Fast forward 351 days and five further countries visited (New Zealand, Indonesia, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia), I decided that the only place I wanted to be for the holidays was home. It was only fitting to start and end the year in the same place 😉
With my boyfriend Nico in tow (on his way to meet my parents for the first time!), we flew from our current home in Wellington up to Auckland where we proceeded to miss our connection thanks to a delay on our first flight. A minor change fee and some tears later and we were booked on a flight four hours later that evening. Funny story - we missed our connection on our way back to Wellington, too, thanks to a delay on the first flight. I've never missed a flight. Is Nico cursing my travels!? I must mention though, that he's never missed a flight either...
We flew direct from Auckland to San Francisco on a 12 hour flight with Air New Zealand, which was brilliant. Our seats had footrests that flipped up to create a 'SkyCouch' providing us with ample room to lie down and thus the best airplane sleep I've ever had. The food was great, the staff were wonderful and so Air NZ comes highly recommended by me.
Most of our two-week holiday in California was spent in pajamas, enjoying home-cooked food and delicious treats, watching films, decorating the house and generally partaking in all the frivolity of the season. It was perfect.
Alongside the Christmassy fun, we also celebrated Nico's birthday while there, which was the perfect opportunity for us to head into San Francisco for the day. I've wandered around the city a number of times while on various visits to my parents, but it was extra special to get to share it with Nico and show him another one of my 'homes' in the world.
Without further ado, here is everything we got up to while we explored on a beautiful winter day in San Fran:
Walk the Embarcadero and Piers
We arrived in the city on the CalTrain which connects the various neighbourhoods and cities along the way from San Francisco all the way south to Gilroy at the end of the Bay Area. The Depot being located on the far eastern end of San Fran, this provided the perfect starting point for us to walk along the Embarcadero, spotting the piers along the coast and enjoying the view.
From the Embarcadero, you can see the Bay Bridge stretching across to Oakland as well as get your bearings of the outskirts of the city.
Alcatraz and the sea lions
From the end of Pier 39, you can spot Alcatraz, the mysterious island prison offshore in the heart of San Francisco Bay. If you'd like to tour the prison, book well in advance - tickets aren't available on the day.
Nearby, you'll see the famous sea lions of Pier 39, snoozing and flailing about on the docks. They're adorable and lovable...from a distance.
Continuing your walk from the bustling centre of town and the wharfs, you'll come across Fort Mason, an ex-army post, which provides the first beautiful sighting of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy a long walk along the parks and marinas to come.
Streets of San Francisco
The streets in this city are well-known, lined with picturesque Victorian-style houses that immediately make one recognize which city they're in. The trees catch the sunlight and the entire image is picture-perfect.
Palace of Fine Arts
Most of the other spots on this list I have visited before. The Palace of Fine Arts was a pleasant surprise - I had never stopped here before on my way to visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, yet the architecture and way the sunlight filtered through was dreamy. We spent a wonderful while just enjoying meandering our way through the grounds.
From the Palace, you can enter the Presidio which is the park surrounding the grounds of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a dog park so there's plenty running around happily, while tourists snap away as the bridge begins to come closer and even more picturesque.
Golden Gate Bridge
Ahh, the bridge in all her glory. The best photo spot is just a few minutes walk before the visitor's centre. Be warned if you come in the summer - this is when the sea fog (fondly named Karl) will roll in and keep the bridge mostly covered in cloud. The best time to visit San Francisco is in the winter for crispy clear blue skies!
From the visitor's centre, catch the bus back towards town and hop off near Lombard Street for the chance to walk down the 'most crooked street in the world'! It's full of tourists both in cars and on foot all hoping to get the perfect shot of a hard-to-photograph street. Weird yet wonderful.
At the foot of Lombard Street, we kept walking towards Stockton Street which is the heart and soul of San Francisco's bustling Chinatown. We finished our day here at a tiny little bakery - Good Mong Kok - which had a line out the door. With few vegetarian options left at the end of the day, we went for some sweet bread rolls and egg yolk buns to finish our day.