“Life is a journey, not a destination” -Ralph Waldo Emmerson
So most of you are probably squinting and trying to figure out when San Francisco became a part of France. (Hint, it didn’t). However, one important thing to know about a long-term trip to France is that it doesn’t begin in the country itself. Rather…it begins by going to the nearest French Consulate to apply for a visa. In my case, that’s San Francisco.
The first time I applied for a visa, I was so anxious about the whole process that I simply flew down to California for about four hours before turning around and flying back home. However, having gone through the process once I decided to make more of an adventure of it the second time around. After all, as long as you have your paperwork all together, the process for applying takes about fifteen minutes (or at least it did for me).
If I have any fellow travelers on their way to France who’d love to know more about the visa process, I’d be happy to put up an individual post, but for now I’d rather focus on some of the fun of getting to travel to this interesting city and explore.
So this post can’t really encompass “best things to see in San Francisco” because I’d already seen most of the major destinations. So if you’re expecting a post about the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, and the Japanese Gardens, this is not the one for you. If on the other hand you’re looking for some more obscure things to see as a seasoned San Fran traveler, check this post out.
One of the first places I went was to the Mission District. I’d hoped to explore there and find a good place for dinner, but due to unforeseen circumstances had to return to my hostel before I could eat. However, if you’re in the Mission District here are two things I checked out and enjoyed.
A beautiful old mission (the oldest in San Francisco), with a beautiful basilica attached. The orange stained glass is apparently unique, as the factory that made it was destroyed during the wars in Europe and the recipe lost. The cemetery and gardens are especially lovely and it’s only $5 to get in. Definitely recommended if you’re interested in seeing some of the early history of San Francisco and some beautiful architecture.
Though maybe not the cleanest, this park is a great place to go to people watch. It has a great atmosphere that speaks so fully to the interesting and diverse nature of San Francisco. If you’re looking to take a break and save some money, spend a little time sitting in this park just watching the city life!
Of course, as I mentioned, my time in the mission district was cut short having to head back to my hostel. I managed to walk from Dolores Park, but I’d highly recommend making use of the municipal transport. The cable cars can be expensive, but the bus and metro services are only $2.25 and make it easy to get around.
On transportation I’ll also mention paying a little more for a hotel or hostel to be closer to the center of town can be worth it. Make sure you look into what kind of neighborhood it’s in, but location is important and can be worth a little bit more to save you travel time.
Hostel International San Francisco Downtown
For any young people (or regular hostel travelers) I’d highly recommend this place. I think it might be one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed in, and it was right downtown making it easy to get around! They had friendly staff, good facilities, and a free breakfast (bagels, fruit, and coffee)! If you’re there on certain nights they have free tours and other fun activities. They also made a great recommendation for dinner for me, and were very helpful with navigating public transportation.
Since I wasn’t in the Mission District anymore, I had to ask my hostel for a recommendation on eating. After thinking for a minute, the man at the desk asked if I was willing to wait. I gladly told him I was.
He told me there was a popular ramen place, a few blocks from my hostel, but that it was extremely popular and I’d likely have to stand in line. I set off to check it out.
I got there and saw a line halfway down the block. It was nearing seven on a Wednesday night, so I was hesitant to wait. However, as I got in line thinking I’d look up other recommendations nearby, a waitress came out asking if there was a party of one. And voila! That was how I got into Mensho Tokyo without waiting at all.
The service was incredibly quick. I hardly had time to glance at the menu before being asked to order, so I asked for their recommendation and decided to go with that. What I ended up having was delicious, though I still am not quite sure what was in it. Regardless, it was an amazing experience and I was so glad I did it! If you have a small party and are willing to wait, Mensho Tokyo is amazing!
After eating I set out to go walk past Union Square and then to China Town, both of which were close by.
There was a concert going on when I was there which was very fun! It also is just a great area for shopping and people watching. Another good free tourist place, so long as you don’t get too caught up buying things!
This is probably in the more “popular” San Francisco tourist places, but it was close by, and seemed like it’d be fun to just walk around in. It’s definitely a mix of junky tourist shops and very expensive imported furniture and other items, but it is a fun place to explore if you get the chance. I had a British man ask if I was local in his hopes of finding a good restaurant recommendation. I’m afraid I don’t know of any, so make sure you research before heading into the area. It would definitely be easy to go somewhere not as good due to all the tourist traffic!
For any fellow English nerds or just book lovers, check out this fun bookstore just a little bit outside of China Town. It’s famous for publishing Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg and is just a great store that truly captures the spirit of the city. It’s also open until midnight, making it a great place to end a busy day!
My second day in San Francisco started with my trip to the consulate, before I headed down to the Embarcadero. Again, I’d done the Pier 39 tour, so I decided to try another area on the waterfront and see how I liked that. Here are a few sights I saw!
This building that once was a stop for the ferries, now houses a public market. The farmers market is open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and I just happened to hit it right. It’s a fun place to stroll through and has a great selection of arts and foods!
San Francisco Railway Museum
Donation only so this little museum is a fun and free stop! It’s very small, will only take you fifteen minutes to get through, but it is good to get more historical information about these essential parts of the city. Feel free to check it out if you have a little bit of spare time!
It can be great to just stroll along the water too! Pier 1 has a great exhibit on the history of the waterfront, and again it’s free. So enjoy seeing a little more about this port city, while walking along the bay.
Though I clearly don’t have many food recommendations, if you’re at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, be sure to check out Roli Roti. They have delicious rotisserie style chicken and pork sandwiches and it is super delicious! I’m not even a potato person, but their rosemary fingerling potatoes about changed my mind! Just watch out for the seagulls if you decide to eat in the area. One snatched a bite of chicken straight out of my hand!
So that about wraps up my short stay in San Francisco! After my afternoon on the waterfront I had to head back to the airport. However, I had a great time exploring this amazing city, and I would definitely love to go back.It was certainly a great starting adventure.
If you have any other questions or maybe suggestions of things you’ve seen and loved please feel free to let me know.
For now I’m just looking forward to setting off to France after one last stop in America!