Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to visit my best friend in San Francisco for five days. To catch up on our adventures from part one of the tip, click here.
After sleeping in for the second morning in a row, Becky and I threw on T-shirts and shorts and laced up our shoes to take a run together on Saturday morning. Becky and I met on the cross country team in high school when I was freshman and she was a sophomore. We used to run together all the time and used it as an excuse to hang out whenever we could, we sometimes even managed to convince our parents to let us go to each other’s houses to “run” when we were grounded. Flash forward to now and it has been years since we have taken a run together. We were both feeling a bit out of sorts but the run ended up helping us shake off a little dust and get the day started. We headed back to the Golden Gate Park for a three mile loop around the most beautiful lake complete with a pagoda, waterfall and families taking boats out on the water. I am still amazed that this heavenly scene is just half a mile from her doorstep.
Post-run we met back up with Matt to wait in line for treats from Arsicault, the best new bakery in the country, according to Bon Appétit Magazine. Unfortunately, its signature croissants and morning buns have butter (as most delicious baked goods do) so I held off on breakfast. This worked out just fine as I enjoyed fruit and peanut butter back at Becky’s place. Side note – at one point on this trip Becky asked me if peanut butter was vegan. As if I could even survive without it in my life.
We quickly showered and threw on clothes to start our adventures for the day. Becky had lots of activities planned for us and I was pumped to get started. We began with a visit to Lands End. This is not in fact an outdoorsy clothing store but public space right next to the ocean that is home to hiking trails and scenic spots. The land is crawling with eager tourists, picnicking locals and adventurous hikers. The first spot we stopped at had a great view of the beach right next to the city. Again, it is crazy to me that such a breathtaking, natural space is a few steps off the highways of San Francisco.
We then shuffled down to the Ocean ourselves by trekking over the slightly dangerous remains of the Sutro Baths as we sucked in the salty ocean breeze. A definite highlight of this trip was touching the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The trip back up the steep slopes was not quite as enjoyable but well worth it. We then headed off on a 1.5 mile path that had incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge. We would end up get much more up close and personal with the bridge the next day but for now, looking at the iconic red symbol from a distance was enough. I had such a great time chatting with Becky along the way. We have very similar goals regarding re-gaining our fitness and we made a pact to run our first full marathon together whenever that time comes (at least a couple of years from now).
After reaching the end of the loop, we Ubered to the Palace of the Fine Arts, a magnificent structure that was originally built to be shown off at one of the world’s fairs. Within the first few minutes of our arrival, we spotted two brides taking pictures and one actual wedding taking place. The high pillars and exquisite carvings around the building are unreal, especially for something that was only meant to temporary. Once again, our adventures meant a late lunch time and we were ravenous from all our exercise for the day.
We quickly walked to another one of Becky’s vegan finds: Seed + Salt. This small café in the Marina District had more typical vegan offerings including probiotic bowls, zucchini noodles and raw desserts. Becky and I had both eyed up the menu the night before and were craving the quinoa falafel. She opted for the wrap version while I chose the salad option. Becky’s collard wrap was stuffed with the falafel, green hummus, thick strips of cucumber and harissa while my salad included purple cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a creamy lemon tahini dressing along with the same falafel. We quickly devoured our dishes before immediately starting to contemplate what we wanted for dessert. Becky went for a hearty slice of the chocolate chunk banana bread and I picked a triangle wedge of the raw Nutella brownie. My pick definitely could have definitely had a stronger chocolate flavor to meet my needs but I enjoyed the date taste and dense consistency.
We wandered into a few shops before heading back to Becky’s for a casual night. We munched on tortilla chips and salsa while watching the Hannah Montana movie and listening to our favorite music on YouTube. I know it seems so weird and lame that we just spent out time watching a movie that targets pre-teens but we honestly had the best time! We were dying laughing at some parts and I really appreciated just relaxing and hanging out with Becky. It’s been way too long since we have been able to do that for more than an hour or two.
We eventually met up with Matt for some late night ice cream at Toy Boat, the same café right near Becky’s apartment where we got the bagels the other day. Props to that place because there are three non-dairy options and sometimes a girl just needs some ice cream. I went for the soy based cherry chip. After enjoying that, we hung out on the street for a bit as we walked and I ran a few laps on the sidewalks (a sugar high will do that to you) before heading back to get some sleep.
For our last full day together, Becky and I started things off by visiting the Sunday Famer’s Market, conveniently located around the corner from her. I sampled my first persimmon – a fruit that looks like a tomato, has the consistency of an unripe pear and tastes sugary sweet. I ended up grabbing one of those and a large bunch of grapes for my breakfast. I also found a stand selling fresh, locally made almond milk and snagged a cup of the pumpkin spice version to sip (basic vegan girl status). The spices made the drink taste similar to egg nog and it was the perfect refreshing treat.
Next stop for the day was Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world. After walking down the side of this San Francisco landmark, we headed to another one: Ghirardelli Square. Becky and I dodged tourists as we walked through this popular spot and then changed direction to visit Fisherman’s Wharf. Our main goal was to hang out with the sea lions who camp out near one of the docks. They were adorable! A few loners were plopped on piers right near the railings and we were able to watch them sleep and stretch.
Lunch was at Boudin, a place famous for its sourdough bread that has been made from the same starter for more than 150 years. Large animals made from sourdough bread are available for purchase there and we even saw them making mini sourdough crabs in the window! Becky ordered clam chowder in a bread bowl while I went for the only vegan option: a veggie sandwich. Becky generously split her bread chunk with her from the top of her bowl (a display of true friendship as this is the best part of any bread bowl) and we enjoyed taking our time to relax and eat next to stacks and stacks of sourdough bread.
We were trying to decide where we wanted the day to take us next when Bender texted us with an offer we couldn’t refuse: driving us over the Golden Gate Bridge. As I mentioned in the first part of this trip re-cap, he moved this weekend and because of that, he rented a zipcar. He picked us up and we rode over the beautiful red bridge with the windows down and the wind blowing our hair around in true California style. We eventually figured out how to make our way up the curving mountain roads to reach a great lookout point for the bridge. The climb before reaching this spot was incredible in itself. I loved winding up the steep roads and looking out over the grand stretches of ocean and greenery. When we finally parked, we were able to take in an unbelievable view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Becky, Matt and I took our obligatory share of pictures before heading back across the bridge and into their neighborhood.
Before heading inside, we visited a local bookstore with stacks of new and used books on every topic imaginable. It is easy to get lost in the mismatched racks of classics and new releases. Becky surprised me by buying a book she recommended to me (this was a life saver on the plane today and she was right, I don’t want to put it down). The title is: Where’d You Go, Bernadette if you are interested! I also picked up a copy of The China Study. This has been suggested to me by a few people as it is one of the most comprehensive studies on nutrition and ends up proving that a plant-based diet is the best way to prevent disease and maintain health. I am not very educated in this approach to plant-based eating as I came to this lifestyle because of ethical and environmental reasons so I am interested to learn from this book!
Becky and I said goodbye to Matt before retreating to her apartment to watch our favorite YouTubers and eat snacks. We ended up finding a delicious vegan takeout place called Golden Era that offers Asian-inspired dishes. Reason 5738 that I love San Francisco. My mind is still boggled that we were able to easily order vegan vegetable lo mein, indian fried rice and spring rolls with peanut sauce for dinner. These options just don’t exist in Baltimore. After eating we enjoyed our last bits of time together with face masks and talking until it was time for bed.
This morning I was so sad to leave both Becky and the incredible city of San Francisco. I had the best time eating, talking, hiking and traveling with my best friend. You know someone is a true best friend when everything is natural and easy and you can easily fall back into routine even after a long period time. Lucky for me, Becky is back for Thanksgiving so I will actually get to see her again in less than a week!
As I wrap up the draft of this post, I am en route to Baltimore from Denver. This day has been a full day of travel and because of all that San Francisco fog and about three changes in flights, I am not due to land until midnight. All this is totally worth it though for all the amazing adventures I shared with Becky and Matt this weekend. Tomorrow is sure to be a tired day at work but I know I will have a smile as I think of all the incredible experiences I had during my first visit to California. I have a feeling I will be back.
What is the last hike or adventure you enjoyed? The last beautiful sight you experienced? I would love to read your own stories in the comments below.