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San Francisco in 72 hours: your travel guide

san francisco

It is the city that all Europeans love. Is right. Sufficiently American to fascinate us, but enough “old continent” charm to really please us. If you want, in a big weekend, you can see a lot. And re-attack his week, totally disoriented. We tried. And it’s worth it.

Day 1

An autonomous car, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz

From the outset, we understand that we are in a city where new technologies are part of everyday life. When in front of our taxi, a strange car, lined with pipes on the roof, crosses an intersection with great caution. Unlike us, the driver does not get impatient. Neither is surprised by the futuristic aspect of the vehicle. No doubt because it would be useless to honk the horn. Because it is an autonomous car. “There are plenty of them here. But no good. They have lots of accidents! »Explains the Lithuanian driver to justify his contempt in front of this car which one cannot however help looking at, fascinated, so easily it circulates in the middle of the traffic. Passing in front of a building in the Financial District, the driver points out the Twitter HQ, further that of Uber, slows down in front of Amazon Go,the cashless supermarket “where you help yourself and go out without stopping to pay.” But very expensive! He groans again. The products are scanned the moment you put them in your shopping cart and then are charged to your credit card if you ultimately decide to go out with it.

To discover San Francisco “quietly”, without worrying about finding your way, or climbing streets with a 25 ° slope, you might as well start with Fisherman’s Wharf. It is the district on the edge of the promenade which runs along the bay. Quite touristy, it must be admitted, but which has the advantage of being able to be done on foot. There are lots of pretty good restaurants there, with very successful American-style port decorations. We think of the Eagle Cafe for breakfast and the Franciscan Crab for lunch, with its alcove tables facing the sea. There are the inevitable parades of souvenir shops, but ultimately less garish than in many places.

This is where you can embark on Alcatraz. WARNING ! If we could get the flower with the gun a few years ago, it is now imperative to book your visit in advance. The ferries run every half hour but all are overbooked by those who have taken their seats upstream. Even if we have already seen it, we are again blown away by the proximity of “prison island” to the coast of San Francisco. A tantalum torture for the prisoners who evoke, in one of the many accounts of former detainees that we find during the visit, “on New Year’s Eve when we heard the noises of the party, almost cutlery and laughter. young girls. Alcatraz is so photogenic you might think the place was built for Hollywood to shoot movies.No doubt the reason for its success: 1 million visitors each year. And frankly, is there a nicer prison than this? Not sure. Perhaps the reason why the establishment was definitively closed in 1967 …

Two good hours are not too much to walk there. For those who have not seen the film with Clint Eastwood, “Escape from Alcatraz”, we left in their cell, the false mannequins used by the 3 prisoners who would have escaped in 1963. All the details of the ‘escape are pretty well told. What also remains are the traces left by the Indians who occupied Alcatraz for 3 months in 1972. Unsuccessful attempt to establish a reserve there.

Or sleep ?

You can opt for the Zephyr hotel rather than the traditional chains like Holiday Inn or Sheraton, also in the area. It is good value for money, really 5 minutes from everything in the neighborhood and it has a funky little “Mama Shelter” air that makes it very friendly.

Where to eat ?

The Palette Tea House. Located on Ghirardelli Place, this Asian fusion restaurant is worth the trip. It takes its name from its plate in which 4 small cavities are intended to collect the accompanying sauces, the variety of colors of which, ends up making the whole look like a… palette. We specialize there in Dim Suns and it is better to let yourself be advised because there are varieties that are not very common, but interesting to discover. You have to remember to save room for the ice cream parlor, on the right as you exit, which serves “the best chocolate sundae in the world” he proclaims. He is not necessarily wrong …

Day 2

Sausalito by bike, the Moma and Castro Street

San Francisco is the first city to have banned plastic bags. Ecology here is not an empty word. This is also evidenced by the multitude of bicycles, and the reserved tracks, which are available everywhere. For the less courageous, you can rent electric bikes but expensive ($ 48 / h). While at the sole strength of his calves, it’s more affordable ($ 8). The ideal route is to start from Fisherman’s Wharf, walk around the Presidio (a former military base transformed into a park), regret your choice when you see the first ascent (you get used to it by changing gear …) then continue towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We cross at our own pace, regularly overtaken by commuters, those who make the morning and evening commute to work in San Francisco from the bay opposite. Once at the end,A long and enjoyable descent follows towards Sausalito. A neat little town where not a piece of paper is lying around, and where all the inhabitants seem to have come out of a Ralph Lauren pub. We are ironic but it’s quite pleasant to walk there for 1 hour …

On the way back, the brave can go the other way by bike or opt for the “efficient” option. Namely, take the ferry back to San Francisco. In 72 hours, we have no time or energy to waste. It is therefore the ideal solution.

From there, we go to Moma. In the world, is there a Museum of Modern Art whose building and exhibition rooms are not light and airy? We don’t know any, anyway. And this is no exception to the rule. Note on the ground floor a huge fresco by JR, made on (and with) the inhabitants of the city. A Christian and pop “scene” that can be seen until May. In the rooms upstairs, let us cite in bulk a very successful exhibition on photo misfires, voluntary or not, a Rotkho in front of which a bench has been installed, so fascinating it is or even a Klein blue which probably is. even more, fascinating.

Once the visit is over, don’t go looking for a restaurant in the neighborhood. Not that they are absent, but rather stay in the Moma for lunch at the In Situ restaurant. Those who imagine themselves finding an ordinary museum cafeteria will be “disillusioned”. It is a very high-end restaurant, in a minimalist wooden decor, which revolves around a clever concept: a menu featuring emblematic dishes from several capitals. The chef asked his friends from all over the world to send him their favorite recipe. It is up to him to reproduce them identically, and as closely as possible. Everything is to die for, including the cheesecake which would have its place on the floor above, in the museum, under a bell!

In the afernoon, you can opt for a guided and above all private tour with Gilles Lorand (sanfranciscobygilles.com), a Frenchman who has been living in the United States for 10 years. Nice as hell. Perhaps because we chose to ask him to visit Castro Street, he immediately tells you about his life, and in particular his marriage to his Colombian companion. Why not. We start with Harvey Milk Square, which we missed when we arrived. And for good reason. A kind of “corner of the sidewalk” at the exit of the subway, in the basement, was dedicated to the one who was the champion of the homosexual cause in San Francisco, played in the cinema by Sean Penn, and who was assassinated after having become an important player in the city at the end of the 1970s, on the municipal council. Then we enter Castro Street,whose rainbow flags can be seen on the pediments of almost all buildings and shops. Having been there in the early 80s, the atmosphere has changed and is much more relaxed (“don’t do it” …) than when, if we were not gay, we would have not had the audacity to go into certain bars, under penalty of finding what we had not come looking for. Today, AIDS has been there, and so has the liberalization of customs. Gay people no longer have to snuggle up in a ghetto. Gilles tells you while passing in front of a banal billboard that here, in the 80s, we put the photos of young people who died of the epidemic, of which nobody knew anything, because they had come to live their homosexuality in Castro Street , unbeknownst to all. Once dead, no one in the neighborhood finally knew who they were and therefore,who to notify. There is even a sort of “garden” on which several hundred ashes have been placed, for lack of anything better. The walk takes place according to the anecdotes told by Gilles who takes us to Mission, the historic heart of San Francisco. Where the first Spanish missionaries had established their mission, then, before San Francisco became what it is. You can take the time to enjoy Dolores Park, often seen in photos, but which instantly makes you want to sit down with a book. All around, these characteristic Victorian houses of San Francisco, and now overpriced. “Even engineers working in Sillicon Valley, and earning $ 200,000 a year, can no longer buy a house in the city,” said a taxi driver.There is even a sort of “garden” on which several hundred ashes have been placed, for lack of anything better. The walk takes place according to the anecdotes told by Gilles who takes us to Mission, the historic heart of San Francisco. Where the first Spanish missionaries had established their mission, then, before San Francisco became what it is. You can take the time to enjoy Dolores Park, often seen in photos, but which instantly makes you want to sit down with a book. All around, these characteristic Victorian houses of San Francisco, and now overpriced. “Even engineers working in Sillicon Valley, and earning $ 200,000 a year, can no longer buy a house in the city,” said a taxi driver.There is even a sort of “garden” on which several hundred ashes have been placed, for lack of anything better. The walk takes place according to the anecdotes told by Gilles who takes us to Mission, the historic heart of San Francisco. Where the first Spanish missionaries had established their mission, then, before San Francisco became what it is. You can take the time to enjoy Dolores Park, often seen in photos, but which instantly makes you want to sit down with a book. All around, these characteristic Victorian houses of San Francisco, and now overpriced. “Even engineers working in Sillicon Valley, and earning $ 200,000 a year, can no longer buy a house in the city,” said a taxi driver.The walk takes place according to the anecdotes told by Gilles who takes us to Mission, the historic heart of San Francisco. Where the first Spanish missionaries had established their mission, then, before San Francisco became what it is. You can take the time to enjoy Dolores Park, often seen in photos, but which instantly makes you want to sit down with a book. All around, these characteristic Victorian houses of San Francisco, and now overpriced. “Even engineers working in Sillicon Valley, and earning $ 200,000 a year, can no longer buy a house in the city,” said a taxi driver.The walk takes place according to the anecdotes told by Gilles who takes us to Mission, the historic heart of San Francisco. Where the first Spanish missionaries had established their mission, then, before San Francisco became what it is. You can take the time to enjoy Dolores Park, often seen in photos, but which instantly makes you want to sit down with a book. All around, these characteristic Victorian houses of San Francisco, and now overpriced. “Even engineers working in Sillicon Valley, and earning $ 200,000 a year, can no longer buy a house in the city,” said a taxi driver.Where the first Spanish missionaries had established their mission, then, before San Francisco became what it is. You can take the time to enjoy Dolores Park, often seen in photos, but which instantly makes you want to sit down with a book. All around, these characteristic Victorian houses of San Francisco, and now overpriced. “Even engineers working in Sillicon Valley, and earning $ 200,000 a year, can no longer buy a house in the city,” said a taxi driver.Where the first Spanish missionaries had established their mission, then, before San Francisco became what it is. You can take the time to enjoy Dolores Park, often seen in photos, but which instantly makes you want to sit down with a book. All around, these characteristic Victorian houses of San Francisco, and now overpriced. “Even engineers working in Sillicon Valley, and earning $ 200,000 a year, can no longer buy a house in the city,” said a taxi driver.”Even engineers working in Sillicon Valley, and earning $ 200,000 a year, can no longer buy a house in the city,” said a taxi driver.”Even engineers working in Sillicon Valley, and earning $ 200,000 a year, can no longer buy a house in the city,” said a taxi driver.

Where to dine?

On Fisherman’s Wharf, Bistro Boudin is one of those great American-style restaurants, made up of a huge room, and large, noisy tables. If you want romantic or silent dining, go elsewhere. On the other hand, for a local atmosphere with an American football game in the background over the bar, and food based on fish and seafood, this is the place. And good too!

Day 3

Haight Ashbury, Golden Gate Park and San Francisco Art exchange

The hippie movement was born in Haight Ashbury and if they ever did come back, they would find their neighborhood barely changed. In reality, the walls are still there but we have redone the paintings. Rather cleverly elsewhere. In the sense that, if the bars, shops and restaurants are evidently riding on the reputation, and attracting a good number of tourists, it remains a particular authenticity. From the specimens that can be seen in the neighborhood. Obviously, some perched since 1967. But there is also a young generation, and which does not even have Woodstock to console themselves with living in precariousness. The fact remains that there are establishments like Amobea, probably the largest vinyl record store in the world, in this district. And he is here, and not elsewhere. Or,vintage clothes shops where bargain hunters of this style go crazy, as the offer is so stylish and varied. There are esoteric shops, organic grocery stores, and more neutral bars. A nice place to see, especially as the surrounding area, the myriad of Victorian buildings, each more beautiful than the next, allows you to get lost without regret.

At the end of Haight Avenue, however, Golden Gate Park is no longer a corner where hippies came to roll their joints discreetly or hover on LSD for hours lying on the lawn. Now, we find more retirees playing grass bowling. A sort of cushy West Coast Central Park.

To stay in a rock’n’roll spirit, we can then head to Union Square. A place without much interest, tourist like hell, unless you want to go shopping at Macy’s or the Apple Store, completely open to the outside, including upstairs, through a huge gap overlooking Union Square. A stone’s throw away is the San Francisco Art Exchange, a gallery specializing in photo prints of great rock figures. Don’t look. If you like the 70’s Stones style or if Prince is your idol, this is the place to come. They are licensed by the best photographers in the genre. The prices are substantial but not stratospheric either. In any case, reasonable if you want to acquire iconic images of the genre, and numbered.

Or have dinner?

Rich Table is a starred restaurant and without prior reservations, you will have to take what will be there. When you are told that the only possible time is 5:45 p.m., you feel like you’re declining, but you’ve been praised so much that you do violence to yourself. And we are right. The mozzarella served in eggplant is downright delicious and their Lemon Fettuccine is literally to die for. Sftravel.com

How to go ?

United operates a daily flight to San Francisco, non-stop. 72h is good but it remains short. If you can (3,100 euros), treat yourself or ask for a place in United’s Polaris business class for your birthday. The seats belong to the range in vogue in the best airlines, namely an individual cabin block allowing complete isolation. Each, including the middle ones, offers individual access to the aircraft corridor. The armchairs are tiltable 180 °, thus offering a real bed for an easy rest to gain in such conditions. Especially since the high-end bedding equipment comes from Saks Fifth Avenue. The wide-screen entertainment system is rich in its offerings, but the vast majority of programs are in English. Few French films for example.The headphones are one of the best tested under similar conditions and the noise reduction is really effective. The meals are of a good standard and the wine list is rather well endowed. The courtesy kit contains essentials as well as Sunday Riley cosmetics.

For your return flight from San Francisco, it should be noted that the United Polaris lounge at SF airport was voted best business class lounge in the world at the 2019 Skytrax World Airline Awards. A vote of 21 million voting passengers. We seem to have seen better, especially in Asia, but the facts are there and there is no question of contesting them.

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