Long Overdue: San Francisco Part III- Target, Trains and Trees.

After a good night’s sleep from our Alcatraz/Biking Washout adventure, we woke up bright and early to drive out to Napa (which is about an hour drive from San Francisco) to take a wine train through Napa.   Since we had neglected to bring our regular cameras, we decided to stop by a Target on the way up to Napa and buy a digital camera so we could be sure to get good pictures.  In the end, the pictures on that camera weren’t better than the pictures from my iPhone which was unfortunate.  However, it did have a “fish photo” option which provided us with a ton of entertainment throughout the day.  Two samples posted below.

When we got to Napa, we found a little place to eat breakfast called Alexis Baking Company & Cafe.  Unfortunately the wait was too long and we ended up getting breakfast sandwiches to go.   I can’t really give a legitimate review of the food (given we took it to go and it was lukewarm by the time we ate it at the train station and I can’t even remember the food at this point), but the place was packed and it looked cute.  I would definitely go back next time I visit Napa and have a little more time to sit down and eat.

For the Napa Valley Wine Train, we originally purchased tickets for the Silverado Car, but we were on a wait list for the Gourmet Lunch and thankfully ended up getting upgraded to the Gourmet Lunch.  Even better, technically the Gourmet Lunch was cheaper for us, because there was a military discount for that option.  Better food and better experience for cheaper price?  I vote yes.   Also, at one point I walked through the train to find a restroom and walked through the Silverado car.  I was SO thankful we were able to get the Gourmet lunch.  The Silverado car had no air conditioning, had the ambiance of a gas station Subway restaurant, and was extremely loud.  The gourmet car was quiet, air conditioned, and generally wonderful 🙂

Waiting for the train to leave 🙂

The gourmet cars are refurbished to look like they would have in the early 1900s.  We had the “second seating,” which meant for the first half of the ride, we were in a “lounge car” that had cozy chairs facing out to big picture windows, and were served an appetizer course.   There was a bartender who periodically told us interesting facts about Napa and the sights out the windows.  I may or may not have disturbed the peaceful ambiance by snort laughing at pictures Dave and I took using the fish photo feature on the new camera.

Appetizer Course

 

Nice Views 🙂

 

Fish Photo 1

Fish Photo 2

 

At the halfway point, the train turned around and we were seated at tables in the dining car for a three course lunch.   I had a baby lettuce salad with candied walnuts and goat cheese, followed by a delicious chicken entree and of course chocolate cake for dessert 🙂

 

 

 


You are allowed to walk through the cars and can stop by the kitchen car and see the food being prepared, and there is also  a car where you can go do a wine tasting.  We didn’t get around to doing either of those things, but I really enjoyed it.  I would totally recommend it to someone who hadn’t been to Napa before as a good primer for the region, and even to people who have been there a lot who want to have a delicious lunch in a unique setting (i.e. with all of Napa streaming past you instead of just sitting in one location).

After the train ride, we headed out to the Muir Woods for a hike.  The drive up to the park was beautiful, and we stopped at one point and took some pictures of the view from the top of one of the hills.

Finding the entrance to the park was a bit tricky, as was finding parking, but after paying the $5 per person entry fee, we were soon walking through a forest of Coast Redwoods.  While there aren’t any drive through trees in the Muir Woods like some of the redwoods you can find further north in California, the trees are Coast redwoods, the tallest trees in the world.  We walked a few of the loops for a total of about 3 miles in about an hour.   I was not dressed appropriately for a hike… planning fail on my part… But luckily the trails are not intense.   It’s (normally) a very short drive from San Francisco.  You just cut over the Golden Gate bridge and it’s about 9 miles away.  I will definitely be recommending this side trip to anyone I know who visits San Francisco.

Self Portrait 🙂

Unfortunately for us, we were visiting Muir Woods on a holiday weekend, and it took us over an hour and a half to drive that 9 miles back into San Francisco.  Also unfortunately, the stop and go traffic combined with me turning the trapped time in the car into endless photo opportunities resulted in me getting extremely car sick.  Dave offered to pull over but I thought I was going to be fine.  Then, it happened.  Just a few blocks before we reached our hotel, sitting in the passenger seat while my boyfriend of one month was driving, I started vomiting into an Old Navy bag.  That’s right, I know how to keep it classy.  I kept apologizing, mainly because I couldn’t stop thinking about this episode of How I Met Your Mother where Lily gets sick and her husband thinks she sounds like a velociraptor when she barfs, and that sound is dubbed over every time she barfs.  Because I am the queen of rational thinking, I was pretty convinced that Dave was going to be really grossed out and think I also sound like a velociraptor when I barf.

Leaving Muir Woods... Dave stays calm, I freak out.

Fish Photo on Windy Road (probably what made me sick...)

 

Fish Photo 3

Dave's "I Love Traffic" Face

So close, but so far away...

Once I was no longer in a moving car, I felt a lot better.  We changed clothes and decided to walk down Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner.  We were kind of anti-Fisherman’s Wharf because of the whole tourist trap atmosphere, but a sourdough breadbowl from Boudin Bakery sounded good so we went with it.   After dinner, we walked around the pier for awhile.   It’s really pretty at night with the water and the city/bridge/pier lights, and there is great people and seal watching.

I can’t remember the exact details of why we decided to walk back to our hotel.   We got a really late start on dinner, so by this point it was pretty late and not knowing the neighborhoods, I wasn’t entirely sure that it was the best idea to walk our way back but we did and we were fine.

The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel’s (Sir Francis Drake) restaurant, Scala’s Bistro, before leaving to drive home.   The restaurant is beautiful, the food and coffee were delicious, and the best part was that we got $30 off.  You can get $10/day coupons from the hotel for foregoing housekeeping because it is the environmental thing to do.  So, win for the environment and win for us! 🙂

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Long Overdue: San Francisco Part II- Down Came the Rain and Washed The Dark Wash Out.

After our trip to Alcatraz, we rented bikes for an 8 mile bike ride from Fisherman’s Wharf, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and down to Sausalito.  Our plan was to have lunch in Sausalito, and then catch a ferry back to the Wharf.

This is what Sausalito looks like on a sunny day

As is evident from some of the pictures from our adventure to Alcatraz, it was a sunny, beautiful day.  The PERFECT day for a bike ride across the Golden Gate.  So we rented bikes and we were off.  I know a lot of people who go to San Francisco for the first time want to drive across the Golden Gate.  Getting to bike across the bridge was so fun!  We stopped for a lot of photo ops along the way.

 

 

 

 

At the point where we took this photo, we had been stuck behind a tour group of people riding SEGWAYS.  Really? Lazy man’s walking tour I guess.  People, do not go to San Francisco and ride a segway around.

 

By the time we reached this point, it was like “…where did all those clouds come from?” But you know, it’s a bay, clouds roll in, it gets foggy, etc.  I really wasn’t worried about it at all.  Overall the bike ride was beautiful.  And I’m an Oregon girl so I can find beauty in a cloudy day 😉  Our bike ride was along the shore the whole time up until this point, and I just couldn’t get over how beautiful it all was, and how happy I was to be riding a bike in such a beautiful place instead of working 😉

Right about here is when the bike ride got a little tougher because we had to go up a pretty steep hill to get up to cross the Golden Gate.  Pretty sure I walked my bike for part of the time, but my memory is hazy.  Dave is hardcore, I don’t think the hill phased him at all.

Once we got up to the bridge, the wind was a little much so I finally put my sweatshirt on.   We stopped about halfway across to take pictures.

Right after we took these pictures, something crazy happened.  All of a sudden, there were little water droplets hitting my sunglasses.   Just a couple, and then it got to the point I had to take my glasses off because I couldn’t see.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have sunglass wipers?  Why hasn’t anyone invented that?  Oh, probably because it usually doesn’t go from sunny to pouring down rain in a span of 5 minutes when you are halfway across a bridge with no hope of turning back.  Right.

By the time we reached the other side of the bridge, it was pouring.  We sought shelter at a rest stop and considered whether we should wait it out, turn back, or keep going.

I tried to get Dave to make a pouty face with me.  I don’t think he quite understands what a pouty face is.

After waiting it out for a bit, we decided it likely wasn’t going to stop and we might as well continue on to Sausalito (the closer location) and catch a ferry back to the Wharf.  It was a bit scary riding downhill in the rain (and without helmets), but we tried to keep it slow and steady.  The rain was nice and steady too 😉  We were completely soaked.  I was wearing skinny jeans which was a poor choice for biking in any event, but especially when they were completely soaked.  It was so hard to move my legs.  And when I say soaked… I had a puddle in my pants, y’all.  And it rained so much it washed some of the dark wash out of my jeans.  There are permanent lines where the color washed out.  My TOMs shrunk.  (Note: they have since stretched out again.  Thank goodness. I love those shoes!).

By the time we made it down, tons of other bike riders were already there waiting in line for the ferry so we got in line.  I am not sure how long we had to wait in line, but it was over an hour and it was still pouring the entire time.  Dave watched the bikes for a few minutes while I sloshed through the rain into a coffee shop and got us two coffees and two giant cookies.  At this point we had ran down the pier, walked all over Alcatraz, and biked 8 miles since breakfast.  I was HUNGRY.  And since we weren’t exactly in any condition to sit down at a restaurant, we were going to have to wait for more food until we got back to our hotel and changed.

Some people found the situation very humorous (including Dave and I), and some people were acting like it was the end of the world.  I actually kept my cool until a point where we had been standing there FOREVER with our bikes, and a new ferry came and the guy was letting all of the people without bikes, who had been standing there for 5 minutes, pass us to get on first.   I started losing my cool a little bit in that moment because we had been waiting for so long and we were soo wet.  I was also hungry.  And wet.  And cold. Did I mention the wet part?  But I held it together 😉  I managed to find a heater inside and stood right in front of it.  Who cares about the rest of the sad, wet souls on the ferry?  Not this girl.  I was keeping the heater for myself.

(Technically everyone else chose to sit instead of stand, and weren’t 8 feet tall like me, so they couldn’t have reached the heater anyway.  For once my height was a perk!)

I am not 100% certain but I am pretty sure the rain stopped right about the time that the ferry pulled away from Sausalito.  Once we were back at the Wharf, we returned our bikes, and stopped in a few stores around Union Square to find new clothes for Dave because he was wearing the only warm clothes he brought with him, which were now soaked.  We also stopped by a pizza place for a personal pizza to go so we could have a snack to hold us over until we could get changed and get to a real restaurant for dinner.

For some reason we didn’t manage to take any pictures of our complete soakedness.  However, within about 15 minutes of returning to the hotel room, we were dressed and ready to head out for dinner.  You couldn’t even tell I had just been soaked to the bone.

 

Dave found a recommendation for a french place on Yelp called Cafe Claude.  It turned out it was also in an alley like the place we’d went the night before.  And this time we sat outside.  The food was delicious and the setting was fantastic.  We just don’t have places to eat like that in L.A.  (little alleys that take you right back to Europe).  At least not that I know about, and according to the lady at the table next to me, who had about 30 years on me, L.A. doesn’t have places like that.  So there you have it 😉

 

Next up, our trip to Napa for the wine train, and hike in Muir Woods 🙂

 

 

Long Overdue: San Francisco Part I- We Went to Jail.

I have wanted to go to San Francisco for years and just never made it out there.  How could anyone not want to visit the Tanner family’s hometown? 😉

I found this picture of random strangers online, because I didn’t actually visit this famous street.  But pretty much everyone should remember this from the opening credits of Full House, and you might even be singing, “everywhere you look, everywhere you looook..” right now.  I know I am.  In my attempt to find a decent picture of that street to post here, I came across something awesome.  Apparently it is widely believed that the Tanners lived in one of these houses, but they didn’t.  Apparently some people believe it is one of the biggest myths in our culture.  Check out that link, the post is hilarious.  So apparently the Tanners did not actually live in one of these houses, but liked to picnic on the lawn across the street.  Consider yourselves informed people.

Anyway… So finally, Memorial Day weekend, I was still dating the guy from the Catalina trip, Dave, (still am), and we decided to go together.  We booked a hotel, and we were off.  We decided to drive because we had plans to go to Napa and the Muir Woods, so we figured it made the most sense to just bring one of our cars.

Our drive up was very uneventful–no trauma like I had experienced with Meghan.  When we arrived we checked in at our hotel, The Sir Francis Drake.  The hotel was beautiful, the location was fantastic, the staff were amazing.  However, two complaints: this is a historic hotel, so the walls are PAPER THIN.  Expect to hear every word your neighbors say.  We did.  Also, valet parking is like $60/day (?!).  So don’t bring your car… or park it somewhere else.  We ended up just parking there because we got a great rate on the hotel ($150/night), and didn’t know what else to do.  But I still feel a little bitter about it.  REALLY, Sir Francis?  REALLY?!  On the bright side, an awesome doorman in the kind of doorman suits I’ve only seen on movies and in NYC helped us with our bags from the car.  Almost made it worth it.  Almost.

The first afternoon/night was pretty relaxing.  We just walked around Union Square for some shopping, and then found a little pub to sit down and have an appetizer while we tried to figure out what to do for dinner.  We found several recommendations on Yelp, but when we walked to the restaurants they were empty.  I’m just not a big fan of being the only couple in a restaurant.  I always feel awkward like we’re not supposed to be there.  So Dave kept looking, and eventually found a recommendation for a tapas place.  It turned out it was on this cute little alley/street that was very reminiscent of Europe.  There were several restaurants on the street, but we went to B44 for tapas.  The restaurant looked cool inside, it was packed, and the food was delicious.  Perfecto.

Deep thoughts in the Pub... What to have for dinner? ... Hmmm...

How about a little slice of Europe in San Francisco? Yes, I think that will do.

Where are we? I hope they still take American dollars here!

Mmmm... Spanish tapas ❤

The next morning we had reservations for a ferry ride to Alcatraz.  We originally planned to take the trolley down to Fisherman’s Wharf, but we started walking, originally to find a Starbucks without such a ridiculously long line, and we didn’t see another Starbucks until we ultimately reached the Wharf.  Of course, we had decided to just walk the whole way anyway long before we ultimately made it down there.  Choosing to walk to the Wharf is something you really have to commit to because GOOD LORD those hills are HILLY.   But the views at each intersection were amazing.

And as a result of walking we happened to walk past the famous crooked street.

Down at the Wharf we found a great little place to have breakfast called Pergamino (I just used google maps to “walk” down the streets of San Francisco to figure that out.  Yayyy technology!).  We sat at a table outside, and the waiter was great.  I had the smoked turkey omelette.   Let me tell you, it was a party in my mouth.  My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it.  I can’t remember what Dave had but it was also delicious.  They also let you pick out your own mug to use for coffee and have a ton of different kinds to choose from.  I don’t remember which coffee we chose, but it was also delicious.  If you go to SF, go there.  Do it.  I hear all the food is awesome.

Dave's mug choice. That's right... He's mine ladies 😉

Afterward, we started walking down to the actual wharf to get down to the pier where we would catch the ferry to Alcatraz.  We had plenty of time when we started, but we made a few stops for Dave to buy sunglasses, and me to buy a sweatshirt in case the ferry ride was cold.  That sweatshirt would come in very handy later in the day, but that’s a story for another post 😉  Due to our shopping detours, suddenly we realized we only had about 10 minutes until our ferry was supposed to depart, and had to RUN down the street quite a ways to make it.  We were at Pier 47 and our ferry left from just past Pier 35 which may not sound far, but it sure felt far, especially given that I hadn’t worked out in… who knows how long.  Not fair that my military boyfriend is forced to stay in shape and left me in the dust.  But alas, we made it.  I made it, huffing and puffing, but I made it.

Pulling away from the pier.

The ferry ride was beautiful.  You can see all of downtown and the golden gate bridge, and lots of sailboats out and about.  I was snapping pictures like crazy with my iPhone. Somehow we both forgot to bring real cameras, but the pics from my iPhone tend to turn out pretty good as long as I don’t need zoom and there is plenty of light.

Approaching "The Rock" aka Alcatraz.

On Alcatraz Island, you have to walk up some fairly steep switchbacks to get to the prison and take the self-guided tour (you get headphones that tell you interesting facts while you walk along.. is that still “self-guided”? I don’t know).  The tour was really interesting and highly recommended.  Before going, I would recommend watching Clint Eastwood’s “Escape from Alcatraz.”   It was filmed at Alcatraz shortly after it was shut down, and is based on a true escape story.

Even if history and prisons aren’t your thing, it’s still worth it just because it’s a fun little island to explore and the views are amazing.  Apparently the hardest of hard criminals got sent there.  Maybe the ocean view would suck if you knew everyday it was that pesky ocean trapping you on the island forever, but in my mind I was like “this wouldn’t be a bad place to be locked up.”  Except for the part where I was too tall for the prison cells.  It would get annoying having to duck all the time 😉

After returning from Alcatraz, we rented bikes and went on what turned out to be a fairly epic bike ride.  But that is a story for another day!  In separate posts, I also plan to recap our bike ride, our trip to Muir Woods, and our Napa Valley Wine Train ride.  Stay tuned 🙂

Sailboats on the way back to San Francisco