Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Golden Gate State

After our honeymoon last January, John and I had been thinking about where to go on our next vacation, and San Francisco has always stood out as the top contender. From what we read, we were expecting predictably unpredictable cold and rainy weather. I talked to a couple of friends who live in the area and they (plus every article written about San Francisco ever) said to wear layers because the weather can change really suddenly.

We must have been incredibly lucky because the weather was lovely the whole time! It was certainly chilly, but never cold, and it never rained. The ground was wet from time to time and it definitely got foggy, but we never needed an umbrella which was good... because I left it in the hotel room every time we went out! 

For the first time ever, I took my DSLR camera and didn't take one picture with it. The thing is, it's large. And, I was worried it was going to get rained on (even though it never rained at all). So, I weighed the cost-benefit and decided my iPhone was just going to have to cut it. Let me tell you, it was super liberating! That must sound silly, but it's tiring to have to constantly think about it. I think I enjoyed our time out and about a lot more without it!

We (I) did a lot of research before we went so we'd have our days planned in advance, mainly by geography. My preference is to always plan things around the way that we can see the most sights as efficiently as possible. Rarely do we stick to the plan--usually we end up nixing something in favor of doing something else, but it's nice to have an idea of what we'll be doing, knowing we can modify it however much we want once we get there.

Our luggage is so predictable: grey for me, UT for John.

We stayed at the Hotel Triton on Union Square and really liked it. It's a boutique hotel, and the only complaints we saw online were about the rooms being really small. Since we weren't planning on being in the room other than to sleep, size didn't matter to us as long as the bed was big! Indeed, there wasn't much space--just enough to set our luggage down... barely, but nothing we weren't prepared for.

Cute, right?!

To get around town, we bought two Muni passes which allowed us to use their public transportation as many times as we wanted. It was really mind blowing how convenient their system is. We used an app called Rover to figure out which kind of public transportation was nearest and fastest. It was free to download and worked unbelievably well. We'd tell it where we wanted to go, and it would give us some transportation options, sorted in order of which would be fastest. Once we chose one, it would tell us where to walk to catch the bus, how long the walk would take, how long the ride would take, and then where to walk to get to our destination. SO COOL. Every now and then we'd take Uber, but I think we only did it 4 or 5 times, two of which were going to and from the airport.

Another nice thing about the public transit is that it rarely dropped us off exactly where we needed to be, of course, so we got to walk around and see a lot of the shops and restaurants on our way.

This door speaks directly to my soul.

We went to the California Academy of the Sciences and really enjoyed seeing all of the exhibits, including a planetarium, aquarium, living rooftop, rainforest, and more I'm sure I can't remember.

A bush with pretty flowers outside of the CAS

Our first meal in the city was at a restaurant called Zazie that a friend of mine recommended. The food was delicious, but the best part was their back deck! It was really gorgeous and felt super cozy.

For breakfast the next morning, we went to a famous place called Mama's, and stood in line for a little over an hour waiting to be seated. It's super tiny... probably 15 tables total, and when you get inside you stand in line to order before sitting down. As you wait, you get a really great view of a lot of the food, plus you can see the guys in the kitchen making everything. We I had a pretty serious case of my eyes being bigger than my stomach... let's just say that there's a long list of menu items I could tell you about from first hand experience, and they were all delicious!! John had sourdough french toast with a lemon and butter sauce and a slice of crumb cake. I had just about everything else.

After breakfast, we walked to Coit Tower which was a pretty steep climb. Doing that after eating twice as much as I should have was kind of painful, but we made it. The hill doesn't look nearly as steep in this picture as it actually was--in person it was really kind of amazing to look at the parked cars because it seemed like they should be tipping over and rolling down the hill!

View from the top!

Coit Tower

View of the city & the Golden Gate bridge from Coit Tower

On our way back to the bus stop, we walked by this awesome little mural. At first I thought they were real! Isn't this the coolest ever? I love it.

The next stop of the day was a segway tour. Sure sure, laugh all you want, but we've learned that segway haters have usually never even been on a segway! Everyone thinks it's soooooo lame, but it's not. I stand firmly behind that. If you like fun things, like golf carts, roller blading, or really any enjoyable mode of transportation, you will love segways. People think tourists go on them to see sights, and while that was partially true for us, I was so excited to go on them again just because they're unbelievably fun. It's a moving toy.

We took an advanced tour and ended up being the only two people on it! It was amazing. I wish I had gotten a picture of our tour guide--he's really what made the tour as awesome as it was. The neat thing about this tour was that it took us all over the city, including some lookouts and just regular old streets that were suuuper steep!

Goden Gate Bridge

One super cool thing we did while on the segways was to go down Lombard Street. 100% tourist move, but hey, when in Rome, right?! It was super fun, and also hilarious because our fellow tourist onlookers were actually taking our pictures in disbelief. Lots of finger pointing and oohing and awing. We couldn't believe we weren't dying during our descent, and neither could they.

Lombard Street

We actually did Lombard Street twice because of the route we took, so we hopped off to get a picture the second time :)

Lombard Street round two

One of my favorite stops was to the Exploratorium, and unfortunately I didn't get any good pictures inside, but I did get this one random selfie ;) The Exploratorium is basically a place with tons and tons (maybe a hundred?) of hands-on exhibits, most of which teach about science, but there was also a psychology section. It's technically geared towards kids, but everything we read online said that adults loved it too, and we definitely found that to be true. It's hard to explain specific exhibits because they were truly showing some phenomena that are surprising to see in person, so I don't think words would do them justice. Suffice it to say, this is a 100% must-see if you're ever in San Fran. My jaw was on the floor a good bit of the time.

On our last day, we had planned to rent a GoCar to drive to the Golden Gate Bridge. GoCars are these little three-wheeled vehicles, and they navigate and narrate based on where you go. It sounded pretty neat, but I woke up feeling really sick on our last day and didn't have it in me to have to drive the thing, or to be in charge of the map if John was driving. So, we hopped on a bus instead, and what a better choice that was! Sight-seeing with none of the work, and I didn't have to worry about being crushed by a regular-sized vehicle.

That day was the foggiest day... see the bush receding into the background? There's a slice of a cable used on the bridge that you can look at, and it's really pretty amazing to think about how many little cables are in one large cable (27,572 if you can't see it on the sign).

Golden Gate Bridge cable

Here's a closeup of what the inside looks like.

We originally planned to walk about half way across the bridge, but it was so foggy there wasn't any point. We made it a little ways across, snapped a picture, and headed back.

Golden Gate Bridge
See the gorgeous view behind us?! Yeah, neither could we.

The landscaping near the bridge was really pretty, and I loved this patch of succulents. I'm not sure if I've just never seen so many of this kind clustered together before, but I was in love.

Since we didn't walk across the bridge, we had a lot more time on our hands than we had planned. We decided to walk around Hayes Valley which is where a macaron shop I wanted to stop in was located. Umm, yum!

After that, we actually decided to go on another segway tour, this time through the Golden Gate Park. We learned a lot of really interesting things about the history of the park, and for someone that's not too fond of history, I was surprised I stayed engaged! Turns out the park used to just be a pile of sand, and everything on/in it is man-made and man-planted--nothing is native! You'd never know from looking at it that everything was brought in from elsewhere--all of the trees are very mature, and they don't look like they were placed in a specific manner. It's a really gorgeous park and I wish I had gotten a picture. Oops. We weren't allowed to snap any while actively segwaying, but it was nice to just be in the moment enjoying the tour. My favorite part was probably going through their redwood forest at sunset. Ahhh... dreamy.

As always, we're very happy to be back home. We missed Olive like crazy, and she's actually currently under the weather. Depending on how much better she gets by tomorrow morning, we may have to make our third trip of the week to our vet. If we do, it'll mean getting some imaging done to see what's going on in her tummy. We feel so bad for her! Luckily, she seems to be in good spirits. Not quite as energetic as she usually is, but she's still happy to go on walks and she wags her tail all the time, so she doesn't seem to be in any pain. Keep your fingers crossed she gets better tonight, ok?

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