Blog post

San Francisco: Travel Guide

August 21, 2015

I went to visit my best friend in California this summer (at some point, I’ll post last year’s Louisiana pictures / trip information…). It was the first part of August, and she was then living in Modesto. I flew into San Jose, rented a car (from Avis this year), and made the lovely drive to Meagan’s house.

Day 0: Modesto

I had bought pizza at Uno Due Go in the DFW airport (they do gluten free, safe for allergies, in 15-20 minutes. I get it every time I go through the airport), and when it was time to get on the plane, I took my two remaining slices with me and stuck them (wrapped in a napkin) in my bag. That was what I munched on during my drive, though Meagan told me later that cops have been giving people tickets in CA for eating whilst driving… oops.

Lots of the things we did this time were throwbacks to last summer – the first time we were somewhere together that wasn’t Corpus – but since I never wrote up that trip… well… just bear with me here. Our first adventure once I got there was a trip to Walmart, because it was like 10pm and why not? (I also thought I would need contact solution, but once we got to the store, Meagan remembered that she used the same stuff I do, so I left without buying anything. Yay adventures!)

Day 1: San Francisco

The next morning (this would be Monday, 8/3), we got up, got ready, and left for San Francisco. We stopped, kind of on the way, at The Original Pancake House. I’d eaten there in Chicago with my cousin and LOVED it. Turns out, the CA location we went to didn’t have the 1/2 order option like Chicago did… I got six giant pancakes and ate two. Sigh.

We then made our way towards San Fran via the Oakland Bay Bridge. The toll over the bridge isn’t a hassle at all (or, it wasn’t either of the times we went through it). We just navigated to the left lanes and handed over our $4 (prices are based on time of day). The attendant pushed the button, the bar went up, and we spent less than a minute waiting. It was great.

Fun fact, the top level of road on the bridge is for cars going into the city. The cars leaving the city actually travel on a level underneath. It’s a pretty interesting experience, but even with my fear of bridges, it wasn’t bad. Traffic moved along at a pretty nice clip, though it did get a little stopped up as we got closer to the city.

From there, we drove straight to the airbnb. It was a little too early to check in, but our host said we could use the driveway during out stay, so I kind of hoped that we could just park the car there and be rid of it. San Francisco is HILLY. Like, I wasn’t expecting that level of hills. We ended up driving past the house first, and then because I was afraid to do a three point turn on such a steep incline, I pulled a U turn in the middle of an (empty) intersection. It worked out fine. We parked, said hi to the cleaning lady, and took off on foot to see the area (and buy a map).

I took this by standing out in the middle of the street in front of the house. I did a lot of this over the few days.

We walked around for a while, joking that the steep hills would be sure death on roller blades and also wishing we had skis for going down the hills and trekking poles for going up them (or a ski lift. That would have been grand). I bought a map and we headed back to the house just in time to check in right on schedule. The airbnb was great. We had the entire first floor apartment to ourselves. It was part of a duplex behind the main house. We got the key from the lockbox and dropped our stuff off inside. I’ll do a whole post about the airbnb and our experience there.

This was just a pretty archway that I liked enough to take a photo of.

 After we got situated, we took the 24 line streetcar from the corner of Noe and 26th up to 17th and Market, where we changed over to the F streetcar (and by “changed”, I mean “Meagan and I ran around for a bit trying to figure out what we were doing and then found the F streetcar driver and made friends”). Note that we also made friends with the driver of the 24 streetcar, who told us where to get off.

The way the SF streetcars work is wonderful. These aren’t the classic streetcar trolleys. For the normal ones (which have a much wider range), you pay $2.25 and ask for a transfer. They’ll give you a ticket good for 90 minutes, and you can get on and off any of the transportation systems during that time. It’s great.

All the people are super nice, too. I guess it could have just been our charming personalities (if you’ve ever seen Meagan and I together, you’re probably laughing. If you haven’t… well, I have a very charming personality and Meagan kind of puts up with me). Anyway, everyone was helpful – bus & streetcar drivers, shop owners, even random people.

We did have a tiny bit of miscommunication occur on the F car… we thought for some reason that the car ended at the end of Market Street, so we got off. It turns out that F runs all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf (at the end of The Embarcadero). It was alright, realistically, because we got to walk down Embarcadero and see all the things.

 We wandered down Pier 14 in order to get a better view of the Oakland Bay Bridge. For those of you, like me, that don’t know… Pier 14 has this.

Kathryn Steinle. She’s the pretty girl killed next to her father by an illegal alien… an illegal alien that had been deported repeatedly and was known to be dangerous. I could go on, but that would make this an angry post. Anyway, it hit both Meagan and I like a ton of bricks. I hadn’t realized that her death had happened in San Francisco, and Meagan hadn’t realized that it was THERE.

We just walked out onto the pier like nothing was wrong. It was just very sad.

Rest in peace, sweet girl.

Moving on.

First we checked out some funky sculptures…

Then I took some fun pictures.

We made it to Pier 39 to meet up with a longtime friend of mine (actually, another friend named Meagan) and her boyfriend. While we waited for them to find us (apparently, saying that you’re across from Aquarium tickets and a coffee shop doesn’t really narrow things down), Meg and I stepped into a tiny shop to get some water…and a brownie for me. I love it when stores sell gluten free products. (The store is called Biscoff Coffee Corner. It’s across from the WipeOut Bar & Grill and near the Hard Rock Cafe.)

We hung out with Meagan and Nick for just a bit, and then hopped back onto the F streetcar, only to travel just a couple stops down and then have to get off and get on the one at the front so it could go back the other way. We were heading to a Mr. Money Mustache meetup… and because we had bad timing, we were late. It was a casual thing, so it wasn’t a huge deal. We hung out there for a while until it got dark and we got hungry. Due to food restrictions, we declined going out to some unknown eatery with the MMM folks. We used UBER for the first time to get from the park where the meetup was, to the restaurant of our choice. That was an experience in itself… the first one, I had to cancel because I didn’t mean to order and then my phone showed that the car was like 3 minutes away… sigh. Then the NEXT one (different driver) basically drove in circles trying to figure out where we were. It was weird and kind of annoying… but he got us safely to the pizza place.

Patxi’s Pizza

Anyway, that restaurant was Patxi’s Pizza in Noe Valley. Let me just say that I’d really like to go back and hang out in that area more. They had a big glass window and the door – and that was it to the storefront. It was a pretty narrow restaurant, but we didn’t even make it that far in. We chose to sit at the bar, which was both empty and RIGHT up front. They had the window wide open. It was beautiful outside – nice and cool, not muggy, no bugs – and it was also their pickup window. How cool is that? I wish I had more pictures but by this point, I had ditched my DSLR and was way tired.

Meagan and I opted for water and pizza, and halfway through our waiting time, decided that we didn’t want to be the last people in the place and also didn’t want to have to stay awake and totally functioning, so we decided to change our order to go. They didn’t even blink an eye, and even gave us “take-out waters” (haha), which actually came in really helpful because we weren’t totally sure on the tap water situation in SF (is it good? safe? should we drink it?) and bottled water is expensive.

We grabbed an UBER back to the house and ate our pizza there. We both proclaimed it to be the best pizza ever. Mine was gluten free (top image), Meagan’s was not (bottom image), and we were admittedly both very hungry… but it was still good. It was so good that I didn’t even take the time to take a pretty picture of the pizza.

So like I said, I’d love to go back to that neighborhood and explore and eat, and I definitely recommend this place for gluten free (or not gluten free) food!

Day 2: San Francisco

Day two of the trip Meagan and I took to San Francisco last August was actually supposed to be our last day in the city. When I actually got to California, we bought two-day go passes for SF. They had to be used consecutively but didn’t have to be used on any two particular days. We ended up not actually using them on day 1, so when we realized how cool they were, we decided to come back for day 3.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So day 2 started with 62 degree summer temperatures and us checking out of the airbnb. It was so dang cool to wake up in a normal neighborhood in San Francisco and just leave like we weren’t tourists. The downside was not being able to just walk everywhere right away, but the huge upside was not having to deal with a hotel and getting such a cool experience.

This was the house in front of where we actually stayed. The little apartment was tucked behind this house, which seems like a totally normal thing in SF. My rental car is on the left and the slanted street is legit.

Taking another middle-of-the-street photo…

After leaving the airbnb, we drove to a parking garage we had scoped out the day before. It was technically for the World Market (Cost Plus), but anyone could park there. If you purchased like, $10 or something in the store, they validated part of your ticket, which made it cheaper. However – spoiler alert – the day after, we parked across the street and it was actually a better deal.

Our plan for the day was a boat ride under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz (Escape From The Rock) and then the Hop On Hop Off tour. We only did these because they were free with our go passes, and I’ll say that we really enjoyed them both. It was cheaper to get the go passes than both things individually (especially with using the go passes the following day as well), and we got to do things that we wouldn’t have justified otherwise. (We also saw SEA LIONS!)

I took so many pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge both on day 2 and 3. It was a little chilly on the boat (in the middle of the San Francisco Bay… go figure) but boating under the GGB was pretty dang cool.

Then it was time to go around Alcatraz. We didn’t get tickets to do the actual tour but this was a really cool way to see the whole thing and learn some history in a pretty compressed version.

A quick shot of the bridge from closer to Alcatraz…

I just love the old buildings on the island. I’ll definitely go on the actual island the next time I’m in San Francisco. Also, the city from the water looks like a cool puzzle image with all the different colored buildings.

More sea lions… Aka water dogs…

We then hopped onto a Hop On Hop Off tour bus. We thought it would be a great idea to sit on the top of the double decker bus, because pictures, duh, but we didn’t consider that it would be significantly colder on top of a bus moving down the road. It made for some great pictures at an unusual angle, so I’ll take it as a win anyway (despite freezing the whole time).

The pictures only kind of do justice to the actual beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge. Some were super easy to get, and some weren’t. The bus is moving at a normal speed, other cars are zooming by, and it was so cold up there. After a few snaps, I’d huddle back into my chair until the next time I wanted to take a picture. (Meagan took the one below and I just love it because it’s probably her view for so much of our trips… scenery and then me with my camera lens. I was taking one of the pictures above during the one below, so that’s fun.)

Anyway, we drove through so many neat areas that I have pictures of but can’t remember the exact facts around the places or reasons I took the pictures… so I’m going to leave them out for now. We drove through Haight Ashbury – somewhere I wanted desperately to go (thanks, Mom) – and it just looked so cool. The tour guide was so great about pointing out places and things to look at and I just took pictures of everything.

My last name is Scott, so this was a fun photo.

I’m kind of obsessed with the SF sky. Nothing beats a Texas sky (I might be biased…), but the one in San Francisco made for some pretty dang cool pictures. The buildings are all neat and funky and the HOHO bus was a great way to see the city. Some of the places (like Haight Ashbury) were probably too far to walk and we didn’t really have the time or desire to figure out public transport while we were there, so we figured that when we came back the next day, we’d use the HOHO bus (because remember, we had the two day go passes and they let us get the HOHO tour tickets for free once per day) as our bus.

At this point, we had to leave the city to make it to Concord in time for the Fall Out Boy concert, and since our plan had only been to do two days in SF anyway, we were driving back to Meagan’s parents’ house that night.

Day 3: San Francisco

Day 3 in San Francisco was not a scheduled day. We were planning on going to Sacramento or even Lake Tahoe, but when we had an extra/unused day on our go passes and kind of fell in love with SF, we figured it was better to go do the city again instead of fumbling around somewhere else.

So we went back to the Original Pancake House. Meg and I both got the hash browns and eggs breakfast – MUCH cheaper and I didn’t have to deal with a ton of extra pancakes – and finished the drive into the city. We parked in a parking lot and bought a ticket to park there for the rest of the day. I don’t remember the exact costs right now, but I’m pretty sure that it ended up being cheaper than it would have been in the Cost Plus parking garage (that one charges you per hour, and we were in the city pretty late).

The first thing we did was hit up the Harley store, because that’s what I do.

What I didn’t do was actually buy anything. The shirts I actually liked did not exist in small or XS (boooooo) and I really didn’t like any of the tank tops. Sad day, but moving on.

We took the Hop On Hop Off tour bus back through the various stops until we reached Haight Ashbury. The way it works is the Haight has two stops, and we got off at the first stop, planning to walk through it, maybe grab a late lunch, and then get back on at the second stop and keep going.

You shouldn’t be surprised to know that it didn’t quite happen like that.

We found the LISTEN TO THIS WALL wall, which was actually kind of in a parking lot? This was really early on, and we started to realize that the Haight Ashbury we saw from the bus the day before was not exactly the one we were walking through. A quick aside here, my mom was basically a hippie and my dad is a biker, so very few strange things bother me (with the caveat that it’s daylight, in public, and generally fairly safe). Meagan… well, that’s one of the (few) ways that we differ.

So the point here is I’m fascinated by these walls – hello, Jerry, Jimi, and Janis all painted wonderfully – and Meagan is actually becoming aware of our surroundings.

We start walking a little farther down with me continually stopping to take pictures of random buildings and signs…

The light was NOT cooperating and I couldn’t fix it in photoshop, but I’m in LOVE with this photo and that sign. Life is not a fairytale. If you lose a shoe at midnight, you’re drunk. I’m going to put it on a poster.

Yet another middle-of-the-road picture.

Okay, so literally right after this picture was taken, I asked where we should eat and Meagan goes, “I think we should so somewhere else for lunch”. I actually looked at her kind of confused and went, “why?”

Bless her heart, she gave me this patient look and goes, “Cass, look around.”

I did, and I’m pretty sure a homeless guy walked right past us then. Oh. My best friend is not a hippie and I am oblivious. Noted. 

We walked a little farther down and I again realized how cool the HOHO tour was… because these street signs are up so high that it’s not really easy to get a good shot. Apparently, too many people steal them for them to be at a normal level. Fair enough.

We detoured down a street – after stopping in a couple stores and Meagan looking around while I totally geeked out over Grateful Dead stuff – to find Jerry Garcia’s old house. All I had was an address, and apparently I typed it in wrong the first time. (Sigh.)

Found it!

Okay, so this guy was crossing the street in the opposite direction of us and I just read his shirt and answered, “I do!” – no context. He looked at me strangely as we passed and then when he got to the other side of the crosswalk, I guess he realized what I was saying. He turned back around and goes, “but do you really?” I just answered with my standard, “my name is Cassidy.” [Note: Cassidy is a Grateful Dead song and anyone who’s a real fan KNOWS THAT. It’s a pretty good test.] He told us that he was the “Jerry” in a cover band called The Noodles and I got a picture with him because I’m strange.

Getting back on the Hop On Hop Off bus wasn’t actually the easiest thing in the world… it was getting late and the first bus that came by was actually totally full. Lesson learned: everything has to be done much earlier in the day than we did.

In unrelated news, streets are weird.

A final glimpse of Alcatraz…

We grabbed dinner on Pier 39 at Wipeout Bar & Grill – it wasn’t the most wonderful thing in the world but it was pretty good and they had gluten free items marked on the menu, so that was cool. (I had a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp, if you’re curious.) It was between Wipeout or Hard Rock Cafe… and we opted for the one that let us eat outside.

Also, my phone battery was dead by this point so the trip was pretty much winding down and we didn’t really want to venture too far away from where we know how to get back to the car… and it was getting dark.

After dinner, we went back to the car via souvenir shops along the way… and then stopped by the car and THEN left it and walked to the Starbucks, because of course we needed coffee for the drive home. This picture was on the wall in the Starbucks and I kind of love it. And then sadly, after we put it off for a while, we finally had to leave San Francisco. I snapped this with my phone while we were stuck in traffic on the way out. That’s the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, all lit up and pretty (and totally easy to drive on!).

That was the end of the San Francisco parts of the trip. I’ve got one more day to talk about (in Modesto, found here), as well as a brief blurb about going home, so that will be up tomorrow. I really want to go back to SF – three partial days is NOT ENOUGH TIME.

Next Post