Continuing southwards on our road trip through California, my wife and I stopped in San Francisco for a few days. Despite its reputation as central to the “turn on, tune in, drop out” hippy movement, of which there are many remnants, we found San Francisco to be a bustling city! Perhaps it was because we inadvertently timed our visit to coincide with the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival and a host of other celebrations such as the annual Castro Street party, but the city was packed!
We took some time to see the city’s famous sights – driving across the Golden Gate on the way in, walking up and down the city’s infamous hills, including the windy legend that is Lombard Street, ambling through the piers and wharf, enjoying the views from the Coit Tower, sundowners on Baker Beach and riding the streetcars. Knowing that it would be impossible to take everything in, we strolled along the streets and took our time, which allowed us to discover unexpected things. For example, we stumbled upon the Musée Mécanique, one of the world’s largest privately owned collection of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines from the nineteenth century.
Since our timing was serendipitous we spent a day at the festival which was great fun, though quite exhausting as we had to make our way to the event in the Golden Gate Park and navigate the throngs of attendees (apparently about 700 000). After spending a few days at our friends’ house (and numerous hours walking the hill of San Francisco) my wife decided we were ready to be spoilt. We checked in at Mystic Hotel for a night’s rest, and were not disappointed. The hotel is extremely well located next to Chinatown and the financial district, which is well connected to city’s piers, southerly neighbourhoods like the Mission and Castro, and the range of downtown attractions such as the Cable Car Museum, which is definitely worth a visit.
Our transition from the suburbs to town was easy, particularly as there is a parking lot opposite the hotel. With lots of hills, trams and too many cars, parking in San Francisco is a nightmare! The Mystic Hotel has been recently renovated and offers a welcome refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. The staff was extremely helpful, recommending things to do, places to see and where to find the best dim sum in the neighboring Chinatown.
An added bonus was the complimentary craft cocktail at the hotel’s Burritt Room. We have discovered that Americans love a good cocktail and they can’t really be faulted – there is something about enjoying a well-mixed tipple and a chat in the early evening. The Burritt Room’s mixologist did not disappoint and we enjoyed variations of classic cocktails with a twist. On our final day, refreshed after a great night of sleep and a complimentary breakfast in the hotel, we spent a few hours strolling through the Mission and discovering this area’s vibrant mix of cultures and impressive murals. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to San Francisco, but we had some terrific memories to take with us.