san francisco.

December 17, 2018

Last stop on our Grand Tour of 2018: San Francisco!

J had a work conference that mandated a trek to San Fran, and I was all too eager to leap at the chance to experience a bucket list city of mine. We (a mere four days after returning from Texas--don't know how you frequent fliers do it) boarded another flight to California, admittedly a bit anxious about the wildfires that were feverishly tearing through the state nearly 200 miles north, as we'd heard the smoke was creeping as far south as the city. Sure enough, the sky gripped a thick, haunting sheet of gray as we descended into SFO. We trudged on with weekend plans, mindful of the residents who--in addition to the constant donning of surgical masks--were tasked with going about their days-to-days while dealing with the uncertainty of a horrific disaster looming counties away.

Saturday, we concluded our five hours of flying, then settled in at our downtown hotel for a bit. before finally skirting out for burritos at a local place that came recommended (Papalote--pretty decent! The salsa was unique and really good). A couple blocks away, we indulged in late night coffee and sweets at Mission Pie, which I can absolutely recommend.

Sunday morning, we set out exploring--first stop was the Ferry Building Marketplace. Such a unique smattering of shops and eateries under one walkable roof, overlooking the beautiful bay. We sampled small batch chocolate at Dandelion, snacked on empanadas at El PorteƱo, and scooped up macarons at Miette. We ogled pottery at Heath Ceramics and I grabbed a tea towel and Christmas ornament (my favorite travel souvenirs) at Village Market.

From the Ferry Marketplace, we Lyfted over (at the hand of perhaps the most SF-sports-trivia-informed driver known to mankind--bless you, Chris) to Baker Beach-- a locale we'd been recommend due to its being a bit off the standard tourist path, and therefore a little slower and less populated. Thankfully, the smoke had dissipated a bit and we lounged in the cool sand and took in the sputtering of salty, breezy waves for a lazy, early afternoon.

After retiring to the hotel for a bit so J could get conference-ready, we departed a while later for dinner at flour+water. Sweet Lord, can we pause a minute to reflect on one of the best meals of my life?


Thank you.

After dinner, we walked over to Trick Dog for cocktails... a painfully cool (and easy to miss, unmarked) bar right up the street. Fun fact: the folks there create a cookbook once every six months, which doubles as their bar menu. The drinks were superb and the atmosphere really hip, and yet inviting.

Monday, I ferried over to Alcatraz and was completely transfixed for the duration of the morning. I'd always known the island to be the site of the infamous prison, but never gleaned many details beyond that. The audio tour is incredible--I highly recommend fitting this experience into your San Fran travel plans. There are fascinating details woven into the 3-4 hours of exploring there--for example: did you know the site was considered too expensive to keep operable in the '60s as a prison, therefore it was closed--a handful of years later, a group of American Indians staked their claim there for nearly two years in an effort to protest their having been removed from their native lands across the country? Oh, I ate it up. So much detail and a very well curated excursion.

I made my way back to land and grabbed an underwhelming lunch at the Wharf before admiring the smelly sea lions, basking on their piers. I found my way to Ghirardelli Square, bought my body weight in peppermint bark and chocolate, then carefully selected souvenirs at Lola, an adorable shop in the cluster of retail at Ghirardelli Square. A long afternoon done, I settled in at the bar at San Francisco Brewing Company for a flight before ambitiously walking the nearly completely vertical climb to Russian Hill Bookstore. After grabbing some gems, I quite literally stumbled into the Loving Cup for some froyo before meandering back to the hotel to my sweetie.

Night two of dinner began at Finn Town, in the Castro District, followed by cocktails (and attempting to avoid what may have been the most awkward first date ever) at the Beehive--a '60s-vibey lounge with drinks to match.

Tuesday, I again kissed my guy goodbye, as I pounded pavement for my last morning in the big city. First up was breakfast at Wooden Spoon--incredible huevos rancheros and an adorable vibe--not to mention fabulous conversation with the bartender, who shared her San Fran story with me. I walked deeper into the Mission District to grab a beverage at Bi-Rite and all of the baked goodness at Tartine. I finally found myself at Dogeared Books (are you finding a trend here?), where I got lost for a bit before needing to make my way back to J at the hotel, and our awaiting departure for the airport.

All in all, it was a whirlwind weekend tailored to exactly what we love: indulgent food and cocktails, history, time outside, some solid retail. A few tips, before I go:

  • We spent a lot of our time in the Mission District. This wasn't planned--it just happened to fall into place based on the places we wanted to patron.
  • It should come as no surprise that the heavily tourist areas are around the Wharf, and Pier 39, and sure, Alcatraz too. When we travel, we gravitate toward the holes-in-the-walls, or at least, places that are highly reputable, but don't necessarily top every tourist list that is google-able in a five-second whim.
  • Some elements surprised me about San Fran too. The homeless population is expansive, and parents of downtown are considerably gritty (as most large cities can claim). There were entire streets dedicated to rows of tents and clusters of people gathering together. 
  • While a lot of areas are adjacent enough to each other to glance at a map and think you can walk, be wary of the incline! There is substantial fluctuation in elevation throughout the city--so consider yourself warned.
  • Something that dazzled me was the depth and span of culture and ethnicity that covered the city--as millennial-esque as it sounds, of our 8-10 Lyft drivers, they all appeared to be from a vastly different background based on physical traits, the music they were listening to, the conversations we had. This fascinated to me to no end--I drank it up.

All-in-all, a pretty magical weekend! I can't wait to go back.

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