A Birthday Trip to San Francisco

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Wow. I think I started editing the photos for this post at about 10:30 this morning, and now here it is 5 pm and I’m just now getting started on writing it. Sheesh! (Of course, many breaks were taken for various other jobs and chores but still! This took me all day!!!) AND I’m two weeks behind in writing it!!! Fail, Brenda, fail!

Whatever.

We all know blogging is not at the top of my list anymore, no matter how much I want it to be. It’s been a busy month, but this is good! I’m working! I’m working like a maniac and paying the bills! Woot! Woot!

Let’s talk about Bug’s Birthday Trip to San Francisco!

As you probably know, I was supposed to take her to Paris on her 16th birthday. That didn’t happen. Then she turned seventeen, and well…I turned my life upside down, so seventeen was not the year to go to Paris either. We might never make it to Paris but I’m still saving just in case. I think 21 might be the year.

When I asked Bug where she wanted to go this year, she said Seattle because we had such a fantastic time there last year. Bug is not one to take risks. If she likes something, she likes to stick to it. It took some convincing to get her to visit a new city, but I pulled it off. Of course, Matt being in San Francisco was a motivator for me (and he helped us with some of the expenses), but that was not a factor for Bug. This was a trip for Bug, not for mom and her new boyfriend.

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The rain did not help my case. Seattle is known for rain, but San Francisco brought the rain this year. Poor Bug. Her birthday is in January, and the weather is always a tricky variable. She says she wants to go to Australia next year for a pool party on her birthday. I say maybe we should start celebrating her half-birthday instead. Mama ain’t got no money for Australia.

The rain doesn’t scare me if I don’t have to drive in it. I love rain. I said this before in other posts. I love the rain because it brings out a different side of the world. Streets are shiny, people wear boots and bundle up and pop open colorful umbrellas. It’s fun to be inside and cozy. Holding a warm cup of coffee is a leisure sport. There are lots of things to love about the rain. I convinced Bug that we’d find a way to make this trip fun no matter where we ended up. She was skeptical.

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And the rain sure did its part to rain on my parade. It was just a doozy. Gray skies, incessant drizzle for days, damp everything, Bug’s shoes cracked, and water got in her soles… I was fighting an uphill battle to make San Francisco fun.

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While completely charming inside and decorated brilliantly, our hotel was on the edge of the poorer side of town, and it was hard not to be aware of how precarious our privilege is. When we walked up the two blocks from BART, past Union Square, to our hotel, homeless people scuffled around us everywhere. San Francisco is so depressing these days. All the hustle and bustle of business has gone elsewhere (tech is all working from home now), and all who are left are clueless tourists or sick and/or mentally ill homeless. The homeless situation is heartbreaking. So many people are suffering. Everyone was out in the cold.

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Except us. We were warm and cozy in our fancy hotel. I don’t want to make this post about our privilege and how little we did to help the people in need around us (though we did give buskers money and homeless people leftover food when we could…), but it’s impossible to talk about San Francisco and not bring it up. Maybe it’s like this in all big cities these days. I don’t know.

I’m a massive fan of the Palisociety. I know they are doing everything possible to restore charming old buildings and bring customers into neighborhoods that desperately need money. I think they are doing a great job. I love staying with them. I love their attention to detail and style. Everything they do is beautifully done. It’s just San Francisco is significantly challenged. Do you know what the biggest problem is? Staffing. The restaurant inside the hotel was completely furnished with amazing velvet banquets and large windows with beautiful curtains. The tables were even set! Yet, it was closed because no one worked in it. It’s a crazy problem. In Southern California, we have many people looking for work, but in San Francisco, you can’t get anyone to work. I don’t want to get political, and I know this is edging dangerously close, but I want to say if you need work, maybe consider the bay area? Housing is not as expensive as it used to be! It’s even cheaper than where I live. Gasp!

So yeah, look at that wallpaper. I love it!

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Thankfully Bug loved it too. The neighborhood, not so much.

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We did find the cutest bagel/sandwich shop around the corner in Nob Hill: The Beanstalk Cafe.  Bug loved it, and we even went back another day. Their cups were really nice handmade ceramic and the bread was amazing. I think all bread in San Francisco is amazing. Something about the fog…

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Right away we did the most touristy things ever. Bug’s choice! I wanted to show her the side streets and less beaten path since I’ve been there so many times but she wanted to ride a trolley car and next thing you know we were at Fisherman’s Wharf!

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Fisherman’s Wharf! I hate Fisherman’s Wharf and all the touristy crap you can buy there. I have many memories of going there as a child and freezing to death. But it was a little more fun as a grown-up with my own kid tagging along. I even bought a pink foam donut refrigerator magnet. Who am I??

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Of course, we had to say hi to the sea lions. They have their own attraction now which was new to me. Way to go, Pier 39! I’ve always loved the sea lions as they bask in the pretend sunshine that is not sunshine at all but actually cold frigid breezes that sneak through the holes in your sweaters and coats and chill to the bone.

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I convinced Bug to check out North Beach and visit my favorite bookstore. She was not impressed. I guess kids don’t read anymore now that they can be entertained day and night by the tiny televisions they hold in their hands. I don’t even know why I like bookstores so much since I don’t let myself buy any new books until I conquer the leaning tower of books on my bedside. I do read a lot still but most of it these days I tackle in half-hour chunks while I’m walking the dog via Audible or on long drives to visit my parents. So we breezed through looking at the exciting history of this famous bookstore, picking up a random book on poetry, checking out the latest cover art… but we bought nothing.

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Then on to the next great event: Pizza! You can’t visit North Beach without having pizza, it’s the best. I’m still not clued in on who’s is the best, so we ended up in a random Italian Eatery that was great, but it might not be the one everyone raves about. Bug, and I thought it was delicious.

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It cemented what Bug and I like to do best on our little adventures: Eat. We are foodies! Not extreme foodies, but we love finding little tucked-away cafes and splurging on treats.

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Like Cafe Trieste! I stopped here for a cappuccino with Matt last time I was here and had to show Bug. It’s just too quaint and exactly like Italy!Bugs-17th-Bday-Trip-to-SF-16

I have trained Bug to enjoy coffee (though she prefers matcha) and cannolis. That’s the whole reason I wanted a kid in the first place, right??

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The next day I took her to The Haight. Another fail. We went too early, and everything was closed up and sad. It was gray and rainy, and it was nothing like the lively scene I loved so much in the 90s when I went to college in Hayward. There were no street vendors selling necklaces or artwork. There weren’t even any bums selling pot! Not that I was looking for that, but it was a ghost town. Nobody but rich people walking their dogs.

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Bored of Haight Ashbury, we wandered down the panhandle of Golden Gate Park and hit up the Conservatory.

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These giant blocks amused us, as did the mushy puddles everywhere. Good thing Bug has great rainboots, but even they were a pain after a lot of walking and gave her blisters.

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We loved the Conservatory. We love plants, and it was a maze of rare and exotic finds. The humid air, the Victorian walkway, the moss, and the little peak-away hideouts. It’s just splendid! Bug’s dad and I used to always daydream about building an atrium in our mansion someday and letting our finches fly around it. Bug seems to have not fallen far from the tree with those dreams.

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I mean, how could she not with all that green everywhere?

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Green, green, my world is green. Green is my world when I’m without you. I mean, with you…

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Outside the Conservatory were these crazy scraggly trees that Bug tried to imitate in some kind of interpretive dance.

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We walked on to the big ferris wheel and shelled out several dollars for a nice view of the bad weather. It was okay. Just more rain and more rain from a different perspective.

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We found the toppled statues interesting and read up on how the rarely sung fourth verse of our national anthem is racist. (!) Then we stopped at a taco truck for some weird tacos with bean-stuffed tortillas that burned my mouth. I had no idea what panuchos were. It sounded like a bad word, so I tried it like a fool. They were somewhat good, but I lost my taste after the first taco scalded me.

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After that, Bug wanted to see the wave organ she had heard about on TikTok, so we ubered off to that. What did we ever do before Uber? The Uber driver had no idea what the wave organ was and thought we were crazy lost tourists asking to be dropped off at a parking lot. But TikTok was right. We found it, and well… it didn’t make much sound. I’m not sure the wave organ works. Or maybe it was just too high of a tide. Or maybe we didn’t listen hard enough.

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It was cool, though, and we had a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge in a soft mist of rain and fog.

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After that, we were chilled, so we ubered back to our hotel and sought out some local Thai food. Thai food never disappoints.

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You knew I’d see Matt eventually on this trip. I snuck off early in the morning on Sunday and had coffee with him, and then we all went to Alcatraz together!

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Matt bought us tickets. It was a real treat. Also cold and gray and a bit depressing but very interesting.

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Some of my friends have found Alcatraz to be very disturbing, and I can see what they are saying, but the true crime history buff in me loves to hear the old stories. Some of them are very dark. Humans are capable of great suffering and torture. What got to me was the recorded voices of some of the inmates when they mentioned listening to the chatter of parties across the bay on a quiet night. I guess I never really put myself in their place until I heard that bit. It’s such a cold island, and the water is so chilly and unforgiving. It’s hard to get supplies back and forth, but people having parties were just a wind blow away…

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We rode more trolley cars and even a streetcar for the rest of the afternoon. Bug found number 17 and posed next to it for posterity. Matt took us out to a fancy dinner that night right next to the bay bridge, but I didn’t take any pictures!

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Thankfully Matt got some on his phone. What a treat! Lemon bar treat!

We were supposed to leave to go home the next day at 9 am but then the sun came out and…

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We just couldn’t leave! We didn’t feel like we really got to see San Francisco in a good light. In the sun, it seemed like such a more fun place to be. So I got on our airline’s website and pushed our flight back to that evening. It was the best decision. We had time for another foodie breakfast, and then we headed off to The Mission, a place I hadn’t been able to squeeze in.

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The Mission was great. Right away, we found thrift stores! and a chocolate shop! Even though the chocolate shop was terrific and the chocolate desserts were true works of art, I ordered something I didn’t love. It turns out I’m not as much of a cinnamon fan as I thought, and the Mexican mocha hit the back of my throat just the wrong way.  Next time I’ll choose something better. But the smells alone were a pleasure.

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Of course, we found another place to eat. Dim Sum this time. I wasn’t starving after my chocolate fudgery so I ordered a lettuce wrap while Bug had these excellent potstickers (that I failed to photograph) and some hot green tea that she turned into iced tea by ordering a cup of ice on the side.

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Some more thrift store lurking and graffiti photographing was all we could fit in before it was time to uber back to the airport to head home. It wasn’t our most favorite birthday trip, but it was definitely an adventure, and we both agreed we’d love to come back in better weather. Them’s the breaks when you have a birthday in January!

Next up: Green matcha vanilla cake with raspberries at home!

(If I ever get around to posting about it, that is.)