On our way down to San Francisco we made a detour to the tiny town of Inverness, CA so the boys could get a picture with the sign, make the joke that they were back home, and see if there were any similarities between the town and its namesake.
For lunch we made a point of going to In-N-Out to try out California’s favorite burger: the double-double. Sean even got one of the hats.
As we got closer to San Fran the temperature started to drop and the fog rolled in; classic San Francisco. Google maps had us take the Golden Gate Bridge into the city, which was a fun surprise. We couldn’t see the top of the bridge as it dissolved into the fog. It was fun to go across, but in typical Google maps fashion it didn’t warn us that the Golden Gate is a toll bridge, and so the $8 bill I got in the mail a week later was also a surprise.
We stayed at our first Airbnb of the trip in San Francisco, which was also probably the nicest, although it was a bit far from downtown. It was a big apartment, with two large bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a huge kitchen, an office space with a washer and dryer, and a nice patio area out back. Our host was also super helpful and he even provided us with BART cards for San Fran’s subway system. It was great being able to cook some of our own meals and save money instead of always going out. That night we just relaxed, washed off all the camping grossness and settled into our apartment.
The next morning we went to a bar called the Barrel Room to watch the England v. Columbia match. There we met up with Chandini and Erin, who are distant relatives of mine that live in the city. Chandini told us the name of some other bars that would be more crowded and have more English fans, but seeing as we weren’t in the mood for a crowd after the last England match we watched in Portland, and since the boys are Scottish to the core and would rather root for anyone but England, we decided to stick with the Barrel Room. That game went to a penalty shootout which England barely won, leaving the boys practically in tears from disappointment. Meanwhile, as an ex-Londoner I was secretly okay with this outcome (but don’t tell the boys that).
After the game ended, Chandini and Erin took us to get sandwiches and tall boys (really big cans of beer) at a deli inside of a liquor store. We went to Dolores Park to eat them, which has a great view of the city and plenty of friendly dogs. After lunch they dropped us at Target so that we could get some patriotic outfits for the 4th. That night Sean and I walked to Safeway and made fajitas for dinner together. He puts barbecue sauce on his fajitas which isn’t very Mexican but I can confirm that it is delicious.
The next day was Independence Day, one of my favorite holidays. We got decked out in our patriotic gear and took the BART into Union Square. There were lots of artists selling their prints in the square. We stopped and got a photo in front of one of the heart statues which are all over San Francisco. Then we walked from there to Chinatown.
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest and largest in the nation. There were lots of cool murals on the sides of buildings and we were lucky enough to be there right when a couple of Chinese dragons were performing. Sean was stopped by a couple of teenage girls who were interviewing him for their school newspaper. They asked him what he was doing in Chinatown and what he thought about the 4th of July as a foreigner. Unfortunately, we never got the name of the girls’ school or paper so we couldn’t look up the video.
We ate lunch in Chinatown at a very popular and old spot called Sam Wo. It’s meant to be known for its rude waitstaff but everyone there was nice enough to us. James got the house fried rice, Sean got barbecue pork fried rice, I got sweet and sour pork, and we split some salt and pepper wings. Everything we had there was delicious.
From there we walked all the way down to Fisherman’s Wharf. We took Columbus for most of the way which is like San Fran’s little Italy area. There were so many good looking Italian restaurants and gelato places. Sadly we never went back and tried any of them during the trip, however I did stop by there with my Dad on my way back to Seattle after the trip was over and we ate at the Italian Homemade Company. They make their pasta fresh every day, they’re fast, pretty cheap, and delicious! I particularly loved the tiramisu I had for dessert. The boys also happened upon a side street on Columbus called Scotland and so they had to pose for the perfect photo in their patriotic getups.
Down at the Wharf we went into a few t-shirt shops and ate donuts at the giant Krispy Kreme there, but we didn’t explore too much that first day which was fine since we went back there on multiple other occasions. We walked toward the park which is right along the water and one of the popular places to watch fireworks from that night. They were setting up for a festival and we sat on the grass and listened to the DJ’s music for a bit.
We were going to a party at Chandini’s mother’s apartment that night which is also very close to the water. They weren’t quite ready for us at that point though so we met up with Erin and Chandini and their dog, Dallas, and they took us to Ghiradelli Square. Ghiradelli is a popular American chocolate company. I had been to their factory when I had been to San Francisco before as a child, but back then it was just an ice cream parlor with fancy sundaes. That part is still there, but now they have expanded to include lots of shops, a couple restaurants, and even their own brewery with a bunch of lawn games. It was a really cool area and a lot of fun to hang out in.
We went to the brewery area, had a few beers and tried to play cornhole but it was overrun with kids playing ping pong. After that we took Dallas down to the park to let her swim in the water, which ended quickly once the police came and told us dogs weren’t allowed on the beach.
At the party we met Chandini and Erin’s friends Nathan, Brooke, and Lana. Chandini’s mother made Indian food for us, which was a bit different from the typical American hamburgers and hot dogs most people have on the 4th, but it was far more delicious and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
We played a game called left, right, center where everyone starts out with three poker chips/dollars/playing cards/whatever you want to use and depending on how you roll the dice you might have to give them up to the people to the right or left of you, or to the pot in the center. Someone wins when everyone else loses their chips and they get to take the pot home with them. We also played Uno, which surprisingly the boys did not know how to play. After a while people got too drunk to play and lost interest so we gave up on Uno.
Once it was time for the fireworks to start we climbed up to the roof. We had an incredible view, and since it was a clear night we could see the firework shows from five or six different cities. We were in the best possible position to watch the fireworks down at the wharf without dealing with any crowds. The roof had no railing whatsoever and James loved to stand near the edge and freak us all out, while Sean stayed far from the sides.
We lit some sparklers from Chandini’s mom’s balcony after the show was over and got in trouble with the cops for the second time that day who were worried about the sparks landing on the crowds leaving the wharf below us.
The following morning we went to a park near our house. We played basketball for a while (using our soccer ball and volleyball since we didn’t have a basketball) and all of us sucked at it. Then we went down by a pond and I actually got Sean to read for an hour or so. My efforts didn’t work so well on James who just ended up sunbathing. Before walking back to the house we went to Safeway and got some supplies to make burgers for dinner. We had all the ingredients except the meat since we already had pre-made patties at the airbnb and so the cashier looked at us and asked “Where’s the beef?” This was a joke the boys did not get, so I had to show them the old commercial.
That night Chandini and Erin took us to the California Academy of Sciences Night Out. We got to check out their rainforest, aquarium, and other parts of the museum all while drinking cocktails specific to each section. There was even an albino alligator named Claude. We watched the sunset from the roof and then Chandini and Erin showed us around golden gate park a little bit.
Next they took us to Bar None which is a really fun bar with a lot of games. It was a bit dead since it was the day after the 4th of July, but that just meant we never had to wait to play games. We started with a bit of beer pong, where Chandini and James thoroughly schooled Sean and me. There was also skee ball (which I beat Sean at), air hockey (which Sean beat me at), and a punching bag machine which James beat all of us at (and I missed the target completely). Sean got a drink called an AMF (audios, motherf*cker), which is basically a Long Island Iced Tea but with blue curacao instead of coke.
We played some crazy variant of beer pong with a large group of people who had come together and then rounded out the night by going to another bar where one of Chandini and Erin’s friends worked. This one didn’t have any games but it did have a dog who could do tricks.
The next day we went back to Fisherman’s Wharf and explored it more thoroughly. We had lunch at Boudin Bakery, which is famous for its sourdough. All three of us got the chili bread bowl, which was amazing. The boys had never had sourdough bread before and were expecting the sour taste to be much more intense, like a lemon or something. It’s actually pretty subtle and just tastes like good bread. After lunch we went into the Musée Mécanique which is free to enter and has tons of antique and classic penny arcade games inside. We played skee ball again and Sean easily made up for losing to me the night before.
We briefly checked out the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park but we didn’t want to pay to get on the boats, so we started walking toward Pier 39. We stopped to watch some street performers who spent a lot more time hyping up their show and asking for money than actually performing. Despite all of the performers being African-American they made a slightly racist joke towards one of their volunteers who was Asian and he stormed off, which was pretty awkward.
Pier 39 is known for all its sea lions but it must have been too hot for them to be out on the docks because we only saw a couple. We went into a couple of shops on the pier before walking back, getting a pic with the Fisherman’s Wharf sign for my mom, and calling it a day.
Be sure to check out San Francisco Part Two to hear about the rest of our time in the Golden City!