Last time on SF 2016, I cherished my last hours with Christine with San Francisco coffee, delicious food, and the Lands End hike before going to karaoke and getting ready to leave the city by the bay.
We allowed ourselves to sleep in a little bit on Monday morning, our last morning in San Francisco, before Labor Day weekend came to an end and we had to go back to work. Our roommates were headed out because they were continuing their vacation by seeing some friends at Stanford, so Ben and I were able to take our time packing and eat the doughnuts that were brought over by one of Ben’s friends from the previous day. (Yum!)
There was still plenty of time before our flight, so we grabbed our bags and walked out in search of just a little more to eat. After realizing some spots were closed for Sunday or the holiday, we wound up at a Blue Bottle Coffee, which is renowned to me even though I’ve never seen a location. (There are no Blue Bottle locations in DC, although there are a few in New York now.) It was still a really lovely day, so we got some avocado toast, in true Instagram fashion, an iced coffee, and an affogato.
Freshly caffeinated, we headed out to do just one more bit of sightseeing at Embarcadero, which Ben’s friends got to see the day before while he was hiking Lands End with us. It was nice seeing the Bay Bridge (give that other one a little break, ya know) and to do a bit of people watching while dragging our suitcases behind us.
Before we knew it, we were chatting with another great Lyft driver on the way back to SFO, watching the very cute TSA videos featuring Lou Seal from the SF Giants and Sourdough Sam from the 49ers.
After a little mishap where Ben and I weren’t seated next to each other for the flight, a short nap, and some reading (I was reading A Game of Thrones the book to tide me over before the next season of the show), we were home.
As much as I’ve become very cynical of what San Francisco is and what it stands for, from far away on the East Coast, I really loved my time there. If you asked me before Labor Day if I would consider moving there, I would have scoffed. But now… I’ll think about it.
What are things we should see the next time we’re in San Francisco? And eat?? I definitely dropped the ball as far as making time for myself to see the Walt Disney Family Museum, which I completely forgot was in SF. And I guess I wish I had tried more seafood? Like maybe try cioppino in the city where the dish was invented!
Last time on SF 2016, I woke up with the sunrise after taking a little 2-hour post-clubbing nap to meet Christine for breakfast! Then we enjoyed a really leisurely, gorgeous stroll through the Palace of Fine Arts and Crissy Field. After enjoying the scenery for a bit, it was time for a little pick-me-up!
After basking in sunshine, sea air, and people+doggy-watching, I felt my 2.5 hours of sleep catch up to me and was slammed with a wall of exhaustion. It was time for my first San Francisco cup of coffee!
Christine and I had passed several very educational signs at Chrissy Field, one of which was describing the snowy plover, a very cute little bird. It is also the name of a trendy coffee beverage at Andytown Coffee Roasters (review), which turned out to be a really refreshing drink at exactly the kind of coffee shop I expected to visit in San Francisco.
At Andytown, Ben joined us to perk up himself and to join us for lunch at San Tung for some delicious Chinese food. Unfortunately, Christine and I were still pretty stuffed from breakfast and Ben was too sleepy to feel hungry. But the food was really delicious.
From there, it was time for us to work off all that food with the Lands End Hike. We started at the Sutro Baths, or more accurately the ruins of the baths.
It was a beautiful, beautiful hike. A bit strenuous for sure (and all the more difficult holding our leftovers from lunch) but it was really lovely to see the views and to breathe the fresh air. This whole day was really invigorating and I was so happy to spend it with Christine and Ben.
The timing fairies were in our favor and, by skipping the Lands End Labyrinth, we were able to finish the hike in time to get Ben over to Japantown to meet back up with his friends for dinner. In fact, we were a bit early, so we browsed around Daiso (which we don’t have on the East Coast) and a little shopping center before splitting up for dinner.
I was still feeling very out of it from the lack of sleep, the hike, the abundance of food, and maybe even from the caffeine since I don’t drink a lot of caffeine at all, so I was having a hard time deciding where to eat. We finally decided on Shabuzen, where we nommed on a delicious shabu-shabu meal together. It was bittersweet for me because, with Christine headed to San Jose to see her bestie, it meant that our magical day together was coming to a close. I felt especially bad/sad about it because I was so out of it at this point in the day and was being a bit of a drag, to be super honest. (Man, 1000 props to Christine for putting up with how indecisive I was about what to eat for dinner.) (And to Ben, who puts up with that on a too-regular basis.)
We said our goodbyes, and I still had some time before Ben’s group wrapped up at Korean BBQ, so I walked around the closing shops that we had browsed together just a little while earlier. My first walk-through, I felt sensory overload by all the things and prices and wowowowow factor, but with the shops emptying out and the sky getting darker, I was finally able to re-center and re-focus on the present and feel just a little less dead. I also got to try out this fun liquid nitrogen dessert from Chocolate Chair that was like a giant Cap’n Crunch Crunchberry (sorta) that let you breathe out dragon’s breath when you ate it. Very drying but super fun to play around with once you get used to it!
And then our group ended the evening with karaoke because of course we did! My favorite thing! Even though I was really struggling at this point — 2.5 hours of sleep and it being about 4AM Eastern time when we finished — I still had a lot of fun at karaoke. A highlight was hearing one of Ben’s friends do a Tupac song, because I don’t know him too well and no one has ever heard him rap before, let alone go through an entire Tupac Shakur song! It was a beautiful moment, I will treasure it forever, along with the time that me and another person simultaneously put “Careless Whisper” (aka the sexy sax song) on the karaoke queue. (It literally came up twice in a row because we both entered it around the same time. It was destiny.) (Also, we wound up forgetting our leftovers at karaoke. After I forgot to hand them back to Christine. After carrying them around for our entire hike. Womp womp, that was an epic fail.)
Our last full day in San Francisco finally came to a close, and honestly, I had a really amazing time. I only started fading around dinner, but the energy of the Bay really kept me going. We had so many amazing Lyft and Uber drivers throughout the day. The weather was absolutely perfect.
It was going to be hard to say goodbye to this wonderful weekend.
Did we miss any major sights while we were in San Francisco?
What are your favorite Japantown eats?
And what’s the last super-hyped food you tried? Was it worth it? The dragon’s breath dessert was… just okay. Really drying, not particularly tasty, and the effect of the liquid nitrogen doesn’t last very long. But it’s fun to try once and to split it with a bunch of friends!
Last time on Spring Break 2016, Ben and I packed a lot of sightseeing into our first day in LA. We got a lot of rain while visiting several art museums and Hollywood, and it didn’t let up on Saturday as we eased up on sightseeing (just a little) and were lucky enough to see some friends!
Santa Monica + Venice
The first friend we saw was my old friend Ran. I attended Chinese school with Ran for a few years before she moved away, but she was one of my most cherished Chinese school friends, easily. My mom remembers her fondly because Ran was great at hamming it up at assemblies as the emcee. We were gunners in our class, striving to beat each other with our test scores and encouraging each other to be better while doing it. At the time, I remember being really jealous of Ran but she was so kind and positive that I could never really resent her. She was a great friend to have.
I hadn’t seen Ran in something like 15 years. Really. We’ve been in close-enough proximity, living in neighboring counties in New Jersey and attending college in the same metropolitan area. She recently moved to Los Angeles and I was living vicariously through her Instagram photos documenting her adventures. When I booked my own trip to LA, I went back to see where she had been visiting and having fun, and I decided to leave a little comment on one of them:
So, we headed out to Santa Monica on Saturday morning and walked around a little bit before it was time to see Ran again for the first time in 15 years. I’m always really nervous seeing people after a long time, and Ran and I hadn’t even kept in particularly good touch since we last saw each other. Would we have nothing to talk about? Would Ben feel uncomfortable, or vice versa? What if the coffee shop I looked up was terrible, all because I decided I no longer needed to visit Philz now that they have a DC location?
(The coffee shop we visited was actually great! We went to The Refinery, where I enjoyed a nice cold brew and sipped some of the toasted lavender cappuccino that I got for Ben. I did have to wait a decent bit for my cold brew, because the handsome barista was doing latte art for the customers before me. He made them a little teddy bear, it was pretty cute.)
Toasted lavender cappuccino
But it was great and amazing. Ran is still as bubbly and contagiously positive as I remember her being, maybe more. We talked and talked and talked, and then I refilled our parking meter, and then we talked and talked some more. Then we went down to Venice Beach and just walked around enjoying another iconic LA spot.
I was really grateful that we were able to spend time laughing and smiling with Ran after all this time, and it really kicked me off to be nice and extroverted for the rest of the day. (I was actually concerned that I wasn’t going to be in a people mood, especially considering that the friends I would meet later in the day didn’t all know each other, but more on that soon!)
As great as it was to see Ran, we were staaaaarving and immediately set out to get our first…
We weren’t sure when we’d be able to get In-n-Out without purposely going out of our way to go. There weren’t any near our AirBnB and we weren’t doing sightseeing near any. So, despite locals’ insistence that we don’t make a special trip to eat In-n-Out, we did just that because we wouldn’t have been able to eat the iconic West Coast fast food otherwise!
Our biggest mistake was maybe choosing to eat at an In-n-Out that shared a parking lot with a Costco. On a Saturday. Early afternoon. Yes, we spent about 10 minutes just trying to move through the parking lot to see more filled parking spaces. It was very painful. We gave up on trying to get a parking spot and decided we’d just go through the drive-through and find another parking lot to eat our food in so that we could keep going with our sightseeing without losing any more time.
Luckily! we found a spot right after leaving the drive-through as someone pulled out of his spot. It was great digging into our food next to a car in which the driver was doing the same. My animal-style hamburger really hit the spot given how absolutely starving we were. It’s not an amazing burger by any means, and I really don’t understand the comparison with Shake Shack, which I think is equally overhyped but a different category of burger joint, but it was definitely very tasty. I’ve had a lot of mediocre to meh burgers, so I’m glad it was just solid and good and cheap. Our car smelled of fries as we drove off to the Griffith Observatory.
I’ll leave off here for now, because this post will get too long otherwise, and I’ll let you know about the Griffith Observatory and my night out in Koreatown with some Internet friends (!!!) next time!
What do you think of In-n-Out?
Do you have friends from Chinese school, etc. that you still keep in touch with?