Sunday, January 22, 2017

san francisco

In December, H & I ventured to San Francisco for my best friend's wedding. We managed to get a couple days off of work in the attempt to make it into a little vacation as well. With our schedules seeming to perfectly work out-of-sync (as soon as I had a relaxed month, his schedule became crazy, and vice versa) for a good part of the year, we found a little golden window of opportunity where we could both take off of work and immediately jumped for it. Both H & I have been to SF before, so we had more freedom when it came to planning the trip. Having seen most of the touristy things before (although H had never been to Golden Gate), our time was better spent just exploring the city and meeting up with friends in the area. 

day one

Day one started out at the White Swan Inn where we stayed for 2 nights. The convenient location + really good breakfast + quirky decor = a wonderful stay. The coziness made it difficult to get out of bed every morning (hi, fireplace in our room), and I could have easily spent the day on the couch below reading a book. But alas, we had to tear ourselves from the grandma's-house ambience and take on the city. Step one was obviously taking H straight to GGB. 

photo from White Swan Inn 

view of the bay from the bridge

Our GGB adventure took most of the morning, which was the best time to go. It was a weekday, so the crowds were thin and the parking was plenty. We trekked down to the bay with our coffees and walked around the water, stopping to watch a group of surfers attempt to catch some waves. Next up was walking back up the picturesque trails to get on the bridge. We walked half the length of the bridge, and read up on the structural history of the bridge (having an engineer dad makes these things super interesting). Now H could officially check GGB off his list of things seen in SF. The next thing on our list was something I was too excited about- the SF Conservatory of Flowers.

If there's a botanical garden or greenhouse in a city, you can guarantee I will be there. While I don't consider myself a botanical savant by any means, I do love gardens and flowers, which meant the SF Conservatory of Flowers was a must-see. The humid greenhouses provided a comfortable getaway from the chilly weather outside and the exploring the impressive collections of flora on display made for a wonderful afternoon. We caught the special exhibit "Butterflies & Blooms" which consisted of a walk-through tent of butterflies fluttering everywhere. By the end, we were hungry and ready for lunch (read: I was hangry and needed something to eat ASAP). 

a venus fly trap living up to it's name

We consulted Yelp for anything good and close by, and found Cinderella, a Russian bakery and cafe. H and I both ordered the beef stroganoff (how can you say no to authentic stroganoff?), and it was just what we needed after a long morning/afternoon of walking around. I was also surprised to find out that the stroganoff did not come with pasta, like many of the western recipes call for. Instead, our dishes consisted of the stroganoff (beef pieces in a mushroom and onion stew/gravy) with slices of rye bread, and mashed potatoes on the side. If you couldn't gather from the description, the dish was amazing. With our bellies finally full (read: my hangriness gone), we drove over to explore the Sutro bath ruins in the late afternoon, hoping to catch them before dusk. 

20 minutes later, post-allergy medication for H and post-Tylenol for my headache, we had made it to Lands End with the Sutro baths close by. We were still some time away from sunset, and made the most of walking around and taking in the gorgeous views Land's End had to offer. This was, in my opinion, the most picturesque part of the day. The sun cast a warm glow on everything and the greenery was almost unreal. It's no wonder SF is such a popular place to live- can you imagine this being your view on an afternoon jog? 

The Sutro baths were a large public saltwater swimming pool complex built in 1896. At the time the complex opened, it was advertised as the world's largest indoor swimming pool establishment. The complex closed around 1966 after financially struggling to stay open. Soon after closing, a fire destroyed the building as it was in the process of being demolished. Today, the ruins remain and are eerily beautiful. 

We stayed at the ruins until sunset. Watching the waves and feeling the temperature drop was a soothing end to a tiring day. We headed back to the hotel and met up with my best friend, her fiance, and her sister for dinner. All exhausted, we walked around until we quickly found and settled for Ike's sandwich shop. After eating back at the hotel, we said our goodbyes and were knocked out by 8:30 pm. Up next was the wedding day!

day two

Day two started out with meeting up with one of my high school friends who has lived in the SF area for a few years. A few blocks from our hotel, we met up for an early breakfast at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse (known for the "I got baked in San Francisco" neon pink sign and delicious baked goods), fortunately avoiding the long lines. We then walked over to Jane for coffee and place to sit where we could catch up. By late morning, H & I were heading back to the hotel so we could check out in time. Before heading out of the city and driving to Livermore for the wedding that evening, my friend had graciously offered to give us a tour at where she worked, Pixar studios. Jumping at the opportunity since the studio isn't open for public tours, we made a pit stop in Emeryville. At the studio, we got to see so many of the original drawings used in Finding Dory that were on display, as well as numerous awards the studio has won over the years. 

It was an exciting behind-the-scenes look and I'm so thankful to my friend for showing us inside. After the tour, we headed straight for Livermore in the rain. The rest of the day and evening was spent in a wonderful, exhausting wedding daze out in wine country. 

day three

By day three, we were spent. With so many things packed into the previous 48 hours, the perfect remedy was a late brunch with the newlyweds and some of their closest friends. We grabbed brunch at a local restaurant just in time (it was Christmas Eve and everything was either already closed, or closing at noon). A family-style brunch later, we said our goodbyes and headed for the thing H & I had been really wanting to see since watching Planet Earth- the redwood trees at Muir Woods.

Before going into the national park, we found a few secluded trails on Mt. Tamalpais that were again bathed by sun and surrounded by lush green grass. To be perfectly honest, we accidentally stumbled upon these trails because we both completely missed the Muir Woods national park entrance while driving. While walking down this trail, the entire time we were wondering where the redwoods were. We randomly found two trees along our hike and spent 15 minutes gawking at them, thinking they were the only ones we would see all day. Disappointed at not being able to find a large group of the redwoods, and being very confused about where Muir Woods actually was (per our GPS, this was it), we headed back to our car sulking. After a few minutes of driving back, the park entrance finally caught our eye. With about an hour before the park closed, we zipped through the national park quicker than I would have liked, but at last we were able to see the beautiful, giant, one thousand year old redwood trees.

Since we were flying out of San Jose, we had a long drive back from Muir Woods. We stopped in Palo Alto to meet up with one of H's really close friends from school, and had a very festive Afghani Christmas Eve dinner at one of the few restaurants open that evening. We spent the evening catching up over delicious food and hot tea, and getting to meet some of H's friends was a great end to the trip. The next morning, we flew back home- H to spend some time with his family in Houston since he had a full week off of work, and I to Dallas for a week of night float on the inpatient psychiatry unit starting that night. 


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