June is the perfect time to post about Valentines day, right? I can’t believe I’m so behind again! Just when I thought I was catching up… 😦 So undisciplined about blogging, I am.
So to finally get to Day 2 of our valentines adventure – Brian and I took our bikes around San Francisco for the first time since moving up. We planned a route around the city that covers most of SF’s famous landmarks and touristy places, since we had never gotten around to being tourists in our own city. We learned so many new things about our city – for example, before planning this trip, I actually had no idea that Golden Gate Park held so many different attractions to explore. I don’t think we could get through them all in a weekend if we tried, but we were planning on doing our best!
Our first stop – Alamo Square.
Alamo Square is famous for its Painted Ladies, which were featured in the hit 90s show Full House. I actually just found out this week that another name for Alamo Square is Postcard Row, and it’s easy to see why! The beautifully multi-colored victorian houses all in a row are picturesque indeed, as are some of the other victorians lining the borders of Alamo Square.
After Alamo Square, it was time for a quick coffee stop to fuel the rest of our trip, and where more appropriate than Mojo Bicycle Cafe? Luckily there was plenty of bike parking outside when we arrived, so we locked up our bikes and headed inside for chai tea lattes and coffee.
Then we were off on the longest leg of our ride – to the Conservatory of Flowers inside Golden Gate Park! On the way, I took a wrong turn (too focused on trying to sightsee instead of paying attention to the directions, I guess) and led Brian on what seemed like the hilliest possible way of getting to the park! I swear, it was one of the hardest hills I’ve ever biked. But we made it eventually!
Then, we got lost inside Golden Gate Park. The signage there needs a lot of updating – it felt like we were riding in circles for half an hour, and we somehow wound up by the California Academy of Sciences instead of the Conservatory of Flowers. With the help of Google Maps, we finally found our way to the bike parking behind the Conservatory (thank goodness this city is so bike friendly! It’s becoming one of my favorite things about SF).
Pro Tip: Residents get discounted admissions to most of the attractions inside Golden Gate Park, so don’t forget to bring proof of residency!
The Conservatory of Flowers is essentially a giant greenhouse that houses a variety of plants from different climates. While the building doesn’t seem very big, Brian and I wandered through the rooms, inspecting each display in turn, for hours. The Conservatory’s website has a description and a short blurb of most of the plants on display, grouped by the room that they are in, so for the first two hours or so, we looked up every plant which we could find a sign for. It was really interesting to learn about all the different places the plants had come from, and the uses they provided to their native peoples.
I’d never seen a cotton plant before! I was surprised that it looked just like someone glued a slightly disheveled cotton ball to the end of a plant stalk.
The Conservatory has a particularly impressive collection of orchids.
The mottled green foliage of this plant is so pretty!
Growing up, one of my favorite flowers was the hibiscus.
This leaf has such an interesting texture, so of course I had to take a picture.
I’d never seen such tiny orchids before! These seem so different from their larger, flashier siblings that I wouldn’t have recognized these as orchids had there not been a sign.
After we exhausted the Conservatory, it was time to head to Palace of Fine Arts! Considering how this is one of SF’s most iconic structures, it was one of the top locations on my hit list.
There are a handful of signs scattered around the perimeter of the Palace, so we wandered to each of them in turn, learning about the history of the World Fair that was held here, and the subsequent efforts to maintain the Palace. The World Fair sounded amazing – what I wouldn’t give to be able to go back in time and attend it. It must have been awe inspiring to see all of the exhibitions from around the world!
The final item on our agenda for the day was to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, which is a must-do for almost all visitors to SF. The ride up to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge was surprisingly tough – I thanked the heavens for my bike’s wonderful wonderful gears, as I pedaled furiously and inched by unfortunate bike-renters who were pushing their bikes up the hill in defeat.
It was a perfectly clear day for bridge riding! I actually rode across the bridge again recently on a foggy day, and it was terrifying – the wind was blowing so hard that I almost lost control of my bike several times, and I emerged on the Sausalito side dripping from the mist that had collected in droplets on my face. Going on a clear day is much more enjoyable.
Since we had already biked over 10 miles at that point, and our legs were beginning to turn to jello, we opted to turn around at the halfway point. Still counts right? 😉
After cruising through the Presidio and taking advantage of the downhill to rest our legs, we stopped in Inner Richmond for a super late lunch at Volcano, which has since become my favorite place in the City for Japanese Curry. I won’t delve into the delicious details too much here, but suffice it to say that they serve the best katsu I’ve ever had in my life (although I haven’t been to Japan, so… there’s that).
All in all, the ride ended up being almost 20 miles! It’s the first time in almost a year that we’ve ridden this far, and definitely our first time ever riding so far on hilly terrain! I’m so glad we did it though – it was super fun (especially biking across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time )!