California Dreaming: San Francisco

25 July 2014

When I thought about recording our California adventure on EFM, I considered beginning with the San Francisco portion, even though it was our last stop. Since it was probably our least favorite leg of the trip, I didn’t want to end with a downer, but in looking back at it, there’s so much good, too. There were also some valuable lessons learned, so here we go!

When last we left off we were driving west from the wild beauty of Yosemite. The drive to San Francisco took about four hours, and we arrived in the city just in time for lunch.

In our pre-trip research, we had unearthed a pile of places we were interested in eating, thanks to Oh Happy Day, Black*Eiffel, Pinterest, and our friend Sam. They included: Cotogna, Pizzeria Delfina, Bi-Rite, Tartine, the Ferry Building, Boulette’s Larder, Mama’s, Quince, Slanted Door, State Bird Provisions, and Dynamo Donuts. We knew, of course, that we wouldn’t have time to visit them all in two days, but at that point in our trip planning we were tired of making decisions and so decided to “play it by ear” in San Fran, food-wise.

One of John’s priorities while in SF was really good Chinese food. After some Googling in the car on our drive, we turned up Mission Chinese Food, in the Mission. Our lunch was delicious, and the menu was interesting and inventive. As an aside, though, Jordan makes the Mission seem really trendy and cute (which parts of it are), but if you, like me, already don’t love cities, it can read more as grimy and decrepit – just FYI.

After our late lunch we were a bit at loose ends. Like I said, we had brainstormed a list of things we were interested in doing or seeing in San Francisco, but, unlike the other legs of our trip, we hadn’t planned out exactly what we were going to do when. While that was fine for Yosemite, it didn’t work so well in San Francisco. We frequently got frustrated because we felt like we were taking up lots of time driving back and forth to different destinations, and only spending a few minutes at each. It felt very inefficient and a bit futile, especially compared to the wide open spaces of the rest of our road trip. Can you tell we’re not city people? :)

After a frustrating stint in rush hour traffic trying to visit the Cuyana show room only to get there but not find anywhere to park, we retreated to the Ferry Building to assuage our grumpiness with some delicious treats. Happily, the Ferry Building did not disappoint! I expected it to be larger and more overwhelming than it was, but it was really delightful.

ferry-building

We walked up and down the row a few times looking at the vendors and sampling things, then settled on treats from Miette – two macarons to split, a chocolate pot de creme (in the cutest little glass jar!) for me, and an ice cream sandwich for John.

miette-ferry-building

Fortified by sugar, we decided to brave the roads again to pay a visit to Coit Tower in the Telegraph neighborhood. We chose not to pay $7 each to ride an elevator to the top, but the views were still good from the bottom. It was SO windy up on the hill, and in the low 60’s! We didn’t stick around too long.

coit-tower

san-francisco-skyline

san-francisco-bridge

Our last stop before dinner was the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District. It is startlingly monumental, situated as it is in an otherwise upscale but normal neighborhood! (If you’re curious about the background, it was built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, inspired by Greek and Roman architecture.) We enjoyed looking around, but again, it was pretty windy and chilly.

palace-of-fine-arts

palace-of-fine-arts-lagoon

palace-of-fine-arts-san-francisco

That’s me in the mint pants!

marina-distict-san-francisco

We met up with my sister, who is in San Francisco for the summer, for dinner at Pizzeria Delfina (back in the Mission). We had been told horror stories about the wait, but we were seated immediately! The pizza was delicious, and the company, better :) We did not skip ice cream at Bi-Rite post-dinner across the street, even though we were shivering as we ate it. Not to be missed.

On Friday night we were lucky enough to stay with my mom’s best friend from college in Tiburon, which was a delightful change after all of our hotel stays from the past week! It was great to catch up with them briefly. We started our morning on Saturday with a hike in their neighborhood (Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve).

ring-mountain

Photo for the parents!

photo 4 copy

After cleaning up, we drove back into the city with Kim for lunch at Greens, near Fort Mason, right on the water. We met up with one of my good friends from college, and had the loveliest time! Greens was her pick, and I’d highly recommend it – everything was delicious, and vegetarian.

san-fran-oakland-bay-bridge

After lunch we drove back to the Ferry Building for another treat from Miette – Kim hadn’t tried it yet. This time we ate our sweets on the pier, with a lovely view of the Oakland Bay Bridge.

Our next destination was the Seward Street Slides! I had read about this hidden gem on (you guessed it) Oh Happy Day, and did a little more reconnaisance on Yelp. They are tucked away in a neighborhood, but there are signs that point the way:

seward-slides-san-francisco

A word of warning: they are serious about the 5pm closing time! We only got to go halfway down because a worker was there locking bars onto the midway point and bottom.

Our last stop before parting ways with Kim was Golden Gate Park. We scooted around to a few different spots, including the buffalos, but I think my favorite was this little stream that ran along beside the road. For some reason it completely captivated me – I pictured kids (okay, me) spending hours floating boats down it.

golden-gate-park

By far our favorite part of our stay in San Francisco, aside from seeing loved ones, was our last night. We stayed at Hotel Drisco, an independent, historic hotel nestled in the charming Pacific Heights neighborhood, on top of one of SF’s famous hills.

hotel-drisco

We checked in around 6pm, a little bedraggled, cold, and ready for dinner – except we didn’t have a reservation, and the places we called were all booked. We perked up when we were told that our room had been upgraded – hooray! In fact, the concierge was so nice that even though we had never used one’s services before, we asked if she might be able to help us with dinner. A few minutes later she had made provisional reservations at six restaurants within walking distance, and sent the menus to our rooms via bellhop to peruse. We called her with know our choice, and she canceled the others. I know I might sound a bit provincial, but it was amazing!!

baker-street-bistro

Our choice was Baker Street Bistro, and it was perfect. To get to it, we walked down a few blocks of ridiculously steep steps past some of the most gorgeous houses I’ve ever seen (a.k.a. my personal brand of bliss). The bistro was tiny, cozy, and adorable. I’ve never been to France, but it seemed very authentic (French accents on the waiters!), and our hearty meals were perfect for the chilly weather outside. We stayed for several hours, then braved the steep walk back up the hill to Hotel Drisco (we took it a bit more slowly than the trip down).

hotel-drisco-suite

Our suite was also perfectly cozy and charming. We loved all of the original period details, and all of the included amenities like a pillow menu, warm face towel at check-in, turn down treats, and more.

hotel-drisco-sitting-room

hotel-drisco-details

A true Continental breakfast is also included, and we enjoyed it on our last morning to the fullest! Scones with lemon curd and clotted cream, twelve types of breads, croissants and muffins, hot oatmeal, fruit, cereals and granola, yogurt, meats and cheeses, and smoked salmon and brie — all served in a charming, sunny dining room! Charming was the operative word here.

pacific-avenue-san-francisco

As we drove out of town to the airport the next morning, we had one last chance to admire all of the beautiful houses. Definitely a great way to remember San Francisco!

pacific-heights-houses

pacific-heights-neighborhood

pacific-heights-san-francisco

pink-pacific-heights-house

We chose to fly out of San Jose because it was cheaper, and the one hour drive to the airport was a snap. Though we tried on the flight home to choose favorites from the trip, it was nearly impossible – each stop was so good and special in its own way. I am SO glad we got to have this experience, and would highly encourage everyone to take a similar trip!! Thanks for following along!

airplane-sunset

Our California road trip:
Day one: Malibu, Ojai, Montecito
Day two: Santa Barbara, Montana de Oro, Cayucos
Day three: Cambria, San Simeon, Big Sur
Day four: Monterey and Carmel
Days five and six: Yosemite

5 Responses to “California Dreaming: San Francisco”

  1. Rob

    Lots of great photos of lots of great views! Thanks for sharing them!

  2. Love SF! My husband and I always say that if it were on the east coast we’d move there tomorrow! I also love the Mission. Probably because I love cities, especially those neighborhoods that aren’t completely gentrified! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Nat

    Back from St. Lucia and ready for another trip—to the West Coast after reading this final recap! Thanks for sharing!!!

  4. Glad you made it to the Ferry Building. That was one of my favorites in SF when we went in the Fall.

  5. Marget

    Looks so awesome! Thanks for letting us follow along.