After spending an amazing few days in Yosemite, we all headed back to San Francisco to see what the city had to offer. We were up extra early because we had a tour of Alcatraz scheduled. For those of you who don’t know what Alcatraz is, it’s a teeny tiny island off the bay that served the army by holding a military prison as a maximum-security federal penitentiary. Although not still occupied today, they use the deserted island as a national parkland.
This is a very highly anticipated attraction so if you’re planning on visiting during peak season, I’d recommend making a reservation. You have to take a boat to the island and they can only hold so many people. I hear summer reservations fill up instantly. If you’re brave enough, they also offer night tours.
This is the amazing few of the city from Alcatraz. You can choose to do a self-guided tour or you can do an audio tour. We decided the audio tour would be best since we really didn’t know much about the prison. It’s actually terrifying walking through a deserted prison, but a really great experience non the less. I don’t think you could pay me enough to walk through at night…
After we finished up our tour we decided to go see the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
There are several different car pull offs where you can stop and take pictures, each offering a different view.
Before we all headed back to our hotel, we needed some ice cream. We visited Ghiradelli’s ice cream shop and it was DIVINE. We actually went two or three times total because it was so yummy.
We started our next day by taking a duck tour. If you have never experienced a duck tour, you’re missing out! You start by driving around the city and then eventually the vehicle forms into a boat when you enter water….hence the name. I’ve experienced a few and they’re always a blast, especially as a group!
Our duck tour started and ended at AT&T Park…home of the San Francisco Giants!
It’s always fun to see behind the scenes at different stadiums, and when you have access to the field, even better!
The Giant’s stadium is really unique because it sits on the water! Any home runs send the balls straight into the water, which would be a really cool experience.
For lunch, we visited Little Italy and all ordered delicious slices of pizza. Since this was our last day, we all split up and did whatever we really wanted to do.
We ended the day with a California staple. 🙂 To read about the first half of our trip to Yosemite click here.
To begin our trip, Taylor and I flew from Philadelphia to San Francisco where we met his family. Once we arrived and found everyone, we headed outside to retrieve our 15 passenger rental van. We all hopped aboard and started the 5 hour trek to Yosemite. The traffic in San Francisco is real and painful. Thankfully time passed quickly, and when we were about an hour away from our cabin, we stopped at a grocery store to stock up on food for the next few days. Just picture 10 of us running around a grocery store and leaving with several shopping carts PILED with food. We weren’t planning on eating out so we needed to grab as much as we could to survive.
The views on the way up were incredible! We had to stop several times to take pictures because you can’t pass up scenery like this! Fun fact: Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and is roughly the size of Rhode Island.
Yay! We finally made it!
We were up the following day bright and early and left the cabin at 9am. This wasn’t much of a problem for anyone since California is 3 hours behind eastern time. We all packed our lunches and backpacks and set out for a full day of hiking and exploring.
One of our first stops was Bridal Veil Fall Vista. This was a really simple half mile trail that lead to the falls.
Our next stop was Cathedral Beach where we could view the Three Brothers Vista. From there we visited the Swinging Bridge picnic area for lunch.
These pictures don’t do the scenery justice. Everywhere you looked was breathtaking.
If you’re wondering why we’re all pointing at the sky, there were people rock climbing up these huge mountains. Rock climbing takes so much strength and energy and I have no idea how they do it, but i’m sure the view at the end is worth it!
Once we arrived back to our cabin for dinner, we all got out our enos and relaxed. You can’t take a trip to the mountains and not bring your hammock…
I wish I would have tracked how many miles we walked throughout our entire time in Yosemite. Judging by how sore my legs were the next morning, I could tell it was a lot!
Remember that picture of Half Dome in the very beginning? Well this is me standing victoriously in front of it.
This has to be one of my favorite views in the world. You just can’t find this over on the east coast.
Laugh at the hat all you’d like, but the sun burn was REAL being that high up!
After we were done hiking on day 2, we went back to our cabin and had another dinner at the house. We were up bright and early the following day as usual to squeeze in as much as we could.
The third day was my favorite! We were going to see the massive sequoia trees at Mariposa Grove!!
This is me standing next to the roots of a sequoia. HOLY MOLY! Sequoia trees are not the oldest or tallest living things, but they are the largest in total volume. As you can see, Sequoias do not have deep tap roots, however they spread a good distance and they remain close to the surface where they can absorb more water. They estimate that their roots only dig about 6 feet, but they can fan out more than 150 feet.
When you are walking through the sequoia tree forest, some of the most iconic trees are named, so it makes it easy to pick them out, such as the Grizzly Giant which is one of the largest trees in the Mariposa Grove and is estimated to be 1,800 years old!
Some other favorites include the Faithful Couple, the Clothespin, the Telescope tree, and the Wawona Tunnel.
The Wawona Tunnel tree is one of the most famous trees in the world. Between 1881 and 1969 you could actually drive your car through it.
After we walked THROUGH the middle of the tree, we stopped to take a picture. What a great looking group:)
Incase you don’t believe me when I say these trees are MASSIVE!
Although there are a ton of old sequoia trees to see, the forest doesn’t offer a ton of young and growing ones. This is because these massive trees need direct sunlight, enough moisture, and bare mineral soil. There are so many trees in this forest that there isn’t much sunlight for the tiny guys trying to grow.
We spent all day wondering around and looking at these beautiful trees. I would highly recommend adding this to your itinerary if you ever get a chance to visit Yosemite. Heck, go to Yosemite just to see these trees!! You won’t regret it. Somehow, we ended up on a hiking trail while we were viewing everything, which lead us to more awesome trees.
Backpacking through Berlin was so much fun! Personally, this was our first time backpacking and I was a little worried I wouldn’t have enough stuff and it would be a mess. In all honesty it rained 90% of our trip so we really only needed a sweatshirt, jeans, sneakers, and a raincoat and we were all set! Germany is such a clean and friendly place where tourists are welcomed. I’ve taken a few German courses throughout high school and college but am not fluent by any means, but most German’s speak english which was a HUGE help for us. Before arriving, we booked a reservation with a tour group called Sandemans. If you’re looking for a tour by foot that isn’t too big, provides a ton of historical background, and is affordable, then this is the group for you! They have locations all over the place and the best part is, it’s free! Basically, people who live in the city give tours and tips are encouraged at the end. Not that we’ve ever experienced a bad tour, but if you didn’t enjoy your tour guide you wouldn’t have to tip. But if you loved them, you give them whatever you felt they deserved. All you have to do is register for your tour and they offer several different language options.
Taylor and I enjoyed doing these tours our very first day. This way, we can scope out the city and find out what’s worth it and what’s not. When we stumble upon places we really like we make a mental note to visit during our following days. Most tour guides are willing to tell you anything you want to know and because they get paid through tips, they will be very honest. They will let you know where you should invest your time and about those hidden treasures you typically wouldn’t find near the tourist attractions.
Our tour started right in front of the Brandenburg Gate. We had some time to kill before the tour so we got some Starbucks and met a new friend! Taylor is really great at meeting new people and making friends everywhere we go. It must be a southern thing 🙂 but it’s always a great thing because locals are always willing to tell you hidden secrets about the city.
Our tour guide took us to a German chocolate shop! If you go to Germany and don’t try their chocolate, you’ve failed…at least in my book ;
The tour lasted about 1.5 hours and gave us a lot of valuable information!
Berlin offers a lot of history but is also very modern. I think I could definitely live in Berlin and adjust just fine.
If you’re ever in Berlin, you will more than likely stumble upon the Holocaust memorial which is dedicated to the Jewish victims that lost their lives. Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold are the designers and they didn’t want to specifically say how we are supposed to interpret the piece. They wanted everyone who came to leave with their own interpretation and understanding. It’s truly remarkable.
Beneath the memorial is a holocaust exhibit which is free of charge and we’d definitely recommend it.
You can’t go to Germany and not take a picture of the Berlin wall! There are several pieces still up and a line drawn on the streets where the wall used to be.
Don’t forget about Checkpoint Charlie either!
German food is SO GOOD. Taylor wasn’t a huge fan, but German is in my roots and I loved everything I ate. Don’t get me started on the sausage sandwich I had…TWICE.
The next day we had plans to visit the Berlin zoo! You can read about it here.
After a lot of time and planning we have finally decided to start documenting our travels online for the world to see. Taylor and I have always shared a common love for traveling and the desire just keeps growing, so why not share!?
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