San Francisco Travel Diary
Everyone ready for a little virtual trip to San Francisco for this #traveltuesday?
Even though I had never been to northern California before, I have had a strange connection to it for years and almost feel like I had already been. Many of my friends are from the Bay area, and I've been repeatedly told how they can just "picture" me in my element there. Which, is ironic, because I have been an East Coaster my whole life and a resident of NYC for nearly a decade. But sure, I'll take it! Plus, didn't every Full House kid dream of those pastel houses on those famous San Francisco hills?
As I mentioned in my coastal roadtrip preview post, the timing of this trip happened to play out just right. My sister's bachelorette party was scheduled for the weekend after Memorial Day weekend in L.A., and boyfriend was finishing up a month of work training out in San Francisco on Memorial Day weekend.
Naturally, I connected the two dots and immediately jumped at the chance to finally see Northern California and do the epic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) drive. I scheduled some freelance work out there, and I was also long overdue for a few days off work with a lot happening here at home.
After finally seeing the city, I most definitely need to come back to spend far more time exploring everything this super-diverse city has to offer. The food and coffee scene alone had me overwhelmed in the best way. Our roadtrip schedule only allowed us one full day and two nights in the city, reminding me of our short and sweet time cramming everything possible into our one day in Florence, and we certainly did not waste any time!
I'm going to take you guys through our time in San Francisco, chronologically in photos and descriptions like a little travel diary, THEN at the bottom of this post will be the summarized list of recommendations for a quick reference you guys can bookmark for your next trip to San Francisco.
Cool? Cool! Let's go!
Upon arriving in San Francisco, I checked in at the adorable boutique Galleria Park Hotel in the financial district. The art deco in the lobby was super funky and fun, while having a calming ambiance, which was just what I needed after a long cross-country flight. And the complimentary wine hour was also was a huge bonus!
I was honestly so tired from the long travel day, since I had worked that morning in NYC prior to my flight too. It was such a nice surprise to be greeted with fresh flowers and a sweet welcome note from the hotel staff. The Jonathan Adler (anyone love the candles at SoulCycle? It's Jonathan Adler!) bath products were also a nice touch to the super clean and calming feel of the room.
After R arrived, we took off to explore a bit before dinner. The hotel was in a perfect central location to a bunch of awesome neighborhoods. It only took us a 15 minute walk to arrive at the famous Ferry Building and Embarcadero.
The inside of the Ferry Building was kind of like a smaller, west-coast version of Chelsea Market. Everything from Blue Bottle Coffee, seafood, charcuterie, little local shops and grocers, it's so fun to walk through. The line at Hog Island Oyster was a bit too long for our hungry stomachs, but I've heard rave reviews.
After walking through the market, we wandered out on the piers and watched the sun begin to set. Views of the ferries, sailboats, bay bridge, and some of the city skyline were just stunning!
Still having oysters on our mind, we swung by Chaya, a French-Japanese brasserie, for some delicious Kumamoto oysters. As the sun was setting, we strolled along the Bay on the Embarcadero through South Beach, towards SoMa (South of Market) for dinner.
The restaurant Marlowe was something that would fit in perfectly in Williamsburg here in NYC (see third photo above). We got seated in the adorable secret little back patio past the more formal indoor dining area. I don't have any photos of my food because 1. It was that good that we dove headfirst into our plates, and 2. Girl was hangry and had no time for camera and poor lighting! I had the Di Stefano Burrata on fava bean toast with pea tendrils, sugar snap peas, lemon and olive oil, which was UNREAL, and R had the house classic Marlowe Burger.
On our way back to the hotel after dinner, we stumbled upon MINNA STREET in SoMa! I've had countless friends send me photos of them near a Minna St street sign, and it was so funny we randomly stumbled upon it without even looking for it! After a couple goofy pictures, we waddled our full stomachs back to Galleria Park for some much needed rest.
After taking some leisurely time in the morning at Galleria Park for that first cup of coffee, a quick workout, and catching up on news, we took off to explore the city! Down to SoMA to kick things off with some ridiculous affogatos at Sightglass, a San Francisco-based roaster. This place is massive, and has all the pastries (gluten-free included) and coffee items you would want... including a dedicated affogato bar. Hello!
We had already made a game plan early on in the day: to not eat full meals at any one place, but to get something small and share it all- that way, we could try out as many different places as possible without going into a complete food coma.
Tested out this game plan by stopping at the famous Tartine Bakery once we got to Mission District, where we got the strawberry bread pudding and lemon tart with a pine nut crust... and a croissant to-go for our road trip for the next day (it actually made it 'til then!). The bread pudding was great, but the lemon tart was where it was AT. One of my clients also recommends the tres leches cake and that looked amazing- just not for 10am.
The weather was just pristine that day too, we lucked out. We continued to wander around the colorful neighborhood of Mission, and stopped at Mission Cheese for a little nibble. We got the West Coast tasting plate and it was an awesome new assortment of flavors I hadn't really had before.
We went to Mission Dolores Park, which was a gorgeous open space where you could see some of the city skyline, since we were higher up in elevation than much of the city. It seems like Washington Square Park, as it was filled with people soaking up the sunshine on their weekend. Dogs, strange people dressed up in dinosaur outfits, families, and interesting characters galore!
Our next destination was for some authentic California Mexican food. Mission is famous for their burritos, where they don't use rice and some places even put french fries in! But us, sticking to our goal, we split one taco from the neighborhood institution, La Taqueria. Because we were apparently proud of ourselves for our restraint, we went next door to Mission Pies to split a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie. This little pie shop had adorable baked goods, with a heavy focus on local goods. Isn't their little fruit farmstand (center photo below) so cute?
At this point, we hopped an Uber over to the famous Lombard Street. R mentioned how his parents drove down this crazy windy road back when they visited the city. What a gorgeous road though! It was obviously filled with tourists, it being a Saturday, but was still stunning and worth the visit nonetheless. These were Alice in Wonderland colorful houses with gorgeous flowers growing everywhere- utter dream houses. Although, not with all these tourists constantly outside, I suppose, haha!
After this, we were ready for our second coffee pit stop of the day en route to the Golden Gate Bridge, and I had my eyes set on Wrecking Ball Roasters. Thanks to Instagram, I spied some adorable pineapple wallpaper that was begging to be photographed.
We walked down Union Street in Cow Hollow, which was like a little Main Street filled with adorable shops, like Sugarfina (candy store for grown-ups and adorable interior!), an Equinox (hello old stomping grounds!), restaurants, bars, and more shopping.
Side note: ever notice how sometimes the best parts of travel aren't necessarily in the big destinations? These goofy photos of me above make me laugh because R was taking photos of me to help me in my quest to get less camera-shy, but I can never keep a serious face when he's talking to me and art-directing me. I just remember us laughing together in this little coffeeshop, talking about all the silly things we'd seen and done that day. That to me, is some of the best moments of traveling: the in-betweens and pit stops.
And now! The iconic Golden Gate Bridge. There's not much to say, so I'll let the photos do the talking. Though a few things surprised me- how close Alcatraz was that we could see it in the distance pretty well, and also how far out by the water on some of the cliffs you can climb out to without any restrictions. We took full advantage of that for sure. Lastly, it gets pretty chilly out there with the strong winds, so bring a sweater!
We were so ready for dinner and a restful night after our day spent out and about. Headed back over to the financial district and arrived at the gorgeous Fairmont San Francisco.
This 5-star hotel lived up to the Fairmont reputation immediately when walking into the massive traditional lobby covered in stunning marble, and the warmest hospitality from every part of the staff.
Walking into the pristine room, the welcome note and treats of champagne over ice and chocolate covered strawberries were the sweetest (literally) surprise from the Fairmont team- not sure how they knew my Achilles heel for favorite sweets, but they nailed it on the head. Definitely snuck in a strawberry before dinner!
While it was so tempting to jump in the bathtub and soak up all the amazing Le Labo products, my stomach was ready for dinner at Laurel Court, the Fairmont's in-house restaurant.
As we headed to downstairs, I was immediately drawn to the live music I was hearing emanating from the dining room. There was a pianist playing instrumental versions of all kinds of songs, from The Beatles to Coldplay, and it set the perfect ambiance for the ridiculously delicious meal that followed.
Normally I like to go out into the city to try local cuisine, but the food at Laurel Court exceeded expectations. With a focus on local, seasonal, and organic ingredients, everything was so fresh and flavors perfectly paired; our waitress took great care to explain the different dish offerings and recommended the best for us. I could live off that veal carpaccio and the root vegetable salad everyday!
After dinner, we popped over to the Tonga Room, a well-known tiki bar of San Francisco. Super cheeky and true to tiki, this bar was so lively and full of energy! Live music came from the little boat in the center of the bar, and there was lots of dancing and island-themed drinks flowing. Perfect place to end the night.
One thing I regret not having had time to explore at the Fairmont was the epic fitness center I got a peek of. As a trainer, I've come to expect letdowns at hotels for gyms but this fitness center had everything one would need to keep up their fitness programs while traveling. A dedicated weight room, cardio area, TRX, etc.
The next morning, it was hard to tear myself out of the plush bed but I motivated myself with thoughts of the Pacific Coast roadtrip ahead that day and breakfast at Mymy Coffee Shop, a recommendation by the Fairmont staff for a quick bite a 5-minute walk away. They had my dream breakfast hashbrowns there, aka all crispy because they bake it in sheets! Why do more places not do this magic? We luckily made it in early, but clearly it is a local favorite, as there was a line down the block when we left, so go early!
Now, onto the roundup list of recommendations!
for San Francisco
Where to Stay:
Where to Eat/Drink:
Marlowe for dinner
Ferry Building Marketplace for marketplace bites
Laurel Court for local, seasonal fare; all meals
Tartine Bakery for baked goods, sandwiches
Mission Cheese for cheese, wine, beer
Mission Pies for, what else, pie!
La Taqueria for Mission-style burritos, tacos
Mymy Coffee Shop for breakfast classics
Hog Island Oyster* for oysters and seafood
Swan Oyster Depot* for oysters and seafood
Yank Sing* for dim-sum
Bi-Rite Creamery* for ice cream
Waterbar* for happy-hour oysters and seafood
Al's Place* for vegetable magic
Where to Caffeinate :
Where to Explore:
Mission Dolores Park
Golden Gate Bridge
De Young Museum*
Palace of Fine Arts*
Muir Beach Overlook*
*recommendations given by San Francisco-based friends, but I personally was unable to visit
Special thanks to the Fairmont San Francisco, Galleria Park, and Visit California for their hospitality and welcoming Living Minnaly! As always, all opinions and reviews are my own.