Stopping to lean against the rust orange railings, we feel the vibrations of hundreds of cars thundering by. The sharp wind blows strong at this height, and the fog, like a living beast, rolls and claws its way across the dry hilltops opposite.
Far below, seemingly tiny sailboats skim across the choppy water. Too chilled to linger more, we hop back on our bikes.
And suddenly, as we roll down into the quaint seaside town of Sausalito, we enter a different microclimate – where the wind dies down, the sun shines warm and we can sit with cappuccinos by the bay.
Biking the Golden Gate Bridge
It’s an understatement to say that biking across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is a dramatic experience.
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen the city’s most famous icon in pictures or on TV. Looking up from the bicycle lane at the 746-foot high twin towers anchoring the massive single suspension span, you can’t help but be awed at this amazing engineering feat.
It’s truly right up there on the list of San Francisco highlights (no pun intended).
San Francisco highlights
If you think you’ve “done” San Francisco, think again. There are many layers to peel.
Each time you visit San Francisco, the city reveals new and different facets to discover.
On this getaway, we want to indulge in the city’s food and wine.
(Hey, San Fran started the “eat local, eat fresh” movement. It’s hailed as one of the best food cities in the world. So you have to count food and wine as a highlight, right?)
But staying somewhat active is important to us too. And we want to experience something more edgy than simply visiting the usual touristy sights.
We reflect on this over dinner one night at the Michelin-starred SPQR on eclectic Fillmore Street. Tiny SPQR packs them in with Chef Accarrino’s inventive and exquisite pastas, like his buckwheat tagliatelle with braised suckling pork and smoked fettuccine with sea urchin, bacon and quail egg.
We ponder this some more another night at Fog Harbor Fish House at Fisherman’s Wharf, as we crack whole garlic-roasted crab, soaking up the delicious buttery garlic sauce with crusty sourdough bread.
And we think on this further at Le Colonial, where rattan furniture and lazily turning fans transport us back to 1920s Indochine, as we sample delicate Vietnamese offerings.
Burning off the calories
Perhaps we should slip in a run on our visit?
Explore San Francisco offers a new sightseeing “Art in Nature” running tour. The six-mile run starts from the DeYoung Museum and winds through the Presidio’s man-made forest, incorporating several hills and viewpoints.
For something less strenuous, Urban Hiker offers a five-mile urban-jungle jaunt climbing quaint staircases and an unmarked trail to the summit of Twin Peaks.
We choose, however, to walk, walk, walk everywhere.
Catching the excitement
We also opt for a sailing trip on a large catamaran with Adventure Cat that whisks us past the rocky prison island of Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge.
This is no gentle sightseeing granny cruise. We’re under sail 90% of the time, blasting through white caps on the bay. It’s exhilarating and gives us a real feel for being out on the unprotected Pacific.
To excite the soul, we’re told the new all-glass and state-of-the-art SF Jazz Center blows the roof off with performances by the Alfredo Rodriguez Trio and 14-time Grammy winner Herbie Hancock (but that will have to wait for our next visit).
Back to the table
Later, we return to the goal of eating our way through more of San Fran’s great restaurants. And with somewhere between 4,000 to 5,000 restaurants, there’s no lack of choice.
Of the new ones to hit the culinary scene, the re-invented Tosca Café in North Beach reels in the crowds with its crispy pig tails appetizer and cream-cloaked lumaconi pasta topped with lemon breadcrumbs.
Coqueta is also much-hyped.
On the Embarcadero waterfront, this 50-seat show-stopper, with wood floors, cowhide rugs and views of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, features a Spanish-influenced menu of tapas like duck-and-pork meatballs and grilled razor clams with salsa verde, along with paella.
Our magazine story on San Francisco
The complete story about eating our way through San Francisco and Sonoma was published as “A Taste of Northern California” in the Summer 2014 issue of Black Tie magazine. Click on the image below to read a PDF of this article.