For the last week, I had the pleasure of being out in San Francisco and Palo Alto. TIBCO is based out of Palo Alto so I finally had the chance to go visit HQ. But before heading down to Palo Alto, I took a trip to San Francisco for the weekend.
I’ve been to Southern California probably a dozen times, but never to Northern California, specifically San Francisco. Since I was already heading out there for business in Palo Alto, I decided to take the opportunity to visit San Francisco. San Francisco has been on my short list of cities to visit for a while now, and with my goal of visiting three new places in 2017, there was no better time to go.
So on Friday, April 21, I headed to the Bay for a weekend filled with exploring the city. I’m the type of traveler who is a mix of touristy and non-touristy. I will admit that I like to sightsee; it honestly makes no sense if you’ve been to a city and don’t see the iconic places in the city. But I do like finding the spots the locals like too, especially with food.
I was fortunate enough to have Jj come with me on this trip. His sister Jennifer lived in San Francisco for a long time before moving back to Denver, so he knew his way around the city after visiting so many times. So needless to say I had my own personal tour guide and a travel buddy.
Once we got there, we headed to drop off our stuff at Jennifer’s old house (we were staying there with one of her old roommates) in the Mission. The Mission is unique for its strong Hispanic flair. It’s got a lot of character and culture and was the perfect place to stay.
Our first stop in the city was Chinatown. Jj had never been to Chinatown and I wanted some authentic Chinese food, so we headed there for lunch. We stopped at a place called Sam Wo, which has been in San Francisco for over 100 years. The food was incredible and was definitely worth the trip. If you want good Chinese food, Chinatown is the spot to go.
Next stop was Embarcadero, which is one of Jj’s favorite spots in the city. It’s a major port for all of the ferries you can take to Alcatraz and other spots in the Bay Area. There, we had to get some Blue Bottle Coffee, some of the best coffee in San Francisco. Their latte was definitely worth the hype and served as a much-needed afternoon pick-me-up. Not to mention, drinking it next to the bay with a view of the Bay Bridge wasn’t bad either.
I left Jj in charge of being the tour guide since he had been to the city before. I had some idea of what I wanted to see, but the rest I left to him. After the Embarcadero, he surprised me and took me to Crissy Field in the Presidio area, where you are up close and personal with the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the things I wanted to see while I was there. We had unbelievable weather; it was in the 70s with full sun, perfect weather for the beach. We spent hours there, soaking up the sun (and not to mention taking tons of photos!). While it wasn’t warm enough to swim, it was perfect to dip your feet.
With a long travel and sightseeing day, we ended the day chilling out in the Mission. We went to dinner at this great Indian place called Pakwan. Not only did it serve great Indian food, it was BYOB, something I had never seen in a restaurant before, especially not in Colorado. It was very inexpensive, but you definitely got your money’s worth with how much food you got.
The next day was filled with even more sightseeing. We started the day with a hearty breakfast in the Mission. We started with a pre-breakfast donut from Dynamo Donut, a local donut chain. They are as tasty as Lamar’s donuts, with the unique twist to their flavors like Voodoo Donuts. I got a lemon poppyseed donut, which I’ve never gotten before. California is great because the donuts don’t dry out like they do in Colorado. We then got breakfast at a local diner, St. Francis Fountain. They are famous for their dish, “Nebulous Potato Thing.” It didn’t disappoint, that’s for sure.
In terms of sightseeing, we started at Twin Peaks, one of the highest points of the city. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for views, so I always try to find the best view of any city. At Twin Peaks, you can see both the Golden Gate Bridge and the downtown skyline. It was a little cloudy and foggy, but you could still get an amazing view. Definitely a highlight for me!
Our next stop was Fisherman’s Wharf, a San Francisco staple. I’ve been to a lot of marinas/piers/waterfronts on my travels, so I really enjoyed Fisherman’s Wharf. I had a hankering for some seafood, more specifically, chowder. We ended up at this place called Lou’s Fish Shack, where we both got Dungeness crab bisque in a sourdough bread bowl. It was divine and cured my craving for fresh seafood. Fisherman’s Wharf also had a great view of Alcatraz, and was home to WWII ships.
We continued the day with Alamo Square, which was another iconic view I wanted to see. If you didn’t already know, Alamo Square is home to the Painted Ladies, a series of houses painted in pastel colors. What is unique about this view is that there is a park that gives you the view of the Painted Ladies with the downtown skyline in the background. It’s on all of the postcards, and you might recognize it from the opening credits of “Full House” (I wanted to see the actual “Full House” house but we ran out of time. Next time!). The park itself was closed for landscaping, but there was an area where you could still see the iconic view.
The last stop for the day was Haight-Ashbury. Haight-Ashbury holds so much history, I had to see it. It reminded me a lot like Boulder but on steroids. It was very hippie-dippy for lack of a better term. The one thing we did do was some shopping at their thrift and vintage stores. In one of the stores, I found a vintage Louis Vuitton handbag for $200, and a vintage Burberry trench for $175. It was every fashion girl’s dream! I had to resist, but I am keeping it in mind for the future!
We finished the day with the Napper Tandy in the Mission for dinner. I have heard nothing but good things about the curry chips at there, so I was so excited to partake (not to mention a Magners too!). The place was packed since it was playing the Golden State Warriors playoff game. The chips were delicious, some of the best I’ve ever had (I’ve gained a new appreciation for Irish pubs in the last year). If you are in San Francisco and like curry chips, I definitely recommend it.
Sunday was super spontaneous; more spontaneous than even Seattle was. Jj really wanted to go see his Thea Mary, who lives in Modesto (about an hour inland from San Francisco), so he decided to rent a car – a Mustang convertible! I’ve never ridden in a convertible before, let alone a Mustang, so it was quite an exciting experience for me. It was something so extra that we would totally end up doing. Luckily, it was beautiful weather, so we spent most of the drive with the top down. There is just something about a convertible in California that makes it so much fun. It was a memory that I’m never going to forget.
After visiting Jj’s Thea Mary, we drove to Redwood City, which is about 15 minutes from Palo Alto. We spent the night there because it was a lot closer to Palo Alto than San Francisco. We got in after the sun went down and after a little bit of down time, we headed out to explore the area. This time, I drove the Stang to Stanford, which was a 15-minute drive from our hotel. We drove around campus to see it, ending up at their football stadium. It was incredible, even from the outside. I’ve seen University of Nebraska’s stadium on another trip, so I am no stranger to college football stadiums. Sidenote: While I was in Palo Alto working, I took a walk to Stanford one evening since it was right across from the hotel, and I must say, it was even more beautiful during the day with all of the trees and the buildings’ architecture.
On our way back from Stanford, we had to stop and get out In & Out Burger fix. It had been seven years since I last got one, so it was definitely one of the things I wanted to eat on this trip. I forgot just how good it was! It hit the spot after a long day of being on the road.
And with that, ended the San Francisco portion of the trip. Jj flew home the next day, while I headed to work at TIBCO. Since TIBCO is in Palo Alto and that they have a San Francisco office, I know that this time will not be my last to the Bay.