I try to be assiduous and not be 5 years late between my contributions to this blog. With a big 2-month trip to New Zealand at the beginning of 2024, it’s clear that there’s going to be a lot to report about.

I’ve got to finish selecting the images, the structure of the posts, write the texts and so on. But we’ll get there. And so as not to fall too far behind, I’m continuing gently but surely.

So for this post, it will be all about a 3 day stopover in San Francisco, on my way to New Zealand actually. And after my last stay in 2017, I couldn’t imagine how much the city had changed…


But let’s start with the why? Why San Francisco (SF) and why now?

So when traveling to New Zealand from Europe, you do not have tons of options. The routes are quite well defined: via Singapore, via the UAE or via the US with a stop over either in LA or in SF. You can make the trip in one go, but that’s hardcore for the body with a 12h time difference and a 30+ hours trip. So I decided to make a proper stop over of at least 3 nights.

It was on the one hand an opportunity to stretch my legs on this long journey to the antipodes. And to have a sort of decompression chamber to get used to the time difference. They say it’s always easier to follow the sun…

So t would be the route via the US. I was a bit hesitant between LA and SF. On the other hand, LA represent the SoCal vibe. But I would have needed to rent a car to do and see what I had in mind. SF on the contrary was easily manageable by public transportation/food.

So SF was not new to me, as I had been there already 5 times. But I quite liked it every time.

But boy, after my last stay in 2017, I could barely recognize this once opulent city, hit successively by the pandemic’s aftermaths and the result of a big push towards remote work, mainly amongst the tech giants

This resulted in a desertification of office spaces, people working from home and/or moving back to cheaper cities, where rents were affordable.

Following this desertification, many surrounding businesses and services closed down, such as restaurants, coffee shops, etc..

Throwing new members of the lower middle class onto the streets. And I could witness another rise of homeless people now everywhere in the CBD area, even now on the once prestigious Union Square. 

I mean this ruthless American system with very little social protection, well actually none, particularly towards minorities, was not new to me. 

I remember the first time I had to walk through the tenderloin district aka crackhead zombie-land.

But to see empty commercial spaces in once very popular area such as Union Square kind of shows the magnitude of the phenomenon. I mean, even Uniqlo fled the area. And whilst it might sound like a minor event, for me it tells a lot.

But hey, let’s make the most of this stay and try to find the beauty everywhere. This article will be a mix of personal impressions, tips and tricks, and my perspective on the city, taken with my faithful Fujifilm Camera.

As a general guidance, you can click the picture to enlarge them.

The program

Arriving on a Thursday evening, and leaving on a Sunday evening, I had only 2,5 days to complete my bucket list, which was quite packed:

  • Ride the cablecar
  • Hire a bike and ride the Golden Gate
  • Walk through Chinatown and the CBD area
  • Go to he painted ladies with the early morning lights
  • And do some shopping to renew my wardrobe with brands that are usually min 25% more expensive in Europe (Patagonia, TNF, Nike, etc.)

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On top, I had to pay attention to the weather to make sure I would have the best conditions to take my picture.

Weather in San Francisco is always tricky. But in February, it is always trickier. So I checked the weather forecasts and so far, I knew that Friday would be decent, Saturday quite rainy and Sunday Sunny again.

So let’s get ready to rumble and make the most of my time. Fortunately, the jet lag was playing in my favor and I woke up early on Friday.

Day 1

And after a solid breakfast at Zevi Café & Bistro, in a nearby Turkish place, it was time to hit the streets.

Btw. more tips and tricks about hotel, restaurants, shops, at the end of this article

I walked towards Union Square then entering ChinaTown through the Dragon Gate.

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I stopped along the way to catch a few snaps of the Transamerica Pyramid, an emblematic building of San Francisco. For the first time in 16 years, I decided to actually climb to the top of the Coit Tower. Always a first… But the view was really nice.

Heading to the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s wharf

After this, I walked towards Fisherman’s Wharf, a very touristic place albeit quite nice set up on the bay, packed with shops, restaurants, an aquarium, etc.

Time for another a must-do on my bucket list, i.e. a lunch at In & Out Burger, if you know, you know 😉

Time for some exercise to burn the calories accumulated at In&Out

After the light bite, exhibit above, I decided to hire a bike and cycle towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

Whilst a walk to the Golden Gate is also doable, it will take you probably 90min just to get to the bridge. Then probably 1h to cross the bridge and come back, and another 90min to walk back to the wharf.

With a bike, you can do it in less than 2h, if you’re in a decent physical shape. And don’t plan to stop every 500m along the way. And price wise, I paid around 25$ for a 2h rental. You will have also the option to rent an electric bike.

When riding a bike, distances are much shorter, so you should enjoy the view from Battery Spencer. It is a great location to take picture of the bridge, with the city in the background. Very picturesque. And from there, you’ll grasp the full magnitude of the bridge. I mean, when you see a cargo ship cruising underneath, and it looks like a small toy compared to the bridge, it is quite impressive.

Starting to feel tired…

After this, I took the cablecar to go back to Union Square, as my legs started to feel a bit heavy…My phone told me that I had done more than 30k steps that day, which is nearly 26km. Not bad, not bad at all…

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The world famous cablecar

I spent the rest of the day on and around Union Square, Market Street and the Hotel. I did my usual scouting of the shops, to see if prices were really cheaper, and to see if they had the articles I had spotted/shortlisted beforehand.

And after a shower and a small nap at the hotel, I had dinner in a very nice Japanese restaurant, Sakana Sushi & Grill. It is one of my go-to places. And actually one of the few on my list that was still opened and didn’t close down for good. I really like this place and that is why I went there the following day too, and had a great talk with the Chef.

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My kind of dinner… fresh and tasty.

Day 2

Waking up slightly later, I could hear the rain against the window. So this day would be spent mainly inside… Fortunately, the sky would clear up a bit in the afternoon and it would stop raining. So I could enjoy another city walk.

I took the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to an almost sacred place, namely the Chase Center, the new stadium where my favourite team, the Golden State Warriors, had made their home since 2019.

Unfortunately, there was no game scheduled for that weekend.

It was the weekend of the all-star game, taking place this year in Indianapolis. The Warriors played 2 home games, against the Clippers on Feb the 15th, a few days before my arrival, and then the Lakers on Feb the 23rd, i.e. 3 days after my departure.

Next time for sure… Yet they of course have a fan shops where you can get all the merchandise, jerseys, etc. And this is open everyday.

The Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors (GSW)

I spend the rest of the days in shops buying all sort of stuff. Consumerism, your merciless world…

I ended up at Sakana Sushi & Grill for the second evening in a row. Rather late this time, around 9pm. And the place being quite empty, I could have a very interesting and personal conversation with the Chef. I mean sitting at the bar always helps to break the ice, even if like me, you are not the chattiest person in the room.

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Another round of sushi…

We spoke about his humble beginnings when he arrived with his wife in the early 1990s in San Francisco, their life now, how the city has changed and not necessarily for the better… And of course, about the outlook for him in the US, with insurance premium sky rocketing for older people. Long story short, he was considering moving back to Japan for his retirement…

Day 3

After my traditional breakfast at Zevi’s, I took a Uber to the Painted Ladies. I wanted to enjoy the early morning lights to get good shots of the Victorian houses with the skyline of the city in the background.

It was a sunny Sunday morning. Whilst driving through the Tenderloin, the good energy of the day was quite contrasting with the hordes of crackheads and drug addicts spread at every street crossing. This epidemic of opioids is devastating. If you want to get a sense of the magnitude of it, I strongly suggest you watch John Oliver’s bit on Youtube.

After a 10min drive or so, I arrived at the Alamo Square, which feels like a neighbourly place, far from the city’s tumult. Locals are walking their dogs, some enjoy a coffee bought at the little street vendors.

And of course the pack of tourists coming here to fuel their social networks with the highly instagramable views. I cannot blame them, and was probably considered by the many locals as one of them. For obvious reasons… yet I refrained from taking any selfie 😉

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Last two items on the todo list…

After that, I took another Uber to go back to the city center. I had one last spot I had in mind to catch a few snapshots of the cable care and the very steep streets. If you must say, that is the xing of Powell and California Street. This offers several interesting set-ups for creative composition. See:

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I ended my day between the Yerba Buena Gardens and market street to finish my shopping and get some snacks for the flight.

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And slowly, it was time to head back to the hotel to collect my bag and then take the Bart to the Airport. My plane was scheduled at 10pm, so it left me enough time to go through customs/immigration and get a proper meal at the airport.

Next leg, New Zealand…some exciting adventures coming up. Stay tune for the upcoming reporting of one of my greatest trip so far. And beyond excited to see my cousin/brother after more than a year!!

Tips & Tricks

Those three days went fast, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I will leave you now with some tips and tricks so that you can also freeride on my experiences to make the most of an upcoming stay in the Frisco. Do not hesitate to hook me up should you need more specific intel.

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Here I think you’ll have to be a tad strategic and opportunist. There are hundreds of hotels, AirBnBs etc in SF. Depending on the time of the year, but also special events such as the Chinese NYE, you’ll get last minute deals.

So what I would do is browse the booking portals and see what’s available and filter out by price, location, etc. If you stay around Union Square, Market Street, etc. you’ll be quite central and it will be easy to move around. Nob Hill is also quite nice, but a bit outside the main sights, so a bit harder to access. But again, if you feel tired after a long day strolling around, you can always take a Uber/Lyft.

This time, I found a good deal at the Pickwick hotel. So yes, it is not the fanciest boutique hotel you can get in SF. But it is located literally 100m away from the Market St Bart Station. So on a direct line from and to SF Airport.

It was clean, safe and the price was more than OK. I paid around 100$/night (+ taxes of course, we are in the US). And I think for the amount of time you’ll spend in the room, unless you’re on a honeymoon with your partner, it does the job.

HOWEVER, there was a big nono. To avoid homeless people to crash in the adjacent alley, they are outdoor speakers that blast super loud commercial music probably until 3 in the morning. And if you have a light sleep and like me you had a room with the window directly on the alley, then it will be beyond annoying.


Here again, tons of options. So use TripAdvisor or Google to narrow down your options. I really like the Zevi Coffee & Bistro, really next door from the hotel. They boast a wide menu with Sweet and Savory dishes, also healthy ones: all types of eggs, pancakes, etc. So definitely great to have a full stomach before starting a long day.

Otherwise, the Japanese restaurant Sakana is my go-to place. And if you’re a burger fan, In&Out is also a must, considering that you do not find outlets anywhere outside the US, and even not everywhere in the US. The burger chain is located mainly in California, even if they have gradually opened new outlets in Arizona, Texas, etc.

I also often went to a Thai restaurant called iThai. Not the best Thai restaurant I’ve been to in my life, but very decent.

Otherwise, if you just fancy a drink, there was a nice place adjacent to the hotel: Lost Cat Bar and Bites. There was also food on the menu. And I passed by a nice wine bar that was quite packed and from the outside, it looked really nice. It’s Union Larder.


Here again, a bit hard to advise specific shops, as it will depend on what you’re looking for. I would suggest to go to shops selling American brands, such as Patagonia, The North Face, Nike, etc. as prices are generally cheaper than in Europe. Yet, it will depend on the exchange rate at the time of the purchase. The Swiss currency being quite strong at the moment, there is not much to save. However, there are constantly sales in the US, for every occasion almost: Black Friday, NYE, etc.

At the Nike store, they would give you a 25% discount if you’d spend more than 150$ when I was there. So easy to save a few bucks if you plan to buy some shoes and add some apparel to top your purchase.

You have also big department stores such as Macy’s, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, etc. Those are located around Union Square. They boast a wide range of clothing, accessories, etc.

Patagonia was also a bit cheaper than in Europe, maybe 15-20% cheaper. And so was TNF, Burton, etc. If you’re an outdoorsy type of person, you’ll have a great time at REI.

Which is a bit like a heaven for people who like to spend time outside. And they have also a section with heavily discounted products, from the previous year e.g. I bought a GoreTex soft-shell for 99$.

Enough time and an urge to flash your credit card?

If you have time and/or a car, it might be also worth considering heading to one of those big outlet malls they have everywhere in the US.

They are located usually in the outskirts, so if you’re running on a tight schedule and/or don’t have a car, it will take you too much time. But if you do, then you’ll find all the major brands with hefty discounts: Nike, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, The North Face, Hurley, etc. Some premium outlets boast even luxury brands: Prada, Coach, Burberry, etc. So if you’re into that…

Last but not least, bear in mind that sale taxes are not included in the price advertised on the label. So you’ll have to add on avg. 10% to have your final price. Something I’ve had always a hard time to understand.

But well, this is how it works in the US, since even two cities in the same state can have different sale taxes.

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