6.15AM (in Portugal) and we were on our way to Badajoz to catch a train to Madrid.Suddenly, I remembered that time in Spain is one hour ahead of Portugal and we froze.After months planning this trip, how could have we forgotten something as simple as the one hour time difference between Portugal and Spain? We missed our train.
Well, the good thing was that our flight was booked for the next day and we still had an option: the bus! Personally I don´t really like to travel by bus. It normally makes me feel sick, but I had no other option.So, we went to the bus station, bought 2 tickets to Madrid and we spent the next 6 hours on a bus!!
Not the best way to start our trip for the next 25 days.
Eventually we arrived in Madrid, at a bus station we hadn´t even heard of before. After we figured out how to get from there to Atocha, we stored our luggage and went for a nice afternoon in Madrid.
But we’ll save that Madrid afternoon adventure for another post.
We had two flights booked for the next day. Madrid to New York and New York to San Francisco, both booked with Delta Airlines.
We had had a very good experience with Delta before, but we’re going to save that for another post as well.
After a long trip all we wanted was a good nights’ sleep.
It was almost 9PM local time when we arrived, so we called an Uber to take us to the hostel.
When we arrived at the hostel, getting out of the car, we left our camera on the back seat.
Again, not the best way to start a 25 day trip.
We called the driver right away (it seems that there is an option for that, in case you lose something) and he still had the camera in the back seat. We got sooooo lucky.
The first reason, being he had driven a couple of passengers after us and no one had noticed the black backpack on the floor at the back of car (or they were too afraid to take it).
Second reason, because we had a very honest driver. He could have just said he didn’t find anything and kept it and we would never have known.
He was already home when we talked to him and he came all the way to our hostel to give it back to us. We were really thankful for our driver that day. We gave him 5* Star reviews on Uber and a big tip! 🙂
We had a good nights’ sleep after all and the bed we slept in at the Hi Hostel San Francisco City Center was especially good, it was amazing. One of the best we had for the whole trip.
There are no words to describe how excited we were to go to Alcatraz.
We had booked the first cruise in the morning, we wanted to be able to see the whole Island without bumping into people everywhere (just like we did when we left) and we wanted to spend the rest of the day exploring San Francisco.
The Alcatraz Cruise is the only way to get to the Island. You can buy tickets on the desk but it is really hard to get them. The best way to make sure you get your ticket is to book it in advance on the website.
The boat ride is very nice. You can take photos of the San Francisco skyline.
If you are lucky, you can have amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge. We weren’t that lucky because it was a bit foggy, but we still got some pretty good shots.
As you approach the Island you start feeling like you are going back in time. It’s almost unbelievable to think that there were actual prisoners on the Island, serving their time.
When we got off the Cruise boat there was a ranger gathering people together for a briefing. She explained how to get around the Island, the do’s and don’ts and she made a funny quiz about the Island with the visitors.
After the briefing you are on our own.
We’ve decided to watch the movie they show every half an hour, before heading to the prison itself. It’s very interesting and it helps you understand the history of the Island.
Then we went on our way to the top of the Island. It is quite a climb, but as you get higher, the views over San Francisco and the bay get even more beautiful.
After arriving at the top of the hill you are at the prison entrance. Once you’re inside you are told to go to a room where you can get your audio guide. The room you are in used to be a common shower area for the prisoners, and it still has the showers hanging from the ceiling.
And then you head upstairs where all the fun begins 🙂 🙂
The audio tour is very comprehensive. It tells you where to go and explains very clearly what you are looking at.
The prison is one of those places that makes you feel both excited and a little uncomfortable at the same time.
It is an historic place, full of amazing stories, some of them even inspired movies.
But the cells are so small, that it almost makes you feel bad imagining someone living there.
The tour is amazing. You get to go inside one of the cells, you can walk around the area which used to be the library and if you are able to climb all those steps (I don’t know exactly how many but they are very hard to climb), you can go to the recreation area where the inmates used to exercise and play games.
The Island is so near, yet so far from the City. The inmates used to say that some nights they could hear the sound of music and people chatting coming from the city, and that just made them feel even worse.
The Island is very beautiful, with unique flora and fauna. It is very well maintained by the work that the fantastic volunteers do every day.
Overall Alcatraz is a very fascinating place to visit, especially if you like standing in a place full of history, has happened.
Around 1PM we took our Cruise boat back to San Francisco and started exploring 🙂
As we only had that day and the next morning to be in San Francisco, we had planned in advance what to see.
Alcatraz Cruises are located on Pier 33, so we walked towards Pier 39, a must see in the city.
Pier 39 is one of those places you could just stay and spend the entire afternoon. There’s so much you can do, and there are a lot of shops, restaurants and cafes.
You can also visit the Aquarium of the Bay and enjoy a ride on San Francisco Carousel.
But the most extraordinary thing to see at Pier 39 is the Sea Lion Colony. There are no words to describe this sight, Just take a look at the pictures.
A MA ZING!!!!
After that amazing sight we went on our way towards Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can have the most amazing crab cakes.
And then the hard work began.
San Francisco is a very hilly city, so, if you are not in shape, it is going to be bad.
We wanted to walk to Lombard Street and we did, but we almost died! Every step we took we almost died it was so painful. Even if you are in shape, I can tell you it will be a hard climb.
But the pain was worth it. As you climb higher, the sights are more beautiful. You can see the Bay and Alcatraz and if you take Hide Street like we did you can also see the Golden Gate Bridge.
Lombard Street is known as “The Crookedest Street in the World”. It’s very beautiful with lots of gardens, but it’s hard to take nice pictures. You won’t be able to see the curves very well in the photo.
We walked down the street but I am sure that driving it, is way more fun.
As I said before, walking in San Francisco is hard. The streets are very steep and it might help out to look a bit further ahead to see if the next street is easier to climb.
We headed to Chinatown. We’ve been in a few Chinatowns before and we can say that San Francisco’s is our favorite so far. It’s very well organized, clean and neat. The fruit and vegetables look very good, you just feel like eating some.
There is a little place called Golden Gate Fortune Cookies. It’s a very tiny factory where they make plain and chocolate fortune cookies. And they let you take a photo for 50c.
San Francisco’s Chinatown has a very beautiful main entrance, it’s called Dragons Gate and it’s located on Bush St.
That was where we ended our visit to Chinatown. And pretty much where we ended our day.
We still wanted to visit the Painted Ladies so we walked to Market St to get the bus. But the sun had already set, we would have needed to take the bus there and back and we were really really tired.
So we just bought some sushi and walked back to the hostel.
(By the way, the sushi was so awful that we ended up buying ramen at the bodega next door to the hostel).
We checked out of the hostel and headed to the car rental to get our car.
We decided to see the Painted Ladies straight away. Honestly we only took some pictures and left. It’s not exactly our kind of thing to spend a lot of time with.
Then we went to Fort Point to get a nice view of the most iconic bridge in the world: The Golden Gate Bridge.
This is where opinions diverge.
We come from a country with amazing bridges, and amazing views beyond the bridges.
Even though the Golden Gate Bridge is a very beautiful and an iconic bridge, it’s just not exactly what we were expecting. We took very nice photos, and climbed up to the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. It’s unbelievable the amount of people there. People come from all over the world to see THE Bridge.
We took some nice pictures and we were very glad that we had been to see it in person, but I’m afraid whilst the rest of the world might like it, it just wasn’t for us.
For those curious about the bridges in our country, here are a couple of photos. Maybe it will inspire you to come and visit us.
I love skylines and open views so we had a little detour just before we leave for our Pacific Coast road trip.
Twin Peaks. That’s one of those places completely underrated in our opinion. It’s difficult to get there if you don’t have a car, but it is soooo worth it. The view from the top is breathtaking.
And finally we were ready for our road trip…