San Francisco: Cycling the Golden Gate and Exploring Alcatraz

My time in San Francisco was one of extremes. It featured the best burger I’ve ever had, cycling about 30 miles and reaching the point where I literally couldn’t pedal any more, and getting up before 4am in a bid to securing Alcatraz tickets. I was tired, I was cold, and at times I was elated.

Here’s what I learned from my fantastic weekend in this city.

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Rent bikes. Cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. The wind was howling, making my bike wobble from side to side as each gust buffeted the cycle path. On the other side of a waist-high safety barrier was a 220 ft drop, and the sea below looked ready to swallow up any cyclist who couldn’t manage to keep their tyres on the track. I’ve never clutched my handlebars so tightly. When we reached the huge struts that give the bridge its iconic silhouette, I dismounted and pushed my bike around as the wind was so strong that I could barely move forwards. The professional cyclists tutted at me, but I genuinely thought I could blow over the side if I wasn’t careful. Getting to the other side was exhilarating. We admired the view and took photos, and then headed back. We rode around 30 miles in that day, and my legs decided they’d had enough by about 4pm. It was a tough day, but one I will never forget. Bike hire for the day cost around $9 from a rental shop next to our hostel.

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Alcatraz prison. The island which hosts Alcatraz prison sits quietly in the middle of the bay. It looks as though it has a secret to tell you, but hints that it isn’t one that you would like to hear. Not ones to be dissuaded, we decided to get tickets. The journey across the bay on a large passenger boat was rather enjoyable, despite the chilly breeze that whipped across the waves. There is a strange atmosphere on the island. There’s almost an eerie quiet about the place, even though the last prisoner left over 50 years ago in 1963. The self-guided audio tour, which is included in the price of the standard ticket, is incredible. The sound effects and haunting stories of prisoners create such strong imagery that I half expected Al Capone or Robert Stroud to come charging out of a cell. Creepy, but very interesting and a must-visit for anyone visiting the Bay area. The official tour costs around $39.

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Super Duper Burger. For once, the name really lived up to the product and I can genuinely say that I had the best burger of my life at this restaurant. They say their name is a promise, not a slogan, and they are definitely right. Using locally sourced produce, their burgers are juicy, cooked medium and covered in gorgeous cheese. Their staff are super friendly, possibly because they support so many local small businesses. Seriously, just go. A burger, fries and a drink comes to well under $20.

 

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Bring layers. Apparently, the hottest month in the city is October. We visited in August, and we expected the whole of California to be scorching. It wasn’t. Some days I wore both of my hoodies, as I didn’t have anything warmer than that, and I still felt chilly.

Book Alcatraz in advance. We didn’t. But we determinedly decided to try and get a limited number of ‘on-the-day’ tickets that are released at 6.30am everyday. This meant getting a taxi to the dock at around 4am to make sure we were first in line. We managed to get some, but I definitely recommend saving yourself the trouble and booking online before you go.

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Have you visited San Francisco, or would you like to go? Let me know what you thought of it and share your recommendations!  

lisamae signoff

9 Comments

  1. November 20, 2015 / 3:07 pm

    Great post! Having failed to secure Alcatraz tickets twice and not being enthusiastic for a 4am queuing session I booked them on line the third time! I would also recommend a visit to Golden Gate Park and Haight and Ashbury. If you would like to you can see my post on ten places to stop on the Pacific Coast Highway of which San Francisco is the first stop!

    • December 2, 2015 / 10:18 pm

      I don’t blame you for not braving the 4am queue – it was tough! It’s great that you got to go in the end, though. Thanks for the tips, I’ll definitely check out your blog 🙂

  2. November 22, 2015 / 5:54 pm

    sounds amazing, especially the burger!!!
    x

    • December 2, 2015 / 10:18 pm

      Trust me, it was. I wish I’d taken photos, but sadly it was demolished too soon…

  3. November 28, 2015 / 11:39 pm

    Sounds like you had an amazing time! I’m dying to visit San Francisco and especially visit the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, hopefully one day I’ll get the chance to! x

    Ami | perksofbeingami

    • December 2, 2015 / 10:19 pm

      Thank you! I do recommend it, especially if you arrive more prepared for the weather than I was. I’m sure you’ll make it there one day 🙂 x

  4. January 14, 2016 / 8:53 am

    Great tips! I’m visiting San Fran for the first time in March and I can’t wait! Already have our Alcatraz tickets so at least I don’t have to worry about getting up so early!

    • January 14, 2016 / 12:35 pm

      Good idea! The early start meant we were very sleepy by the afternoon so we didn’t make the most of the day. I’m sure you’ll have a fab time!

  5. April 15, 2017 / 9:55 am

    You should participate in a competition for one of the finest
    websites on the internet. I’m going to recommend this website!

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