For well over a year, Tony and I have been talking about taking a trip to San Francisco. San Diego’s cooler, northern cousin is the stuff dreams are made of – technically a beach town yet with gainfully employed residents, a gorgeous downtown skyline, plenty of history, quirks and charm, nightlife and great food. We moved the city higher up on our “cities to be seen” list this year and booked a long weekend in April – and we conned Tony’s brother and his wife to join us (thanks Brian and Angie!).
We originally planned on bringing Matteo with us on this trip, but it was only a few weeks after our trip to Austin and since he had gotten SO sick on that trip, we were skittish about traveling with him again so soon. Leaving Matteo ended up being a great decision – he is not a fan of the stroller and prefers being carried, specifically and exclusively by his mother. The number of hills in San Francisco would have made carrying a 35 pound toddler on my hip an absolute nightmare.
We flew out of Phoenix on Thursday evening, arriving in San Francisco around 9 pm. Tony had done some research beforehand and we knew that we wanted to check out the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) as our way of getting to the hotel. The BART is an inexpensive, efficient way to travel in the San Francisco area and one that we were happy to utilize as we decided not to rent a car on this trip. The BART has been around since the mid-1960s and is one example of the Bay area’s attempt to cut down on cars on the road and the pollution they bring. We are big fans of the BART.
We took the BART to the Embarcadero station and then walked to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco in the Financial District. There were a few different Hyatt options for us to choose from in San Francisco, but we ended up choosing this one due to its proximity to the BART station, the piers, and the farmers’ market. We booked our stay on points as well, and this one was a great value for us. The hotel was beautiful, with a huge stunning atrium. With access to the Hyatt Club level, we were able to enjoy light meals/appetizers and drinks every day, all while taking in the stunning views of downtown San Francisco. Though we didn’t spend much time in the rooms, they were clean and modern, with big comfy beds and views of the bay. No complaints about the hotel, not at all.
We spent Friday nearly entirely outside. We rented bicycles in the morning and then made our way to the Golden Gate National Park. The park is a must stop for tourists – it is huge, and gorgeous, and makes you want to sell your reasonably priced house and immediately move to this incredibly expensive and amazingly beautiful city. The gardens and beach views were really breathtaking. We found the beginning of this bike ride very accessible and fun – it gets a little more difficult the further you go, though.
San Francisco is a city of hills – crazy, steep, loooonnnngggg hills. We marveled at the number of side streets with signage stating it was illegal to park parallel to the street (due to the risk of your car literally rolling down the hill). The hills were fun to look at – but surprisingly much, much less fun to bike up. Add to that my naiveté in regards to a bike with gears and you find me, having a temper tantrum half way through the day because my legs could not take one more f-ing hill. Turns out, I’d been biking the entire day on the wrong gear, but even if I hadn’t, those hills were ridiculous.
Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge was just as awesome as I’d hoped it would be – and since we were in the company of our own civil engineer who specializes in bridges, I’d say it was even more special. Seriously, that bridge is a feat of modern engineering and makes you proud to be a human being. On a somber note, years ago I’d watched a documentary about the number of suicides that happen from the bridge – I couldn’t help but think of the lost souls who’d chosen this beautiful site to leave the pain of their lives. We also had views of Alcatraz, but didn’t get to visit the famous prison ourselves as tours book up early and we weren’t able to secure a trip this go around. It will be on the to-do list for a future visit.
After biking what felt like a thousand miles (but in reality was probably in the high 20s), we turned the bikes in and made our way back to the hotel to clean up and head to dinner. On Saturday morning, we made our way to the farmer’s market near the pier, and then walked down to Fisherman’s Warf where we indulged in some delicious sourdough bread courtesy of Boudin Bakery – if you take nothing else from this blog post, do yourself a favor and stop in one of their locations for a grilled cheese & bacon on sourdough sandwich. You’re welcome.
On the advice of Tony’s chocolate loving Grandma Shirley, we made sure to include a visit to Ghiradelli’s Square where we mingled in a long line and fought the crowd for a table to enjoy our chocolate delicacies — it was a cold night in April and Angie, Brian and I ordered hot chocolate while Tony ordered chocolate ice cream (weirdo). I loved my salted carmel hot chocolate, Angie liked her traditional hot chocolate, and Tony was happy with his ice cream. The best order of the night, without doubt, was Brian’s – there was some mix up in the translation and while Brian thought he was ordering a gourmet hot chocolate, what he actually ordered was drinking chocolate – full on, melted chocolate in a mug. We could not stop laughing about it for the entire night, it was so thick and rich and impossible to actually drink. Brian was in a semi-comatose state for the rest of the night. It was awesome.
It was a short trip, but this is a long post. We did so much! We also had great luck with Uber, using them both to get across town late on Saturday night in a (failed) search for sushi and early Sunday morning for a ride to the airport. Once at the airport, we took advantage of SFO’s beautiful Centurion Lounge – I’m telling you, lounge life has so changed the feel of travel for us. Hot food, cold (alcoholic) drinks, fast wifi, manicures, massages, showers, and comfy chairs while you wait for your fight are so much more pleasant than dealing the noise and crowds when you wait by the departure gate. On this trip, I took full advantage of the shower and felt fresh and relaxed when we landed in Phoenix – which was a good thing. It was Easter morning, and our little boy was excited to see us!
Oh San Francisco, you clever city. You’re everything I want to be – young, hip, a little bit quirky. Less sufer dude than San Diego, but still with that chill California vibe that makes you really feel like you’re on vacation, even during a short getaway. I guess that’s why we found ourselves heading back to SF a few months later for another getaway. But we’ll save that for a different post.