Long time, no blog! I’ve been MIA lately because we’ve been busy preparing for, traveling to, and recovering from a trip to California! We returned from our week-long West Coast vaca courtesy of Jim and Meredith (Jamie’s parents) two weekends ago and now we’re still trying to adjust back into our routines. For just one week in CA, we were able to cover quite a bit of ground and got to see some pretty fantastic stuff, including San Francisco, Wine Country, and Yosemite. This is our San Francisco story!
We departed from D.C. the day before Easter, arriving at LAX before connecting to San Francisco. This was my first time flying from one U.S. coast to the other, so I was surprised the flight was only five hours long. Not bad, right? It takes longer than that to drive from central VA to the beach SC. After picking up a rental car at the airport, we wasted no time getting out and about to see the sights.
We were in the vicinity of Lombard Street, so of course we took a turn down the winding switchbacks of Russian Hill.
Not too far off was the Palace of Fine Arts, which was pretty spectacular. This massive, ancient-looking structure has a somewhat futuristic quality to it which reminded Jamie and I of something you might see on the planet Romulus or maybe Naboo. Truly, we are nerds.
We checked into our hotel near the border of the Chinatown and North Beach areas, so dinner was within walking distance. We landed on a small, kinda hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant: Macaroni Sciue Sciue. It ended up being a great choice; the food was authentic as was our waiter. After Jim used an Italian word or two, we pretty much became besties and scored free shots (what it was, I have no idea, but it was delish!) and dessert on the house. Totally molto bene. For the meal, I ordered spinach cannelloni and caprese salad which, I’m happy to say, included some excellent fresh mozz so naturally I give this place the Katie stamp of approval.
After swinging by the famed City Lights Bookstore (and passing a street performer singing “Jamie” by Weezer – awesome!), we headed back to the hotel to crash for the night. We got an early start the next Easter Sunday morning (still functioning on East Coast time) to make the uphill trek to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill before our appointment with the Alcatraz ferry.
There are great views of the city and Golden Gate from here. And apparently it’s also a hot t’ai chi destination because we came across small groups of Chinese people meditating at every turn. I get it, though; it’s totally peaceful up there.
We arrived at the ferry port early so we perused the Alcatraz gift shop while we waited. Jamie and I agreed this dramatic, vintage-y print of the island was awesome, so we popped on it.
Soon it was time to board the ferry and head to The Rock! We took approximately 542 photos as we approached the island — it was that intense, y’all. This was one of the best:
Once there, we were free to wander the grounds as we pleased. The main attraction was the walking audio tour of the cellhouse, which was fantastic. It touched on all the hot topics of interest: riots, escape attempts, and prison life in general.
Interesting tidbit: the island has become a bird nesting sanctuary of sorts and we happened to be there smack in the middle of nesting season. We saw loads of seagulls perched about and building nests amongst the ruins. The island’s pretty well-covered in plants and flower gardens, too.
The voyage to Alcatraz definitely didn’t disappoint — for me, it was probably the highlight of our stay in San Fran. There was much more to see though, so we headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch at Alioto’s. This was the view from our table:
I ordered their tasty Bay Scallops Creole, which included tiny bay scallops, peppers, mushrooms, rice, and a nice kick of spiciness. So, so yummy! After lunch, we stopped by the ice cream + chocolate shop at Ghirardelli Square for sundaes. I also bought a bag of various sea salt chocolates, which I’m still savoring slowly.
We had to wait it out a bit (whilst trying to ignore a doomsday prophet/homeless man encroaching on the line), but finally we succeeded in boarding one of San Fran’s renowned cable cars. Three of us got seats inside the car while Jamie was the “lucky” one with a spot standing on the side step.
We hopped off around Chinatown and walked around a bit before returning to the hotel fairly exhausted. For dinner, we opted for take-out from a guidebook-recommended Chinese restaurant across the way: the R & G Lounge. I ordered salmon + avocado spring rolls and vegetable chow mein, all very yummy and authentic.
The next morning we planned to depart San Francisco for Wine Country, but we had a few stops to make first. We swung by Stella Pastry + Cafe in North Beach for breakfast where I happened upon what I consider to be the Holy Grail of Italian pastries: sfogliatelle. I’ve had this seashell-shaped pastry only once before while abroad in Italy and it was to die for. Stella didn’t let me down — their version was just as delish as I remembered.
Our next destination: Alamo Square, site of the colorful Victorian rowhouses (“The Painted Ladies”) seen during the Tanner family picnic in the opening credits of Full House. This was kind of a big deal — I basically grew up with Deej, Steph, and hot Uncle Jesse like they were part of my own family. TGIF forever!
The view of the city from here was pretty awesome, as you can see, and the homes around the park were beautiful and well-restored. I’d love to check out the inside of this one (the mint green’s my fave):
As we headed back to the car, we noticed a couple of guys carrying around TV cameras. I figured they were local news cams and didn’t pay them any attention, until we rode around the corner and saw they were filming Mr. and Mrs. Roloff — yes, that’s the couple from TLC’s Little People, Big World. I tried to get a photo and it didn’t turn out so great, but that was our token celebrity sighting for the trip!
We left town via the Golden Gate Bridge, bound for a stop at Muir Woods to see the redwoods before heading to Wine Country. Just past the bridge is a lookout point where we got some good pics. Jamie and I like to compete for who can take the best pictures and in the Golden Gate category, I totally won:
Stay tuned for recaps of our Wine Country and Yosemite adventures coming soon!
[Image of Alcatraz print via here.]