After lots of Uber rides and even more Snapchat stories, I am wrapping up my first trip to the west coast in the San Francisco airport as I wait for my delayed flight. Fortunately, the famous fog that is now causing transportation issues held out while I was actually visiting my best friend Becky in her incredible city.
Before I go any further, I have to thank my parents immensely for gifting me plane tickets as a graduation present. After changing my flights not once, but twice I was holding my breath until I got on my plane last Thursday to celebrate finally enjoying this generous gift. I guess the third time really is the charm! Thank you, Mom and Dad, for allowing me to re-connect with my best friend while exploring the streets of San Francisco.
My first day of travel involved a longer flight to Los Angeles (hopped off the plane at LAX…OK I’m done), a shorter flight to San Francisco, a dash on the airport AirTran and a ride on the local BART to meet Becky at the Federal Reserve, where she works. Luckily, I made friends on both my flights! On the way to LAX, I happened to be across the aisle from the most adorable 16 month old baby girl named Zoe. Playing with her and watching her toddle around the plane was my entertainment for the ride and her parents were super friendly as well. The girl sitting in the same row as me was around my age and also taking the same second flight so we chatted a bit and ended up sitting together on the next plane as we looked forward to our first trips to California. Waiting to board that second flight I met a girl who works for the government in D.C. and she gave some great San Francisco recommendations. These interactions made my travel experience a delight and got me in the right mood to enjoy California!
All of these flights and train rides were immediately worth it when I met Becky down the street from her building. It was so great to hug her. Becky and I have been best friends since high school but we haven’t had the chance to hang out nearly as much as we would like since we both parted ways for college. After going through security at the Federal Reserve, I was able to tour her building a little bit and meet her co-workers. Then it was time to check another form of transportation off my list as we hopped on the commuter bus to reach her apartment. She lives on a great street in the Richmond District with well-known cafes and small boutiques only a short walk away.
We caught up and made a quick dinner of pasta and veggies before heading out to meet up with a few of her co-workers. I rode in my first Uber (really moving up in the world, folks) and we bought a bottle of white wine to split the second we arrived at the bar. One of the guys properly described the place as having a décor similar to Applebee’s with its eclectic memorabilia donning the walls, except with the addition of dartboards and a modern jukebox. We hung out for a while and selected some quality tunes from the jukebox aka Miley (she’s going to pop up quite a bit in these re-caps), Taylor and the Chainsmokers. We made it an early night as I am been awake for almost 24 hours at that point due to an early wake up and the time change.
Sleeping in until 10 the next day was amazing! We took our time getting ready before heading to the Toy Boat, the bakery and café across the street from Becky’s apartment. We grabbed bagels to take with us to the Golden Gate Park. I was in awe of this place! It is only about half a mile from Becky and it is home to two museums, a beautiful lake, amazing sculptures and endless paths to run, walk or bike. I was amazed that such a beautiful, nature-filled space is conveniently accessible right off the city streets. If I lived here, I would love exploring the various directions of the park on runs and weekend walks.
Another bonus of this trip: one of my other close friends, Matt lives in the same city! But wait, even more crazy: he only lives two blocks away from Becky! What are the chances, right? This weekend he was actually moving to a new place but more on that later. Becky and I took Caltrain to meet him at Google, where he works, aka the coolest campus ever. We grabbed a quick lunch before finding a couple of brightly colored Google bikes to ride. For the record: I do know how to ride a bike. However, it has been a while since I have used this ability. Embarrassingly enough, total strangers seemed to also to notice my rusty skills as one man frantically yelled at me from across the parking lot, “please do not fall.” Oh boy. I quickly got the hang of it though and then proceeded to loudly announce, “I’m riding a bike!” and “This is fun!” for the entirety of the ride to a coffee shop. The Google campus has outdoor areas everywhere and we spent time lounging on giant Adirondack chairs and in wicker pods as we sipped our coffee and tea drinks as other Googlers tossed Frisbees over our heads. The three of us also played a few Bocce tournaments…the results will not be publicized, but again, for the record, I was a Bocce champion prior to this trip.
After a shuttle and another Caltrain ride, we ended up near Matt’s new apartment (and AT&T Park) so we popped in to check out his new set up. By this time we were starving! Becky is a true MVP and researched the best vegan restaurants in San Francisco, one of those being Gracias Madre. When we reached our destination there was an hour wait because the food is so good so we hit up a nearby bar while we eagerly waited for our vegan Mexican dinner. I’m also going to use this time to shout out Matt for being as accepting of my diet as all of my other amazing friends. When Becky and I mentioned that we wanted to go to a vegan place for dinner, his response was “I can eat vegan even if I’m not vegan,” and also, “I’ll eat anything,” which I can personally vouch for. All of my friends have been incredible about easily accepting my lifestyle choices and helping me find food that I’ll want to eat. I cannot thank you all enough for forming a great support system that I am lucky to have!
Anyways, when we finally made it to Gracias Madre, we quickly ordered chips and guacamole and a round of margaritas. Maybe it was the excitement of eating at my first vegan restaurants but I think that was the best margarita I have ever had. I have never had a problem finding vegan selections on typical restaurant menus, but it was such a treat to be able to select anything I wanted from the offerings without changes or subtractions. I could get used to that!
Matt and Becky both ordered “Bowl Uno,” a rice dish topped with tempeh chorizo, black beans, guacamole, salsa, cashew cheese and pumpkin seeds. They both would like everyone to know that they rate their meals “cuatro thumbs up.” I opted for the tacos. Each of the three tacos on my plate was filled with a different base vegetable: green beans, butternut squash or broccoli and then loaded with lettuce, salsa and creamy cashew cheese. A small dish of soft black beans accompanied as a side. Those black beans would turn out to be not so innocent as the hidden spiciness made Matt start to sweat and all of us quickly reach for our drinks. All in all, the meal was fresh, delicious and a great first taste of San Francisco’s vegan offerings.
The three of us wandered into one of Becky’s favorite bars, Elbo Room for a few rounds of pinball before deciding that we would rather have a low-key night than stay out. I quickly thwarted our plans to keep hanging out as I fell asleep in the back of our Uber – whoops! Funny enough, Becky and I ended up staying up past 3 a.m. talking. It was so nice to have the chance to talk to her and hang out in person for as long as we wanted.
*Part two of our five day sleepover in San Francisco includes lots of time with the Golden Gate Bridge and more fantastic vegan food! Click here to read the post!
Have you ever been to San Francisco and/or a vegan restaurant? Share your experiences with either in the comments below!