Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lands End & Coastal Trail: Urban Hiking in San Francisco

One of the things I love about San Francisco is the fact that it's a big, urban city, but there are pockets within it that feel like a whole different world. An example of this is Lands End and the Presidio, where the beauty of nature shines through and you forget that you are in a major metropolis.

I first stumbled upon Lands End on one of my SF trips years ago, when I was still living in LA and visiting my friend Elaine. I had to find ways to amuse myself while she was at work, and I decided that I would explore and head out to Ocean Beach. From there, I climbed up the hill to the Cliff House, to the Camera Obscura, and just kept going until I stumbled upon an amazing view of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. It has been one of my favorite places in the city ever since.

June organized a group hike for her dog's birthday, and I was super excited to go back to Lands End. Even better was the fact that the weather was gorgeous - which is rare in this part of the city (but Lands End is also pretty magical in the fog).

The actual trail head starts a bit past Cliff House. There is a visitors center right near the start, and a turnoff to go down the stairs to Sutro Baths, which was a glamorous bath house in the early 20th century.

The structure was burned down by a fire in the 1960s, and these ruins are all that remain. This is also another one of my favorite things in the city - it's one of my favorite spots to take photos! The textures, the reflections, and the view of the ocean makes for some great images.

We then climbed back up towards the main part of the trail, and were treated to this  view of the Golden Gate Bridge peeking out.

I love the cypress forest here, and they make a great backdrops during photo shoots. And, when you win with the weather and come here during golden hour, the light streaming through the trees is absolutely magical (I actually did do a shoot here recently and will share those photos in a post shortly).

There are stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the rugged coastline all throughout the trail, and the bridge becomes closer and closer as you go on.

The bridge is one of those things that still blows me away even after all these year. That pop of color always catches my eye and captures my heart every time I see it.

You can see remains from 3 shipwrecks from the trail, and there is also a turnoff for another trail that leads to the Legion of Honor. There is also another detour to a labrynth (I really want to do this next time, but I always forgets that it exists!) The trail ends when it hits El Camino del Mar (near 33rd Ave). From there, you can turn back, walk to the Legion, or continue along to the Golden Gate Bridge.

To get to the second part of the trail, you will walk through the Seacliff neighborhood - home to the McMansions of San Francisco. From there, you will encounter an entrance to Baker Beach, and from there you will connect to the second part of the trail (Batteries to Bluffs).

The trail will lead into Marshall Beach, which has stunning rugged coastline and super epic views of the bridge. It is a bit hilly and there are many stairs in this part of the trail, but it is also the most beautiful part.

I really want to come back here and walk down to the actual beach part and hang out. It really looks spectacular.

From there, there is a view point as you get closer to the bridge.

Soon enough, you will get to the Golden Gate Bridge vista! Again, I am still totally and completely blown away by the bridge  (is that cheesy?).

We opted to walk down the trail that leads to Crissy Field, which is also another one of my favorite spots in the city for the grassy knolls, the wide open space, and the view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

All in all, it was about 5 miles from start to finish. Seeing all this beauty in this part of the city made me really, really thankful to be able to call San Francisco home.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

An Afternoon in Pisa

Pisa is a cute little university city located on the Arno river, and is known for one thing - you know, that leaning tower.

It makes the perfect little day trip (especially if you're on your way to Florence), and while there is not much more to do than what can be done in a day, Here are some reasons you should make a quick little trip in this charming little city -

It is easily accessible (and a cheap entry point into Tuscany)
Pisa is easily accessible by air or train. Trenitalia offers frequent service to nearby Florence, but you can also travel easily to and from other cities in Italy. The Pisa airport is a hub for Ryanair, and there are very affordable flights (which was the reason I ended up making the stop there, on the way into Florence). Once you fly into the Pisa Airport, it is a short bus/taxi ride away into the Pisa Centrale Station, where you can drop off your bags.

It is a city easily explored on foot
From the train station to the Leaning Tower (which, let's face it, THAT'S WHY YOU CAME TO PISA), it is about a 20-minute walk. This makes for a lovely stroll, where you pass through the Walking Street (Corso Italia), and the lively piazzas.

It has pretty river views...
Pisa is along the Arno river, and it has some beautiful views. There are all the colorful little buildings, and even a little church along the river. And, it's hard to beat that view with the late afternoon light!

It is a charming, rustic Tuscan city.
The streets have so much charm and it's got that rustic Tuscan vibe. I strolled up Via Santa Maria, which leads you to the Leaning Tower. It was the perfect little street to stroll through, and the perfect intro to the Italy part of my trip.

There is delicious food!
There are a bunch of restaurants on Via Santa Maria. I had lunch at Il Pepperoncino, and it was delicious! It was a cute spot, and the pasta was cooked to perfection. Also stop by Filter if you're in the mood for a cup of coffee (which, after waking up at 4am that morning, I definitely was).

To see the Leaning Tower
Because, let's be real here - that's why everyone comes to Pisa. And take ridiculous, touristy photos with the tower.

It is worth a climb up the tower (because, you may as well since you're there). The climb up is a bit strange - you feel like you're going to fall over because the tower is leaning. But once I got to the top, I enjoyed the view of the river, the green Tuscan hills, and the red-roofed houses.

Go see the Bapistry and Cathedral
Right across the piazza from the tower is the Bapistry and Cathedral. I did not do the Bapistry because I was in a time crunch, but I hear it is worth the climb up for the unique view of the tower. The Cathedral is gorgeous inside, and definitely worth a visit!

And there you have it - a perfect afternoon in Pisa! Have you ever been? Anything else to see/do?