The cab driver dropped us off in front of some cute apartments, right by a beautiful park with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was almost 3pm. We’d spent around 6 hours on the plane from Philly but we both had books to read so the time went quickly. Our Airbnb host, Aimee, greeted us at the door and helped us with our bags. She quickly gave us the tour of the apartment before heading to work a few minutes after we arrived. I loved Aimee’s apartment and knew right away that we’d made a good choice staying here. It was decorated with photos, art and souvenirs from her travels around the world and had a great vibe about it. Our room was a really good size and Aimee had left a bottle of red wine for us as a welcoming gift. She was studying for her sommelier exam so the apartment was overflowing with wine. We settled in and then made our way to Chestnut Street for dinner. During our research on San Francisco before leaving home, we read great reviews about the Marina district and Chestnut Street. We weren’t disappointed. The area reminded me a bit of Bulimba in Brisbane- trendy and reasonably affluent. Chestnut Street was lined with amazing bakeries and restaurants, theatres, and beautiful stores that I just wanted to box up and take home with me. We went to The Tipsy Pig for dinner, a small pub with a cozy atmosphere, and they made a killer burger- a good first impression of the SF food scene.
With 8 days in San Francisco and no idea of what we wanted to do, we decided that today was going to be a day of chilling out and planning. There was no rush to do anything in particular and we’d already covered a lot of the tourist attractions when we were here with Don and Bron. A cute bakery we spotted last night was calling our names so we strolled back to Chestnut Street to grab breakfast. The soft Californian sun spilled through the big windows as we sipped on our drinks. The warmth felt good after Philadelphia’s cold. After breakfast we dropped by the local grocery store to pick up some fruit and bread. Aimee was kind enough to give us free run of her kitchen but we didn’t want to eat all of her food. When we got back to the apartment Aimee was awake. She works at a restaurant and comes home around midnight, sleeping in until late morning before going to work again around 3pm. We just thought Aimee was the bees knees. She was absolutely hilarious and so warm and welcoming. She spent most of her time in the lounge room studying when she wasn’t at work, but she was always up for a chat and put in the time to make sure we had everything we needed. We did some planning. I did some reading and had a nap. It was nice to just sloth around for the day. We picked a nice restaurant for dinner and enjoyed getting back out to Chestnut Street in the evening.
We explored the Marina area more today. In the mornings all the mums come out with their kids to play in the nearby park. There are prams everywhere. There are also a lot of fit people here. Everyone seems to keep in pretty good shape. We wandered down Chestnut Street and then walked to the Palace of Fine Arts. It was really pretty there. The actual marina area was also nice with plenty of beautiful boats and houses. I was blown away by some of the architecture. It was so cool and different from anything I’ve seen back home. We had crepes for lunch at Squat and Gobble and an amazing dinner at a Chinese place called Dragon Well. There is no shortage of good food in San Francisco!
Back in Australia, we’d heard about a tea lounge in San Francisco called Samovar. The lounge was created as a place for people to slow down, put their phones away, relax, and connect. We caught a bus to the Yerba Buena Gardens after a delicious breakfast of french toast, strawberries and maple syrup (yum!), and found Samovar. The building was gorgeous and had a Middle Eastern vibe about it, with tall glass windows overlooking the gardens and interesting exotic decor. We ordered chai tea and it was the best either of us have ever had. One of the girls there was really friendly and chatty, and she was nice enough to bring us a free coconut rice pudding which was delicious. They played funky chilled world music in the background, so naturally I was right at home and didn’t want to leave!
After Samovar we walked around Downtown for a while and made our way to the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf. It was really pretty down by the water and there were plenty of tourists bustling around. We checked out the old Ferry Building which was basically an awesome market filled with artisan food, coffee, home wares and restaurants. I found a drool-worthy store filled with beautiful ceramics. I wanted to pack it all up and take it home. As we walked along Fisherman’s Wharf toward the Marina, I halted in my tracks when I spotted some sensational looking pizza, so we stopped and had a bite to eat and watched people walk by the giant window of the restaurant. There are certainly some interesting characters in San Francisco!
We picked up some wine on the walk home and met the first American to know what cricket is. He ran the bottle shop and was a little Indian man. He asked us where we were from and when we told him, he exclaimed, “Ah! Ricky Ponting!”
Aimee had her head in her wine books when we got back to the apartment, but was keen to have a break, so we poured some wine and sat around in the lounge room and got to know each other a little better. She is a great story teller and had us in stitches with tales of previous Airbnb guests and monsters in the heating vents.
A good night sleep meant I was wide awake at 6:30am so I decided to make a video with the footage I got in NYC of the Halloween Parade. Although Justin is the video editing pro, I gave it my best shot and I think it turned out okay. Once Justin dragged himself out of bed we had breakfast and caught a bus to Golden Gate Park to look at the Japanese Tea Gardens. They were beautiful and really peaceful. The park itself was huge and full of people walking dogs, riding bikes, playing games, or napping on the grass. We wandered through to Haight-Ashbury and knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore! The area still hints at the psychedelic rock era that made it famous with vintage stores and hippies busking on the sidewalks. One guy was walking around completely naked except for a gold leaf covering his dingaling, and the smell of pot filled the air. A trendy little cafe caught our eye for lunch so we sat out on the back deck under the trees and tucked into some scrumptious food.
When we got back to the apartment and shared some of our observations with Aimee, she laughed and explained that wearing your birthday suit in San Francisco is completely legal and plenty of people do it! I couldn’t believe it! I mean, it makes sense to be able to get around in your own skin if you want to, but I was well surprised. Apparently growing weed is also legal and lots of people do it to help pay their rent, which is getting super expensive in the city due to the tech heads moving in and taking over. What a rockin’ city!
After a lazy lunch at an artisan burger joint called Roam, we checked out the Union Street shops and walked to Lombard Street to have a look at the squiggly street. We drove down it when we were here last in the Go-Cars, but thought it would be cool to have another look while we weren’t stressing for our lives. I felt like seeing a movie so we bought some tickets to Last Vegas with Robert Deniro, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman. I thought it might be a lame ripoff of The Hangover, but it was actually hilarious and had a good story line. Highly recommend it! An amazing dinner followed at Mamacitas, a high-end Mexican restaurant with tacos to die for.
Our second last day in San Francisco was spent exploring the Mission district, notorious these days for being overrun with hipsters and homeless people. Dolores Park is where all the cool cats hang out but it was pretty quiet when we went there. We did, however, have an excellent view of the city from the top of the hill. I couldn’t tell if the haze in the air was fog or smog (or “smug”, for the South Park fans) or a mix of both, but we’ve been noticing that our skin is covered in a gritty film at the end of the day, so I’m guessing it was smog that we were seeing. I have to say that the pollution has been the only downside of San Francisco. Aside from that, the city is extremely liveable.
Valencia Street is home to some awesome shops and cafes. While we were in the area we thought we’d check out another Samovar tea lounge. We tried a different tea this time but went with the coconut rice pudding again. We had lunch at a place called Herbivore, which advertised a 100% vegetarian menu, so I was really confused when I saw chicken and beef on it. Maybe they were hoping no one would notice? *Raises eyebrow*
Today was a lazy day in bed for me as I was unwell, so I read and slept and took it easy. We got Chinese takeaway for dinner and watched movies while Aimee was at work. A bit of a non-event really.