The final destination of our California/Nevada road trip was San Francisco! To recap, Friday evening after work (Alyssa and Seiji’s wedding!) we drove to Albany, Oregon. Saturday we drove to Reno, Nevada. On Sunday, we visited Lake Tahoe during the day and early Monday morning (5am kind of early!) we drove to Yosemite National Park on the way to Stockton, CA. We stayed overnight with Kristen’s aunt (as we did in Reno as well! Thank you Pam and Linda!) and then headed into San Fran with Kristen.
Her husband Caleb was working in Lodi (renovating a house) so Kristen came with us into the city for a half day before transiting back to the ‘burbs. We checked out Pier 39 and wandered through the Ferry Building before meeting my friend Em (the Gem ;)) for lunch. Randy and I both ordered fish tacos at Gott’s… and they were so, so good. As were the ten sweet potato fries I snuck off of Emily’s plate.
Emily’s cute, cute baby Charlotte!
After saying goodbye to Kristen and Emily, Randy and I checked into a bed and breakfast. It was called “The Inn at San Francisco” and we found it on Yelp. We have nothing but amazing things to say about this hotel! It’s in an interesting area. We didn’t know much about San Francisco (I’ve been a few times…. but it’s different when you’re younger. I walked around aimlessly, ignorant of history) but turns out the area we were staying in is called the Mission. Nearby, there’s a history of serious gang wars but in recent years, the area has become really trendy/hipster-ish. In the evening after dinner at Cafe Claude, we caught a cab back to the Inn. Our hispanic cab driver laughed when we told him the address. “No SHIT. There’s an inn here? Been driving these streets for ten years, didn’t no there was an f-ing inn! I speed by this street fast as I can!”
Made us laugh. He was being a tad dramatic. The area feels safe and the location was perfect for browsing Valencia Street shops and cafes, which we did the next morning. Although it is a 15 minute drive from the main downtown – honestly, for the price and the service we received we highly, highly recommend staying at The Inn at San Francisco on your next visit.
From the moment we arrived, the front desk staff was super helpful. San Francisco is an expensive city to stay in. Even the most basic of hotel rooms downtown was close to $300 a night. The Inn at San Francisco was $195 per night for a double bed and $255 for a queen bed. We decided to sacrifice for the extra savings and book the double bed. When we arrived, the Inn let us know they’ve upgraded our room to the queen! For the same price. That’ll make you love a place right off the bat. After handing us our room keys, the lady walked us around the Inn for a tour.
This bathroom was right inside our room – with a separate toilet area behind a door. Loved this tub!
Their own stationary was throughout the home.
Ghirardelli chocolate was placed in our room after every cleaning! Under those cups.
Even these little details were quaint and cute.
This spiral staircase led to a rooftop deck.
There was the main lounge area plus breakfast room with coffee and tea and complimentary drinks 24/7. In the backyard, a garden area and a hot tub, also open 24 hours a day. The inn had three floors, all with different guest rooms plus a fourth floor rooftop with 360 degree views of the city. If we needed anything at all, we were to let her know. She also left us with two maps of the city including clearly marked restaurant suggestions (close to 50!) in the walkable area. On our way out of the inn, we asked for Transit directions to downtown and the staff was super knowledgeable. Another thing we appreciated was, at the beginning of our tour, another customer walked in. She said hello to them, asked if they were checking in, they said yes. She directed them to feel free to bring in their bags, she’d finish our tour and be back with them in two minutes. Every interaction was welcoming and professional, even how the staff would greet every customer with “Welcome Home” when the front door opened.
Included in our room rate, was a complimentary breakfast buffet. When you hear complimentary buffet, I usually think a few pieces of toast and some fruit and cereal. Not here! They had a full table of fruit, mangoes, pineapple, strawberries, grapes, melons, bananas, apples. Six different kinds of cereals, including two gluten free kinds (!!) and a fridge stocked with milk and almond milk. Hard-boiled eggs, two freshly baked quiches, pumpkin pie (interesting choice for breakfast, but hey, it was there), three kinds of breads, plus bagels, date bread, lemon loaf and oatmeal. It was impressive.
On our first and only full day in San Francisco, we started with a list of recommendations from Emily. She directed us to the Valencia Street area, which was so close to us! Totally our scene, it turned out to be our favourite part of the day.
Randy captured this shot. It’s a pretty nice candid…
We walked and found ourselves at Craftsmen and Wolves coffee. We love browsing different kinds of cafes. Randy loves coffee and food, in general. So anything unique/foodie-ish, he’s all over. The decor was pretty rad.
Next, we walked into Dandelion Chocolate. It’s a chocolate shop that produces it’s own products locally. These people know chocolate. My favourite part was the “tasting” samples. Every chocolate store should have samples. New rule. We tried four different kinds of dark chocolate, all with beans from different origins. Loved reading about how the chocolate was made and watching the staff pour each bar and pop it into the refrigerator. Dandelion holds tours on Saturday mornings and select weekdays – which is a sweet idea.
After that, we were on our way to Bi-Rite Creamery, an Emily recommendation. Randy looooves ice cream. (Like, his face lights up when you mention ice cream, kinda love.) And I love the idea of it! But I’m dairy-free. We have our Vancouver favourite, Rain or Shine, that has coconut milk ice cream and behold, Bi-Rite Creamery had coconut milk ice cream too! So, so good. We were the first customers when the store opened at 11am. Keeners.
While we waited for Bi-Rite to open, we noticed 18 Reasons. It’s an event/kitchen space with the purpose of educating the surrounding community on how to cook healthy food. They have open classes and the space can also be rented out. If you’re a yearly member, you get a discount on classes and different events. Every Thursday night 18 Reasons turns into a cafe as well. We peered in the windows and loved what we saw.
Something else neat about the Mission area was all of the graffiti walls. We found one alley covered on both sides with art. We wandered down taking every colour in, when we stopped at a black and white piece. A homeless man lay behind us and he asked, “Do you know the history of this place?” We turned around and said no, we didn’t. “Do you want to know?” He asked. “Sure!” I said. He sat up a little bit and pointed at the black and white wall in front of us. He went onto explain the graffiti from left to right. This neighbourhood used to be divided between two different Mexican gangs. One of the leaders only daughter was killed in an act of violence and the leader was never the same. He felt anger, guilt, sadness and most importantly, a commitment to change his gang involvement. He left violence for good and opened up a handful of print shops. One day walking out his store he was shot dead by a member of the enemy gang. I’m sure I’ve missed some of the details as I’m writing from memory, but that’s his portrait in colour on the right-hand side of the photo.
The man who told us the story was very well-spoken and sincerely a great story teller. I was so thankful he asked us if we knew the history and took the time to speak to us. I’m glad we stopped and engaged him in conversation too. You can never judge someone’s intelligence or story by their appearance. When we walked away, I wished I had asked to take his photograph.
The theme of our day was WALKING. Here’s my conflict with walking in cities. Nobody wants to look silly, right? Running shoes look silly in the city. Unless you’re on a trail or at the gym. Or running errands in yoga pants or something, though that’s not really my style. I wish I had been in running shoes on Wednesday instead I was in trendy leather sandals. These were not made to walk 5 hours. But walk 5 hours we did. I want a pair of those trendy Nike free-runners or something, to save my feet and save my style pride for city walking.
So, after ice cream, we walked down to Hayes Street neighbourhood. Through the shops and restaurants and up to Alamo Square. Hills, hills, hills. We rested in the park, admired the Painted Ladies, took our shoes off, drank some water and continued. We settled on Chez Maman for lunch. Cute french cafe on the corner. Good people watching, good food. After lunch we walked to Market Street and caught the F train to Pier 39.
iPhone selfies to round out this post:
It wasn’t that easy. We originally went down to the BART only to realize the subway doesn’t travel that way. After we refilled our cards. Alright, so we walk back up to the buses and are trying to decipher the map. A homeless man wanders over and says, “Where you trying to go?” Ghirardelli Square. “Here’s what you do! You see that train track? Go stand over there on the median. Wait for the F train. Get on the train and take that all the way to Pier 39. Stay on it until the last stop. THE LAST STOP you hear?” We are nodding and double checking on the map. He was selling the Street Sheet (a pretty cool initiative, a printed paper about Homelessness as an alternate to pan-handling) and we bought one. “Hey, you gave me a donation, let me walk you there.” He walks us over to the median and repeats all the instructions again. “I like your earrings! They’s real nice. You have a pretty girlfriend,” he said to Randy. “I can’t stand when I’m trying to talk to the man and the girl is like, let’s go, let’s go. Tugging on him. That’s real irritating. Can’t stand that. He’s always trying to listen, she’s trying to go.” Hahaha. He was a sweet guy. I like talking to different people.
After getting off the train at Pier 39, we walked towards Ghirardelli Square. There wasn’t much to see there, unless you wanted to shuffle through stores with herds of tourists. Randy had seen the Palace of Fine Arts on a map and wanted to see it in person. “How far is it?” I asked, my feet already sore from the 2-3 hours of walking in my sandals. “Not too far.” He said.
We walked beside the bay, up a hill, the fog-covered Golden Gate Bridge in behind. We could see the Palace of Fine Arts in the distance for the first forty five minutes of our walk. Until it disappeared. The wind was crazy, whipping my hair everywhere and drying my eyes out. (Wind was my least favourite part of the city. It should just calm down already.) We were both tired and the building was nowhere in sight. Randy had underestimated the distance. “It’s okay,” he said. “We can go. Let’s get a cab and get you off your feet.”
But by this point, we were far away from any cabs. We were in a residential/local area. We rested a while on the grass watching traffic pass. Cab-less traffic. “Let’s keep going, there’s gotta be a main road up here,” Randy encouraged me. Long story short – we walked another forty-five painful minutes to the Palace. The balls of my feet paining me with every step. ;) In all honesty, this was one of my favourite memories. Randy and I have traveled quite a bit together – little trips when we were dating with friends or family, trips to Vancouver Island of course, day trips lots of places, but this was the longest stretch without a car. Just seeing a city. He’s much more hard-core traveler and “go getter” than me and I was proud of how I kept up. We made memories. And we also made it to the Palace.
We laughed most of the way as we walked hand in hand. Every so often I’d stop and moan and rub my feet and Randy would call into the dead air space without a soul around, “Um, hello? Taxi cab driver? We need you. My wife is broke.”
Sore and smiling.
We needed to walk ANOTHER mile until we found a motel that called us a taxi. We cabbed back to Pier 39 for dinner. We, okay mainly I, was delirious at this point. We had been walking for over two hours straight (let alone, the hours we walked earlier than day!) and we were starving. We somehow ended up at Bubba Gump’s? Which was a terrible, overpriced mistake, but I fully blame the exhaustion.
We caught a cab back to the Bart train and used our passes to get back to the Mission area. After a ten minute walk, we were back to our lovely Inn at San Francisco. We changed into our swim suits and grabbed some complimentary tea and coffee and settled into the hot tub to soak our tired muscles.
On our honeymoon, we pulled out a leather journal engraved with “Jamie and Randy Watson: March 28, 2014″ and wrote a list of 101 things to do in the next 1001 days. “Road trip to California” was one of the items and we had no plan or idea when that would happen. And just like that, there we were, in California together, only four months after our honeymoon. Thankful for this little reprieve in our crazy summer and thankful for small “dreams that come true.”
We had an amazing time in San Francisco. We made a lot of memories, explored what felt like a million neighbourhoods and I had the hand of the best guy to hold while we did it all. Yesterday we drove all day to Portland and today, we are headed for home. Can’t think of a better way to spend my 24th Birthday than driving beside my husband.
Happy Birthday to me! ;)
P.S. The winners of the two manicures from Pure Nail Bar are: Alvina and Wendy! Winners, email me to claim your prize. :)