Friday, October 12, 2012

san francisco recap and recommendations.

I have this tendency to turn every vacation spot into a future home. I become unbelievably attached to these places, leaving little bits of myself all over the country. When I come back to our daily lives and routines, I am grateful for the clean sheets, but I am also a little bit lost, desperately missing these places we've left ourselves. 

San Francisco turned out to be no different from the rest. It's the first place I've visited where I haven't immediately wanted to adopt the zip code -- that time change was rough for this east coast gal! -- but by the time our flight home was set to take off, I discovered I'd become attached just like always. Old habits die hard, I suppose. 

This was my first trip to the Pacific coast, and I'm hoping it's not my last. The landscape there is like nothing I'd ever seen, and I felt like I was walking around with my mouth open the whole time. I'd also assumed San Francisco would have the big city vibe of New York and Boston and Chicago, this hustle-and-bustle feeling I admittedly love. Instead, the city felt ridiculously laid back and cool. It's like San Franciscans care far more about their surroundings than their schedules; they're more concerned with taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and incredible natural landmarks than their iPhones. 

I'm sure I'm looking back on it all with rose-colored glasses, but that's why we take vacations, isn't it? To take a step back from our routines, no matter how wonderful they are, and to become someone else for a few days? Someone who has time to breathe the fresh air and hike the hills, to eat at good restaurants and drive for miles with no real destination. 

Traveling is one of my favorite things about this life. The planning, the execution, the exploration, the transportation, the investigation. The tourist traps and the local haunts, the quirky characters and the miles of undiscovered territory. 

I love it all, and I am so grateful I married someone who loves it too. 

I've traveled enough to know that a lovely travel partner is a rare gift, and I count it among my many blessings that Jordan and I make an incredible team when we visit new places. This trip was special for so many reasons, so many firsts (first step in the Pacific, first In-and-Out burger), but I can't forget that these trips are a blessing because of who I get to take them with. 

And if you're planning a trip to the coast, Jordan and I came up with a list of our favorite things to do and see while you're there. 

Jordan's recommendations:

- Alcatraz nighttime tour - Well-worth the money, the nighttime tour to Alcatraz gives you a creepy and fascinating look at one of America's most unique federal penitentiaries. Plus the ferry views on the way over are pretty spectacular. Make sure to book this one well in advance. 

- Highway 1 - Rent a car to enjoy breathtaking views of California's coast; this was one of my and Jordan's favorite parts of the trip. We drove about two hours south of San Francisco, past Carmel by the Sea. Carmel is a favorite among tourists, but I preferred Santa Cruz for eating and shopping. (Jordan agrees.)

- Lombard Street - The most crooked street in America, Lombard Street is terrifying to access -- so many tourists who don't know what they're doing! -- but worth it for the views and for the chance to say you've done it. Jordan drove our rental car, but you can also walk down. (Though the walk up would be pretty exhausting.)

Annie's recommendations: 

- Muir Woods - My family always did something outdoorsy on our vacations growing up, so Muir Woods was probably my favorite stop of the whole trip. Creation has so many sanctuaries and cathedrals to admire, and this is one you won't ever forget. It's absolutely breathtaking.

- The Golden Gate Bridge - I obviously knew we'd get a chance to see the bridge while we were in San Francisco, but I didn't really think it'd be one of my favorites. Wrong. The bridge itself is a piece of really beautiful architecture, and every day we were in town, we got a different view thanks to the famous San Francisco fog. The surrounding park is also fun, and we were able to get our national park stamps here too.

- Coit Tower - You've got to walk up some pretty steep steps to get there, but Coit Tower offers amazing views of the city. We both think it's worth the extra cash to ride the elevator to the top of the tower, but the views along the way are spectacular on their own.

- Grace Cathedral - Jordan and I always like to visit historic cathedrals in the area we're visiting, and this one was so different from any I've seen in any other city. The artwork was modern and featured the city itself rather than many religious figures, and the multi-faith chapel was worth a stop as well. 

Favorite food spots: 

- Bob's Donuts - great for a quick breakfast

- Tartine Bakery - worth the wait; get there early and maybe try a week day

- Boxed Foods Company - great lunch spot in the financial district

- Boudin Bakery - touristy, but amazing; get a sourdough bread bowl with chowder

- In-and-Out - so good, though I'm sure many of you knew that already; I got mine animal style


Rachel Reeves said...

I do that same thing.
Except, I turn fictitious movie sets/television sets into my future home.

In my mind, I'll be living on PEI {From Anne of Green Gables}, also in Stars Hollow, in the English Countryside from Nanny McPhee and lastly, in KK's Brownstone.


chet said...

Just look at all those Cormac McCarthy books at City Lights! He must be good! Oh, you've never read him??And you still have your brother's copy of Outer Dark??

Anonymous said...

What perfect timing!

My fiance and I finally did some hardcore number crunching on our dream honeymoon of going to the Mediterranean, but realized it was just plain too expensive.

So we started thinking about the family vacation my family went on two summers ago, to San Fran and then up the coast up to Oregon (which was beautiful! Saw a lot of the same attractions you did, too... Muir Woods, Alcatraz, Hwy 1). So now we're thinking we're gonna do something similar for our honeymoon, and this post listed some new sites for us to check out. Thanks :)

Alissa said...

So glad you enjoyed your first adventure to California! Come back soon. There are so many San Francisco secrets that you must discover! :)

Erin said...

Yay! So glad you loved it here. It has to be one of the best places on earth, I am sure. When you went to Carmel, did you get a chance to hike around Point Lobos? That is said to be the most beautiful spot of land meeting sea.
Scott and I recently took the walking food tour in downtown Santa Cruz & totally loved it. Where did you guys eat down there?
Cute pictures!