Last week my family and I did something I have been wanting to do since we moved to California — we went to San Francisco! For a week! It was a dream come true for me to spend so much time in that city and really soak it up, so thank you, dear Elliott, for taking the time off and making it happen.
We haven’t been to San Francisco since our honeymoon (almost six years ago) — and we were only there for half a day on our way between Tahoe and the Pacific Coast Highway. I was thrilled to spend more time eating, walking, and playing our way through the beautiful city.
When we lived in Sicily, we traveled a lot, but it could be stressful, tearful, and limited thanks to having two babies. By contrast, this trip was… amazing. The kids were talkative, curious, full of questions, still happy to ride in the stroller, just old enough to cheerfully skip their naps, and went to bed without complaint around 7:30/8 every night. We had so much fun with them, even on the eight-hour car ride up there and back. Little troopers.
We arrived in San Francisco on Thursday afternoon (October 1), and we were able to find our way easily to our AirBnB rental apartment in the Mission district. We weren’t sure what we would find, but we loved it! It was huge, and the Japanese artist who owned it charged us less than we would have paid for a hotel room. The kids loved this “tiger pillow” and “polar bear blanket.”
Elliott is very sad that in both these pictures he is on his computer — but in his defense he was researching where we should explore first in our neighborhood… and he came up with this:
He lead us around the corner and up a street into the beautiful Bernal Heights neighborhood, which felt like D.C.’s Capitol Hill in some ways (beautiful, eclectic rowhouses and lots and lots of young parents and kids) except it was built on a steeeeeep slant, just like the rest of San Francisco. We played at a beautiful neighborhood park for a while and then started walking up and up and up and up…
… high above the city streets and into Bernal Heights Park, which has a breathtaking view of the city at sunset.
We had to adjust to the constant breeze and chilly air in San Francisco. I can’t believe that locals call September and October “San Francisco summer” and that it’s usually colder and foggier than this. Brrr!
Later, famished, we walked back into Bernal Heights and found a little noodle shop on the main road. Doesn’t this bowl of ramen look like the perfect dinner on a blustery, chilly night? It was!
We walked the final mile back home, tired and satiated, and then walked into our apartment building to find that Gil had fallen asleep in the stroller! He was sick at the time (and unfortunately had croup for the first three nights of our trip, which was miserable for all of us), which is the only reason he fell asleep in the stroller — he never does that! We all crept around him and whispered, treating him like the baby of the family once again.
The next morning, I had one goal in my mind: Tartine. I’ve been hearing about this bakery for years, and I was thrilled to find that it was only a mile from our apartment. We packed up and left the loft for an entire day of exploring.
Tartine did not disappoint! I waited in line while Elliott and the kids waited outside, and then — miraculously — I snagged a table that was big enough for all of us inside. Lena was so excited to dig into this famous morning bun and delicious Gruyère roll!
Not pictured: a delicious turkey and cheese melt on top a long, thin slice of real Tartine bread. We savored every bite of that amazing breakfast, and I think I’ll dream about it until I can go back again. I am such a sucker for good bread and deep lattes, so San Francisco and I got along swimmingly.
Also, Gil’s face here is priceless:
We walked a few more blocks to beautiful Mission Dolores Park, which was calm and peaceful on a weekday. Apparently it is the gathering place for smokers, musicians, and alternative lifestyle-livers on the weekend… which is hard to imagine from these photos!
Also, this is the second of the only two photos that were taken of me the entire week in San Francisco. I guess I was too busy eating my way through the city to pose! (And I am not kidding… “where shall we eat next?” was a constant, happy refrain in my mind.)
I think this was our fourth playground of the day? We were walking from the Mission district west across San Francisco, and along the way we literally came upon a new playground every half-mile! San Francisco has some of the best playgrounds in an urban space that I have ever seen (except maybe here).
That said, at home in San Diego I walk by playgrounds all the time and say, “No, kids, not right now, we’ll be here tomorrow to meet our friends anyway…” or some other excuse, but in San Francisco Elliott stopped at EVERY. SINGLE. PLAYGROUND. that we passed. Which was 10 playgrounds that first day alone! Dad of the year? Probably.
But he wanted to play on them too! And it made the kids so happy!
And he is — more than occasionally and in all the right places — a total softy.
We walked through the famous district of Haight-Ashbury because I wanted to see where the hippie movement started in the ’60s, although everyone said it was pretty grungy. We liked it, though, and some of the architecture and shops were beautiful. We also came across an amazing bookstore where we all wanted to spend about twice as much time as we did!
But our goal was the California Academy of Sciences, and hopefully before closing time. We kept walking, came to Golden Gate Park, ate a picnic in the grass of one of the meadows, found another playground…
… and then finally dragged ourselves away to the museum. Which was, just as everyone had promised us, completely beautiful!
Our favorite part might have been the indoor, climate-controlled rainforest (top left) which also had a deep pool filled with Amazonian fish and animals, and a glass tunnel underneath so you could walk through and let the fish swim over you. We lingered as long as we could, enjoying the beautiful displays of hundreds of animals, plants, and birds.
We had to get to the Ferry Building, though, because we were meeting my college friend Dan. We hadn’t seen him since our wedding! I failed to get a picture, but we had a great time catching up, enjoying a drink together at Gotts, and exploring the foodie shops of the Ferry Building. Next time we’ll all go flying, Dan!
That night, my friend Emily’s babysitter came to watch our kids while we went out for a date. We had made a reservation at The Slanted Door, a famous Vietnamese-fusion restaurant in the Ferry Building, but because Gil was still sick, we decided to stay close to our apartment. I found this list of the 30 Hottest Restaurants in San Francisco and discovered the top three were within a few blocks of our apartment. The Mission district is the place to be!
Ultimately we decided on the Old Bus Tavern restaurant, which looked promising and brews its own beer, but in the end we were pretty disappointed with the avant-garde menu. Pictured above: quail eggs. That was the only description, but when they arrived we discovered that they were poached, pickled quail eggs on a bed of salty, spicy fried leeks. Exciting! But ultimately the dishes went too far even for our adventurous palates. Oh well, maybe we’ll get another chance to eat out on a date in San Francisco in another five years!
To be continued in San Francisco – Part 2…