If you play along with me on Instagram you already know more about this trip than you probably wanted to. I posted so much (every single moment according to my brother-in-law) that I lost followers. But you know what? I don’t even care. I mean, I do a little bit but I’m thinking it’s worth the loss. I had so much fun I think I found my new calling: Solo Adventurer! I get to go wherever I want at my own pace and nobody ever complains! Not that I hang around with a bunch of complainers, I don’t, but I do worry about pushing people to walk too much or worry that they might not want to stop and take pictures as much as I do or pull me into shopping when I really can’t afford it etc etc etc. So this trip was just me and my instagram friends and not a care in the world… I was so happy.
Why did I find myself traveling solo in San Francisco? Payam had to go on a quick three-day business trip and I tagged along. It was perfect for me. There I was plopped down right in the middle of the city in a hotel I probably would have never picked with plenty of time on my hands and nothing scheduled. I had worked really hard the week before to make sure I had a backload of posts done and caught up on all my freelance projects (except maybe one) so that I really didn’t have to stress about work (though I did write a bit from the comfort of the hotel room).
I walked with Payam to his office and then stopped in a cafe for breakfast and to plot my route. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money so I pulled up yelp and looked up “local flavor” and right away fifty fun free things popped up. There were so many things to do I didn’t know what to do first. Seriously, I could have just explored one block and it could have taken up my whole day.
I’m so tired of walking around my neighborhood back home. I’ve exhausted everything within a five mile radius. I tried to pull up “local flavor” in my neighborhood back home and the only thing that came up was a footbridge that I’ve walked on a thousand times. Not *my footbridge* but another one that is pretty much just as boring.
So you can see why San Francisco makes my heart sing. It is NOT anything like Irvine.
This is my route, roughly.
- Union Square – Maiden Lane
- The Embarcadero
- The Exploratorium
- The Filbert Street Stairs
- St. Peter and Paul Church in North Beach
- Tony’s Napolatana Pizza
- City Lights Bookstore
- The Stocton Street Tunnel
But really my plan was to find some cool stairs. I had a bunch of other ideas (yelp collection here) but the Filbert Street stairs and City Lights Bookstore were my musts. I used to live in the Bay Area so I’ve been to Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown dozens of times. I really wanted to stay off the beaten path. Or try to anyway.
I started in Union Square because that’s where our hotel was. We were staying at the Kimpton St. Francis. I feel like it used to look different but San Francisco has changed so much since I lived in the Bay Area I barely know anything about anything anymore. I spent New Year’s at Union Square once back in the 90’s. Lots of good memories.
I wandered down Maiden Lane towards the Embarcadero and some pop-up business was throwing a Christmas in July party. I got a peppermint cupcake for free which was really odd and cool. Not a bad start to my adventure.
Then I picked up a Rose flavored chai tea and admired this crazy water sculpture.
I stopped for a few minutes to look at the Vaillancourt Fountain. It’s so ugly and cool at the same time. I remember an old friend telling me that U2 threw a free concert here once. That must have been amazing. Next I wandered along the water, pondered the homeless, dodged a few skaters, watched tourists and enjoyed the water lapping up against piers that were not number 39.
I didn’t go into the Exploratorium but I did check out the free exhibits outside and I breezed thought the gift shop. Gift shops are great Cliff Notes to what’s in the museum.
I swear I walked down John Mayer alley or Jason Mraz or something like that but I cannot find it on a map anywhere. I wish I had take a photo of the sign. Does he live here? Are these lofts owned by him? I had so many questions.
After that alley I found the stairs. They say athletes use these stairs to train for endurance races and I can see why. They are steep and plentiful! But such a pleasant way to climb stairs! Really, my favorite way to climb. There are gardens and nooks, flowers and trees, shade and birds… it was just lovely.
That’s the view looking back at the Bay Bridge and stairs. Stairs and more stairs…
But see what I mean about the gardens? San Francisco is such a different climate than my desert back home. There are plants growing here that I have never seen before.
Stairs and more stairs. I took my time and let the peace and quiet really sink in. I imagined what it would be like to live here. Lots of people do and their houses look amazing. So cute and quaint and tucked away into the hillside in little pocket neighborhoods. I wish it wasn’t so expensive to live here.
Finally I made it to the top. I didn’t bother to go up into Coit Tower because there were lines. I seem to have made it a tradition to go see monuments but never actually go up in them. I didn’t go all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty so maybe that’s my thing. I used to regret it but after I’ve waited in a line for three hours in a small sweaty space I think I’m okay with just gazing at them from below.
I still had a great view.
Then I walked back down the other side of the hill into North Beach. I love exploring neighborhoods and seeing what the locals see.
I popped into a church just for fun. Since my Italy days were filled with exploring churches, I figured I should keep it going. Churches are so quiet and beautiful. I’m not Catholic at all but I’m coming to appreciate the sense of awe the architecture and artworks inspire. I challenge myself to sit for a minute or two in a pew and just look at everything and not fidget with my phone. It’s difficult but I like it. I think we all need these quiet moments to stay sane.
Then I wandered around North Beach. It was probably around two so a piece of pizza was starting to sound good.
These little shops totally reminded me of Italy. I didn’t need to buy anything because I’ve already shopped enough when I was in Italy but it was fun to admire all the packaging and old world designs.
I did find a pizza- by-the slice place and it was the best piece of pepperoni pizza I have ever eaten! I don’t know if it was the San Franciscan take on the crust (it tasted a bit sourdough) or the fact that I was hungry from walking so much but it was amazing and I ate the whole slice that was about the size of half of a large pizza. It was so good. I was not embarrassed to sit there all by myself and gobble the whole thing up at all, it was so good.
After lunch I kept walking…taking a photo here and there.
There was this colorful old lady sitting on a chair outside a tiny little doorstep garage sale of junk. She was so interesting with her white hair, scarf and reading a book that I took a photo of her from the hip. That’s why she’s totally cut off. I didn’t want her to know I was taking the photo. I was going to toss the picture but I think it’s still interesting. Maybe even more so.
I stopped into this tiny studio/shop/gallery of “Supersonic Modern art” by Michael Murphy. I had never heard of him before but I immediately became a fan. Super cool modern architecture paintings with funky cars… Someday when I’m rich and famous maybe I’ll buy one.
Then off to City Lights Booksellers. I hadn’t been here since the 90’s. It was surreal to be back.
I bought a few books and wandered around enjoying the mystique of it all.
By then it was getting time to get back to the hotel because Payam had an event that I was allowed to attend so I hightailed it through Chinatown. I found the the fortune cookie factory. It had a line around the block, of course. It’s nothing like I remember, with all the darkness and danger of the Chinese mobsters playing cards in greasy back kitchens. Now it’s an instagram experience with tourists galore.
I walked through the Stockton Street Tunnel and back to Union Square!
Not a bad way to get in your steps! I must have logged 20K.
Here’s a view that night of Karl the Fog from our hotel room. Goodnight SF!
Next up: SFMOMA, The Ice Cream Museum, The Presidio and Sausalito!
Phew! What a great extended super-deluxe birthday weekend I just had.
It all started with a park BBQ on the 4th of July which was a Thursday. I always slide Independence Day festivities into my birthday plan because why not, right? Everyone loves a barbeque in the park and fireworks at night. I’m happy to let everyone else celebrate with me. I didn’t make anyone sing happy birthday to me or anything (I got over that on my 40th where I got sung to at every meal for three days straight) but I did let myself have a helping of chips and a brownie, which I usually try not to.
The next day I had to work but I took the afternoon off to show one of Bug’s friends around Balboa Island and Payam and Joon came with! Balboa Island is always a good time. Ice cream, salt water taffy, walking on the sand and ducking under boat docks… it’s all good. That night we celebrated with Payam’s family at a fancy Persian restaurant with an amazing belly dancer and right in the middle of her dance a 7.1 earthquake happened! It was the biggest, longest earthquake I have ever experienced and the first earthquake the girls had ever experienced. Talk about making a birthday dinner memorable!
The next day we headed off to San Diego to visit The Cado, a pop-up avocado museum experience. I love using my birthday as an excuse to force my family to go on an adventure of my choosing. The girls always roll their eyes and moan about how boring museums are but between you and me, they like them. As long as there are photo-taking experiences they can pose for. We all like a good photo op.
The Cado itself was a bit of a flop. It’s only two rooms and hardly an experience. I was bummed because it was hyped to be a really cool super-long shipping container museum last year but they ran out of money during construction and had to cut their losses with a three-month lease in an office building. I was part of the crowd-sourcing in the beginning and I had donated money so I was invested in the project but I totally see how cost prohibitive a pop-up museum can be. It’s so small now. I was actually able to talk to the two sisters who founded it and it was really sweet to hear their whole story. I hope they do get it off the ground someday. I’m hoping to donate some art to the project. It that happens, you know I’ll keep you posted.
Bug and I LOVE avocados. Joon not so much but she was a good sport.
There were really only four or five installations but they were really cool. I loved this ombre foam parking curb wall. So pretty, right? My extra-large arms not so much. Maybe I should cut back on the boxing. :P
They give you Walkmans in the beginning of the museum and Jason Mraz has a little sing-song bit about where avocados come from. The girls had never seen Walkmans before so it was very humorous when Bug tried to put her tape in the player while it was still inside its plastic case.
We came, we saw, we gave it a small smile for trying. Poor little Cado, such a good idea that just couldn’t quite get off the ground.
Since we were down in San Diego I decided to show the girls one of my favorite haunts: Sunny Jim’s Cave! I blogged about it ages ago but can’t find the link for some reason. It must be deep, deep in my archives. Anyway, it’s a little shell shop in La Jolla where you pay $5 at the register and then walk down 145 narrow steps to a sea cave below. It’s super cool, dark and mysterious. Limestone drips down the walls and just when you start to feel claustrophobic and scared that you are never going to see daylight again, it opens up onto this big deck inside a cavern with waves crashing onto it. It’s glorious! I really had a blast keeping the girls in the dark. They were quite freaked out, worrying about what might happen if there was another earthquake. Thankfully, by the time we got to the bottom they agreed it was a pretty cool secret.
Of course it’s a lot busier than it used to be back in the day when I first discovered it. Now there are lots of people traipsing up and down the stairs and you can hardly get a photo of yourself in the cave’s mouth for all the crowds but it’s still pretty neat.
What I didn’t expect was how much the girls would enjoy the cliffs around the cave.
They loved watching the seals and climbing up and down the rocks. The barking seals reminded us a lot of our dog, Cody. Cody really is just a land seal. He’s loud and noisy and flops himself around the same way. Bark! Bark! Bark!
Payam, the dare devil that he is, enjoyed freaking us all out by pretending to jump off the steep cliffs. He probably would have too if he was a few years younger. He’s such a thrill-seeker like that.
Bug and I are much happier safely away from the edge.
We took more pictures and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The girls would have been content to stay there all day.
Just when things might have gotten boring, Joon spied these rentable motorized scooters. If there was any chance of moping about and complaining about having to walk so much it quickly evaporated. Joon is just as much of a daredevil as Payam and the thought of riding anything motorized quickens her heart. I fear for the day she gets her driver’s license.
So Payam and Joon played with the scooter for a while.
Bug and I were content to use our feet to get around.
We walked the shops, got some gelato and an iced latte for me and then we went home, satisfied and tired.
The next day we had a Women’s World Cup breakfast planned at our house at 8am so we had to get home and get ready for that. Talk about go, go, go. We grocery shopped and Payam started on a birthday cake for me. But by then we were tired so he saved the frosting part for the next day. But then the next day happened and we had so much hosting to do we never got around to it. It was a great party but I took no pictures except a few on Instagram.
Finally, on Monday morning, Payam finished up the cake and I had it for breakfast!! It was bomb.
Payam has this really cool tradition where he makes me a cake every year. Usually I ask for something dark chocolate and flourless. This year I’ve been so into fruit (maybe because Summer took forever to get here) that I asked for a peach cake. I picked this recipe . It has a LOT of eggs and not much else in it so we were a bit worried about how it would taste but then after he added the cream-cheese whipped-cream topping, all doubts vanished into thin air. It was DELICIOUS!!! I think all the pleasure centers in my brain went off at once. There is nothing like light fluffy cake, creamy whipped cream and fresh peaches.
It was a bit messy but we’re calling it “rustic”. I don’t really care because it’s so tasty! I had it for breakfast two days in a row and now I’m thinking I better have some friends over to finish it off before I make this birthday the birthday I gained twenty pounds.
So that’s that. I think this birthday actually wore me out. It’s good feeling though. I feel like I had so much fun and I really maximized my day (and extended weekend!). I think 47 is starting off with a bang. A good adventurous bang. Much better than 46.