Tuesday, December 4, 2012

San Fransisco

So my husband and I just got back from an extended weekend to San Fransisco (though as I was packing, I realized it was closer to a week).  While waiting at an airport at some point within the last year we decided to make a list of places we wanted to go and also prioritize the ones we needed to do before kids.  San Fran was on the top of my hubby's list.  I had been there on a family road trip and thought it was fun enough to go back and also to experience as a couple.

We spent the first day walking around Chinatown, heading up Coit tower and walking up Lombard Street.  You know, typical tourist stuff.  We had a delicious Turkish dinner at Machka, whose decor I liked equally as well as the food.

Day two was also pretty touristy.  We rented bikes and biked across the Golden Gate Bridge as well as Golden Gate Park.  Two lessons learned: biking really close to cars going 60mph is not fun. It is terrifying.  It took about the entire length of the bridge for me to start breathing normally, unclench my jaw and get blood circulating in my hands again after gripping the handle bars so tightly.  I just couldn't help but imagine the whole time that a bump I didn't see was going to send me flying into the cars, or something that was not securely zippered was going to fly out of my pocket to the bay below, never to be seen again.  That is actually what happened to my transit pass, but thankfully not my phone.  (Side note: this is why I am also getting over my fear of walking over sewer grates.  It's really a legitimate fear that you will drop something in them or that they will break and you will plummet to a tragic doom.  I know people that have had those experiences.  Biking along this bridge was like that to me just way way worse.)  And the second lesson was that dang, those hills are really hard to walk and bike up.  You know that I just ran a marathon, but that did not at all prepare my hill climbing muscles.  After about 5 hours, the magic of biking had worn off slightly, but the day was still amazing due to one of the best biscuits and gravy dishes I've ever had at the Pork Store Cafe in the Haight district for brunch and Aziza in far away Richmond.  I think we capped off the night with drinks at the Top of the Mark, which while it did have great views of the city, was a little touristy/gimmicky to me.

Day three was full of more tourist activities and eating.  We rented a car and spent some time hiking in the Muir Woods.  All that activity made me feel really good about eating what was literally the best pasta I've ever had at Flour + Water.  (I know, I've used a lot of superlatives, but I really like pasta, and it was really that good.)  Because the weather was surprisingly warm, we took an evening walk around Union Square and rode the cable car to Fisherman's Wharf.  I was a little sad that because it was dark, there really wasn't a good way for me to get a picture hanging off of the side of the cable car kind of how I picture it would happen in some sort of movie montage. Probably for the best as I'd have lost my grip while cresting a hill and then would have had a long a fall.

Our last full day was kind of the "catch-up" day.  Plus after all that activity, we were kind of pooped.  We basically shopped for some of the things that had caught our eye and spent the rest of the day eating our way through the ethnic areas of town.  We started the morning with pastries from a bakery in little Russia, coffee, and a snack from Tout Sweet, the bakery from Top Chef Just Desserts winner (the chocolate chunk sea salt cookie was one of the best cookies I think I've ever had).  We did some shopping in Hayes Valley where we split a burger at Flipper's, whose toppings were better than the burger itself.  Dinner was at a hole-in-the-wall type Vietnamese restaurant, Pagolac.  The waitress was so nice and the best Vietnamese dinner I think I've ever had was under $10 each.  If you go to San Fransisco, please go there because I think it was my favorite meal of the trip.  Not to miss out on the remaining cultural areas, we got sushi for a snack in Japantown (hey, dinner was early), and cannoli in Little Italy at Mara's Italian Pastry.  I think all we missed out on was Mexican in the Mission District.  The perfect way to end the last night was drinks at Bourbon and Branch, a "speakeasy" type place with a secret entrance and bar tenders who know more about their craft than I will know about anything.

If I ever go back again, I'd really like to do the California Academy of Sciences, some of the gardens (Japanese Tea Garden, Yerba Buena Gardens, or the Conservatory of flowers), as well as some of the art museums (deYoung or the MoMA).  As far as eating recommendations, I basically went off anything on the list as well as recommendations from other blogs and friends.  Because I'm crazy and did this for myself anyways, I've actually compiled a list of neighborhoods and restaurants and addresses based off these sources that you can also access in case anyone cares as much as I do about these things.

As far as where to stay, our location downtown was central enough to get to most places we went within a 10-15 minute walk or public transit to anywhere farther (Haight, Golden Gate, Mission).  If we were to come back again, I think I'd stay farther away from tourist stuff and closer to eating (Tenderloin or Mission).  Of course, 5 days doesn't make me an expert.  Although it is long enough for me to say with some authority that, you guessed it, this city has some of the best food ever.

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