San Francisco and Route 1 in the US
No more Covid restrictions for travelling anymore – whew! Air travel is back to normal and we are free as birds to fly to other countries.
The Big Question is where to go? Travel back in time and re-live a fond memory of a previous holiday; or start ticking off places on that bucket list? Because we have had such a roller coaster of difficult times in recent years perhaps a blast from the past might be a good idea so let’s do a return visit to somewhere special. ‘If you’re going San Francisco be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.’
A visit to San Francisco certainly falls into this category, having visited it many times in the past. The city is attractive and eclectic; which means it has a bit of everything to suit every taste. A strong recommendation is to make your base at the exalted Westin St. Francis Hotel in the heart of downtown San Francisco in Union Square. The hotel was built in 1904 and has a more European style than many US hotels. Fortunately even though it has been through several major transitions the architecture and ambience has not only lasted but been enhanced by various designers, who thankfully avoided the more ‘trendy’ iterations that have befallen other historic hotels. The bedrooms are on the cosy side for a U.S. hotel but the public rooms are majestic and handsome. They have several ballrooms, very suitable for a posh wedding or upmarket conference.
There is so much to see and do in San Francisco that it makes for an easy sell for travel agents and tour operators. Obviously a ride on the local cable car is obligatory along with a tour of the Golden Gate Bridge. These both live up to their reputations and believe it or not the politically correct/safety people haven’t yet put a halt to the joy of hanging on to the poles on the outside of the cable car as you career up and down the streets – naturally paying attention to the gripman in the event of unforeseen hazards along the route.
Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are charming places to visit with a plethora of restaurants to choose from. Enjoying a plate of fresh crab is de rigeur. Fascinating also is that a majority of tour guides at the Hyde Street Maritime National Historic Park are volunteers; mainly retirees who are only thrilled to be imparting their local history to visiting overseas tourists.
The only place that I personally found unpleasant was Alcatraz Island known locally as ‘The Rock’. The idea of glorifying a place which housed notorious criminals just gives me the creeps and I thought I would never get off the island. The experience is also far too commercial as we had to line up for photographs before we left the pier and were then subjected to the hard sell on our return. Didn’t buy any……
On the positive side the highlights for me was a tie between a visit to the understated Legion of Honor Museum in Lincoln Park and the San Francisco Opera House. The Legion of Honor Museum involved a bus ride on a local bus which rarely carried tourists but can be highly recommended. It is a great way to meet the locals and have the chat. On the Piazza outside the Legion of Honor is Rodin’s famous sculpture ‘The Thinker’ which was an unexpected delight to see. The museum itself houses many treasures.
The Opera experience is quite an event. It is not recommended to go there the day after you arrive in the city, particularly if you are suffering from jet lag. Also check what is on as Wagner’s Valkyries was playing on a particular visit and that’s not for the faint hearted. The Valkyries lasts for over 5 hours with 3 intervals. My partner suggested that perhaps I might be tired and we could leave at the third interval but being perverse I said that we couldn’t leave without knowing the end! It started at 6.30pm and we were desperately seeking a taxi at 1.00am. The Valkyries is not a lighthearted opera like Rigoletto. It can be hard going unless you are a fan of Wagner. I hope I don’t appear a philistine when I say that there was only one tuneful piece in the entire! A visit to the San Francisco Symphony Hall would probably have suited better but it was booked out; therefore this should be booked before you embark on your San Francisco Odyssey.
There are lots of other attractions in this vibrant city and one shouldn’t overlook the San Francisco MOMA, which showcases a superb collection of modern art and depicts a strong cultural affinity between San Francisco and Europe .
Aer Lingus have great offers to get you there. It is an airline with a reputation for safety, reliability and comfort so all you have to do now is book that trip.