Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 5 - Mission District & Clarion Alley Murals Super Post

January 23, 2016 (continued): My mission (no pun intended) was to make it out to the artsy Mission District for my last day in San Francisco. In the morning, I caught the BART and headed over there. Emerging from the station, I definitely felt the shift in the type of environment than where I spent most of my time in SF. I wanted to try breakfast in that area since I’ve heard of a lot of good, new, restaurants that opened up. Walking around, I immediately saw that it wasn’t going to be an easy feat getting in for a quick bite anywhere, I couldn’t even fit the whole line in the picture!

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I was going to post a huge long rant about my less than stellar experience at Mission Beach Cafe for breakfast, but I’d rather not tarnish this post while there is the awesomeness of the murals coming up. Lets just say that while researching their site for this post, a disclaimer on Yelp popped up that said that this restaurant is in the bottom 5% sanitation wise. That pretty much encapsulated my time there, and it looks like they haven't really improved since I was there a year ago!

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Following my breakfast it left a pretty bad taste literally and figuratively, but it was washed away when I stopped by the Clarion Alley Murals. It was an explosion of color, intricately painted murals, political messages, and a few <ahem> interesting sculptures. The following super post were all taken on my iPhone, I didn't want to lug around my big camera so apologies for the quality.

Also found in the alley, it looked like a musician wasn’t too happy with his latest songwriting attempts perhaps?

After spending the majority of my time in the alley, I explored more of the district and visited a few shops I had heard about including The Pirate Store. It is what the name suggests, selling pirate / fantasy themed items, but it also had a lot of cool, interactive elements like a mini museum where you pull the rope and something comes down or you can look in the drawers for different specimens etc.

There were many more murals dotted around the district, a green lady, plus those multi-colored Victorian houses that’s so iconic to San Francisco that I love so much. I loved that even their tree grate had a Dia De Los Muertos theme.

Visiting the Mission District was definitely an experience, and was a fusion of new and old coming together in an eclectic mix. If you’re artistically inclined, I do recommend stopping by, as there is a lot to absorb creatively in many forms.

I headed back to downtown to grab my things and ventured to the airport to my final leg of the tour, LA. At the SFO airport was a stunning sunset that emerged after the rain and it was the perfect bittersweet goodbye to one of my new favorite cities.

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Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 4 (Part 3) - Palace de Fine Arts and Golden Gate Bridge

January 22, 2016 (continued): I decided to walk from Lucasfilm to the Palace de Fine Arts, it looked like an easy, quick trail on Google Maps. Alas, that wasn’t the case as the arrow always seems to point in the opposite direction for a while while walking, you start heading the wrong way and then it finally beeps to turn around - by then you’ve gone off the beaten path. That coupled with road blocks and construction at the time, exhaustion from lugging all my equipment, and dodging the rain - I was a hot, frustrated mess by the time I got to the destination. However, my heightened emotional state quickly dissipated as soon as the monumental structure started to come into view.

The architecture and its surrounding environment of the man made lagoon was breathtaking to say the least, photos do not do justice to the magnitude and beauty of seeing it in person. I have been fortunate enough to have visited Italy and viewed many famous Roman architectures, and I feel the Palace of Fine Arts is certainly comparable. Standing under the main dome, the vast height of the structure looms over with it’s intricately carved honeycomb ceiling and statues. I can see why this place was featured as a backdrop to many movies including Vertigo.

I eventually made my way to the most iconic sight to see in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. As I was walking there from the Palace of Fine Arts, I only made it to the Crissy Field Beach before my legs and exhaustion gave out. Though I only made it to the beach, it still gave a nice, clear, side-on view of the entire bridge. Now that I live in California, I will be definitely making my way back to San Francisco to cross the bridge and another thing off my bucket list!

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Ending off my day back in downtown, I had dinner at Delarosa. I was craving my Italian food, googled and found this spot. They had these delectable and artery hardening deep-fried macaroni and cheese balls that everyone was raving about in their reviews. I got there and it was packed to the brim, luckily as a solo traveler I got a spot at the bar fairly quickly. I ordered the deep-fried balls and a caesar salad to you know, off set the decadence of the balls, but yes I know caesar salad isn’t exactly health food either.

My food arrived, and a couple next to me even commented when they saw the balls like, “whoa what is that?!”. If I’m going to be honest maybe they were too hyped in my mind because they were just ok. Not bad, but not amazing either. Maybe it was a little too rich for me, and even the tomato sauce it came in couldn’t off-set the decadence.

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 3 (Part 3) - Pier 39 Sea Lions Masterpost

January 21, 2016 (continued): As promised my Pier 39 sea lion masterpost, because I went a bit crazy taking every angle I could of these majestic water doggies.

Approaching the pier, the smell was pungent from a mile away, but it was worth it to witness them in various positions - bathing in whatever small gap of sunlight they could find, soga (sea lion yoga), squabbling, and lying in a row like a sardine can. It was the perfect end to my day!

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 3 (Part 2) - Pier 39 and Musée Mécanique

January 21, 2016 (continued): After my tour of Alcatraz and since I was in the area, I headed down to the nearby tourist mecca Pier 39. I don’t have too many pictures since it was mainly souvenir and tourist-y shops, but have to shout out the left-handed shop I spotted, finally us lefties get some love! The famous sea lions of Pier 39 will be getting it’s own mega post in the next one because I went a bit snap happy with them.

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Of course my main focus was the healthy and nutritious lunch I got consisting of a s'mores filled crepe with a side of fries with a pesto aioli dip. I could feel my arteries hardening just looking at it and was already full after a few bites.

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I decided to walk off my impending food coma and go towards my next destination the Musée Mécanique, which was in the Fisherman’s Wharf. I was stopped while walking through a pedestrian crossing by a guy saying he was going to give me a ticket but then handed me a sticker saying I <3 YOUR SMILE. Then he asked me to write down my details and give a charity donation. I think I gave something like $5 because something didn't feel right and the guy seemed a little disappointed, which even more-so fueled my suspicions . Later googling I found out my instincts were right and they were panhandlers, I feel worse for the other people who had "donated" $20 - $100. So if you’re visiting in that area, beware!

Heading further towards my destination, I was spotted another attempt at some cash - this time, with a little more honesty.

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I discovered the existence of Musée Mécanique when I was researching places to visit in this area. I love pretty much anything vintage and these mechanicals were no exception. They had a range of old, interactive arcade games, fortune tellers, to mechanical scenes that played out various stories. Each game ranged from about $0.25 to $2.00.

I don’t know how the Career Pilot game caught onto the fact that I secretly self diagnose myself by googling symptoms through Web MD and think I have some obscure disease.

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I was also amused by trying out a fortune telling machine that resembled the Bocca della Verità in Rome, the mouth of truth. This game resembled various depictions of this mask where you stick your hand in it’s mouth, here it pops a fortune after, it was funny because I don’t think I realized I pressed another language and my fortune came out in Spanish. I managed to piece together the gist of it though, thanks Google Translate!

The museum is on the small side but I think worth a quick visit if you’re in the area!

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 3 (Part 1) - Blue Bottle & Alcatraz

January 21, 2016 (continued): Being raised in New Zealand - home of many coffee connoisseurs, my eternal search for a great cup coffee in the States continued with Blue Bottle Coffee. I’d heard good things about it, so I decided to start off my day there with breakfast.

I walked to the cafe from my temporary residence, seeing great little snippets of art and architecture along the way.

I arrived there early, yet a line had already formed out the door - thankfully it moved pretty quickly. I made my order of a eggs and toast with I think was a salsa verde sauce, and a mocha. The meal and coffee were a bit on the higher end of cost, but both were well made so I had no complaints. I also liked watching their cool siphon contraption and watching the barista stir the coffee in a beaker over an open flame, it felt like being in a mad scientist’s laboratory.

Finishing up my meal, I hopped on a tram towards my next locale - Alcatraz! Being a tourist in this city, why not visit the No. 1 tourist destination in the States. I pre-booked my tickets through the official site, before I left for my trip as I read that tours are nearly always sold out on the day.

Going into the tour, I only had a general knowledge of it being the most notoriously inescapable prisons, for the most hard core criminals. My curiosity leaned more towards why everyone who had visited previously, encouraged others to do so fervently.

The line for the ferry was snaked around the lot and I can see why you should definitely pre-book your tickets, we eventually hopped aboard and departed from Pier 33. The ferry consisted of indoor seating but of course, most people chose to wrap themselves around the outside decks. It was definitely a brisk, prickly combination with the mix of San Francisco winter winds and the speed of the boat but the view was worth it. We got to witness views of the Bay Bridge, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and the mass of seagulls overhead and diving below - fishing for their next meal.


We arrived at Alcatraz and gathered near the dock where the docent welcomed us in and gave us a little introduction into the history. At the gathering point, you could still see remnants when the Native Americans took over the island. After the introduction we were free to explore on our own, and once inside you could get the guided tour headsets. Walking around the outside, it was a kind of eerie feeling seeing all the abandoned buildings where nature and time had taken over.

In one of the exhibits, they had displayed many of the prisoner’s personal stories of what lead them to be incarcerated. It was incredibly moving and gave you pause to not paint everyone in prison with an “evil” brushstroke. Many of them were in desperate times, stealing to provide for their family, or got caught up with the wrong people and were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I made my way into the main prison area, where they gave you headsets that guided you through with the corresponding numbers above each area. Seeing it in person you got to see how big the prison really was, with stacks up stacks, and rows upon rows of cells that were so tight you could practically touch each end with arms stretched.

It was also interesting to see remnants of the numerous escape attempts by inmates, from widening bars with a nut and bolt contraption and starving themselves to fit through, to the infamous Battle of Alcatraz where prisoners overpowered officers, and gained control of weapons and the hanging key from the gun gallery. You could still see the damage on the floor where security had dropped grenades through the roof in an attempt to corral the prisoners to a certain area.

Out of the Administration building you could see the skyline of San Francisco as well as the Golden Gate Bridge.

Back inside the Admin building, there was this creepy red handprint above the doorframe that wasn’t mentioned in the tour but through later google research is apparently from the Native American occupation.

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I headed into the prison area where the only successful escape attempt took place. Four inmates were in on the plan and they had sculpted dummy heads in their likeness from soap, toilet paper, hair clippings from the barber and paint from the workshop. These were placed in bed the night of the escape. For 6 months they had widened the hole of the ventilation duct in their cells using various tools found discarded around the prison, this lead to the utility corridor behind the walls that was unguarded. Three of the inmates escaped successfully and their disappearance was only discovered the next morning.

I finished off my tour walking through various parts of the prison including the kitchen and underground where they showed a film on the history of Alcatraz. In the gift shop there was a former inmate there promoting his book on his experience.

I ended my tour and got onto the next ferry heading back towards San Francisco. My overall experience of Alcatraz showed me why many recommend visiting, it is thought-provoking, eye-opening, and you get to see humanity or lack thereof that took place. It is also being able to experience a piece of history that has been frozen in time, and how often do you get to do that?

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 2 (Part 2) - Haight-Ashbury

January 20, 2016 (continued): When going to San Francisco, with an interest in the funky and artistic, you must visit the iconic Haight-Ashbury district - birthplace of the hippie movement.

Getting there early, a lot of the shops weren’t open yet so it gave me time to explore the street as a whole. I was instantly attracted to the vibrancy and vibe of the street’s facades, with enough interesting street art to fill my camera roll to my heart’s content, colorful Victorian architecture, and bits and pieces of the weird and wonderful.

Once the shops started opening I visited a few including Wasteland where I found the exact Jean Paul Gaultier jacket Cher wore in Clueless.

Also paid a visit to the original Amoeba Music store, widely known for being one of the biggest independent music chain stores. It felt like they had every music, movie, poster known to man - their catalog was huge and slightly overwhelming!

All images taken by me and opinions are my own.

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 2 (Part 1) - Union Square

January 20, 2016 (continued): My day started off walking around my temporary neighborhood and seeing it for the first time in daylight. It was just as colorful and vibrant as it was at night. In contrast, one of my favorite buildings I came across was a black and white one that had such a cool graphic quality to it.

I ate breakfast at a nearby restaurant, Sears Fine Food. It was pretty cool as they give you a token to play the slot machine for your next free meal. Unfortunately, it was no dice for me.

After filling up on food, I went down to catch my ride at the tram stop nearby and while I was waiting I got to see a cool mix of old and modern architecture.

All images taken by me and opinions my own.