San Francisco, California
Our very first trip to San Francisco! Actually, our very first trip out to the west coast together. My brother had just started his job and we were eager to visit and explore this brand new area of the country. It is overwhelming how much there is to do in and around San Francisco so scoping down to a long weekend was definitely a challenge.
We arrived early Friday morning bright eyed and ready to go! After dropping our bags off with my brother, we made our way to the center of the city.
It wasn’t long before we spotted the famous trolleys as we made our way to Chinatown where we hunted for lunch.
After walking the area several times, we decided to dine at Great Eastern Restaurant. We ordered an array of food including egg rolls, shrimp fried dumplings, BBQ ribs, pot stickers, sesame chicken, and sauteed beef with asparagus.
We were eager to see everything so my brother had an idea to climb up to Coit Tower to get an elevated look of the city. This was our first encounter with a San Francisco hill. You need to pass a fitness test to live here! I do not even know how to cars survive these inclines. The sidewalk was so steep that it turned into a staircase. Certainly a great cardio workout!
All the effort to get up there and the tower itself had just closed. Disappointment quickly diminished as the view even from the landing was a stunning 360 degree view of San Francisco.
The way down was a breeze as we made our way to Pier 45. The weather here still hard us in amazement- how is it this perfect all the time? My brother’s next suggestion was an arcade, Musee Mecanique. What makes this arcade different? It is one of the world’s largest collections of antique coin operated arcade machines- over 200 in working condition to enjoy.
The warehouse to jam packed with all sorts of games. We gathered our quarters and spent several hours figuring out game mechanics (literally). While most were simple, others where trickier to operate. It was really neat to see what “gaming” was like and how far it has come!
I was excited to get my first glimpse of Fisherman’s Wharf, even if it was one of the busiest tourist areas. Bustling with activity, the area was surrounded by sourdough bread bowls. The picturesque views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge are hard to ignore- like a postcard in every direction. It was an irresistible sight as we sat and watched the sunset.
Speaking of irresistible, no trip to this area would be complete without stopping at Ghirardelli Square for ridiculous ice cream sundaes- the perfect way to end our first night in San Francisco!
Early rise for another day of adventure! We started off by grabbing breakfast at Crepevine. Early morning drinks (mimosa, sangria, and blood mary) before diving into our meals.
Costa del Sol- sauteed ham, spinach, and onions with poached eggs on an english muffin with hollandaise sauce
Sunset Crepe- strawberries, banana, and Nutella served with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream (yes, ice cream for breakfast
Denver Omelette- ham, cheddar cheese, onions and bell peppers
It was finally time to go see the the Golden Gate Bridge! We walked through beautiful Golden Gate Park that eventually lead to the bridge. This entire walk was wonderful as we passed enormous trees, including redwoods.
The reward through this park is the iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Once again, how is the weather so wonderful here? The perfect photos to capture these moments.
With so many spots on our sightseeing list, we called an Uber to assist us in expediting the process. We drove by the Full House house and the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square Park before getting dropped off at the top of Lombard Street.
We walked down the windy road admiring the decor of the different houses as we watched cars drive five miles an hour doing the same thing. I much preferred walking around the area instead of driving. It is clear that one does not take Lombard Street with the intention getting anywhere quickly.
There was a very ornery crossing guard at the bottom of the street managing the slow moving cars and the mobs of people – “You’re gonna get yourself killed… by a car!” as if the cars were flying down the winding road. Comical still to this day.
Finding ourselves back at Fisherman’s Wharf with an appetite, we picked a vendor where we sampled lobster rolls and fried calamari.
Not far from our lunch stop we spotted sea lions sunbathing in the ocean on large wooden pallets. Our first sea lions (and certainly not our last)!
Exploring Pier 39 reminded us of a traditional boardwalk at the Jersey shore. There are many specialty food vendors and stores, the most tempting at Trish’s Mini Donuts for a bucket overflowing with freshly made mini donuts. There is also a piano staircase taking people to the second floor in style.
The place that drew our greatest attention was the Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze– we never turn down a mirror maze! The other thing we never turn down is a puzzle store and we spent quite a bit of time in Solve It! before leaving Pier 39.
Our last stop of this very full day was exploring the indoor piers at Embarcadero. We made it back just in time to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones.
Today was our first trip to wine country! We rented a car from Turo (previously RelayRides) for our day in Napa and Sonoma Valley.
We took a breakfast pit stop in Santa Rosa where indulged in delicious platters of food (disappointed to report that the restaurant that is unfortunately closed- too bad because the breakfast here was great!).
Our first stop of this wine tour was the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. The property has quite a complex. There is a pool, bocce ball area, full museum, movie relic display, and finally, a tasting room. You could have spent hours here with all there is to do!
Our tasting included 2011 Sofia Riesling, 2012 Diamond Collection Chardonnay, 2012 Director’s Zinfandel, and 2012 Votre Sante Chateau Red.
The next vineyard on our list was Sterling Vineyards. An exciting start, you have to take a gondola ride up to the tasting room that sits atop the hill.
The wine tasting was set up in a unique fashion where we traveling around the facilities to access each wine all while getting spectacular views of the vines. It was definitely a format we enjoyed as we got to explore and taste at our own pace.
Our final stop was St. Francis Winery. Nestled in the valley, the landscape here was just beautiful. The tasting here offered included eight different wines.
We were so happy with our sampling of Napa and Sonoma and it exposed us to the massive industry in this area. The number of vineyards is almost unfathomable! Every several feet was another sign indicating another winery. It is an overwhelming process to pick, which is why we ended up at names we recognized (at the time- this was truly our first “taste” into wine!). With time, we would get better and knew we would be returning to this area frequently.
Kevin’s must do while on the west coast was to visit an In-N-Out Burger and sure enough we passed one on our journey back to San Francisco. I don’t get the hype, but my brother and Kevin were all smiles.
We noticed as we got close to the bridge that the signs indicating the toll did not accept cash and this got me nervous. Planning on paying cash and unsure if the rental car was equipment with an electronic payment mechanism, we pulled off the last exit before the bridge up Conzelman Road. Quickly ascending up in altitude, a different set of nerves began. A parking lot appeared and revealed one of our best accidental finds of the trip- Battery Spencer at Golden Gate Vista Point.
Unbelievable and spectacular views of the city and the bridge high above the water. We felt so luckily to be up there gazing at the entire San Francisco skyline. Needless to say, we spent a long time up here trying to get the “best photo” but more trusting what our eyes were seeing. And also googling the bridge toll situation- don’t worry they bill by license plates- all good!
After dropping the car back to the owner, we wrapped up the evening with a stop at CREAM. This concept uses freshly baked cookies serve as the delivery vehicle for homemade ice cream. Mix and match to your hearts desires and even add toppings. It was heavenly. The perfect way to end our first trip to San Francisco.
We had the first flight out of San Francisco back to the east coast. While having my brother across the country was tough, we were thrilled to have a place to continuously explore. We loved San Francisco and were already planning our return trip and many more to come.