Tag Archives: San Francisco

Top 10 Highlights of the West Coast (California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah) Part 2

I conclude my West Coast experience here with another 5 highlights from my two week coach trip around California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. These are a selection of places I was not necessarily expecting great things from, but nevertheless enjoyed thoroughly. As with my first set of highlights in Part 1, I would highly recommend visiting these locations if you get the chance!

Sedona – This was a truly thrilling day. As an avid Mumford and Sons fan, listening to their live album ‘Red Rocks’ which was performed in Sedona, I am not afraid to admit that Continue reading

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Marching Against Trump in San Francisco

As Trump declares war on anything he deems threatening with the announcement of the second Muslim Ban, I realise how fortunate I am to be studying in San Francisco for this year. San Francisco is a liberal bubble, with a rich history in LGBT rights led by Harvey Milk, and it’s this past that helps it lead the way forward in America. Considering San Francisco voted 85.5% Democrat in the 2016 General Election, it comes as no surprise that when Trump was announced president there was outrage. The people of the city, however, chose to show this not through violence but instead by organising a march against this outrageous president.

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An Ice Cream Tour of the West Coast

As the summer begins to draw to a close, everyone is desperate to keep the summer spirit alive for as long as they can — and what embodies summer more than ice cream? A road trip down the West Coast is pretty much a perfect summer holiday, so I took it upon myself to investigate the best spots along the West Coast for an ice cream. A tough job, but someone has to do it.

I started my exploration in Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver was a treasure trove of delicious treats and, sitting by the water, in the sun, with some Canadian maple syrup cheesecake was perhaps one of the best moments of life so far. It wasn’t until I reached Granville Island, however, that I found a truly fantastic ice cream. The vendors at Granville Public Market change weekly, but everyone there is known for creating fresh, delicious, artisan foods. Plus it’s situated right next to the marina, so the atmosphere and views you can enjoy while you eat are second to none.

Next stop: Seattle, where I was treated to so many ice cream shops that it is hard to narrow it down. Sweet Bumpas can be found at a variety of farmer’s markets around Seattle, and they pride themselves on using 100% fresh, locally sourced ingredients. However, it is the flavours that make them a must-visit, putting really delicious twists on classic flavours. If you get the chance, make sure you try the black rice and ginger ice cream. Your taste buds will thank you.

While you’re ice cream tasting in Seattle, make sure you pay Old School Frozen Custard a visit. You can find it on Capitol Hill, and it has become an institution in Seattle — in fact, it almost shut down once but a group of people got together to make sure that it could stay open. Now that’s dedication to ice cream. It is now owned by the people responsible for making their delicious chocolate chip cookies, so an ice cream (or frozen custard) sandwich is a must.

I’d like to give an honourable mention to Seattle Pops. Not exactly ice cream, but these popsicles are honestly phenomenal, and the flavours are amazing. Spicy pineapple jalapeno is one you won’t be forgetting any time soon.

Oregon

Next, we hit Oregon, and where better to go for an Oregonian ice cream than to the dairy headquarters of Tilamook cheese factory. Don’t worry, they serve more than just cheese — their ice cream menu is extensive and delicious. Make sure you go with an empty stomach though, as their portions are extremely generous. Treat yourself to a waffle cone, and go to town. You can even go taste some cheese afterwards, if you’ve left any room (although that is unlikely).

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Independence Day in San Francisco

Every year Independence Day is commemorated throughout America with parades, family gatherings, outdoor activities, copious amounts of food and some pretty impressive firework displays.   After one year of fighting and rebellion against Great Britain’s rule, the Declaration of Independence was finally signed on 4th July 1776 and the United States of America was formed.  This document went on to provide inspiration for Declarations of Independence around the world, with its recognition of the human rights of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.  It took my friend and I some research before our trip to America to decide where to join in with the celebrations.  After much debate, we finally decided on San Francisco as our destination of choice, and we were not disappointed.  Our visit combined areas of interest regardless of the time of year with special events specifically for Independence Day.

Independence Day in San Fran- author's own

Independence Day in San Fran- author’s own

We began our day in Chinatown, not far from where our hostel was located.  Chinatown may not seem a conventional place to head to for breakfast unless, like me, you have discovered the delights of the Chinese bakery.   The pork floss buns might not look appealing to many, but the sweet brioche-type milk buns are surely a winner on all counts.  San Francisco’s Chinatown is of a rather impressive size and if you choose to visit later on in the day, make sure you leave some room for a few plates of their tasty dim sum.  Our tummies satisfactorily replenished, we decided to meander down to San Francisco’s seafront; stopping along the way at the Clarion Alley Mural Project.  This brightly decorated alleyway can only be described as an outdoor art museum in the form of graffiti.  In October 1992, some local residents of San Francisco made it their mission to jazz up a few streets around the area and they certainly succeeded; it is well worth a little detour.

We arrived at the seafront to be greeted by the looming 245 foot clock tower that tops the San Francisco Ferry Building; the largest wind-up mechanical clock face in the world.  The building itself is worth a look too, the ground floor interior having evolved from its original purpose in 1898 as a baggage area into an upscale gourmet food market.  In fact, the entire vicinity is a foodie’s heaven, as it is also home to the city’s Farmers’ Market, which takes place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

As we walked along the coast, although still relatively early in the morning, it was alive with activity.  America has something of a reputation in Britain for its many outgoing residents with an open and cheery disposition, and today was no exception.  Maybe this was partly due to the amount of sugary delicious freebies that seemed to be on offer throughout the day – in a walk consisting of no more than around twenty minutes we had indulged in free chocolates (note the plural) and ice cream.  However, my personal favourite was Boudin’s Bakery; a San Franciscan institution when it comes to sourdough.  Here, employees were tossing large sourdough loaves into the crowds, so that those who caught them had not so much a sample, as a rather carby dinner.  I am sadly lacking in the catching skills needed for such an event, but later on – once the temperature had dropped- –I did try and tackle one of their tasty clam chowder soups with an entire sourdough loaf playing the part of the soup bowl.

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San Francisco, A Tale of Two Feet

Unlike a lot of cities in America, San Francisco is destined to remain the same size, as the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean hug it tightly on three sides. The only place the city can grow is upward: which makes for a lot of expensive real estate. The city covers an area of just seven square miles, and so the wonderful consequence of having sprouted on a peninsula is that it is one of the most easily explored cities in the world. You don’t need a bus pass or a private plane to get around, just a ready-to-go map and several pancakes, or whatever keeps you going. It’s almost always cool but sunny, so light clothing is perfect with some comfortable shoes.

My mother is native to the bay area, so it has that “home-away-from-home” feel to it, but it still feels like a frontier to be explored every time I visit. On my last trip I went alone – but I was forgiven, and the city treated me to several day-long treks from pier to park, just like when I was a kid. This is not a guide to the 50 best trails in San Francisco, but instead a detailed account of some of the best places to visit and suggestions on how to make the trip your own. The best parts involve only a few dollars, unless you’re hungry – don’t underestimate how much you’ll spend on food. Don’t be the person that buys a fridge magnet containing a percentage of Californian sand to put on your fridge. Not only does it belong in California, you should also be saving your money for the conveyor belt of exciting new restaurants offering never-before eaten dishes.

Before I begin, you might be relieved to hear that besides your two feet, there are plenty of other easy ways to get around in the city whilst still taking everything in. Situated around Golden Gate Park are rent-a-bike stations and roller blades for hire, and although the hype about the Segway never transformed into popular use, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of finding a place to take one of these for a spin. I am telling you to avoid bus tours at all costs, as this is a horribly mechanic way to see this city. You’d be forgiven for booking a boat tour of the bay, as it is a wonderful way to get a detailed look at the underbelly of the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course you can ride the famous cable cars that run downtown, but this is more for the experience than the travel. I really recommend walking to take in everything, but beware: you’ll need a free hand to take pictures, because I find there to be a new way to see an extraordinarily beautiful view of the city at every interval. I will try to avoid using the word ‘favourite’, but I think it will be impossible while talking about San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge- source Wikimedia

Golden Gate Bridge- source Wikimedia

Golden Gate Park

I always make sure to leave two days open for the Golden Gate Park. Walking among the three miles of lakes and trees is my favourite way to absorb the cool Californian sun. You would have no idea that it is surrounded by cityscape. The biggest problem is picking a place to start –  it depends on where you’re walking from. You’d be wise to start from the east, as that’s where everything is concentrated. Just about the only things on the west side of the park are the surviving bison, chewing the grass in the Buffalo Paddock.

Fans of horticulture and Ikebana, pay attention now. East of the Centre of the Park nestles the Japanese Tea Gardens, and the most spectacular flower and plant arrangements I have ever seen are  confined to this modestly sized garden. Historians have argued over this as the tide came and went, but the creation of the Fortune Cookie is often accredited to the owners of the gardens. You can nibble one with your pot of tea, which you can sip as you gaze at the bright pink blooms of the Hinodegiri (Azalea). My earliest memory of this eastern haven is running over the carefully crafted wooden bridges, climbing the magnificent moon bridge and chasing the koi carp that swam beneath me. Then, without appreciating the wealth of beauty around me, I fell straight into a pond.

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park- source tripadvisor

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park- source tripadvisor

If this is not enough for you, as it is quite small, then the Conservatory of Flowers is a short walk away. Another neighbour of the gardens is the de Young Museum of Fine Arts, easily locatable thanks to the recent erection of the new building that literally twists into the sky. You don’t need to enter the museum itself in order to climb to the top of this building which, if you do, will reveal a view of the entire park. From here you can see Stow Lake, which is perfect for a morning walk. You can hire a paddle boat if you want to get close to the turtle inhabitants, although best not to disturb them. Instead you could paddle your way to the enchanting Pagoda, hiding amongst the trees on the edge of the lake.

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