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Solo San Francisco Recap: Day 4

September 16, 2010

I’ve been in San Francisco for three days and I have yet to see the Golden Gate Bridge. I feel like I’ve seen almost everything else but it simply doesn’t feel like San Francisco yet. Will I strike out again today or do I feel lucky? Read on.

Day 4

5:30 am I’m up early (again). I have a routine now. Wake up early. Spend time planning my day. Shower.

On the Golden Gate Bridge

7:00 am I have breakfast at Mel’s. It’s a Sunday morning so I go all out: pancakes, bacon, eggs. Something about the nostalgia at Mel’s wounds me. A couple two tables down requests a few Beatles’ songs via the jukebox. Breakfast sets me back $12 dollars not including the tip but it’s substantial and I’m planning to do a lot of walking. After breakfast, I walk over to Geary Street where I wait for the #38 bus to take me to Park Presidio Avenue. At Park Presidio I board the #28 bus heading north. Before long, I’m at my destination: the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m fortunate that the day is only a little foggy and that the sky is blue beyond. I make my way onto the bridge and marvel at the engineering feat above and beneath me. As I walk across the bridge, I try to take a few self-portraits and a kind couple visiting from Atlanta, who witness my paltry attempts at posterity, offer to take a few pictures of me. It’s windy and cold up on the bridge but now I’m here, I finally feel like I’m in San Francisco.

9:30 am I’ve walked all 1.7 miles of the bridge span and I’m looking back over at the city from the Marin Headlands. The fog is beginning to clear and the view is gorgeous. I’m suddenly struck by the realization that my time in San Francisco is half over but I try to press the thought out of my mind. I spend roughly half an hour just taking in the view and make the walk back over the bridge. When I’ve almost arrived at the other side, improbably I run into the two Russian girls who I shared the limo with the day before. I notice them, stop and smile, and we chat for a while. They tell me they’ll be in New York at the end of September. After they continue on their way, I almost smack myself for not giving them my contact info for when they’re in my neck of the woods. I try to take one more photo of myself on the bridge, a woman offers to take it for me. There’s nothing like the kindness of strangers.

11:00 am I walk down into the nearby Presidio but I don’t get very far before I have to stop. The fog has completely burned off and the day is hot. I take off my coat and sit for a while on the bench overlooking the beach at Fort Point. Below, people are sunning themselves, sailing, kayaking, and bike riding. I can see the Palace of Fine Arts from a distance. The weather is gorgeous; the bay is a beautifully serene blue-green, the sky is a cloudless blue and I am in the moment. Sitting, warmed by the sun, staring out across the bay and enjoying the view giving little thought to anything else, as it should be. Eventually I walk back up to the spot where I’m supposed to catch the bus, but not before I snap a few more photos of the bridge and play patron saint to families and couples who want to be together in their pictures.

12:00 pm I take the bus back down Park Presidio and hop off in Golden Gate Park. I have this little obsession with bison so I hope my walk down to the de Young Museum takes me past the Bison Enclosure but it does not. I’m a bit heartbroken. I’ve worn the wrong shoes for walking today—ballet flats—and my feet are already in agony, otherwise I would have gone in search of the majestic creatures. Instead I soldier on, past the Japanese Tea Garden (I plan on visiting later) and on to the de Young. A few vendors are lined up in the open promenade so I purchase a hot waffle sprinkled with powdered sugar. Warm, crunchy, and sweet, it reenergizes me. I enter the museum and use my CityPass voucher. There is a special exhibit I want to see, but it’s sold out until 5:30 and I know I won’t last until then. Bummer.

At the de Young Museum

I walk around the museum, trying to conserve my steps as much as possible to lessen the impact on my feet. Half of a room is dedicated to the Hudson School, and I’m pleased to find a Durand painting there. The design of the museum building itself is modern; open and airy, I’d find it a pleasure to walk around on any other day, but today, no mas. I decide to take the elevator to the observation deck in the tower before I leave and am completely rewarded. The tower offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding area—you can see the much of Golden Gate Park and all the way out to the Golden Gate Bridge. A very cool and unexpected surprise.

2:30 pm The California Academy of Sciences is directly across from the de Young and there’s an exhibit I missed that I jump at the opportunity to see. I grab something a little more substantial for lunch in the piazza then I head to the rainforest dome, where four distinct types of rainforests have been re-created on four different levels. Live animals and plants throughout, I nearly squeal with delight when I encounter the bromeliad frog nursery. Tiny blue and red frogs not much bigger than the tip of your finger nestled in the leaves of plants. Wow. After the rainforest, I walk around the Academy one more time, make a stop in the gift shop and decide that it’s time to head back to my hotel. I end up missing the Japanese Tea Garden completely but I’m okay with that.

From the bromeliad frog nursery...aren't they adorable?

5:30 pm I’m back in Union Square and stop in at one of the five Walgreens in a half mile radius to purchase some water and some snacks. Soon enough I’ve returned to my hotel room and I experience every solo traveler’s dread: loneliness. It’s the oddest thing. Suddenly, I’m ready to go home. I chalk it up to fatigue and sore feet and I decide to call it an early night. I hate myself for wasting another dinner and night out in bed but hopefully the rest renews my energy and enthusiasm for tomorrow.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2010 2:37 am

    Marsha,
    Happy to see you are promoting the solo travel experience. I also did SF as a solo female traveler, and had a fantastic time! Actually, I can relate to your lethargy at the end of the day too. I remember when I was there, I had a great time until it started to get late and dark and I was completely lost inside a giant park. Once I made my way out, I went straight for my bed!

    Hang in there, girl!

    • September 17, 2010 4:59 pm

      Mary–
      Glad to see I’m not alone. I’m naturally a morning person, so by the time evening rolls around, I’m already pooped. I’ve gotta try to find some way to work around that. Happy travels!

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