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My husband had to go to San Francisco and I was able to join him and I’m still putting my feet back on the ground from this whirlwind trip. If you ever travel with us to a new area, it’s not always relaxing – lol! Our perspective? We’re here & we don’t know when or if we’ll get back, so let’s squeeze it all in!
We only had 3 1/2 days & here’s what we did complete with a few unexpected twists & turns, my ‘deer in headlight’ experience & all of the magical moments that became part of our journey…
Day One: We landed later than anticipated & the original plan was to go straight to the Muir Wood Forest, which is the Red Woods, but due to the governmental shutdown that was crossed off the list. We traveled in to San Francisco for a quick grab to eat & to check in to the hotel. We stayed at a little boutique hotel, The Hotel Carlton & it ended up to be extremely charming with its eclectic spirit and multi cultural flair (pics below). After checking in we went straight to the Golden Gate bridge. I can be corny sometimes & have to tell you it was a verklempt moment for me walking over it with my husband…and, I’ll embrace my corny-ness and tell you I loved every choked up moment of it (pics above). However, I did find the view of Alcatraz disturbing & wondered how I would have felt living back in the day when it was in use. You can see it from many views while in San Francisco & I thought how creepy to know what was over there…now it’s just an empty ruin & another tour closed by the government shutdown, and although I’ve heard it’s an interesting visit, it wasn’t on my ‘squeeze in’ list. After a bit of sightseeing, we ate our first Arabic Fusion food for dinner in the Saha Restaurant located in the Hotel Carlton and then crashed!
Day Two: I was on my own for the day with my husband on business. I went down to the front desk for advice on where to go. Now, let me preface that most of the staff at Hotel Carlton sent us in the right direction, but this morning the woman at the front sent me walking in the wrong direction. San Francisco is funny, you can be on one block & be fine & the next block can be not so fine. After a block into Polk Street & with several comments from men on the street, I knew I wasn’t particularly in the right area. I had two choices, keep walking & act like I knew where I was going or turn around, show my mild fear & walk back past them. I decided to ‘fake it’ and keep walking until I found a place to eat that was acceptable and I did. It ended up being great & while I was sitting there I saw a quaint little bakery kiddy corner to where I was sitting, Lotta’s Bakery, and decided they would have to be able to put me on the right road….I wandered in & met Earl. ‘E’ ended up being the letter of the trip with Edgar, Earl & Eric all playing a role in my trip :)! Earl sent me to the RIGHT street (steep, but correct path)….However, on my way to where Earl sent me I had my ‘deer in headlights’ San Francisco experience. As I walked I looked up & there was a man sitting on the ground with his pants to his knees and yes you can only imagine the rest…So, I crossed the street & kept acting like I knew exactly where I was going – OFF OF POLK STREET (at least the section I was on) and on to California Street where I hiked up a steep hill, found Grace Cathedral, fabulous architecture, amazing views and just the San Francisco experience I was looking for (pics below).
After I left the top of California Street to head down the other side of the steep hill, I actually missed the street Earl sent me to next, but am happy I did. I ended up in Chinatown. Then, I finally found the street I was supposed to be on & made my way into the Union Square area for some more city shopping before meeting up with my husband.
Thankfully we had a rental car! We went in search of the famous Lombard Street & drove down it. None of my pictures actually depict the true steepness of the hills in San Francisco, but they are kind of fun to drive over with a few ‘hold my breath’ and ‘clench onto the car’ moments! We then wandered around the city and magically stumbled upon Coit Tower that we had no idea existed just as the sun was setting. All of the views breathtaking. Then, we accidentally drove right into the North Beach area where I’ve always wanted to go for dinner, it’s their little Italy & we found the perfect bistro waiting for us…
Day Three: After advice from my friend Karon, a free-lance journalist who often writes travel, and Edgar from the front desk at Hotel Carlton, we decided to hop the double-decker Big Bus & sit on top & see the sights. It drove us around to many key areas around town including an EXTREMELY windy, take your breath away ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. There isn’t enough time in the day to make it off at all stops, but it’s a great way to see the entire city & learn about some of its nuances. We did take in part of Golden Gate Park with a tour of the Japanese Tea Garden & my husband entertained my whim to have green tea in the garden :). We made a brief stop at Chinatown and then we took off to the Wharf for lunch at the pier, a little shopping, a peek at the infamous Sea Lions & a walk to Ghiradelli Square. We later landed back in Union Square so that my husband could see it, which ultimately lead us to a detour in the most beautiful Williams-Sonoma that I’ve ever been in with four flours of displays and fabulous products where we met Eric who worked there, but is a transplant designer from NYC.
Day Four: Not part of the original plan, we realized that we were only 45 minutes from Napa Valley, which has been a life long dream to visit for both of us! It was so funny, because a colleague had just been there the week before & when I shared with her it was on ‘THE LIST’ of someday ‘to-do’s’ I never imagined I would be there so soon. We got up early & drove in, stumbled upon a Farmer’s Market in Napa’s Downtown area, which was spectacular & so worth every minute. We then wandered on & landed at an excellent tour & wine tasting at Robert Mondavi; the estate alone is worth the visit. I had mentioned that someday I want to sit at one of those long wooden tables in the middle of a vineyard for a meal & before our tour ended, we landed at a one wooden table in the middle of the vineyard (inside, not out, but still….) for tasting and a lesson on four different wines. We then continued our drive through Napa and landed at Beringer’s & just as we were wandering the very different, but equally amazing grounds, I told my husband how I have seen weddings at some of the vineyards in magazines and out walks a bride & what we got to see was a planned photo session prior to the wedding where her & her groom got to see each other for the first time. The wedding was on the grounds later that day & perfect weather they had. I stole a few shots & felt a little like the wedding crasher :). As we continued our drive through Napa we discovered the Culinary Institute at Greystone where we had lunch outside over looking Napa Valley, I am still in disbelief as I write this how the trip transpired, it wouldn’t have gone this smoothly if we had planned it – lol. After lunch we drove up to Castello Di Amorosa, which is winery that has been built as a 15th century italian castle replica. After touring we tasted five more wines. Part of the movie Bedtime Stories was filmed there. Having had enough of wine country, if that’s possible, and too exhausted to travel up to the geysers, we turned west to pick up part of Pacific Highway One for a drive back to San Francisco. As luck would have it, we drove right through some Red Woods that I had wanted to see earlier in the trip. Again, our accidental timing couldn’t have been more perfect with the sun setting as we met up with Pacific Highway One that brought us unbelievable views. Magically once again we landed in the city just in time to find a place to pull over so that I could run in for a Ghiradelli’s Famous Ice Cream for each of us to taste as our celebration in wrapping up our trip & as we pulled down towards the pier to leave, instead we were met with fireworks over the San Francisco Bay where we sat and ate our sundaes; all unexpected. It was the perfect end to a whirlwind trip that was filled with ‘wing it’ moments we couldn’t have planned any better.
But all things come to an end & when we got home we had two kids waiting with running temps….and my husband’s car had a flat, which lead to more repairs than expected…oh well, back to reality :), but I have the pictures and memories to take me back whenever needed….