Sunday, July 30, 2023

San Francisco

We were supposed to head back East this summer, but then airfares skyrocketed and things have been uncertain in the tech world, so we decided it wasn't the time to spend that kind of money on a vacation. Our consolation trip was to head to San Francisco - Ryan and I have both been but the kids never had. And my trip was 20 years ago in college, so I barely saw anything.

We stayed in the Embarcadero neighborhood, at a hotel Ryan had stayed at previously for a work trip. He had a view of the Ferry Building and the Bay when he stayed, but those rooms weren't available so we were stuck with city buildings/rooftops. The lobby of the hotel is pretty cool though.

Day 1: Started the day off with dim sum, much to M's delight. Took the bus to the Sutro Bath ruins, which also afforded the kids a first look at the Pacific Ocean. The baths look quite impressive in old pictures - would have been cool to see them back then. Hiked a bit along the various trails that run through the park here. Hadn't really thought about dinner plans, so ended up at a fancy (aka expensive) seafood place. Ryan got to experience cracking open lobster and he and G tried a variety of oysters/clams. I am just getting to where I can tolerate mild fish with the occasional crab or lobster being okay, so did not try the oysters or clams.

These trees were everywhere - I think they look cool

Distant view of the bridge

Day 2: We had a sailboat excursion in the Bay scheduled for the afternoon, so we took a very slow streetcar (not cable car - never did get around to riding one this trip) over to Fisherman's Wharf and found a cafe to eat brunch at before exploring that area a bit. G is confident that we could've jogged to the wharf faster than the streetcar got us there. It also lurched and shuddered every block or so, leaving me wondering if it was going to break down mid-trip. 

M bought a lobster souvenir and per their request we stopped in at a candy "department store" where they had all the usual stuff but also things like pickle cotton candy. 

Headed to Pier 39 to board the catamaran we were set to sail on - Adventure Cat. Saw a sea lion swimming around.

We forgot sunscreen unfortunately, but enjoyed the sail a lot. I was a bit cold despite dressing in layers - it's just so windy once you're out on the water! And because it's so windy and chilly you don't even notice that you're getting sunburned until well after the fact. We ate crepes at Pier 39 once we got back from the sail and then got ice cream before heading back to the hotel. We got the kids food from the store and Ryan and I headed out to a local bar for a light dinner/belated anniversary celebration.

Looking back on the city


Closer view of the bridge

Day 3: We took the light rail to the botanical garden in Golden Gate Park. After the gardens we headed a little east toward Alamo Square. Ryan and G stopped a a place for pedicures/manicures but M wasn't interested in that so the two of us went straight to Alamo Square where he played at the playground for a bit while I enjoyed the views of the Painted Ladies and SF. 

Ryan and G joined us and then we all headed to the Church of 8 Wheels for some roller skating. I used to know how to roller skate, but it's much harder as an adult. The building is cool though - used to be an African-American Catholic congregation, survived a couple big earthquakes, hosted Vietnam protests and was a site for the Black Panther Party Free Breakfast Program, which inspired federal school breakfast programs. 

After skating, we rode the light rail back toward Golden Gate Park where we had hot pot for dinner - a first for all of us, though Ryan and I have been wanting to try it for a while. Then we headed to Ocean Beach to catch the sunset. Before we knew it, M had their socks and shoes off and was wading in the water. Ryan joined in, while G and I decided that sand in our shoes was as much as we wanted to deal with. At some point a wave caught M and once a little wet he decided he may as well go all in. They had a lot of fun playing in the ocean even though it meant they were chilly as we rode the train back to the hotel.

Day 4: Mission District. We started off with breakfast pastries that we picked up from Tartine, which we ate at Mission Dolores Park. M enjoyed playing on that playground for a bit before we headed off to wander Valencia Street. There was this cool-looking high school across the street from the park.

We started with Clarion Alley - there are many more murals throughout the neighborhood than just the ones in Clarion Alley, but it was interesting to see several all together. I believe they are updated periodically, so often reflect current events. I took pictures of just a few:

Along Valencia street we stopped at Dandelion Chocolate for some very rich, chocolatey drinks. M found a store they loved further down the street that had a variety of taxidermy, rocks, witchy items, and then at the back had tons of houseplants. 

We walked all the way to Bernal Heights Summit, where we enjoyed a windy view of the city. 

Opting for a car to take us back to Valencia Street, we next stopped at a Brazilian bakery/cafe for pao de quejo, coxinha, acai bowls/smoothies, and a brigadeiro for M. All delicious. Then it was off to Urban Putt, a fun mini-golf experience that is inside what used to be a house. G, of course, beat Ryan and I while M opted to not be scored - though did manage a couple holes in one.

Day 5: We started the day with another dim sum place, then walked through Chinatown to Lombard Street and after climbing up toward the famous part of that, headed down toward the piers again. Browsed Pier 39 a little more before heading to the gate for another boat ride, this time on Bay Voyager. It was just us and a young German couple. The kids had loved our jetboat tour that we did in Portland, so we were correct in assuming this would be a hit as well. The captains shared a lot of interesting history through the ride - and I appreciate that they outfit us all in wet weather gear to help keep us dry and warm! 

It's close up and not covered in fog!

There is a Civil War era fort (Fort Point) under the bridge arch

SS Jeremiah O'Brien is a WWII Liberty ship that is still operational - our tour captain was part of the crew that sailed her from London to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of D-Day

Lounging sea lions!

After our boat ride we found a restaurant to head to for dinner, Piccolo Forno. It's in the middle of Little Italy and had excellent food - I'm very jealous that SF has a Little Italy neighborhood. We walked back to the hotel, a delightful journey through the Little Italy neighborhood which borders Chinatown.

Fun building seen on our walk back to the hotel

San Francisco was a lot of fun to visit. I don't think I'd want to live there (and can't afford to anyway), but if you stay right in the city it's very easy to get around by walking or via transit. Lots of sewage odors wafting through the air (apparently a combined side effect of warm/dry summers meaning less rainwater to move sludge through the pipes and unintended consequence of low-flow toilets per what my google search turned up). It hits randomly, which means you don't get used to it. That said, the robust transit was nice (not perfect - the signage left a lot to be desired, there was the aforementioned incredibly slow streetcar, and the light rail we rode was at grade and in the same lanes as the cars which slows everyone down; but still, more built out than Seattle) and I adore Victorian/Edwardian style homes, which are plentiful in SF, even if they have all been split into 2-3 apartments. I'd happily spend more time in several of the neighborhoods we visited and there were definitely sights we didn't make it to, so another visit may happen in the future.

1 comment:

Alanna said...

What an awesome trip! I visited my sister once when she lived in the Bay Area, but I was really only there to see her and to go to a friend's wedding, so I didn't explore at all (I also had baby Ryder with me). One of these days I need to get there...!

(Also-- when you mentioned getting sunburned but it was cold and windy so you hadn't noticed it. YES. Preach! This gets me every time!)