What I did in San Francisco: Visiting for the first time in 15 years

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If I'm 100% honest, this post took me way too long to write. I over thought everything and almost talked myself out of writing it altogther simply because it was mostly an overwhelming trip for a small town girl like myself. While I'd love to be able to call this a San Francisco city guide, I just can't... mainly for 3 reasons: this is only about the 4th time in my life that I've been to San Francisco, it's been 15 years since I last visited, annnnd I'm really not a city girl after all (I may have once thought I was back in high school when moving to London and becoming a fashion designer seemed as easy as baking cookies). So instead, I'm opting to simply write about my experience visiting, what I did, what I thought, and how I felt and hope that you'll be able to take away something from all of that.

I wanted to visit SF because out of all the cities in California, it was literally the one I have visited/or passed through the least. It wasn't my intention to avoid this city, it just happened and finally, I realized, hey, I might actually be missing out on something! So, I finally booked the trip and in somewhat of a nutshell, here's what happened.

Day 1: 
Arrived by train late afternoon in Oakland, an apparently simple 15 minute drive to SF. This made the train trip about 2 hours shorter. But, if you're not familiar with all the public transportation options (ahem, like me), you're in for an unnecessary bout of confusion. Long story short, next time I'm just going to take the Amtrak bus-train-bus route straight to SF even if it does take longer. Driving wasn't an option for me because I just can't deal with that kind of traffic. Don't judge me.

Upon arrival, I was shocked to find my hotel was in a less than desirable area (for this reason, I won't be naming the hotel nor will I be naming the neighborhood because in this day and age with google, I have no excuse for making such a rookie mistake). Basically, I was a little overwhelmed (putting it mildly) by the extreme shadiness of this area (also, seeing a guy get mugged the next day from across the street didn't exactly put me at ease) And no, it wasn't Chinatown, in case the picture misleads you ;)

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Day 1 (continued): 
Wanted to find a place to eat before it got dark out and found a Mexican fusion place. Retired to hotel room early in an attempt to recuperate for the next day.

Day 2: 
Haight-Ashbury was at the top of my list. I've been watching so many classic films lately that I wanted to get a real feel for all things vintage and not having been there since the last time I visited SF, I felt much more mature and educated now and able to appreciate the whole vibe. I found a few treasures at the Goodwill there (I saw so many great coats and furniture that unfortunately, I have no need for IRL).

Lunch was a memorable one as my mom and I chose Gus's Community Market on Haight St., a very charming market that seems to be popular with locals and tourists alike. I got an unforgettably delicious sandwich that I still dream about often. After, I walked as far as I could while taking in the famous neighborhood (important to note, it's hard to find public bathrooms in this area but Whole Foods and McDonalds are a sure thing) but eventually decided on taking a bus the rest of the way ($2.50 is a price for one way trips on the public bus, fyi- I definitely recommend just riding and seeing where it takes you- that's honestly one of the best ways to see the city unless you're a snob who doesn't like to ride buses, which I won't hold against you too much because hi, I'm a bus snob too...)

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Day 3: 
Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf. Met up with family and ate at a place on Fisherman's Wharf called Aliotos. It's good to be aware that anything on Fisherman's wharf (a.k.a. tourist trap) is going to be a little more expensive and the food is usually not the best quality because most tourists only eat at a restaurant once and usually never return. That said, you can't go wrong with the view. My ultimate suggestion would be to wander a short distance from the Wharf to find a lesser known restaurant and hope that it turns out to be a hidden gem (utilizing Yelp helps too, of course, but I found that it was a bit inconvenient to have to search and read through Yelp before making any decision- it kind of takes away from the whole in-the-moment adventurous state of mind).

Chinatown was also on my list for things to see this time around. I have a background in Asian American studies and wanted to apply some of what I've learned by experiencing some of the historical buildings and just take in the overall atmosphere. One thing on my list I'll have to do whenever I decide to take a trip to San Francisco again would be Angel Island/Alcatraz. SF is just so rich with history that even if it's out of my comfort zone, it'll be worth visiting again a lot sooner than 15 years from now!

In conclusion: 
Overall, SF is a beautiful place, I can understand why it's one of the most popular cities on the west coast. What I initially did was make a firm list of everything I HAD to see in SF and made sure to do those things first but was also more than prepared to just wander with no particular agenda in mind. This is the kind of city you want to explore alone or with just one other person so that you can do everything your heart desires and not be held back. I may be one of the few who didn't leave her heart in San Francisco, but that doesn't mean I didn't heart it.
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1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post Victoria! :) you look amazing. I've always wanted to see SF, it's such an iconic place. Haight-Ashbury would be top of my list too!

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