The captivating city of San Francisco was the site of the recent Travel Associates Leadership Conference. These are the highlights of the trip, straight from the mouths of some of Australia’s most experienced consultants. They have been around the world a couple of times or maybe more, but were still enchanted by The City by the Bay.
1. Golden Gate sunrise
"Actually my straight up highlight would be the early morning run as the sun was coming up over the Golden Gate Bridge. The lights of the harbour were just stunning, coming in to view as I ran through Ghirardelli Square then on to the park at Fort Mason. Then the bridge appeared in a beautiful glow... it was quite magical.
You always see those iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin County side, but this sunrise viewpoint was unbeatable."
Greg Ashmore, Ashmore & James Travel Associates, VIC
2. Tasty, salted pig parts
"An absolute highlight was the Boccalone shop, which specialises in ‘Tasty Salted Pig Parts’! It’s an ethical, gourmet, meaty delight, with a focus on enhancing the natural flavours of pork, rather than masking it. The founders and owners Chris and Mark have always been passionate about artisan food, and when Mark's restaurant patrons kept asking to take home Chris's hand-made salumi, they seized the opportunity to branch out. The food scene in California is like no other part of America -it's so fresh and environmentally conscious, and each innovation has fascinating back story."
Meaghan Wolf , Wolf & Turner Travel Associates, VIC
3. Riding the trams
"A definite must is a tram ride from Fishermans Wharf to Union Square. Make sure you stand up and hold on to the railing as you fly up and down the hills of San Fran, and enjoy riding a little piece of history - this cable car system is the only one that still operates like this, with the manually operated cars running in street traffic, and was saved from extinction through the passion of the locals."
Kylie Apps, Apps & Turner Travel Associates, NSW
4. Gooey cheese
"I loved the Ferry Plaza Farmer Market; the buzz and the smells were just so exciting! It's bursting with fresh produce, artisan foods, and lots of educational opportunities, which really sets it apart from your everyday market. My favourite food was the cheese. There was a traditional raclette stand where they were melting the delicious cheese and then scraping it off on to fresh bread, cold meats and gherkins... mmmmm."
Jordarna Samuel, Samuel & Turner Travel Associates, NT
5. Checking out the hoods
"The neighbourhoods of San Francisco are truly diverse, and distinct in character and charm.
Visit North Beach to immerse yourself in the flavours of Italy, go to Haight-Ashbury for a flash back to the 60s and check out Chinatown for a taste of the Orient. I loved going from area to area and seeing the influences of culture and history over time."
Tracy Barry, Barry, Buttigieg & Turner Travel Associates, VIC
6. Sea lions
"I loved visiting the stinky, lazy, laughing sea lions, who hang out all over each other on Pier 39. They have been hauling themselves up onto K-Dock since 1989, and today there are almost 2000 sea lions that call Pier 39 home. They have become a much-loved feature of the pier, which is the city's most visited tourist attraction, with its shopping, restaurants and entertainment options."
Lolo Trendell, Trendell & Turner Travel Associates, QLD
7. Clam chowder
"I had not tried a lot of chowder before this trip, but now I am a big fan. A creamy bowl of steaming chowder accompanied by fresh sourdough bread is a match made in heaven! Chowder is a San Fran staple, and has been served in the area since the 17th century, having traveled from the English settlers on the East Coast. San Francisco's sourdough is known as the tastiest in the country, due to its unique bacteria species. While chowder might have been originally borrowed from the east, the sourdough bread bowl thing is 100% San Francisco, and it's easy to see why it caught on like a house on fire!"
Amy Raats Meacock, Raats & Turner Travel Associates, WA
8. The Rock
"A visit to Alcatraz is a must. Not only do you get to see the former prison and experience the history and isolation of the place, you also get a fantastic little cruise and great views of San Francisco harbour and the bridges. There's so much more history here than just what you see in the movies. Not only were Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly inmates, but before their time there were Civil War prisoners, and after the prison closed, there was a Native American protest occupation."
Tony Freedman, Freedman, Langhorne & James Travel Associates, VIC
"I love exploring the streets of San Francisco. Wandering through the iconic architecture of this beautiful city can easily steal away a day from you. There are the gorgeous Victorian terrace houses that everyone knows from Full House, and then the wild switchbacks of Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world. The dome of the Palace of Fine Arts is a beautiful surprise, and then you have that soaring Transamerica Pyramid. It's really interesting to see how the city has been shaped by the topography and historical events."
Angela Lyons, Lyons & Turner Travel Associates, NSW
10. Bouli Bar
"Our meal at Bouli Bar was incredible; - wood-fired pizzas, a fresh Middle Eastern salad washed down with a superb Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from the Napa Valley."
Kelly West, Noller & Turner Travel Associates, QLD
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11. The best chocolate shop ever
"The 'Chocolate Store' in Fisherman's Wharf is the best chocolate shop I’ve ever visited, although Ghirardelli is a close second. I brought a variety of chocolate back to the staff; we all agree it is incredible. The choices are endless – there’s a million different, shapes and sizes, and unlimited flavours. As well as chocolate, there are fudges, candies and magnificent ice cream; all to die for."
Wayne Ackerfeld, Ackerfeld & Goldberg Travel Associates, VIC
12. Day trip to Napa Valley
"With so many wonderful wineries to choose from in the Napa area, it takes something special to stand out. The modern styling of Artesa Vineyard & Winery and its location on perched on top of a hill with sweeping views of the surrounding Napa wineries makes it an exceptional choice for a visit. With enthusiastic and passionate winemakers welcoming you with a glass of their cava influenced bubbles, accompanied by fabulous local meats and cheeses in the form of a tasting platter, what's not to love?"
Becky Kent-Perchalla, Perchalla & Turner Travel Associates, SA
13. Touring the market
"It's so hard to pick one favourite thing, however mine would have to be the Ferry Building & Farmers Market tour. Our guide shared her in depth knowledge with us of the artisans behind the food. It was amazing to see how talented and creative people are with food. I would definitely recommend not eating before hand, as you get to sample delicious cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, sourdough loaves from Acme bread, and French macrons from Miette - which was named one of the top ten pastry shops in the world."
Kerrie Fellowes, Maria, Fellowes & Turner Travel Associates, NSW
*Photos: Getty Images