We arrived in San Francisco late in the day and headed straight to Baker Beach where we met up with my sister, Sarah, and her family who flew in from Washington. Sarah has planned the next stage of the road trip, as this is her dream “vacation” (she’s American now), and she had kids of ideas of things to see and do. So I wasn’t expecting to walk onto the beach to have a fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Tired and weary from the drive, Ben and I found a place to sit while the kids (obviously full of energy from doing nothing all day) ran towards the water. They waded in a little, and then a little more until their jeans are wet. Then before we knew it the kids were absolutely soaked (pretty much head to toe) and covered in sand. Ever since we moved to the Midlands my kids seem to go loopy every time the see the sea.
Sarah and her family then breeze onto the beach, all in coordinating outfits and Sarah says “quick everyone, family photos. Before everyone gets all messed up”. Too late for us!
The next day, our first stop was Alcatraz. You have to book onto a ferry to get to the island, and the ferry was busy. They don’t allow pushchairs upstairs, and the best views at the front of the boat were taken up quickly. This was the first time I realised that the people of San Francisco are rude! Locals or visitors I’m not sure, but nobody was courteous. In fact, if you have a pushchair they will purposefully push to get in front of you so they don’t get stuck behind you.
When we arrived on the island we were greeted by a park ranger who gives some information about your visit. We then chose to explore the outside of the prison to avoid the crowds.
George (10) was desperate to do the Audio Tour so of course we couldn’t miss that. I did the tour about 14 years ago when I actually had the chance and freedom to walk around at my own leisure, but this time I chose not to listen so I could watch the kids more effectively while they listened. It is a strange thing to be walking around the prison with hundreds of people in absolute silence because they are all listening to the Audio Tour through headphones.
The tour takes you around the prison and describes how it would have been when it was occupied, you can even hear the prisoners shouting in the background. It tells you about riots and escape attempts. The kids listened to it all. Even Max who is 5.
Our next stop was Boudin Bakery at Pier 39 for clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. I love eating like a tourist and trying new local dishes. The kids were not so keen and so they had grilled cheese, except Isabel, and Sam (who shared mine).
We avoided the busy, touristy middle of the pier by walking around the outskirts to find the seals basking in the sun.
We went to Ghirardelli Square by bus. The square was busy, they had these beautiful fountains in the middle with mermaids breastfeeding their mer-babies, and lots of lights. We went into the Ghirardelli chocolate and ice cream shop and bought sundaes. It was busy, and a man was being arrested on the street outside the shop. Loads of people had stopped to watch so we crossed over the road and ate our sundae at the park. The kids shared a banana split, which worked well because they all like different flavours of ice cream.
We decided to walk to Coit Tower because it was only about 10 blocks away. Coit Tower is high on a hill and when you climb the tower you get amazing views of the city. We hadn’t thought this walking-plan through. Of course we had to walk 10 blocks uphill to get to the highest point for the best views, and the hills in San Francisco are very steep. A couple of the kids moaned every single step, and I was pushing the pushchair. The kids and I were exhausted by the time we got there.
It wasn’t busy, and the queue for the elevator seemed quite short so we waited. We waited for a long time. When we got to the front of the queue we were told that pushchairs couldn’t go up, and Sam had fallen asleep in his, so I waited at the bottom while everyone else went to the top. We didn’t realise that which queues to go up, must queue to come down! They were up there for a while but only spent a few minutes admiring the view.
We made our way over to Chinatown for dinner, walking again – only this time downhill! San Francisco has the oldest Chinatown in the world.
We were hoping to go to Z&Y Restaurant (President Obama’s favourite in Chinatown). It was a very popular restaurant, and we waited outside while they prepared a table for 12. After 15-20 minutes Sarah went in to enquire how much longer it would be (kids were collapsing on the pavement outside because they were hungry and tired), and they told her another 20 minutes wait. Other restaurants had employees on the streets trying to entice people into their restaurants so we went to a restaurant called Chinatown for a lovely meal.
In my opinion San Francisco wasn’t a very child-friendly place, even though we packed a lot into one day we found that travelling around with 8 kids was a bit restrictive. We look forward to returning one day when they are much older.