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Summer Vacation Day 6 Part 2

29 Jul
After we got back from Alcatraz, we raced back to the ferry building so that we would be able to buy some things before all the shops closed. We barely made it in time, but were able to get caramels froRecchiuti, rolls from Acme, cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, and two meat cones (I wish I had a picture of this – just imagine paper cones filled with different types of pork deli meat) from Boccalone which were all recommendations from Jordan. We weren’t eating this for dinner, our plan was to save it for lunch on our way home the following day. Instead of getting fast food on the long drive, we would stop somewhere for a gourmet picnic!
For dinner, we headed to The Slanted Door, which was, conveniently, right there in the ferry building. Have I convinced you of the awesomeness that is the ferry building yet? This was another recommendation from Cathy, who pretty much planned our entire trip unknowingly. Not only did I ask her for restaurant recommendations, but I also asked her what to order. What would we have done without her?
Since the dining room wasn’t yet open for dinner, we sat at the bar and had a drink first. I got the ginger limeade, which was so delicious – like a margarita, but better – and my husband got a fancy beer that came in a wine glass.

Check out this cool art:

Drawings of faces made by kids! Great idea for a playroom…

We finally got a table and started with the crispy imperial rolls (forgot to take a picture of this, but they were so yummy) and the BBQ pork spareribs which you can see me devouring here:

I tried to edit this picture to get rid of my horrendous red face, but it didn’t work.

Then, we had the pan seared scallops (best of my life) and the spicy green beans with mushrooms (delish, but it’s not on the online menu). I got the brown rice and my husband got the white.

The service was superb and while the food was a bit pricey, it was worth every penny. Neither of us had ever had Vietnamese food before and we both loved it.

Next, we headed to Bi-Rite Creamery. I drove, which was a big mistake – I’m really surprised I didn’t get pulled over for some of the dumb things I did. Don’t worry, I was sober, just really bad at driving in that crazy city with the designated bus lanes and huge bike lanes…

Here was the line when we arrived:

This place is quite popular, and for good reason. Everyone I asked told me to get the salted caramel ice cream and you don’t have to tell me twice about salted caramel. It is my favorite flavor ever. I will buy regular caramel Haggen Dazs and put salt on it to try to get the same effect.

I wish I had some right now. Best ever.

We saw a bunch of people hanging out at this park that was right across the street from Bi-Rite, so we decided to eat our ice cream over there.

This is Dolores Park, aka hippie central. As we walked toward an open place to sit, we realized that these people weren’t enjoying picnics or ice cream. No, they had cases of beer and little cigarettes of… well, you know. We quickly finished our ice cream and headed out of there just at the sun was setting and the police were showing up. It was definitely an experience to remember!

Bye bye Golden Gate. It was nice taking a billion pictures of you!

The next morning, we packed up and headed home. I got stuck with the terrifying task of driving across the Richmond Bridge. I had to drive across it on the way there, too and I hated that darn thing.

My husband, making fun of me as usual…

I don’t know why I felt better being on the bottom level this time. Seems even more dangerous in an earthquake…

Only 416 miles to go!

After a full day of driving, we finally got back. While we were sad that our trip had ended, there’s really no place like home.

This was probably the best vacation we had taken since our honeymoon. Just the two of us, a fun city, and delicious food. What could be better?

Summer Vacation Day 6 Part 1

28 Jul
We took too many good pictures on our last day in San Francisco, so I have to write about it in two parts. We had planned to go to Alcatraz on Sunday and had to drive into the city because the ferry left Marin after our boat to the island was scheduled to depart. 

We must have 400 pictures of this bridge. I need to learn how to make a collage of them (I don’t have photoshop) so you can see the madness.

My husband’s friend who works at Alcatraz and who we had dinner with the previous night told us to get a bacon donut at this place in the Mission (I can’t remember the name of the donut shop), but we arrived too early. What donut shop opens at 9am on a Sunday? Oh well, at least we got to see a bit of the Mission district.

Since we still needed breakfast before we left for Alcatraz, we headed back to the good old ferry building for Blue Bottle Coffee and croissants from Acme Bread Company.

I couldn’t resist getting a latte for myself this time, though I did get decaf. Oh my it was so delicious. I still think about it daily…

Here is the ferry building from the outside where we ate our breakfast.

When we got to the Alcatraz tour dock, we realized our tickets were for a combination Angel Island/Alcatraz tour. My husband had hoped that we would go to Alcatraz first and just ditch the Angel Island part, but nope. They take you to Angel Island first for two hours and then back to Alcatraz. We were really annoyed because we didn’t want this to take up our entire day, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise.

We waved to Alcatraz as we went right past it on our way to Angel Island.

I’m kind of obsessed with sailboats. I want to go sailing without doing any of the work.

We decided this is where we’d like to live. I looked up these houses on Zillow when we got home and realized we’d need to win the lottery before we could ever afford to live there. Some of those houses are worth 6 million!

Included in the price of our tour was a tram tour of the whole island. We saw some old buildings…

Lots of pretty views…

A family of deer…

A rock crusher for making the roads…

And pretty beaches…

After the tram tour, we had an hour to get a bite to eat before our boat headed to Alcatraz. It was a beautiful day and we really enjoyed sitting outside with a view of the ocean. I highly recommend Angel Island. Take the tour and bring a picnic lunch and eat on the big grassy lawn in front of the immigration building. Perfection.

When we got to Alcatraz, my husband’s friend was ready to show us around. He walked us up to the cell house giving us some background information about the island and how it was originally used as a military prison.

The most incredible part is that the island is surrounded by the most beautiful views you can imagine. When the prisoners got a glimpse outside, they could see exactly what they were missing and it must have been tough, to say the least.

Since we were VIPs, my husband got to sneak behind the ropes to take a picture in the showers.

We did the audio tour next, which was actually really cool. It features voices of former prisoners and guards of Alcatraz and takes you around the whole prison. It is free with the price of the tickets, so it is totally worth it.

Here’s what one of the cells looks like furnished.

This next one is funny. My husband was trying to get a picture of his reflection in the mirror, but he couldn’t really see so he was squinting.

When he squints, he looks like he’s really pissed off.

We saw the solitary confinement cells…

And some of the hobies the prisoners would take up…

How tortuous is this view?

After the audio tour, my husband’s friend continued our behind the scenes tour and took us up to the gun gallery. This is where the guards would pace back and forth in case any of the prisoners got crazy. My husband took this picture from one of the holes they would have used for their guns if they wanted to duck down and hide.

Then, we headed up to the creepiest part of the prison, the hospital ward.

This reminds me of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

Performing surgery…

X-ray room…

Shower in the psycho ward…

There was lots of graffiti upstairs, one of the reasons it was closed to the public. Our guide told us that Inga from Sweden started it all. Thanks a lot, Inga.

Hospital room with furniture…

After we were sufficiently creeped out, we headed back downstairs and took some mug shots.

And on our way back to the boat, we saw the morgue.

Many people think that Alcatraz is a tourist trap, but it really is an amazing experience. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting San Francisco. Ask one of the guides for a behind the scenes tour. They might just give it to you.

Have you been to Alcatraz? If yes, what was your favorite part? If no, would you ever consider going?

For my last post: more food. You didn’t think we were done eating, did you?

Summer Vacation Day 6

26 Jul

After a much needed night’s sleep, we lounged around for a while trying to decide what we were going to do that Saturday. Originally, we thought we might do a mini wine tasting trip to Napa or Sonoma, but we didn’t want to sit in the car for 2-3 hours total and decided instead to find a farmer’s market where we could browse and get some lunch.

Unfortunately, the only one we could find was the tiniest farmer’s market we’d ever seen. There were about 6 booths and the only prepared food was kettle corn. It was extremely disappointing. Instead of just going back to the house and sitting around until dinner, we decided to find a mall where we could walk around and eat lunch.

We found one and browsed The Container Store, Crate and Barrel, REI, and Barnes and Noble. Then, we ate at The Counter, which was new to my husband. I think I’ve been spoiled with Umami Burger because I’m just never that impressed with The Counter. My burger always falls apart and I’m not that good at coming up with the perfect combination. Umami has smaller portions and they know how to build the perfect flavor combinations (have you had the hatch? it’ll change your life).

Once our bellies were full, we headed home to take a nap. Yes, I took another nap on this trip and it won’t be my last, so get over it. After our nap, we got ready to head to Sausalito for a massage and dinner with friends.

We got massages at Massage Envy which is a nationwide chain that isn’t really a spa, but it’s nicer than a tiny massage parlor. We went there because they had a deal for first time clients for $49 for an hour massage. We would have been happy with one of those Chinese foot massage places they have out here in LA, but it seems the suburbs of San Francisco haven’t discovered the pleasures of super cheap sitting massages. They have a couple places in the city, but that wasn’t an option this day. Our massages were pretty good, but not fantastic. I’d say they were worth the fifty bucks, but I probably won’t go back there.

For dinner, we headed to Sushi Ran. We met up with my husband’s friend who he used to work with and his wife. His friend now works at Alcatraz and offered to give us a behind-the-scenes tour when we went on Sunday, so come back Thursday to read about that awesomeness.

While we were waiting for our friends to arrive, we noticed this cute little setup outside the restaurant. Our dogs would never behave, but it’s a nice idea.

The sushi was great, but we weren’t that impressed with the rolls. I know that rolls aren’t real sushi – the best places don’t even offer a selection of rolls, maybe just spicy tuna – but for such a pricey place we were expecting a bit more out of the roll selection.

Oh, also, the sushi was priced per piece (not the rolls, just the sushi and sashimi). So if you wanted two pieces of salmon sushi, you had to ask for two orders. See how that can add up?

We got the sampler platter for dessert and everything was delicious. Our favorite was the warm toffee cake. It was to die for!

My husband tried to get a good shot of the pretty moon, but didn’t really do so well. This was the best he could do.

It was a lovely Saturday filled with my favorite things: shopping, burgers, naps, massages, and sushi! I wish every day could be like that.

What would you do and eat on your perfect day?

For Thursday, our last day in San Francisco: Alcatraz and more yummy food.

Summer Vacation Day 5

25 Jul

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

On Friday morning, we took the ferry from Larkspur to San Francisco, passing by San Quentin State Prison.

Once we arrived in the city, we headed straight for Blue Bottle Coffee in the Ferry Building.

I had read on Oh Happy Day that this was the best coffee in the city and thought it would be a great place to start our day. Also, I had something to prove: I knew that the ferry building was an amazing place with some of the best food in the city, but my husband was skeptical. He thought it would be like a food court in a mall and he was concerned that I had planned to visit there a few times during our stay. However, one taste of blue bottle and he was convinced that the ferry building was the place to be. We had their caramelized belgian waffles that they serve in coffee filters (so delicious), my husband had a latte, and I had a steamed caramel milk from the Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick Milk Bar. Everything was delicious, but my husband’s latte was incredible.

After leaving the ferry building, we hopped on a streetcar that got us about half the way to our next destination, The Palace of Fine Arts. After a 40 minute walk in cool and windy weather, we finally made it. I asked my husband to take my picture in front of the pretty dome. I looked pretty cute that morning, but by the time we got there, I looked like this:

I had no idea my hair was that bad. My husband didn’t say a word, either. I was looking through the pictures a few minutes later and finally realized that I looked like I had wondered out of an insane asylum. Thanks for the heads up, hubs.

I used to love the Exploratorium when I was little and would beg to go each time we would visit family in San Francisco. I hadn’t been in years and my husband had never been, so we decided to check it out and see if it was still cool even though I was all grown up.

It was really fun! One of my favorite exhibits was a heat sensitive camera hooked up to a TV :

The dark spots are the coldest and the white spots are the warmest. See how cold my nose was??

This next one was the creepiest:

Two people sit on either side of this two way mirror type thing and you adjust the transparency and reflection. At one point, your two faces will merge into one and it is the strangest thing ever. You can sort of see it in the picture, but it was creepier in real life.

As we were leaving, I decided that this was my dream house:

It had a rooftop deck and a view of the dome and lake surrounding it. I love the style, too.

After our play time at the Exploratorium, we began an extremely long walk to our lunch destination,
Pizzeria Delfina in Pacific Heights. It’s only about two miles, but it felt like 15 because it was almost all uphill. On the way, I spotted these:

Hugest peonies ever! They were as big as my head. I found them at Fiori, a really cute flower shop in the Marina, probably my favorite neighborhood in the city.

After a nice flat walk through the neighborhood, we faced one long major hill.

See the stairs in the sidewalk? Stairs. That’s how steep the hill was.

It wasn’t just one block of hill, it was several. Don’t these cars look like they’re going to topple over?

There was a pretty sweet reward for all of our hard work:

What a beautiful view!

We could see Alcatraz…

The Golden Gate Bridge, and the dome! That’s where we walked from!!

By the time we got to Delfina, another recommendation from Cathy and Jordan, we had worked up quite an appetite. We started with the fresh stretched mozzerella. I know it looks like salad and toast, but there is a huge blob of cheese at the top of the plate.

I had a glass of savignon blanc and my husband had a peroni. We felt we deserved the drinks with lunch after our hike through the city.

Next, was a classic Margherita pizza.

So delicious. They give you the typical red chili flakes and parmesan, but also some oregano. I will always put oregano on my pizza from now on.

I love how they served the water in clear glass bottles. So simple and chic. If you’re planning a trip to San Francisco, you must eat at Delfina. They have two pizzeria locations and one fancier restaurant, but I’ve heard not to bother with the restaurant and just go for the pizza.

We walked around Pacific Heights a bit more and found a cute dessert shop:

Among other adorable boutiques. This is probably my second favorite neighborhood.

My husband wanted to walk through Japan and China towns on our way back to the ferry building, but Japantown seemed kind of dead.

Here are some ducks hanging in a Chinatown window:

Somehow two creepy ghost faces ended up in this picture. They weren’t there when we took it, so I’m thinking our camera was possessed for a minute.

Our original plan was to shop at the ferry building, eat at The Slanted Door, and head back to Marin on the ferry. However, by the time we got there, most of the shops were closed. We decided to eat at Kokkari instead and hit up the ferry building after we visited Alcatraz on Sunday.

On the way to dinner, we saw these pretty parrots hanging out on a lamppost:

We had planned to sit in the bar for dinner because we didn’t have reservations and knew we’d have to wait hours for a table. However, the manager said he had a table we could take that was in the bar, but was being saved. We happily sat down right by a big window and high-fived over how lucky we were.

We had a zucchini appetizer that was just ok, but our entrees made up for it. I got moussaka:

It was delicious, but very rich. I’ll admit, the only reason I ordered it was because I remembered it from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

My husband got a roasted duck special:

AH-mazing. I ate more of his than my own.

By the time we were done with dinner, our feet were sore and swollen. Both of us had a hard time walking to the restroom after resting for a while. But, we made it back to the ferry building just in time to catch one of the last ferries of the day.

It was nice to catch up with my phone after a full day of barely looking at it at all.

My husband couldn’t get enough of San Quentin. He has a strange obsession with prisons…

By the end of that day we were exhausted and ready for a long night’s sleep. Somehow I managed to shower before collapsing into bed, though.

Next up: farmer’s market fail, much needed massages, and our favorite cuisine, SUSHI!

Summer Vacation Day 4

22 Jul

On our last morning of camping, we packed up our gear and said goodbye to the birds who had spent the last few days trying to steal our food at any opportunity.

We were heading toward the bay area and decided to stop in Monterey for breakfast on the way. This was a last minute decision, so I used my phone to google “best breakfast in Monterey” and was led to this review for The Old Monterey Cafe on Trip Advisor.

It was gross. It wasn’t the worst breakfast I’ve ever had, but it certainly wasn’t the best AND I found a dark hair in my omelet. I didn’t complain or send it back, I just stopping eating and paid and left. Breakfast fail.

After that disappointing meal, we headed to Marin to my aunt’s house where we were house sitting for the next few days. In exchange for feeding the cats and watering the plants, we got a free place to stay that was only a 15 minute drive from San Francisco. Score!

Our first order of business was to take a nice hot shower and put on clean clothes that didn’t smell like campfire. Then, we headed across the golden gate to meet Cathy for happy hour at Waterbar!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with SF, that’s the Bay bridge behind us. We had such a great time and I can’t wait to get together with Mrs. Penguin (as I’ll always think of her) when she comes down to LA for a visit.

Unfortunately, I forgot our camera at my aunt’s house that night, so the photos I have are limited.

After happy hour, we headed over to my second cousin’s adorable apartment for some wine before dinner. They spoiled us rotten with dinner and took us to Baker and Banker.

If I had brought my camera, I would have been super annoying and taken a picture of every one of the five courses from the prix fixe tasting menu we indulged in. Above, my husband is enjoying the palette cleansing sorbet.

Here we all are at the end of the meal, full and happy. It was so great to see these two and catch up!

After dinner, we headed back to Marin and enjoyed a wonderful night’s sleep on a real bed that didn’t deflate halfway through the night like our air mattress did every night when we were camping.

The next day: playtime, walking up some serious hills, and more yummy food.