Leah Explores … San Francisco¬†

I have been wanting to go to San Francisco for so long, and I finally made it happen! Luckily it more than exceeded my expectations, and all the hype my friends had had was not misplaced. I had two and a half days in the city, and although I covered a lot I feel like I hardy scratched the surface, which in my opinion is the perfect excuse to go Hotel Mark Twainback and explore more in the future.

Stay:
I stayed at the Hotel Mark Twain which was conveniently located just a few blocks away from Union Square. It was pretty reasonably priced (for San Francisco) given the location. It even had a secret garden tucked away out the back that was the perfect place to sit and sip a coffee and hideaway from the city for a little while. The staff were also helpful, when it came to advice on directions and places to avoid, and there was a helpful guide book in the room that listed some local restaurants and bars. I would definitely stay here again, the bed was comfy, the place was clean, there were some quirky touches and like I already said the location was pretty great.

Getting Around:
San Francisco was a surprisingly easy city to navigate, and the public transport was pretty easy to master. I did a lot of walking whilst in the city, mainly because it is my favourite way to explore a new city and stumble across something unexpected. I used the BART to get from the airport to the city, which cost $8.95 and was painless. I also took the MUNI  a couple of times, which is $2.25 for a 90 minute transfer. Leaving San Francisco to head to San Jose I used the Caltrain, which was painless, and cost $12.95, the journey took just under two hours and was a great way to head into the Silicon Valley area without hiring a car. Of course the most fun way to get around is on a cable car, it was $7 for a single ride which was all I needed to do. However, it is worth bearing in mind that for $20 you can get a day pass and ride as much as you like.

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The most fun way to get around.

Things to do:
There is so much to see and do in San Francisco, I feel like what I saw was just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll admit I went into full tourist mode, in an effort to see as much as I could in the little time I had. In my two and a half days in the city I managed to see Alcatraz, Union Square, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Coit Tower, Ghiradelli Square, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Lombard Street, Chinatown, the Ferry Building, Twin Peaks and to squeeze in a ride on the infamous cable cars. I also did a Vantigo Tour which was a great way to see the city in a more authentic way than some of the bigger tour buses, and the tour guides were insightful and hilarious. The tour also took me to some of the places that were on my list but I knew would be a bit tricky to get to, which was super convenient.
My highlights were definitely seeing the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf, the views from Twin Peaks, riding the cable cars, and of course seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in person.

To say I loved San Francisco would be a huge understatement. I ran out of time to do all the hundreds of things that I wanted to do, but I am definitely looking forward to going back in the future, exploring some of the neighbourhoods in more depth, and ticking more things off my San Francisco bucket list.

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Leah Explores … Santa Barbara

Before heading to Ojai for a few days I decided to take a little detour to the coast and spend the day in beautiful Santa Barbara to do a bit of exploring.  I only had the day there so I made sure I did a bit of research beforehand so I knew where I was going, to allow myself  maximum time for exploring. Santa Barbara isn’t that big, and is definitely somewhere you can get away with seeing most of it in a day. Here are my must see places for a whistle stop tour of stunning Santa Barbara.

The Historic Old Mission
This is definitely a must when visiting Santa Barbara. America is still a relatively new country so any chance to see something historic is an opportunity I always take. Founded in 1786, the mission is nestled against the hills and overlooks the city. You can take a self guided tour for $8, but I decided to skip it and just had a look around the beautiful grounds.

The Clock Tower in the Courthouse
This was recommended to me by my best friend, and I am so glad about it, even though it was pretty overcast and cloudy it still provided some amazing panoramic views of Santa Barbara. The courthouse itself is beautiful, and on the way up to the top you can stop in and see the bells inside the tower. There are some cool murals to check out too, as well as beautiful details like tiled staircases. Definitely worth a look, plus it’s free!

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State Street
State Street is where the main hub of activity in Santa Barbara is. Full of shops and restaurants there is plenty to explore, and it’s the perfect place to mosey in and out of shops admiring the beautiful surroundings. Also there are more cool staircases nestled into the Paseo Nuevo shopping complex, which are completely Instagram worthy.

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Stearns Wharf
A great spot to see the ocean and look back on the city. You can wander down the pier and look in some of the touristy shops, admire the stunning beaches, grab something to eat and drink, or look around the Sea Centre. It wasn’t too busy when I visited on a Wednesday afternoon, which was perfect, but I imagine it gets very crowded in the height of summer. I walked to the end, grabbed some Salt Water Taffy and headed back to spend some time on the beach.

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All in all I was pleasently surprised by how much I enjoyed my time in Santa Barbara. It didn’t sound like there was too much to do there and I was worried I was going to be easily bored and not be able to fill my day. But once I was there, I discovered it was just a really pleasant place to wander around and take it easy. Another pleasant surprise was how much free parking (for 1-2hours) there was dotted around. This made it so easy to park up and explore. A definite recommendation if you want a relaxing weekend away or a day by the sea!