coach prices to get to Brussels and it was cheap but after the nightmare journey home from Paris two years ago I’m not sure how keen I am to catch another long-haul coach.

Me and my friends are more of ‘accidental’ travellers because a lot of our holidays are based on which K-Pop artists are performing in which country – a lot of our trips are planned around this. So if a concert is ever announced in Belgium I’ll be sure to book a trip!

7. Berlin, Germany

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I’ve wanted to go here for a while now and two of my best friends Becca and Jess went last August. I couldn’t afford it at the time so I didn’t get to go. I’d be salty but if I’d gone then I wouldn’t have got called on stage at the 24K Fan Meet so like everything happens for a reason, right?

Anyway I loved watching their vlog and seeing all their photos and now it just makes me want to go even more! It looks really nice and I’d love to go to any part of Germany one day to be honest, but especially Berlin. I also found the lady I sit by at work lived in Germany for two years and she said it was a lovely country. So it’s definitely on my travel list!

6. Florida, USA

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Okay realistically I’m just desperate to go to Disneyworld. I’ve only ever been to Disneyland Paris and I want to be able to compare it. But there’s also Universal Studios in Florida and probably lots of other cool things so I’d love to be able to go one day. I’m a little worried about the thunder storms Florida gets and also like crocodiles but other than that, I’m sure it’d be a great trip!

America isn’t cheap to get to and I don’t think it’s a trip I’ll be planning anytime soon since I just got back from New York but again, it’s another one that given the opportunity I would be gone in a heartbeat.

5. Stockholm, Sweden

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My friend Becca went last year and I’m so jealous! Her photos looked so nice and she just didn’t stop the entire time she was there. I have an online friend from Sweden and I’ve heard so many nice things about the country that I’d just love to go and see it for myself! I can’t speak a word of Swedish but apparently most of them speak some English. I wish they’d forced another language into us at school, I hate being that lazy British person that only speaks one language!

I think quite a few K-Pop artists do go to Sweden so I’d be down for a last minute trip to see someone – assuming I can afford it this time!

4. Vancouver, Canada

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I’ve been interested in going to Canada for absolutely ages but I couldn’t tell you why. My old manager is from Canada and she went there over the summer holidays and she brought back the nicest maple syrup biscuits I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’d go to Canada just to buy a box of them to be honest, they were so tasty! And now I can never eat them again unless I go back because she doesn’t even work with us anymore so she can’t bring anymore back.

Either way I’ve liked the idea of going to Canada since I was in secondary school, me and Jess have talked about going there several times so I might have to look into it when I get my next tax return!

3. Beijing, China

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My sister went to China on a business trip and so did my manager’s daughter and they both said it was amazing. China’s really interesting and I’d love to be able to say that I’ve been one day. I don’t really know much about China’s history but like I’m a massive fan of the film Mulan. I’m just kidding, I’d love to go there because it’d be so different to England and it’d be really interesting.

The only thing I wouldn’t like is that Facebook is banned over there, I’d have to wait until I got home to upload all the amazing photos I’d take.

It’s on my bucket list to walk on the Great Wall of China so I need to go someday! I’m a bit salty because I just found out my Mum might be booking a trip there with her friend Sue and she’s not even sure she wants to go. I think I’ve persuaded her she should because it’s a once in a lifetime trip and it’d be absolutely amazing! It’s definitely on my travel list.

2. Seoul, South Korea

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Admittedly yes my interest in South Korea began when I became a K-Pop fan. But watching videos of idols hanging out in South Korea got me interested in the country. This is one of those places I’ve longed to visit for a few years now but never thought I would. Good news though, me, Jess J and Becca have booked to go! We’ve booked our flights and hotel so in October we’ll be off to Seoul for a few nights. I can’t wait!

There’s so much I want to see and do that I’m a little worried about my legs falling off to be honest like they hurt from walking around Lithuania but this is going to be on a whole new level. I feel like I need to start training to prepare myself.

1. Tokyo, Japan

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I’ve been wanting to go to Tokyo for absolutely years now. It’s a place I’ve always talked about and longed to go to, but never seriously believed I’d be able to. However, we’re going in September! Our trip will take us to Tokyo, then Kyoto, then Osaka then we’ll fly to Seoul in South Korea before we head home! The trip is like eight months away but I’m so excited for it.

The only thing booked so far is the flights and the hotels but there are so many extras we need to book in advance. Disneyland Tokyo, Universal Studios, Studio Ghibli Museum… Then there’s all the places where we’ll pay on the door!

I’m hoping we can go to at least one K-Pop concert either in Japan or South Korea but apparently it’s difficult to buy concert tickets in these countries? If anyone from England has experience buying concert tickets in either of them then please leave me a comment with your experience, we really need to know in advance because although nothing’s been announced yet I’m already stressed!

So there we go, there’s my list of top ten places I’d love to visit one day! I wrote it last November and I’ve finally gotten round to posting it! I plan to visit every single place on this list one day so maybe in a couple of years I’ll update it with everywhere I’ve been.