SAN FRANCISCO December 2016

It was a last minute decision to join Brett on his work trip to San Francisco. I had never been to the area and had always wanted to see the city itself and the nearby town that my husband had grown up. Brett left on a Tuesday afternoon and I followed the next day. I can look back now and laugh about the week leading up to the trip. The differences between Brett & I regarding 'trip planning' is like the difference between the speed of a snail stuck to gum on the sidewalk and a cheetah running free in the Amazon plains... or like the difference between a job interview involving a highly-trained physicist with three doctorates and a 5 year old, pudgy boy with peanut butter on his fingers... you get the point. Neither one of us is right or wrong but we definitively do things differently. He is more of a spontaneous person who enjoys asking the locals for the 'hot spots' or day-of google searches to plan his trips. I, well I, I treat a trip like it has to be some sort of flawless production, planned-out, thought-out and timed down to the half hour. Thing is, I don't like not knowing what to do. I know myself too well. If I am not mentally prepared for a situation I end up doing the safe thing: nothing. So to avoid 'nothing' I ensure that I will do 'everything', if that makes sense.

Anywhoooo... I arrived in San Fransisco, got my car, and started making my way down HWY 212 to Redwood City. Both Brett and I were semi-starving (starving as in we had only eaten 2 meals so far in the day) and since Brett had to be back to the gym in 20 minutes we settled on this burrito shop a few blocks away. I'd rate it 3/5. It was food so don't get me wrong, but I was hoping for that real Mexican taste. I wandered the Historic and quaint downtown of Redwood while Brett finished up his last meeting. We drove back to the hotel and laid low the first night.

Day 2: In the morning we hastily ate at a cute breakfast joint called Main and Elm.

Brett cramming before his morning presentations. No rest for... the teachers?

They had this awesome egg scramble topped over chips and salsa with fresh avocado and homemade potatoes. It was so filling that I didn't end up getting food till mid-afternoon... I dropped Brett off and started off on my drive down HWY 1.

This was my first picture I took of the Ocean. I pulled over on the side of the HWY... So beautiful.

I had this epic plan. I was going to drive 2:45 minutes down HWY 1 to Big Sur bridge and then make my way back. About 20 minutes into the trip I realized that probably wasn't going to happen. I was stopping to take pictures as much as someone would stop if they had a diagnosis of frequent urination. Every spot, every single spot, was jaw-dropping. The sound of the waves as they crashed onto the rocks was so blissful. The smell of the fresh ocean air and the gentle mist that would grace my skin as the wind blew is something money cant buy... unless you take that money and buy a plane ticket out there like I did.

Oh, the beautiful road...

I kept driving but I found that I was stopping about ever 1/3 mile: I couldn't pass up the view. Soon, I stumbled upon this beautiful lighthouse and I just had to drive up to it. Thankfully, it was open to the public and actually had a little free museum on the grounds. The lighthouse reminded me so much of my grandma, who, for as long as I can remember, has loved lighthouses.

I left the lighthouse and continued down HWY 1 towards Santa Cruz. I was still hopeful that I could make it to Big Sur. I had already planned out a coffee spot in SC to pick up some joe and keep on my way. However, I did not take into consideration that the coffee shop of choice was downtown and it would be the lunch hour when I meandered into the city. Took me a good 20-minutes to find a place to park. My plans were already beginning to unravel. I walked into the coffee shop and paid a small fortune to get a mediocre latte.

This is what an arm and a leg costs..

The coffee had a particular creamy taste to it which I figured was unique enough to warrant the ridiculous cost. However, upon drinking more of it, I decided the flavor was was not for me. I did walk down the blvd hoping to stumble upon a bakery that was on the same street. But I obviously was either not observant or just walked aimlessly because I passed it twice before breaking out my phone to guide me step-by-step to the front door.

1) Moonbeam Cream & Hibiscus Frostings on Chocolate Eloise Cake... 2) Earl Grey Frosting on Blood Orange Cake

I bought these little beauties at a place called Butterhouse Cakes and Farmhouse. I decided to resist the temptations to eat them and instead saveD them for a little surprise to share with Brett. After picking up the cute, wittle-itty-bitty cupcakes I got back in the car and jumped back on HWY 1. Two things had sadly happened:

  1. I spent way more time in Santa Cruz for two stops then ever anticipated
  2. I was now in the middle of traffic jam.

LIKE WHAT?!? It's 1:30pm on a Thursday and the traffic going out of Santa Cruz was almost comparable to big city rush hour. I mean, I was basically at a standstill in a 4 lane hwy. I had to make a tough choice. Time-wise I just couldn't make it to Big Sur with the traffic jam. The downside to planning as I do is that it can be difficult to give up on a plan when I have already determined to make it happen.

This plan just didn't happen.

I turned around and then somehow got lost in the twisted roads of Santa Cruz. I learned one valuable lesson here. There is ONLY ONE road and ONLY ONE intersection that leads to that ONE ROAD that allows you to get back on HWY 1. I obviously didn't know this at the time as I spent a good half hour trying to meet up with the HWY. Augh. Seriously, whoever designed the roads there needs to go back and take a practical design course.

On my way back to Redwood city I found some amazing little spots. Some of the views were unbelievable and pictures just cant capture the beauty.

Check out the little video I made of Day 1 to see some footage of my adventure.

I finally drove into Redwood city. I was hungry and cold. Another thing I realized... HWY 1 is just that... a highway. There were no stops, gas stations or restaurants along the majority of the HWY. It's this simple fact that makes the scenery so raw and untouched but it also didn't help my growing hunger pains. I got to the gym early and ended up getting what I thought would be a yogurt parfait but actually ended up being this frozen concoction that only worsened my cold-state of being. It looks pretty though.

Would've been perfect for an 80 degree day... It was not an 80 degree day.

Eventually I met up with Brett and after much negotiation, some of it hostile, we decided to stick close to the hotel for dinner and forgo our plans to drive downtown for pizza. Instead we ordered this authentic BBQ pizza from a local Italian restaurant. We left full and tired. Another early night in the books.

Day 3: There was no fancy breakfast this morning. Instead it was a frantic mix of packing and getting-ready. Brett had to be at the gym by 9am but we wanted to be checked out before leaving the hotel. I dropped him off and continued on my way to downtown San Francisco. This was the day I had planned the least. I knew nothing of the city and even less of the 'good areas' and 'bad areas'. I ended up down by the wharf. I walked the deserted streets which was actually pretty peaceful. I had arrived before the tourist flocked the roads like hungry pigeons to bread crumbs. It was a deary, foggy and rainy morning: perfect!. In fact, a small rainbow appeared above the port and over Alcatraz.

I hadn't yet eaten breakfast so I grabbed a latte and scone at a local bakery chain down by the port. The bakery had a glass window that people could look in form the street and see all the bakers making the breads and goodies for the day. Mostly though... people were standing underneath the overhang by the window because it was raining.

From there I moved on. I saw this one shop that caught my eye. It was an old antique coin operated arcade. I should've taken some pictures... because I kid you not, it had every old and antique game that I could think of or had ever seen in movies. I didn't really have any change on me but I did decide to walk away with one thing: a pressed penny. On a trip to Alabama with my mom, she had gotten me a pressed penny of a giraffe at a zoo. I still have that penny and figured it would be fun to add to it and make it a small collection. Obviously, I need to work on my penny centering skills.

The pier, although filled with lame tourist attractions and stores, also had some pretty cool boats. They charged ridiculous amounts of money to get on the boat but taking a cool picture from the outside is free! :)

Wouldn't be a pier without boats.
This picture screams "I'm so artsy!"

Thankfully, I had found free 4-hour parking which allowed me to pretty much take my time meandering the pier. Once I was bored of the scenery I moved my car in the lot to get another 4-free hours and then decided to walk like a mad-woman to the all the surrounding sites. I had lots of places to see and only so much time. My first stop? Lombard Street.

I know, it's mostly a picture of me... but you can see the street in the background so I consider this a valid photo.

Brett and I had already decided to drive the street together on the next day... so my mission was simply to walk up to it. I huffed and puffed my way up and stood there gawking at the street like every other Asian tourist there (seriously... I rarely saw a white person while I was in the city). From there I traveled to some random church that looked important... and then I set my eyes on this weird looking tone tower thingy. It was a ways away but, hey, I had 4-hour parking.

View from Coit Tower Hill. You can see Lombard Street in the distance.

The other view of the city from Coit Tower - facing downtown.

Somewhere up to this tower (which so happens to be Coit Tower) I realized that my calf started arguing with the rest of my body. I mean, my feet had raised some qualms along the way but I had no idea that calf had joined their side... and trust me, calf had thrown in the towel. I went from normal to limping in a matter of about 2 minutes. But... like I said, I was on a mission. I just kept walking and walking and walking. I know I'm jumping ahead here... but one foot ran away with the calf and and this said foot is still letting me know his complaints (2.5 weeks later).

At this point I am in tolerable pain and I am very, very, very hungry. I google some places to eat on the precious remaining battery of my phone. I found this gourmet salad place that was 7 blocks away. I decided to give it a go. It was called Blue Barn.

Again, I didn't take a picture. But, it it was a really cute, rustic place. AND, it was packed. Not a single chair in sight. I grabbed the salad to go and started walking outside hoping to find a bench to sit on. Two problems with that poorly-thought out plan: 1) there is no such thing as benches in SF and 2) it was raining so anything I did find was covered in dirty, trash filled water.

So I just walked. I held onto my little to-go container and kept walking. My lunch endevour soon turned into an hour of aimless wandering in search of suitable seating. I was so hungry and fatigued I had just given up and walked what seemed like 10 endless blocks back to the car. By this point it was pouring rain and I gladly took the break and ate my soggy salad as I rested my foot. I decided I was being lame and I needed to venture into another part of town. Dessert it was! Yum. So, I started driving.

Soggy salad's debut.

Remember when I said that I didn't really know much about the areas of SF? Yeah, this is a great example. No... I didn't end up in a 'bad' area. I ended up in the WORST area. I ended up in the heart of downtown. If anyone has ever driven with me they know that I don't like bad traffic and then combine that with not knowing where I am going plus a dying GPS... not ideal in the least. Dessert? Out the window! Not only did I see a sign that said "$6 for 15min parking" (which was enough to make me not stop) but it was literally impossible for me to stop even if I wanted to. It was Dec 23rd and people were EVERYWHERE. Cars were trying to forge lanes that didn't exist. People were appearing out of every crevice and dark shadow. It was like someone sent out a memo that there was "Free Dolce & Gabbana giveaways" to the entire world because I'm pretty sure everyone and their second cousin was there.

All I wanted was to be free from the tierney of the crazed shoppers, malicious drivers and towering steel cages. So I drove in a straight line towards the bay because I knew the city must run out at some point. The best moment, I must say, was when I got stuck in the middle of the main intersection (preventing all traffic from moving) for 8 light changes. That's right. 8 whole light changes. It was like a symphony of horns blaring at me. All I could do was look ahead lest I gazed into the fuming hatred of the horn-honkers. Eventually I moved and then guess what?!? I had entered the heart of ChinaTown. Like? What?! I mean, I couldn't catch a break. No parking, no peace and no patience is how I would sum up that little driving adventure. By the time I reached the bay about 40+ minutes later, all I wanted to do was go back to the hotel.

The extent of my ChinaTown Visit.

So, go back to Redwood city I did. I met up with Brett (who had now finished his work commitments for the duration of the trip) and we ate fancy burgers at the Greek restaurant Mandaloun. We packaged up half of them to eat for lunch the next day (Sabbath) and headed to our new hotel.

We were both tired and enjoyed another early night. Check out the (lame) video of my Day 2. Seriously, it's all me talking and rarely anything else so please don't have high hopes.

Day 4: TA DAA!!! Finally, Brett and I have a day to explore together! Our agenda includes:

  1. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge
  2. Drive down Lombard St.
  3. Go down the Seward St Slides

So, we set off for the Golden Gate bridge. Up until this point, I hadn't even seen it! I know, crazy right? So I was pretty excited. After almost missing our last (and only) exit for the bridge parking (before crossing the bridge and being tolled $6) we finally made it! :)

Doing the typical tourist thing.

Walking the bridge was fun (well to the halfway point at least). I wish there was slightly less traffic because the noise was pretty loud. It obviously is a tourist destination and shouldn't be used for practical purposes! The weather was brisk and windy but it was still an enjoyable walk! When we were walking we could see people actually surfing the waves that came barreling into the bay. We also happen to look down and see this wicked awesome fort that we needed to check out!

Can you say 'models'?

The fort was awesome! Four stories of rooms filled with history and the views were amazing! It is definitely a must-see if you're in the area.

From there, we got in the car and drove to Lombard Street. Honestly, the hill was very scary. I mean, in the back of everyone's mind, they know that SF has steep hills. But you don't really know how steep the roads are until you're stopped at a 45degree angle behind 40 other cars. I just kept thinking "Laura, you got to switch your foot quickly between the break and gas otherwise you're name will be plastered across national news as the girl that caused a 50 car pileup". It's a bit weird to see the cars in front of you start rolling back towards you before their wheels get traction. As I sat there, waiting in line to get up the hill, Brett took a quick picture of me and the cars outside. You can kinda see the extreme angle at which they are parked. Honestly, pictures just can't do it justice and it's a feeling that you can't really explain.

So, we had two major items checked off our list. Both Brett and I are tired and hungry. We would've loved nothing less then a good latte and a snack but, being as it was Sabbath, we munched on some protein bars instead... mmm so delicious.

Our next stop was Seward St Slides which according to the 4,000 (5 star) reviews said it was an awesome activity. Both Brett and I stood at the bottom of the slides and said, "That's it?". A bit disappointing, but hey, we came all this way and we are going to go down those slides. Thanks to the nice people of SF who left some cardboard scrapes, Brett grabs a peices and heads down the slide first. I guess I can't say there wasn't any excitement because Brett almost broke his hand as it got snagged on a metal hook drilled into the concrete slide. (Watch the video to see our slide trips). So, when it was my turn, I definitely proceeded with extreme caution, which was evident on my crinkled brow. And suddenly, we were done. We had completed our entire 'to-do' list. It was 2pm. We planned on going back to the hotel, resting and then returning to the city for a nice dinner. But I just felt like there was something left to explore.

And... that is what led us to cross the Bay Bridge and visit Alameda, Brett's hometown. The bridge was beautiful, the sun was out and we had some worship tunes playing on the radio. So here is what we explored:

  1. First stop: One of Brett's favorite fishing spots.
  2. Brett's elementary school
  3. Brett's childhood home (not pictured but in the video)
  4. A favorite pizza spot
  5. Brett's middle school
Brett's second favorite fishing spot - near his childhood home.

It was really fun to see all the little places that Brett enjoyed as a kid. The best part: watching Brett relive his memories. It was fun to see him get excited to show me his past. It's been a long time since I had seen him smile so much.

Now, the day felt complete and we were both tired. We drove back to the hotel and took showers. We had planned on a fancy dinner but, due to some planning miscommunications, we decided to lay low and check out some of the fun, relaxed places. We were both famished and looking forward to some good grub. However, our trip wouldn't be complete without failing in this department too. Our top two places of choice: closed. It was Dec. 24th so, I guess, it makes sense but we were both so hungry that we considered breaking down the doors and helping ourselves to the kitchen stockpile.

We drove for blocks and blocks searching for an open establishment. We even parked the car and walked hoping to find some small open street shops. It was so cold and my foot was aching terribly. Finally, we found a pizza joint that was open... and so did the rest of SF. Tony's Pizza Napoletana was a happen'in place. Thankfully, they had a take-out store located right next door. The pizzas were cooked quickly and stuck in a glass window by the register to be sold to the hungry mob. When it was our turn to order, we both ordered the only things that didn't have pork: one margarita slice and one cheese slice. Our tummies were rumbling and our taste buds began to water. This was the first real food of the day. After paying and waiting a few minutes for our slices to be boxed up, the pizza guy looks at us and said, "sorry, just handed out the last margarita piece". I stared at him in confusion, hurt and angry hunger. How does an Italian pizza place run out of a key Italian pizza staple? The guy offered us other pizza slices since we had already paid. After some confusion, we walked out of there with 2 cheese pizza slices and a deep dish cheese pizza slice. We found an old, metal (cold, cold metal) table and chairs outside to sit and eat. I was content with the idea of eating a deep dish slice in place of my desired margarita. That is, until I took a bite. Rolled into the bubbling folds of the cheesy and saucey goodness were tiny sausage morsels. I looked at the pizza like it had betrayed me. It had only been a minute or two ago that it had whispered sweet nothings to me, telling me how good it was going to taste. Now it just sat in it's box looking at me with a devilish smirk. Well, that smirk led him straight to the trash. Plain cheese pizza slice it is. This night was a 0/2.

The only possible redemption was finding something hot or sweet. Dessert! Even that was an extreme challenge. Finally we spotted a place and after driving around the surrounding blocks 3-4 times, we found a parking spot. We walked into this authentic bakery. there were a few people in front of us which prevented me from seeing what they had. When it was our turn I asked the lady a few questions. Her answer came back to me in a broken-English garble served-up with a ripe attitude. So, I just 'froze' and ordered the easiest and most convenient thing with a point of the finger. Another pricey failure. Right next door happen to be a gelato shop. Brett loves, loves, loves his icecream/gelato. We stopped in and Brett was nice enough to pick a flavor we would both enjoy. We took spoonfuls of the dessert and let it melt in our mouths as we walked back to the car.

The only other stories worth mentioning are these two things:

  1. Getting to the airport was an adventure of its own. We started the morning off late. I had been putting off getting gas as I had wanted to fill up right before returning the car. MISTAKE! It was December 25th and EVERYTHING in site was closed. Even the gas stations that looked like they had 24-hour pumps were teasing us. At this point I started to panic. We had less than 15 minutes to get to the airport and have the car scanned in or I would get charged another day of rental. And, to top it all off, we were semi-lost. Then, a beacon of light, well a green British Petroleum beacon of light shone it self. Even though the prices were outrages, it was till a dollar cheaper than the rental car rate. I filled up, drove off and were scanned in at the return rental location at 6:59am (1 minute before being late). PHEW!
  2. Lastly, Brett was pulled aside for having dangerous items on his person at the airport. HE HE! He had nothing, obviously, but it was funny watching him being pat down.
It's blurry but I was laughing while taking the picture.

The plane ride back was actually one of the best. The plane was a newer model and had built in TV's with a list of recent movies to choose from. It made the 4 hours fly by (pun intended). And thus concludes our trip.

Thanks for reading. - Laura

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