THE SAN FRANCISCO DIARIES: 4 DAYS
Like anyone who loves to travel, I love finding cheap flights.
So, when I saw a discounted fare to San Francisco, I called my mom to let her know about the travel deal. Like mother, like daughter; by the end of the phone call we had purchased the flight for a four day whirlwind to the City by the Bay.
We found an AirBnB for the three nights, which was not as pleasantly priced as our flights, but it was exactly where we wanted to be for our time in San Francisco: in the heart of the city. It also was on the 15th floor and offered a beautiful view (if only because it also had an elevator to ensure we weren't walking up each time). Our host Josh was great for the limited time we spent there, offering us suggestions and entertaining my innate need to discuss important political matters with complete strangers. Seriously, I'm sorry!
So what did we discover on our 4 days in San Francisco?
1. Taking the bus and walking a few blocks never ends up being just a few blocks.
Mom discovered it long before I did: my idea of a short distance is a bit skewed.
Point at any two spots on a map of San Francisco and my answer would be the same "it really isn't that far!"
Unfortunately, it usually is that far. Sorry mom.
2. You'll be unpleasantly surprised if you like pop in Canada and order one in America.
Mom was less than enthused about the vodka and diet coke she ordered, as American pop is a more syrupy and less carbonated being altogether.
3. Food, food, and more food. And dessert.
Let's see: we ate Italian our first night and followed it by going to an outdoor German Biergarten for some drinks, we ate touristy San Francisco food (clam chowder in a sourdough bowl) at Fisherman's Wharf, we had brunch at a quaint and hidden place suggested by our local host, Josh, we gorged ourselves in Chinatown, and we ate Mexican tacos to finish the trip off.
Well, normally I am eager to plan activities for a new destination, but in anticipation for a short trip to San Francisco, I had read up on the best desserts in the city.
We made it to four of the dessert spots I had wanted to hit up.
We kicked it off with SF Hometown Creamery and their flight of ice cream, opting for Fresh Mint Chip (their speciality), Bedouin Welcome (coffee), Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge, Lemon Speculoos, and Carrot Cake.
Next we stopped by the Miette for a Mini Scharffen Berger cake that looked too perfect to pass up. Looks matter, mostly when choosing desserts.
For dessert number three, and maybe the dessert mom and I were most excited for: the penis cookie from Hot Cookie. Where else to find the oversized penis shaped cookie, but in the gay pride district of Castro?
And last but not least, Bob's Donuts. We almost skipped it. Really, we did. We were tired and over walked and had already eaten our hearts out.
But, I am competitive.
So mom egged me on and we headed to Bob's Donuts for the Challenge: to eat one massive donut in under 3 minutes.
I didn't finish it.
Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the people taking photos of me stuffing my face with donut, or maybe it was because the donut was freaking massive, but I lost the challenge.
I stayed up late that night afterword, wondering what I could have done differently, and I think I have an idea. But I won't tell you my new strategy, because I'll be going back to beat it!
At this point, maybe you're wondering if we did anything other than eat.
Our trip went sort of like this:
We felt a trip to San Francisco would be incomplete without a trip to Alcatraz, so we bought our tickets for our first full day there. That morning, we regretfully ate our cold breakfast sandwiches at Alcatraz Landing, but forgot about the minor disappointment as soon as we boarded the ferry and saw the views of the skyline and bay area.
For the most feared prison at that time in the United States, Alcatraz life actually seemed pretty mellow. Maybe I'm just desensitized after living in Berlin and visiting a concentration camp and the Stasi prison from the cold war era, but Alcatraz gave library privileges, visitors were allowed, and convicts were even able to paint in addition to being well fed.
You're still a prisoner, but it wasn't as harsh of living as one would imagine when picturing the isolated prison.
Fisherman's Wharf was only a short distance from where we departed the ferry back from Alcatraz, making it the next destination for our day.
We were fairly hungry by now, and even though we knew the food in that area isn't supposed to be the best, our hunger got the best of us. I am not a soup lover, but I had to try the unique San Francisco dish: clam chowder in a sourdough bowl.
Did we see Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.? Yes, we did.
Did we visit the raucous sea lions of Pier 39? Of course.
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE AND PARK
As the temperature continued to climb to a beautiful 31ºC, we decided to make the most of it by staying outside and heading to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Maybe not so surprisingly, there were many suicide prevention signs and measures, reminding you how many people choose to take their life from this location.
Walking along the noisy bridge, we also saw many tourists taking photos. Included in the tourists was a pair of wanna-be fashion Instagrammers posing in the way of pretty much everyone. You look cute, but move before a biker runs you over.
It was hot. Mom and I were ready for ice cream.
So I told mom it was just a "short" trek from the Golden Gate Bridge to the bus that takes us to Golden Gate Park and from there to walk to SF Hometown Creamery.
At this point, most of our time in San Francisco had been spent walking.
At least cold dessert and lots of water awaited us.
Now, I love a good bookstore, so fortunately for me– and unfortunately for mom who had to wait for me– the used bookstore I had wanted to visit (well, it's sister store) was directly across the street on our walk! So I got to visit Green Apple Books In The Park, a great new-and-used bookstore.
We wanted to visit Chinatown, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone and eat a late supper there.
This was one of those 'it seemed close, but...' moments.
Getting turned around and walking in the wrong direction for 4 blocks was only the beginning. We struggled to find the seemingly hidden Narnia-like gate to Chinatown. By the time we found our first choice for food, it was closed.
Luckily, our next choice (Chong Qing Xiao Mian) was open, and we ate one of my favourite meals while we were in San Francisco! I had wontons in hot chilli oil, and they were to die for.
Had choice two been closed as well, we probably would have called it a night and eaten at McDonalds.
Maybe I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea. We were tired.
So, when we woke up in the morning, we thought we would get the walking out of the way early.
We didn't, but at least we tried.
Our first stop was home to the hippie movement in the 1960's, none other than Haight and Ashbury.
The Victorian homes were beautiful, and although the paintings on the buildings were impressive, our timing wasn't. The area didn't have the hippie charm that we had passed on the bus the day prior.
Instead, it felt like the only ones awake were those who hadn't been to sleep. The entire street was like a ghost town aside from police and the what we'll call 'free spirited' dwellers.
Following that we found our way to the iconic cable cars to take us to the steep and crooked Lombard Street.
We waited in line, because when visiting San Francisco, you have to take them at least once.
Every single bus driver we had had up to this point was amazing. Every question we asked was answered politely, and they would let us know when to get off the bus if we weren't sure. They smiled and treated us amazingly. Can't praise them enough.
Then there were the cable car operators.
In our experience: the cable car operators were pricks.
If I tell you about him looking at our three day pass and patronizingly asking what day it was (we were only on day 2 of our pass), and his constant condescending demeanour, I will get annoyed all over again. If I tell you about the other cable car operator yelling "door!" repeatedly, instead of explaining to the poor saps who didn't know where you can and cannot stand, I will get angry.
So instead– there are flowers lining all the way down Lombard Street and you can see so far down the city! We stood at the top for awhile to make sure that we wouldn't have to go back up once we went down. Because no way in hell was mom gonna let me sucker her into doing that. No matter how charming I can be.
We managed to find the seemingly only area in San Francisco without public transit so we walked, even passing a little garden hidden amongst the city, until we found another friendly bus driver to tell us when to get off.
We made it to the Ferry Building and to the cute cupcakes at Miette, A.K.A Dessert #2.
I got another bookstore (Book Passage), and mom got to sit down. Win win.
On the way out we found ourselves walking beside an older gentleman. This in itself wasn't all that surprising, but his being completely naked aside from a little slip on his penis was.
Tourists around us were equally surprised, and many were taking photos.
*Note: After seeing a second, more well-endowed gentleman in Castro, I was interested enough to search up San Francisco's interesting history with public nudity. Apparently, in addition to laws against public indecency, public nudity in parks became illegal in order to stop intercourse in parks. It wasn't until 2012 that nudity was banned, which has resulted in those who used to strut their stuff in their birthday suit adding a sock to their wardrobe. In a hilarious turn of events, who advocated the nudity ban? Anthony Weiner A.K.A that guy who is famous for his sexting scandals with multiple women, including a minor.
We hadn't yet found our penis cookies, so our next stop was the gay pride district, Castro.
This was my favourite district yet. Rainbow flags lined the streets, the sidewalks commemorated famous feminists and literary figures advocating for human rights. And, of course, because there were penis cookies.
After sitting in public and eating our cookies, we inadvertently stumbled upon history while heading into the nearest bar for drinks.
There, an inebriated-therefore-outgoing guy explained to us the importance of where we were drinking. Twin Peaks opened its doors and windows to the world, making it the first gay bar where the customers inside were visible. Gay bars at the time blacked out the windows and patrons didn't wish to be seen inside.
He also told mom she had great boobs.
SAN FRANCISCO DUNGEON
More ill-planning meant that the San Francisco Dungeon– a touristy re-enactment of the history of the city– was back at Fisherman's Wharf.
We barely made it in time for the last show, and we had some fun being scared and laughing with the actors performing in the show.
We went, had our late night tacos, chatted with our host, ate a massive donut, and all-in-all enjoyed our last night in San Francisco. The next morning left us just enough time to do last minute shopping and packing before heading back to the cold that is Canada in late October.
Seriously, why don't we get 31ºC in October?
Did we miss anything? Share your San Francisco experiences in the comments!