The Stunning Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Think of San Francisco and I'm pretty sure the Golden Gate Bridge will come to mind so we obviously couldn't go there and not see it. In actual fact we saw quite a lot of it over the course of our holiday and it's fair to say that we ended up thinking it was pretty spectacular.

On my first visit to San Francisco I recall I went on a boat trip which took us out underneath the bridge. However as that was a few years ago and I was on a boat it's fair to say I didn't appreciate just how far out it was from the centre of the city by foot. This only became apparent when we decided to walk there but honestly the views at the end were totally worth that walk. The walk began with an amazing breakfast at a place that came highly recommended, there will be more soon on all the fantastic breakfasts we enjoyed whilst there, that breakfast though was the perfect start to the day. Our breakfast venue also meant that we'd already started heading in the right direction for the bridge so afterwards we just kept on walking.

The first part of the walk took us through largely suburban areas with some lovely properties and lots of local independent shops which reminded me a lot of the area we live in in Edinburgh with all its little shops and restaurants etc. Eventually we left these built up suburbs behind us and entered into more open country. Whilst, as I said, it was quite a walk it meant we got to see a whole lot more of the city than I did on my first visit. As we got closer to the bridge we entered into the Presido of San Francisco, a park and former US military fort and now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Presido was originally a Spanish fort, sited there in 1776, it was briefly operated as a Mexican fortification after Mexican independence from Spain in 1821 but was seized by the US military at the start of the Mexican-American war in 1846 and remained a military base until 1994. With our aim being to get to the Golden Gate bridge we only saw a very small part of the park, there are museums, beaches, picnic areas, scenic spots and loads more to discover though if you have the time.

Somewhere else worth mentioning that we saw just before entering the Presido area was the Palace of Fine Arts. It's a strikingly beautiful building but when we passed it as we didn't know what it was or why it was there it did seem a slightly odd place for such a building to be. It turns out it was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific exposition in order to exhibit works of art. It's one of only a few buildings left from this and it too was never meant to still be here but was saved from demolition thanks to the Palace Preservation League, set up whilst the fair was still in progress. 

When it was first built it was one of ten palaces in the city which all formed part of the exhibition. The architect for this one, Bernard Maybeck, took his inspiration from Roman and Ancient Greek architecture. After the exhibition finished the palace was put to a number of uses including housing eighteen tennis courts, during the Second World War it was a storage place for trucks and jeeps and at one point was used as a temporary Fire Department headquarters. However the building had not been built to last and by the 1950s as a result of its construction and vandalism it was crumbling. In the 1960s the original palace was demolished with just its steel structure left behind, it was then completely rebuilt with all the decorations and sculptures recreated.

View towards the city with the Palace of Fine Arts in the foreground

Keeping on with our walk we passed lots of former military buildings as well as the Crissy Field, a one time army airfield and old stables as well as the San Francisco national cemetery. By this point we were finally getting closer to the bridge and after finding (along with many other walkers and cyclists) some great viewing and photo spots we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. Here you can find out more about the history of the bridge, as well as see a photo and some information about another iconic reddy orange coloured bridge not too far away from me here in Edinburgh. You can take a break as well with some refreshments in the cafe before continuing on or returning back the way you came. We ended up getting a taxi back to the city from here satisfied that we'd got there and seen it really close up.

The idea for a bridge across the Golden Gate, the stretch of water that the bridge spans and where it got its name from, had been suggested many times but it was a proposal in 1916 that finally made it a possibility. Even then the proposal faced a lot of opposition with construction only finally beginning in January 1933. Construction was finished and the bridge opened in May 1937 and up until 1964 it had the longest suspension bridge main span in the world. Its famous colour was originally used just as a sealant, the US Navy originally wanted it to be painted with black and yellow stripes so it was visible to passing ships. The colour was kept though as it was viewed as complementing the natural surroundings of the bridge and enhancing its visibility in fog. 

Heading over the bridge under those famous towers

I mentioned above that we ended up seeing quite a lot of the bridge during our stay. As well as walking to the bridge we also got to go across it twice on the hop on and off city tour bus. When we did that we were lucky enough to be on the open top deck of the bus and whilst it was pretty windy we got some spectacular views and it was a lot of fun. Later on during our holiday, and after a little trip to Napa, (more on that soon) we got to drive over the bridge ourselves too, my husband at the wheel, something I think he really enjoyed doing. Fittingly on that day the famous San Francisco fog was in abundance and the bridge was shrouded in mist, having seen it under brilliant blue skies it was nice to see it fog bound too at least once on the trip.

I've not really thought too much about it before but I think I might have a bit of a thing for bridges. You can't deny this one is quite stunning as is another favourite of mine, the Forth rail bridge just on my doorstep. Despite having seen the bridge before there was still something very special about getting closer than before with both a walk to it and getting to travel over it several times. The Golden Gate bridge really is a beauty!


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