On my second travel day, I decided to drive to San Francisco. Together with London and New York, San Francisco is one of my most frequent travel destinations. In just the last five years alone, I’ve visited the city three times. For this particular excursion however, I wanted to do something I’ve never done before and visit some place new. I wanted a San Francisco backdoor experience and since I had a car, my options were not limited to common touristy sites.
San Francisco Backdoor
My first stop was an antique art store located in the Pacific Heights neighborhood called Wisteria Antique Prints. A bit of an odd choice but granted that the owner is a cousin of mine, I figured I’d pop around to say hello. When I got there though, the shop was closed. It turned out, my cousin had an unexpected work-related engagement that kept her occupied for much of the afternoon. Since I had roughly two hours to spare (the time allowance I had for the free parking space I secured), I sought out a place to eat for lunch. My cousin suggested I head towards B Patiserrie, a lovely bakery located three blocks away from her shop, that specializes in French and Viennese-style pastries and desserts. It also offers a handful of open-faced sandwiches (tartine) and coffees. I got myself a turkey Lyonnaise sandwich and one of their gluten-free chocolate caramel toffee mousse.
After my decadent lunch, I decided to walk around the neighborhood to burn off the calories I just ate and do a bit of sightseeing. Pacific Heights, after all, is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in San Francisco. The houses in the area are practically mansions and its elevated location gives the neighborhood great views of the city and the bay. I walked five blocks north on Lyon Street until I reached the Lyon Street steps where I saw a good number of locals taking advantage of its steep steps for exercise. The views from the top are great. On a clear day, you can see Alcatraz, the Palace of Fine Arts, and Sausalito. I got to about three-fourths of the way down before coming back up again since my parking time was about to expire.
After that brief workout, I drove westward to the ruins of Sutro Baths and the Lands End Lookout. These San Francisco backdoor attractions are part of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, located on the northwest corner of the city. I’ve read a little about the baths and thought the history was interesting. What attracted me more however, was the fact that it’s right by the Pacific Ocean. When I got there, I parked my car in the designated parking lot (free of charge again) and stopped briefly at the visitor’s center to get oriented. The lady at the counter was helpful and provided me with a few hiking options.
I first descended 35-40 feet towards the bath ruins. The history behind it was definitely interesting but I wouldn’t necessarily say that the ruins themselves were great. Parts of the old baths emanated foul smells because of the stagnant water in them. If not for the beach and the ocean facing it, it would have been just another neglected area. Though I had to admit, once at the beach level, the ruins looked a bit more impressive. After checking out the baths, I continued onto the coastal trail. It was about a three-mile long hike, round trip, from Lands End towards Eagles Point. The trail had stunning views of San Francisco Bay and of Golden Gate Bridge.
After the hike, I headed towards Irving Street and met up with my cousin and her husband for dinner. We settled on a small Indian restaurant called Noori where I tried biryani, saag, and chicken tandoori for the first time. All of the items they ordered were good. The chicken tandoori was tender and flavorful and I particularly enjoyed the tamarind-based sauce that came with it.
It was nearing 8 p.m. when I drove back towards the valley. I purposely left late to avoid the rush hour traffic but despite the late hour, I still encountered traffic, particularly when entering the Bay Bridge. It was close to 10 o’clock in the evening when I arrived back. I was tired but also pleased to have made the journey. San Francisco was just as beautiful as I remembered.