San Francisco

Hello San Francisco! What a fun city to start our California road trip. We planned to spend at least two nights in each city which meant we had a full day in each place to see the sights. Here's the San Francisco itinerary:

Sunday 10/4: San Francisco
Breakfast - light breakfast in our room; grab coffee somewhere?
Leave for food tour
10am - 1pm
Local Tastes of the City Food Tour [Lunch included] 10am Chinatown The tour meets in front of the Chinatown gate at the corner of Bush and Grant streets. The tour is about three hours.
Alcatraz All boarding is located at Pier 33. Boarding is 30 minutes prior to departure. Gates close 5 minutes prior to departure.
North Beach / Little Italy browsing
Union Square

Monday 10/5: San Francisco to Monterey
Light breakfast in our room
Leave for Golden Gate Park in car.
Japanese Tea Garden [arrive by 10am for free admission Mon, Wed, Fri]
  Eat at Tea House before leaving
Japanese Tea Garden - Open Daily. 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. ($8)
Cal Academy of Sciences Hours Sun 11a-5p Mon thru Sat 9:30a-5p ($35)

First view of the Pacific Ocean
Our travel day was Saturday. After flying into San Francisco we picked up our rental car and proceeded to drive into the city. We had accomodations at an AirBnB in downtown near Chinatown and Union Square. This trip was our first experience with AirBnB (we did AirBnBs in San Francisco and Monterey) and would definitely recommend it. We had reached our end destination and settled in by 7pm. This left us plenty of time to mozy around the neighborhood and find Cafe Claude, a snazzy French bistro with live jazz music and outdoor patio seating, for our first dinner. We decided to splurge a bit here and really kick off vacation! After dinner our east coast selves were really feeling the time difference and we turned in early. We found that throughout the whole week we were going to bed and waking up early - added benefit of visiting the west coast from the east coast. In some ways this threw all of my itinerary making out of the window because we were up and ready to go much earlier than planned sometimes.

Saturday started early with a stroll around the city. We specifically headed towards the Visitor's Center to see if there was any pertinent info to pick up. Patrick found us a breakfast bagel shop (Posh Bagel) as well. I found a $5 off coupon for the California Academy of Sciences which was a Monday morning destination at the visitor's center so it was worth the visit.

Next up was our Local Tastes of the City Chinatown food tour! In my opinion, this was one of our more memorable events. We were out of our comfort zone with the food and learned a lot about the neighborhood from our tour guide. This was a great way to experience the city and see this cultural spot. The walking food tour was three hours and included stops at a dim sum market, fortune cookie making shop, a temple, and a tea shop complete with sampling.

Our tour started at the Chinatown gate

The dim sum was a hefty lunch portion of savory and sweet items

The tea sampling was my favorite part of the tour!

After the Chinatown food tour concluded we quickly made our way to the where our Alcatraz cruise would depart. I had a few snacks and the water bottle in my backpack so we each had a granola bar here. We  were a little unsure about booking the Alcatraz excursion (it's highly encouraged to book in advance because they are usually sold-out day of and this was true for us) but after several recommendations of the trip we decided to do it. The audio tour which is free really sets this apart from visiting other historical places otherwise you just would've been walking through an old jailhouse and all the cells look the same! Patrick had seen some of the movies about the escape from Alcatraz and had more of an interest than me. Bonus - the views of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge are unmatched from the water!

From here we walked over to Pier 39 which is also on the water and not far from where the Alcatraz Cruises depart / return. We decided to have dinner here to fuel what would be a long, meandering walk home. We sat outside at the Pier Market Seafood Restaurant for a nice, relaxing dinner.

We continued our walk along the water and ended up at Ghirardelli Square. At this point the sun was setting and we were walking towards to Golden Gate Bridge so we had some great views. We were still full from dinner but wanted a little something sweet from here. There was a cupcake shop within the square and we each picked out one to bring back to the room.

Finally there was more meandering to end the night! We walked up a really big hill to get to the top of Lombard Street, a famous crooked street. From here we walked down and saw all eight hairpin turns on the block. The views from the top were breathtaking with all the city lights. Our evening concluded with a walk through Little Italy on our way back to the AirBnB. A pastry shop caught our eye and we decided to bring back a cheese danish for breakfast. We also couldn't resist a slice of tiramisu for dessert despite carrying to-go cupcakes. 

Day 1 of our vacation may have been the most action packed. We were doing something or on our way to do something every minute - I had over 20,000 steps on my Fitbit!

Day 2 started bright and early for us! It was our first travel day on the road trip. Our end destination of the day was Monterey with the morning spent in San Francisco, the afternoon at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and dinner in Monterey. After packing the car we drove over to Golden Gate Park. I'm sure you could spend a whole day over here! There's an art museum, a botanical garden, a conservatory of flowers, and much more! We decided to take in the Japanese Tea Garden and the California Academy of Sciences.

The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States and it was beautiful. We arrived early (free admission before 10am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) and had the garden almost to ourselves - not many folks taking advantage of the free admission that morning. It was very serene and provided us with a relaxing walk before enjoying refreshments at the tea house.

The California Academy of Sciences is conveniently located just across the street from the Japanese Tea Garden.

If you're looking for a fun, unique place to visit with all sorts of science things then look no further than the California Academy of Sciences. You can "explore an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, rainforest, 40,000 live animals, and more—all under one living roof." The rain forest and living roof really captured our attention and we spent most of our time at those exhibits.

At this point we were ready to hit the road! Fortunately we had some cupcakes on hand from the prior evening and ate those before leaving. We started our trip south with the first stop being Alice's Restaurant and a visit to the redwoods. That'll be first up in our post tomorrow along with Monterey - Pebble Beach and the 17-mile drive, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row, wine tasting, and a local farmers market.

On to Monterey!

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