If you’re going to San Francisco… I did not wear a flower in my hair, but I did wear comfortable shoes and got ready for a lot of walking.
My friend, T, and I have started an annual tradition a couple of years back. Once a year, we meet up for vacation, run a half marathon together and have a ton of fun. In the first year, I went to visit T in Canada, where she lives. We ran the Edge to Edge half in Tofino. The following year, T came to see me in New York, where we ran Brooklyn. For this year, we had picked the Big Sur half marathon on Monterey Bay as our destination, with a vacation in San Francisco on top.
I’ll be splitting up the trip into several posts because we experienced so many wonderful things that I want to document for the future. But let’s start at the beginning. The road to SFO!
Day 1: Travels
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I recently switched to a Paleo diet. You can read more about my Paleo experiences here. One of my first challenges was going to be the 11 hour plane trip from Munich to San Francisco, where I would have to rely on an airline to feed me food that is compatible with my new lifestyle. I had ordered a gluten-free meal, while also packing a bunch of vegetables for the trip, in case I still had to leave a lot of food on my plate.
I was lucky that my flight was in the afternoon, meaning that I could still eat lunch at home. The trip to the airport was a bit of an annoyance, thanks to a train strike that was just ending. But this is not a complaint. I made it after all. At the airport, one of the things I struggled with the most was my insane craving for coffee. I had to kill a bit of time and the smell of coffee, all the little coffee shops, people walking around with coffee cups, all of that made me long for a nice cup o’ joe. I stayed strong though and got this instead: yay!
The flight was fairly uneventful. Just your usual long hours in uncomfortable seats, crying kids and bad movies. I watched some X-Men flick, which was fairly dull, but it helped pass the hours. The food was nothing to write home about: fish, some vegetables, rice and gluten-free rice bread (which I chose not to eat), fruit salad. I was grateful for the veggies I had brought and that I could snack on those too. I did cheat with an almond date bar that wasn’t paleo, but ah, well. Before I went on this vacation, I promised myself that I’d try my best, but wouldn’t obsess over my food choices. And obsess, I didn’t. They later fed us again with some turkey breast, some more veggis, buckwheat (I left that) and some more fruit.
I arrived at SFO around 7 PM local time and went to find my pre-booked shuttle to the hostel, where T was already waiting for me. Her flight had arrived earlier in the evening and I was excited about finally seeing her again. My driver was incredibly grumpy and drove rather reckless. I was happy once he dropped me off at the Fisherman’s Wharf youth hostel.
The hostel was one of the worst I’ve ever stayed at. T & I booked a private room, i. e. a room just for the two of us. While the additional privacy was nice, it did nothing to negate the fact that the hostel was smelly, loud, stuffy and in desperate need for renovations. The location proved to be absolutely wonderful, but honestly, next time I’m headed to SFO, I need to try a different hostel. This one was a miss.
As expected, the reunion with T was grand! I was so happy to see her again, after 1.5 years. Finally!! We chatted for a bit, before we both collapsed in exhaustion.
Day 2: Fishermen, stunning views & Bridges
Thanks to jet lag, I was wide awake around 5-something AM. I turned left and right a couple more times until T woke up and we got ready for breakfast. I think we were both dead tired as we munched on our food. Breakfast was included in our nightly fee, however, as you’d expect, it wasn’t all that paleo friendly. We got to pick bread/bagels and oatmeal, as well as a piece of fruit. I stuck to the fruit (despite wanting a bagel), ate a raw fruit/nut bar and was grateful for the fact that at least they sold hard boiled eggs for some protein.
After breakfast, we set about exploring the nearby Fisherman’s Wharf area. It was a gray and sad morning. The fog wouldn’t lift until the afternoon.
We walked around the Fisherman’s Wharf area, got tempted by the little stores and food trucks selling the freshest and most-delicious looking seafood and eventually stumbled across the Musée Mécanique, an equally fascinating and creepy museum dedicated to penny arcade games.
After the chocolate store, my willpower was tested a second time when we headed to Boudin, a famous bakery in San Francisco. Bread was one of my favorite things to eat, so resisting this was quite the challenge:
As we further explored the piers in beautiful sunshine, we came across a Christmas tree (surreal as we walked around in short sleeved shirts), sea lions, a carousel and the Exploratorium, a unique museum where you can explore science. Our next step was the Ferry Building where we then would grab lunch.
We found a nice spot to sit down with our lunch boxes and just enjoyed resting for a bit. After lunch, I had a really strong coffee craving again. It was much more about the ritual of drinking coffee than the actual taste, I think. However, this craving would continue making repeat visits throughout this trip. For now, I settled for tea.
After lunch, we went on to hike up Telegraph Hill and explore the Coit Tower. I had read in my travel guide you’re supposed to have a beautiful view from up there. We took the steps along Filbert Street – well worth it.
Our last sight for the day was finally going to be one of San Francisco’s most famous; the Golden Gate Bridge. We took a bus to the San Francisco side of the bridge and got ready for walking the 1.5 miles one way.
After a short rest at the hostel, we headed out for seafood in the nearby Fisherman’s Wharf. Yum!
Day 3: Wired
After breakfast, we started our third day in San Francisco by riding a historic cable car. Getting a three day pass for all public transport turned out a great idea, since we’d be using public transport a lot in the following days. [One of the things I absolutely loved about SFO was how well public transport ran and how many options there were!]
The cable car took us to Market Street, that we explored for a bit, walking over to the City Hall and UN Plaza. Due to Veteran’s Day, the City Hall was closed unfortunately.
Just behind Market Street, we explored the Yerba Buena Gardens and their beautiful mix of art deco & new. The Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial is also very much worth seeing. Our next stop was Union Square, where we admired the Christmas tree and ice skating rink – again, taken aback that there’s, in fact, a Christmas tree while we walked around in t-shirts. From Union Square, we walked over to nearby Chinatown to explore foreign tastes and smells.
One of my personal highlights of this trip was the Cable Car museum that we decided to check out afterward. It was free to the public, a little gem that’s not overly popular with tourists.
Day 3 found its wonderful end after stopping by Grace Cathedral, Japantown and then treating ourselves to Jake Gyllenhaal’s new (and creepy) movie Nightcrawler. Go see! Foodwise, Day 3 was a small disaster. Since we needed to be at the theater soon, we decided to go for something fast and ended up at In & Out burger. The options were extremely limited for me and what I did get was so gross, it gave me bad stomach cramps and made me feel miserable. Never again.
Day 4: Big and small critters
Our fourth day started with a trip to the California Academy of Sciences where we met up with another friend, E. Neither T nor I had seen E in a very long time. It was such a wonderful thing to catch up.
I’m not the biggest science nerd, but I did enjoy the museum a lot. They had all kinds of exhibits on tropical animals, butterflies, an aquarium, a planetarium, a skull collection and specials on earthquakes. And of course, T. Rex is a Giants fan.
We spent a good amount of time at the academy before we headed out for lunch and then chatted well past the point of when it turned dark outside. We found a little spot called Crepevine that offered all kinds of soups, salads, crepes (sweet and savory). It was such a lucky find. My diet hadn’t been that great the previous days, relying a little too much on fruit/nut bars, the not-so-great In & Out burger, so the idea of a giant salad, lots of green things excited me a great deal! I got this:
Day 5: double workout
In the morning T and I split up to do our own thing. Since CrossFit is a lot bigger in the US than over here in Germany, I didn’t want to miss the chance of dropping in at a CrossFit box in SFO. I had registered for a morning class at San Francisco CrosSFit and was a little nervous as I went on my way. Would everybody be so much better than me? Would I be the last at the WOD? Would it be a giant class and I’d be totally lost? What if the WOD was going to be something I’m awful at (looking at you, wallball shots, robe climbs or push/pull-ups)?
Turns out – of course! – that my doubts were totally unjustified. I got there early, signed my waiver, bought a t-shirt, introduced myself to the coach and then was just fine. We did the warm-up together and then we had 25 minutes to find our 1RM deadlift, after completing 10, 8, 5 and 3 reps. My weight was all over the place because I was constantly trying to do the lbs – kg conversion in my head. It was weird. I didn’t PR that day, in fact, my final weight was a weight I had lifted 3 times (as opposed to only once) during a workout at my box in Germany, but that was fine. Afterwards, we did a short WOD and I was relieved that while I struggle with one of the exercises, it wasn’t one of my most dreaded once. It was: 21 – 15 – 9 of ball slams and dips. We were allowed assistance bands for the dips, but the ball slams had to be done with 30 lbs – a bit more than what I tend to use at my local box. I was surprisingly fine with those though and finished the workout in a little over 6 minutes.
After the CrossFit class, I headed back to the hostel, fought another giant coffee craving, showered, got ready and took a cable car back to Market Street, where I planned on spending some money. Time for my credit card to get a workout! T isn’t that much into shopping, so we decided, we were going to meet up afterward for lunch. T treated herself to a nice brunch – that was a morning well spent for sure!
I headed to Lululemon where I bought a bra, a shirt and some compression pants. I love Lulu’s clothes, despite their price tag. I feel like their items continue looking brand new even after a lot of washes and even after you’ve put them through gruesome workouts. However, in Germany, they ask for the same price in Euros as they do in US dollars, making them even pricier over here. I needed to take the chance and get some items “for cheap”. After Lulu, I headed to J. Crew, didn’t find anything I liked, before I finally headed to the Gap for new jeans and a dress. I could’ve bought a whole lot more at the Gap, but was a grown-up (who’s currently living off her savings) and only got what I needed. Not what I wanted.
After my shopping spree, T and I met up for lunch and spent the remainder of the day together. We explored the neighborhoods of The Castro, Lower Haight and Pacific Heights, passing many beautiful buildings along the way. On our final night of dinner in SFO, we treated ourselves to a yummy Mediterranean meal, including a little cheat for me: the silkiest hummus I have ever eaten in my life. It was the perfect way to end our amazing stay in San Francisco.
Day 6: Carry on my wayward son
On Day 6 we were torn between sadness and excitement. On the one hand, it meant leaving San Francisco, a city I’ve fallen in love with for its beautiful architecture, the relaxed culture and friendly people, but on the other hand, it meant we would finally be heading down the scenic Pacific coast to our next destination: Monterey Bay.
T had found (and tested) a fantastic brunch place the day before and we didn’t want to miss the chance to have brunch at a nice restaurant. They had all kinds of delicious foods, including pancakes and French toast, making it a bit of a struggle to pick a paleo option. But I reminded myself that I could make pancakes at home any time and then make those paleo friendly. No big deal. So I chose an omelette with veggies, fruit and a side of bacon instead. Because… bacon.
We rented a car in San Francisco and after we checked out of the hostel, made our way down the coast. More about that in the next couple of days! In the meantime, you can check out my entire album of pictures from the trip here.