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Things I’ve learnt on holiday in San Francisco

IMG_20170510_170813_705Once again I’m on my solo travels, this time in San Francisco, California, a place where I’ve always wanted to visit and now finally I’m here. As ever when you travel solo you not only learn things about the place you’re visiting but about yourself. Here’s some of the things I’ve picked up on my stay.

  1. Walgreens is everything
    For those who don’t know, Walgreens is a pharmacy and then some. Think Boots or Superdrug on steroids. Looking more like a Wilkos (Wilkinsons) store than a pharmacy, it sells nearly everything you could possibly imagine from medicines to food, phone chargers, footwear. You can even buy Clippercards (US version of Oyster cards) from there. Why I love it? Because, every time I needed something that I wasn’t sure where to go to get it ,or if it was available in the US, Walgreens had it! Oh and it’s open 24hrs, brilliant when you’ve got the munchies late at night.
  2. Know your limits
    On my first full day in the city, caught in excitement or sheer stubbornness, perhaps a bit of both, I decided to embark on a hike over to the Golden Gate Bridge. Not a bad idea, but I had just returned from visiting Alcatraz, and I hadn’t had lunch yet. No biggie I thought, I’ll grab something on the way and it’s not far. If I could side-eye myself I would, because it was a huge trek to the bridge (I did manage to pick up some snacks on the way) and another across the bridge and back! I was absolutely exhausted and still had to make my way home (another couple of hours away). Plus I got blisters on both feet for my trouble. It was worth it though. The views were breathtaking!
  3. Having a plan is good
    So while my impromptu excursion to the Golden Gate Bridge, had it’s positives, it probably would have been best experienced the next day, when I hadn’t made any real plans and consequently wasted several hours in Westfield, Union Square, as you do. To be fair, it wasn’t so terrible in the end, I had a lovely lunch in the food hall, and got some flip flops on sale from a Saks Fifth Avenue outlet. Eventually I got bored of window shopping, went for a wander around and stumbled upon the Yerba Buena Gardens and then, after a fashion, found the Museum of the African Diaspora, and took in a rather excellent exhibition by artist Lili Bernard.
  4. And so is being open to all the possibilities
    While waiting in line for the ferry to Alcatraz, I made friends with two guys, one from Ireland and the other from New York. On discovering I travelling alone, they invited me to go on a cable car ride with them, which I accepted. Now, ordinarily I would be suspicious of not one, but two strangers, inviting me somewhere. After all this is the stuff true crime stories are made of. But I decided to trust God, myself and them that I wouldn’t come to harm, and ended up having a truly amazing time, in that I visited and ate in places that I probably would not have dreamed of doing had I not taken them up on the offer. Plus I’ve made two good friends, whom I’m sure I’ll keep in touch with.
  5. People who work on public transport aren’t great with customer service
    I get it, I really do. All day every day, people are literally asking you the same questions but it doesn’t hurt to have a little grace for them, especially if you’re being asked politely. A little eye contact and a smile goes a long way!
  6. Local people are lovely and very helpful
    Conversely, anytime I asked a local for directions, they were amazingly helpful. Once I didn’t even ask, and the guy noticing me studying a map came over and offered his assistance. To be fair, I’d figured out where to go anyway, but nonetheless I was grateful for his intervention.
  7. Safeway still exists
    ‘Everything you want from a store and a little bit more’ was the ad jingle I remember as a child in the 80s. Then Safeway, went out of business in the UK and remaining stores were taken over by Morrisons. It was truly a blast from the past to see them alive and well in San Francisco. I couldn’t help but wander the aisle humming the jingle. Sad, I know, but it amused me.
  8. It’s ok to have a ‘day off’
    When on holiday, I want to make the most of every day and do something and see something. But on this holiday, there came the day when it just wasn’t possible. It was that time of the month and even though it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could be, it was clear that I wouldn’t be hot footing over to Oakland which had been the plan. Instead I got up a little later, had breakfast, went back to my room for a nap. Then went for a walk and came back for another nap. Then started this post. Did I feel the day has been wasted? No. Did I feel better and a little more rested? Yes. Oakland could wait another day.
  9. Caltrains are awesome
    It’s a double decker train! We NEED this in London, especially on the District Line! Also, I noticed that like the London Underground, nobody speaks or makes eye contact on the BART. Felt right at home!
  10. Oakland is a hidden gem of a place
    Seriously, if you want to get away from the hustle and flow of the somewhat claustrophobic city that is San Francisco, then Oakland is the place. Don’t get me wrong, I love San Francisco. The quirks, the crazy hills, the fog – but something about Oakland just spoke to me. It’s so much more relaxed and a beautiful city with amazing architecture and a great vibe. My highlight – The African-American Museum and Library and Lake Merritt. Definitely making a return trip!

Bonus: I finally know the way to San Jose!

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