A few months ago, I was thinking ahead to Thanksgiving week, where I would have 2.5 days off of work and a lot of time to kill. I wanted to book a trip and spend the week traveling, but was really torn about where I should go for the week. Because of the holiday, it seemed like I would be traveling alone, which was no problem for me but I definitely wanted to be strategic about my destination choice. After a lot of research and back and forth, I landed on San Francisco! I planned and booked my entire trip a month or two in advance and was excited for November to come. Pleasant surprise some weeks later– Kristy decided to book a flight and join me for the week! We have seen each other a ton this year, most recently on back to back weekends in Columbus for the OSU vs. PSU game and Athens for the USC vs. UGA game. It’s been a fun 2017 and I am so happy we were able to end the year with this trip.
So here I am in the hostel common room in SF, about half way through my visit. I wanted to take the time to document the first few days of our trip before we move onto the next half tomorrow:
I flew out of PVD on Saturday afternoon, had a lay over in ORD and landed in SFO around 10 PM with no problems! I have not had a long cross-country flight in a while, so I was really happy that the time went quickly and I didn’t have any issues. I picked up our rental car and drove to our hostel in the city and crashed right away that night.
On Sunday morning I was up early and eager to explore the area around the hostel, since I had arrived in the dark the night before. It is an affiliate of Hostelling International, and is situated at the top of Fort Mason, on the outskirts of the city near Fisherman’s Wharf. “Living” in a hostel is definitely a bit rough around the edges, but since I’ve been here I really forgot how exciting it is to be surrounded by so many travelers and unique people. I have fond memories of hostel hopping during my semester abroad, and it is cool to be able to get that feeling back.
Anyways, I walked around the Fort Mason area (an old/converted military base) early morning on Sunday and was super excited to get my first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from the edge of where the building sits! After getting ready for the day, I met up with Kristy around 10 AM and we made our first move to the Farmer’s Market right down the hill from the hostel. It was shaping up to be a gorgeous, sunny day and we enjoyed wandering the booths of fresh veggies, fruit and bread before we landed at a booth cooking breakfast burritos. We ordered a “loaded” veggie burrito that had beets, Brussels sprouts and and a bunch of other goodies and ate alongside the water near the pier. Great start to the day.
Since it was so clear and warm out, we decided to take the day to do our walk to the bridge. So we started walking towards the bridge (which was maybe further away than anticipated) but were able to walk several miles along the water, passing through marinas, dog beaches and piers along the way. The entire time, we had awesome views of the bay and the bridge ahead of us and the city skyline behind us. We eventually reached the base of a staircase where we entered the Golden Gate National Park area and climbed up towards the base/entrance of the bridge. We then probably spent about an hour walking on the bridge itself, and took plenty of time to stop and enjoy the views. Kristy had a free bottle of wine from her hotel the night before, so we broke that out and “Cheers”ed to life as we overlooked the city skyline. That was probably my favorite part of our trip so far. During our walk, I felt a lot of emotions about where I was and what I was experiencing. I feel like the bridge is something that I have built up in my mind forever, and it definitely did not disappoint as far as grandeur and impact. I also remained conscious of the many people who have lost their lives at that same place, and found it hard to imagine a feeling of such deep-rooted unhappiness in a place that evoked so much joy in my own heart. Life is very short and fragile, and I always want to be aware and thankful for the opportunities I have to travel and experience new things.
After we returned back from the bridge, we took an Uber to another area on the outskirts of the city called Lands End. We hiked on the main path overlooking the Pacific Ocean here, and then went off on a separate trail called Mile High Trail, where we then descended to a rocky beach area that gave us views of the bridge from the opposite side. It was approaching the “golden hour” and we had awesome lighting as the day began to set over the bridge and the city. It was a really great way to end our tour of the bridge area.
We then returned to the city and made our way to the Mission District where we stopped at a restaurant called Tacolicious for some AMAZING tacos. I loved all of the veggie options and we had a great meal. Afterwards, we walked down Valencia Street where there are a lot of cute shops and restaurants before we settled on a brewery called Standard Deviant. This place was a bit of a hole-in-the-wall but we had awesome flights of their home brewed beer and played a round of backgammon. In the meantime, a friend of Kristy’s (her pen pal- a story for another day!) who lives in SF joined us for a drink and we finished the night with a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches and a drink from another bar on Valencia Street. We returned to the hostel and checked into our room for the next 3 nights– we met one of our bunk mates who is a German girl traveling solo out to New Zealand. She has toured Canada and is headed to HI next before getting to NZ. A reminder of the amazing solo travels people do all the time 🙂
On Monday morning we were up early and walked through Fisherman’s Wharf to the pier where the Alcatraz Ferry leaves! We had a 9:30 AM tour of Alcatraz which was a great educational experience, since I knew nothing about the history of the island. I had seen “The Rock” from our views of the bay since I arrived, and was really excited to explore it. We did the audio tour of the large cell block and learned all about the history of the prison. Two things that I did not know: the families (including children) of the officers lived on the island/after the prison closed, a large number of Native Americans populated the island in a statement of public protest. The island became a national park area in 1972 and is now one of the most popular tourist destinations. I was surprised at the lack of more “notorious” prisoners; the biggest name that I recognized was Al Capone. All in all, I really enjoyed the tour and loved the views that we had of the skyline from the island! It was more of an overcast day, but it was honestly more fitting for the tour and still was very comfortable outside.
We returned the city around noon, and found our way to a lunch spot in the North Beach neighborhood. I highly recommend Tamarind Hall for Thai street food! It was incredible. After lunch, we walked to Lombard Street to see the crooked street and houses. Of course, we ended up approaching from the bottom of the hill so we walked up the entire strip which was a biiiiit difficult. The crooked road is really crazy though, and I was surprised at the amount of cars driving it; I found it much better to tour the block on foot. I loved seeing all of the classic houses and gardens/flowers. The hydrangeas weren’t in season, but it was still really pretty and gave us a great view of the skyline and the bay from the top of the hill.
After Lombard, we ran into a famous ice cream place called Swenson’s, so of course we had to stop (Kristy). We had the “best ice cream in my entire life” and then took an Uber across the city to Alamo Square Park to see the Painted Ladies! The strip of 6 “painted” houses is so so cute, and we had a great view of the houses with the city in the background from the top of the park.
We hung out on a park bench for a little while to re-energize, and then ended up finding a coffee shop in the area to grab a cup. After that, it was back across the city to the Financial District, where we walked through the ferry building and were surprised by a really cute little indoor mall with food and shops all decorated for Christmas! It was a really pleasant surprise. In search of a glass of wine, we found a bar called Hard Water, which specialized in whiskey. While neither of us actually drink whiskey, we ended up getting cocktails/wine and REALLY enjoyed the atmosphere of this small bar on the pier. There were probably 6 shelves of whiskey on the back wall (entire length of the wall) and there was a sliding ladder for the bartenders to have access to the bottles. Thanks for the drink Mom, we really enjoyed the treat!!!
By 7:00, we met up with Kristy’s uncle and his girlfriend for dinner at a restaurant nearby called The Slanted Door. It is a Vietnamese/French style spot with views of the Bay Bridge. I loved getting to know Uncle Billy and the story of how he has lived in SF for the past 20 something years, and we had a really enjoyable evening!
Tuesday morning (today!), we were up early again for our day trip to Muir Woods and Sausalito! We drove across the bridge towards Muir Woods, which took us on a really scenic path on windy roads through different neighborhoods. Once at the park, we took a trail that was probably about 4.5 miles total. We walked through the amazing red wood trees and had views of the forest and ocean from the top of the trail. It was a really enjoyable hike and was able to give us a nice change of scenery from the city. Most notably: we saw a huge bird (no idea what type) that was perched on a tree and was staring at us. It then spread it’s wings, which had to be a 2.5-3 foot wing span and stood on the perch with his wings spread. Really creepy/cool and totally looked like a dinosaur.
After the woods, we drove 20 minutes to the coastal town of Sausalito, where we had a pizza lunch on the water and then enjoyed a leisurely walk through the main strip of local shops and restaurants. The entire time, we had views of the bay looking back at the city and the Bay bridge. Since it was another really clear day, everything was really clear and blue. We laid in the grass for a while before driving back over the bridge (with a quick stop at the Marin Headlands overlook on the Sausalito side).
Tonight we are headed out to dinner and for drinks with the pen pal and potentially another friend before going to the Illenium concert at The Warfield. I’m looking forward to the show and think it’ll be really fun! Kristy and I love to dance (not well) and so I’d imagine tonight will be a great time.
Tomorrow we head south– Monterey and Big Sur on deck!!!! Talk about some personal bucket list items. I can’t wait for the next 2 days and will definitely be writing another post with those details. Seeeeee ya!