California Road Trip | San Francisco
We set off from Big Sur towards San Francisco, full of the biggest breakfast from Deetjens and stopped off for a walk on the beautifully wild Pfeiffer Beach, with actual purple sand no less. W decided not to stop in Carmel and Monterey this time as we were trying hard to live by the ‘do one thing well rather than multiple places not that well’. attitude. We wanted to get to San Francisco before dark so we parked lots of the stops along the way for next time. After a disappointing sandwich and insane wait in Santa Cruz, (if we did it again we would have stopped for lunch in Monterey or Carmel rather than Santa Cruz) we well pulling into San Francisco as the sun was setting. A good friend of mine told me the key to falling in love with San Francisco was avoiding the inner city touristy bits and moving between the different neighbourhoods and suburbs to really get a feel of what life om San Francisco is like. I opted to stay in a little hotel called Hotel Drisco in Pacific Heights which is essentially the Notting Hill of San Francisco, the kind of streets we all picture after films like Mrs Doubtfire. Think big, beautiful houses with turreted corners and long, steep streets with views down the high rise city and sea on the other side of the city. Hotel Drisco looked like a relatively stress-free drive in and out of the city, and it’s position was smack bang in the middle of all the things I had on our hit list. Quiet, impeccably clean and with a lovely old world charm to it, we loved Hotel Drisco’s location (nothing was more than a 15 minute uber from our door), massive beds and the light-filled marble bathrooms with heated floors. We arrived, flopped and caught up on admin before getting ready for drinks and dinner, both of which were less than a 10 minute walk from our door.
So I’d heard kind of mixed things about San Francisco, some people loved it and others weren’t wowed by it at all. I kind of love places I get this kind of feedback on as it means I go into it with a totally blank slate and zero expectations (aside from the food scene which I’d heard was amazing in San Francisco). If you know my blog by now, you’ll know I’ve spent a fair amount of time in L.A and love, love, love that light-filled, palm-lined, cinematic city, so I’d almost prepared myself to be firmly in the L.A lovers camp rather than the San Francisco camp. How wrong I was. Instantly, I felt at home in San Francisco. People say it’s one of the more European-feeling cities in America so maybe this had something to do with why I really connected to it. Unlike L.A, there’s a buzz and energy to the streets like New York. People spill out of bars and restaurants, commuters walk home from work and there are village-like clusters of shops and cafes at least every other block. From brunch in the mission to fish tacos by the beach in Outer Sunset, we managed to cram a tonne into our single whole day in San Francisco and fell more and more in love with the city with each new neighbourhood. San Francisco is cool in an entirely different way to L.A. It’s relaxed, easy going and a little grungy. Unlike L.A’s glossy, shiny plant-based eateries, San Francisco’s food scene has a little edge to it and is all about farm-to-table, family style dining. It’s not black and white obviously, you can find both styles in both cities, but San Francisco as a whole definitely felt overall more free-spirited and creative than L.A does, on the surface at least.
I thought it would be easier to bullet point the recommendations I have for San Fran to keep it succinct and readable, so here goes…
- Breakfast at Tartine Manufactory. The pastries and baked goods are all made right in front of you (especially if you grab a seat at the counter) and various tartines (things on toast basically) are delicious.
- Walk around the mission and down Valencia Street. We popped into San Francisco chocolate shop Dandelion, random vintage stores and book shops and there’s a Reformation there too.
- Check out some of the mission’s street art and murals down streets such as Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley. I’m not normally into murals like this but the political and social messages some of the artists manage to portray through their work are super interesting and evocative.
- Wander round the shops in Hayes Valley (Welcome Stranger is a great shop for guys), there’s an Away store if you’ve shopped so much you need another case and an amazing vintage store with lots of beautiful independent brands called Reliquary.
- Get the fish tacos or burritos for lunch at Hook Fish Co in Outer Sunset, a surfy little suburb right by a massive beautiful beach. All the fish is sustainably caught, local and fresh. Pop into The General Store nearby while you’re at it too.
- Have a cocktail at The Snug followed by dinner at The Progress, the sister restaurant to famed State Bird Provisions. The food was epic and as always everything is family-style so no food envy needed.
- Wander through the ferry building for loads of local food artisans, homeware stores and gift-y stuff.
- Have a carb feast at renowned pasta place Flour + Water. Amazing flavours and the portions are just right.
- Go and see the famous Painted Ladies houses from Alamo Square Park
- Take in the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach.
Can’t wait till the next time I’m lucky enough to go back to SF. It really is the coolest place.
All photos my own.