I have a confession to make. I’m a planner, a planner at heart. A planner who absolutely LOVES research and her google sheets. I heart Google Sheets 🙂
Vacation planning is simply the best. We pick a location and I go to work. First up: unique accommodations. Something that is not a corporate chain hotel or tourist trap. We’ve stayed in campers, we’ve stayed in high end luxury hotels, little holes in the wall, and we’ve once stayed at a former brothel. It’s always an adventure.
This time, we stayed at an incredible vacation rental in the heart of the Castro with a balcony overlooking the city.
Next was restaurants. As much as I rely on AirBnB for our vacations rentals, TripAdvisor RULES when it comes to restaurants. I spent many happy hours filtering restaurants by cuisine and location, saving to trips, opening each in a separate tab, sorting tabs by ranking. Whenever Damian stopped by, I’d ask “Do you want to see what I have planned?”. I get excited like that. Same with attractions, tours, and hikes.
Day 1 saw us stroll through the Castro before taking a Cable Car down to the waterfront, climbing Coit Tower (well worth the price of admission to have incredible views across the city), then meandering to Lombard Street, avoiding the crowds at the Wharf before boarding our ship to take the Alcatraz Behind the Scenes Tour. Oh my goodness, so incredible.
We spent 4 hours in the island, had an amazing ranger guided tour, explored areas not open to the general public, found out that we would crack about 3 minutes into solitary confinement, experienced a bone chilling lockdown, took a self guided audio tour, attended more storied walks, and ultimately found out that I should have explored a career as a bank robber. All around an awesome day, which also made me desperately want do a bridal portrait session at Alcatraz.
Day 2 saw us hike about 1000 miles across the city. At least that’s what it felt like. 🙂 From the Castro, we headed up behind our house to Kite Hill, which has EPIC views across the city. From there, we hiked up to Twin Peaks, down past the university, got lost in a residential area where we realized just how much we missed Jake and Shelly back at home and petted every dog we encountered. We reached the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps before heading to the Golden Gate Park and explored the Japanese Tea House & Garden (excellent albeit pricy Green Tea Cheesecake), before hoofing it the entire length of the Park down to Land’s End. In retrospect, we should have skipped that part and hailed an Uber (or rented a bike). It was a lot of walking with not a lot to see. We did, however, learn that every playground came with a bathroom, which can’t be appreciated enough. 🙂
We grabbed a late lunch at Lands End before hiking along the coast to the Golden Gate Bridge. We got lost again, this time in a really, really, REALLY fancy neighborhood and not only ran out of sidewalk but also out of daylight. We abandoned our mission to reach the Golden Gate Bridge, which we still hadn’t seen up close, and instead hailed an Uber back to the Castro for dinner.
Day 3 is where my excessive planning really paid off. To give us a break from walking, we had booked a half day bike tour with Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours. Our guide Josh was hands down awesome and since it was only the two of us pretty much tailed the tour around our interests. We stopped at a couple of great bakeries, saw amazing murals, and learned so much about the history of San Francisco. This was so.much.fun! Thank you, Josh!
Now it was time to speer our white whale – The Golden Gate Bridge. It had been covered in fog for the duration of our stay but Day 3 in the city was sunny and we scurried over there as fast as we could … only to see a lot of fog and no bridge. Total bummer, none of the scenic views we had hoped for. Not to be deterred, we decided to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge regardless. Wind, cold, and fog. More wind. We were halfway across the bridge and visibility was 5 feet.
Then, a minor miracle happened. A gust of wind ripped apart the fog, a beam of sun came through and there it was – the famed Golden Gate Bridge. I may have squealed just a little bit with delight.
In short: we absolutely ADORED San Francisco. Not just for the sights and the food but the amazing people we met everywhere. Stay tuned for the 2nd part of the trip report, which will lead us to Yosemite, Sequoia, Napa Valley and PCH. You can also follow me on TripAdvisor (reviews in progress). In the meantime, here are two of our favorite restaurants:
Anchor Oyster Bar – awesome! No reservations so just write down your name on the board outside, wait, and be ready to be amazed.
Pacific Catch – this was mindblowingly good. Devine. The Poke Bowl was one of the best I ever had, service was amazing, casual atmosphere, and sensational food.