San Francisco, the Golden City that sits on the bay of Northern California. I was so incredibly blessed to be able to see what the city has to offer in four short days with my best friend and travel buddy, Jasmin.
The Bay Area is a region I have always wanted to fully discover. I have gone once before when I was really young and I only remember bits and pieces, so going again as a young woman in my early twenties was definitely a refreshing experience. So without further ado, I bring to you San Francisco through my eyes.
To start off, the city of San Francisco is not a cheap one. It is among the most expensive to visit in America. With hotels near the heart of the city being $200+ a night, an Airbnb was a more economical option for the four nights we were there. Considering we like to be in control of where we go, when we go and how we do it, the seven-day Muni pass was the best option. It gave us unlimited access to the Muni, bus and cable cars.
After taking the BART from SFO, we found ourselves in a quiet town in Balboa Park, where our Airbnb was located. The first thing we did was drop our travel backpacks off and went to the Muni to ride into the heart of the city, which I believe is the Financial District, fairly close to Union Square. A day of traveling will make anyone hungry, and as newbies in this huge city, we opted for the Cheesecake Factory at the top of the seven-floor department store. Big mistake considering dinner ended up costing an arm and a leg. I recommend looking for restaurants in advance to avoid spending so much money on food! It was pretty darn good, though.
The next day, we decided to conquer Twin Peaks, known as the highest points (925 feet in elevation) near the geographic center of San Francisco. Getting there was part of the struggle because it required us to take the bus instead of the Muni. It was a struggle because the bus stop was hidden in plain sight: painted on a lamp post. Trekking the infamous San Franciscan hills was another struggle of its own. I am all for getting an awesome booty, but those valley rolls really did a number on my derrière.
One of my favorite things about traveling is to see the sets some of my favorite movies and television shows were filmed at. San Francisco is home to shows like Full House and Disney’s That’s So Raven, and my favorite movie The Princess Diaries. I absolutely recommend doing research prior to your trip instead of the night before. When trying to locate the front of Grove High School from TPD, our iPhone navigation systems were basically sending both of us on a goose hunt, showing different results for the same address. It is an uphill walk regardless. Get an Uber. We did, however, found the Thermopolis firehouse home as well as the arcade Mia took Queen Clarisse to down in Fisherman’s Wharf.
Overall, Day 1 was a day well spent. The weather was almost perfect: sunny with a crisp breeze from the Bay. It does get pretty cold at night, so I definitely recommend bringing a heavier jacket. We ended our day with the icon of San Francisco, and maybe the State of California, the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a little foggier than I’d like it to be on the other side of the bay, but the bridge was beautiful regardless. There’s something about landmarks that makes me in awe.
Now that Jasmin and I have gotten the hang of commuting in the city by the Bay, we had big plans for what was to come. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse located in Nob Hill is famous for their unbelievably exclusive cruffin (a combination of a croissant and a muffin) as well as the very quaint neon sign that reads “I got baked in San Francisco.”
Since the shop is fairly small, we decided to bus to Union Square to eat our delectables. The weather was unbelievable nice. I believe it was nicer than the day before, even though it was warmer that day. The fact that Union Square was so close to Nob Hill made the baked goods somehow taste better than they would if we had eaten them at a park near the Tenderloin. Speaking of the Tenderloin, many people have said not to go near the ‘loin, but I believe if you’re street smart, it can definitely be conquered.
The next stop for the day was Lombard Street, which is known for their topsy turvy street built on a very steep hill. To get there from Union Square, you must take the cable car. Of course it can be walked, but just know that it is a very steep street to walk up. Just keep thinking of the gains when your glutes are hurting. What surprised me was that there were people actually driving down the street, AND there are people who actually live in the houses on either side of that street.
Lunch was eaten at Shanghai Dumpling King in Balboa. It would have been better to explore China Town for Chinese cuisine, but the ratings on Yelp weren’t too hot for most of those restaurants. It was my first time having dumplings and potstickers, so that was definitely an experience for me. I give it two chopsticks up!
I don’t think Chinese food is very fattening, but I guess we didn’t want to take any risks, so we decided to trek to see tiled mosaic steps. The project was completed in 2005, but it is amazing how much time and effort it took to create this beautiful work of art.
If you know me, you know I love boba. I love it so much that, somehow, I found a place when Jasmin and I went to Greece two years ago. What better place to get boba than in China Town in San Francisco? After doing some research, I found a place called Plentea. They are known for serving their beverages in glass bottles that you can take home as a little souvenir. The best part? It costs the same, if not cheaper, than boba that would be sold back home.
Jasmin and I separated for the night to explore on our own. I met up with a local who showed me some of his favorite restaurants and bars in SoMa. There is this heavenly place called Garaje that sells the best tacos I have probably ever tasted, and I only had one. They are a cash-only restaurant. I still have dreams about that one taco, it’s quite sad. We then went to this tavern-like bar only a few blocks away. Southside Spirit house had an assortment of IPA beers that were specially brewed for their bar. I wish I had taken more pictures of this place, but there is always next time! We ended our night overlooking the Bay Bridge which now has LED lights installed that make cool designs throughout the night.
It’s Game Day for the San Francisco Giants, and it’s also the day I will be attending my first Major League Baseball game! We started our day having breakfast at Café UB near Dolores Park. If you have the time to arrive in that area earlier, I recommend checking out Tartine Bakery. Our Airbnb host recommended it to us, but we didn’t have enough time to check it out with our busy itinerary for the day. There was a line out the door and around the corner, so it must be good!
We spent the first part of our day exploring the Castro before heading over to Fisherman’s Wharf to scope out one of the scenes from The Princess Diaries. There was the cutest bookshop in the Castro where I found the magnificent read Madamoiselle Chanel. After the 50 minute transit to Fisherman’s Wharf, we finally arrived to Musée Mécanique where Mia took Queen Clarisse to show her the true San Franciscan way.
We didn’t really plan out our day in the best way so we were short on time considering we still had a ball game to attend. With barely enough time for a clam chowder bread bowl, we took a shared Uber to the game. I don’t recommend using the shared option if you are pressed for time like we were. It was my first Major League Baseball game and, although the Giants lost, it was still a great experience! I learned so much like how expensive beer is at a ball game, and garlic fries are a necessity. Oh, and the fact that seagulls are ravenous birds at the end of every game. You’ve been warned.
Ending our trip in the City by the Bay by going to the baseball game was perfect. Apparently, Jasmin’s first baseball game was the Giants too, so it was only fitting that it would be mine. We had to catch a ferry to Vallejo for the second part of our trip in the morning, more to come about that a little later!
Farewell to one of the many cities I have already fallen in love with during my travels! I will definitely be back soon.