San Francisco was one of those places I’d never been but was terrified to visit for fear of falling in love. Everyone I know who’s been, raves about it and a few people have even told me if they could live anywhere in the world, it would be there. It seems too obvious to call it beautiful or unique, although both are true. I wish we’d had more time to explore, but I think we got a little of the touristy side and a little of real San Francisco life in the short time we were there. The good news is, I had tons of fun but was able to leave San Fran with my heart intact.
Our rental was in the Haight neighborhood, known for its 60’s counter-culture history. When I was booking it, I asked my friend and SF resident, Marie, if it was a good neighborhood since I knew nothing about the city. It turned out that Marie lives in Haight too, so I booked the place right away. We got there in the evening and I have to say the parking situation was atrocious, but I’m going to chalk that up to city parking. We didn’t want to leave everything we own in the car on a city street for two days, so unloading and repacking the car was an adventure. The place itself was as beautiful as advertised, if not more so. I couldn’t believe I found such a nice apartment that was also pet-friendly until I saw all the signs proclaiming San Francisco the most dog-friendly city in America. Our host, Frank, was kind enough to leave us a bottle of wine, too. A few of our hosts left greeting gifts and I always thought it was a nice touch. In fact, popped the cork on that bottle and drank some wine with my dinner burrito like the classy lady I am.
The next morning, Trev found a local place to get breakfast. Always the breakfast aficionado, he usually has to convince me since I’m usually not a big breakfast person. He knew he’d found the place when he uncovered the menu with a Nutella waffle. It was just as glorious as it sounds: a belgian waffle covered in Nutella and strawberries. I did not need convincing. Thank you The Grind Cafe, for making a breakfast a girl can get excited about!
After breakfast, we decided to see the city on foot. This is one of my favorite things to do when I travel. I like to walk everywhere to get the full experience of a place. You see so much more when you move slower. We thought if we started walking and things turned out to be crazy-far, we’d just catch a bus. Instead, we walked all the way from Haight to Fisherman’s Wharf. That’s almost four miles for those of you who’ve never been. Let me tell you, it felt a lot longer than four miles with those legendary hills to conquer. Before you laugh out loud, I should tell you we’ve made this mistake before. I swear things look smaller on a map, guys.
We did get to see all the touristy essentials on our walk, including the famous San Francisco cable cars and townhouses, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, and the seals at Pier 39. That said, I would not recommend walking this route to anyone planning a visit. We also got to see some very cool street art and the best street performer I’ve ever seen. He calls his act Lone Sound Ranger but his name is Jordan B. Wilson. He’s a one man band who has invented wearable instruments so he can play them all at the same time. Bonus: he’s funny and his music is great. The video is worth watching because his inventions and how they work are fascinating.
Later in the day, we met up with Marie and her boyfriend Daniel for dinner at Ricky Bobby. In Marie’s words “Great food, terrible name.” She was not kidding. This place had amazing buttermilk biscuits, burgers, and mac and cheese. We had a great time at dinner, getting to know more about the city. We also talked a lot about moving away from home.
Marie left Massachusetts years ago and never looked back. She always felt like she didn’t fit in MA, but she finally found her place when she moved to San Francisco. We talked a lot about how hard that feeling is and how leaving is so much easier than it seems. It was in talking to Marie that I first realized I’d been miserable in Massachusetts, too. For some reason, I thought I should feel right in the place I was born. I was terrified to leave, but I found after two weeks on the road that it was easy. If you have the money and the desire, leaving a place you don’t fit isn’t that hard. It’s the thinking about it that’s hard. I still have difficult days here, even three months later, but I never think leaving was the wrong thing for me. Marie also coined one of my favorite new phrases: quality of life tax. She said she justifies the outrageous cost of living in SF with the knowledge that she’s paying extra for her happiness. Sometimes you get what you pay for in life and if living in a tropical paradise is going to cost me a little more, that quality of life tax is worth it to me.
The next morning, Trev and I met up with Marie for breakfast. Since San Francisco is the most dog-friendly city in America, we decided to bring Hobbes and her dog, Juan Carlos, along. I would have loved to bring Buffy, but she couldn’t do all the hills and distance walking around the city. We had another great breakfast and then headed over to Alamo Park. You probably know Alamo Park as the spot with the Full House houses. We got to see those but it’s also a beautiful outdoor space, just minutes from where Marie lives. We took the dogs to play at the Alamo dog park before saying goodbye. We had so much fun seeing the city and I was lucky to have a fantastic guide in Marie.
We knew we couldn’t leave without seeing the Golden Gate bridge up close, so we decided to drive over it and get lunch in Sausalito. The bridge really is incredible, an engineering marvel. Driving over it felt like a right of passage. We drove around to a few viewpoints on the other side and headed into the beach towns. Sausalito was gorgeous but completely mobbed. We drove around for a bit and I grabbed lunch at the Salsalito Taco Shop. If you’re ever there, it’s worth stopping. It was possibly the best Mexican I had on our trip. Of course, Trev stopped for ice cream and then we were off to Big Sur!