Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I left my heart in San Francisco - Part 3

Hi! Whether you've been anxiously awaiting this final post or are just glad that this series is almost over, here is the final installment of our San Francisco trip.

Before we even left for San Francisco I had planned out our first activity for Sunday morning. There is a flea market on Treasure Island (an island in the bay that can be reached from the bay bridge) that is only open on Sundays and supposed to be a good place to see some local art. Plus all the food trucks from the city are there on Sundays. Honestly, I was mostly excited about the food trucks :) The flea market was set up in and around an old naval base on Treasure Island, and I could definitely see it being somewhere I would go every Sunday if I lived in the bay area. There were tons of booths filled with vintage furniture and goods as well as hand made items and art. Since we couldn't take any of the fun furniture home, we bought some handmade soap and 3 watercolor prints that are now hanging over our piano. And of course, we hit up those food trucks! Joe got some sliders from one, and I picked up some pizza from another. A piece of banana-toffee cake from another booth rounded out our lunch. Everything was delicious! Luckily, the city buses run back and forth from Treasure island so we were able to catch one back to San Francisco after lunch and continue our adventures for the day.

Treasure Island Flea Market

Panoramic view of San Francisco from Treasure Island. From the Bay Bridge on the Left to the Golden Gate Bridge on the Right. 

First we stopped back at the apartment to unload our goodies and also to book a rental car for the trip to Sonoma on Monday and our Alcatraz cruise and tour for Tuesday. With those things taken care of, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and do some walking around areas we hadn't explored yet. First we took a bus to Alamo Park which is in the Haight Ashbury district. This is where the classic "Painted Ladies" houses are in San Francisco and you may recognize it from the opening scene of every Full House episode. The park was a big hill and there were some great views from it. Apparently it is also a good place to take a blanket and spend a day relaxing in the sun. We even saw several people with wine or beer out there, so I guess as long as you're not being obnoxious, they're willing to overlook the alcohol in the park. San Francisco Tip #5: Save some money for dinner one night by taking a picnic and some wine to Alamo park. We didn't do that, but I kinda wish we had. We did that one night in Italy on our honeymoon and it was one of our favorite dinners of the trip.

Some of the "Painted Ladies"

After walking around the park for a bit we decided to head down one of the adjacent streets just to see if we ran into anything else fun or cool. It was nice to know that pretty much where ever we went, it would be easy to hop on a bus back to somewhere familiar. We found some other really cool houses in the area and grabbed some coffee at a corner shop. Then we decided it would be a good time to visit The Presidio. The Presidio is a national park and former military post that has some beautiful original buildings as well the "Palace of Fine Arts" which was installed for a world's fair that was held in San Francisco. The whole park was beautiful and of course I loved all the old buildings! The big open space of the park was a nice change from the busy city.

The dome in the distance is part of the Palace of Fine Arts.

After walking around the Palace of Fine Arts, we wandered through another cool neighborhood with a completely different style of houses than we'd seen elsewhere in San Francisco. One of the houses was having an estate sale and I really wanted to go in, but they were charging just to look, plus we didn't really have time.

Some cool Spanish style houses as seen from  the Palace of Fine Arts. 

I'm not sure if I've got my events in the wrong order here, but I think that next we went to check out the famous Lombard Street. As you may know this is famed as the "curviest street in the world". It was crazy steep! The thing that really surprised me was there were actually houses on it. I can't even imagine having to back out of my garage every day onto that street! It was really cool though :) Definitely a must see in San Francisco. And 2 of the cable car lines have stops right at the top of Lombard street, so it would be easy to hop off there and check it out if you're already riding the cable cars.

Looking down Lombard Street. In the distance you can see Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill which is where we walked through that awesome "jungle" neighborhood.

How crazy would it be to live on Lombard Street?!

They meant to name it Lombardo Street, right? :) 

By this time we were getting pretty hungry and we decided that some seafood sounded like a good idea for dinner. Joe did a little searching and found a tiny place called the Fairy Codmother that had awesome reviews. It was back down by Fisherman's Wharf so once again we hopped on a bus! Fairy Codmother was really just a trailer where they cooked the food with a window that you ordered at. Then there were a few tables and awnings around the trailer where you could sit and eat. The fish, shrimp and fries were awesome but we each got a whole order and it was way too much food! Luckily they don't mind packaging it up for you, so we took it home with us for lunch on another day.

After eating, we decided that if we rushed we could possibly make it to the far west side of San Francisco to catch a sunset. Our destination was Land's End lookout and there was really only one bus that went that way. It felt like there were 100 stops on this bus route! We literally saw the sun sink below the horizon as we stepped of the bus at the end of the line. It was beautiful, but we didn't get to sit and enjoy it like we'd hoped. San Francisco Tip #6: If you plan to go to Land's End Lookout to see a sunset (and you should) be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there by bus. It was about a 45 minute ride from "downtown" to out there.

Now that we'd seen the two second sunset we had to wait for about 20 minutes to catch the same long bus ride back. Once again we crashed when we got home!

Monday morning was rainy again as we made our way from the apartment to the car rental place. It was pretty quick to get our car and by 9:00am we were on our way to Sonoma! The drive was about an hour and a half and there were some pretty areas but the rain and fog certainly didn't do the landscape any favors. Once we got close to Sonoma we started seeing all the beautiful vineyards though. I was getting pretty excited to try some wine at that point :) We stopped at a cafe in downtown Sonoma for some coffee and breakfast before we started our wine tour. It was still pretty early and we were worried that some wineries wouldn't be open yet. Before we got in the car to go to the first winery, we decided to stop in the Sonoma visitor center to see if we could get a map or something. San Francisco Tip #7: If you go to Napa or Sonoma be sure to stop at the visitor center for tasting coupons and tips. The ladies working in the visitor center were super nice! They asked us what kind of wineries we had in mind then gave us several 2 for 1 tasting coupons as well as making suggestions for other wineries we hadn't planned on going too. I also picked up a sticker that said "I heart Sonoma Valley". Just wearing that sticker on my coat let the wineries know we'd stopped at the visitor center and led to us getting some discounts! Unfortunately I don't have a any pictures of Sonoma since it was raining and I couldn't get any good pictures out of the car window. I'll just give you a quick rundown of which wineries we went to.

Roche Winery - The tasting room for this winery was right in downtown Sonoma and we had it all to ourselves! This was nice because we got lots of personal attention and they even took the time to teach us the correct way to taste wine. Swirl, sniff, and taste :) We got one bottle of wine there.

Loxton Winery - Another small winery where we the only people for a while. All the wines here were delicious and they had the whole fermenting and bottling operation right there in one room. At each winery we learned a little more about the wine making process for these small wineries. I did most of the tasting though since Joe was driving, so I'm afraid that I don't really remember all the things they told us :) We got one bottle of wine here as well.

Kaz Winery - This was my favorite winery we visited! It is also the smallest winery in Sonoma. Kaz is the owner and head of everything at Kaz winery and we were lucky enough that he was the one running the tasting room that day! Every wine was amazing! You could tell he was really passionate about his wines and he was also really fun to talk to. One of the fun things you can do at Kaz is bottle, cork and label your own bottle of wine. We ended up buying 2 bottles at Kaz and one of them was a variety we could bottle ourselves. So I did it and it was pretty fun :) I was surprised to learn from Kaz that they bottle every single bottle of wine they sell with that one little mechanical corking "machine". If you ever go to Sonoma, be sure to stop at Kaz! He'll even sign your bottle of wine for you.

Kaz was helping me bottle some wine. 

Next we stopped at place called Ty Caton, but we were not impressed, so I won't even talk about that one :) Save us both some time.

The last place we stopped was a tasting room for the family owned Muscardini Cellars. This winery was recommended to us by a local we ran into earlier that day and it was a good tip! The guy running the tasting room let us taste and double taste a lot of the wines, and in the end Mr. Muscardini himself signed the bottle we bought. Bonus - there was super cute golden retriever named Bennie running around. A cute dog pretty much seals the deal for me :)

One thing we found at pretty much all the places we stopped was that even though the tasting fee was only supposed to include tasting a limited number of wines, most of the people let us try over the limit or even re-try ones we liked. So we didn't feel too bad about paying the tasting fees. Oh, and some of the wineries will apply your tasting fee to a wine bottle purchase. But anyway, after the final winery we had to hit the road to return the rental car back in San Francisco before 6. We made it back in the nick of time and started our bus trek back to the apartment carrying our half case of wine. For dinner on Sunday night we went to a completely different part of town called the Mission district and found a place called Pancho Villa Taqueria. It was almost like a Mexican buffet and the food was pretty tasty.

Now onto our last full day in San Francisco! We woke up to another rainy day but we had already booked our 9:30am tour of Alcatraz so we hopped on a cable car and rode down to Fisherman's Wharf where we would take the ferry to Alcatraz Island. By the time we got on the boat, our shoes were already soaked! Once we made it to the island we picked up our audio tour headsets and began our walk around Alcatraz. Despite the fact that it was a little creepy (especially in the gloomy weather) the prison and island were really cool. The guided tour is really well done and the history of the island is so much more than just a prison. I won't go into all the details but I'll just say that if you ever go to San Francisco, make sure to take a trip to Alcatraz! p.s. I may have gone a little overboard with the Alcatraz pictures :)

You can still see the writing on the water tower from when a group of American Indians occupied the island in the late 60s.

A typical cell at Alcatraz.

These were the solitary confinement cells. Cell Block D. 

I thought it was interesting that some inmates had art supplies and games in their cells.

In the bed you can see the paper mache head that a prisoner made to trick the guards into thinking he was asleep. He had actually dug out of the cell and was one of 2 prisoners who escaped and were never found. 

A few into the Alcatraz Kitchen. You can see the knife box with an outline of each knife. That was made like that so it could be seen at a glance if a knife was missing from the box. 

After taking the ferry home, we walked down to the Ferry Building which I had heard had some great restaurants and shopping. Well they did have a bunch of delicious looking food but it was pretty pricey and we had leftovers at home anyway so we opted not to get lunch there. However we did pick up a little chocolate cake at Miette Bakery for a little dessert. So we headed home and ate our leftovers and cake! After lunch and trying to dry our feet out for a bit we decided to take a final walk down to Chinatown for a visit to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. The factory is a little hole in the wall place tucked down in an alley where 3 people sit and make fortune cookies all day You aren't allowed to take pictures inside (unless you want to pay 25 cents for each picture) but they let you watch for a bit before getting pushed out the door with a few free samples of unfolded fortune cookies. It was a quick fun stop and we did leave with a mixed bag of chocolate and vanilla fortune cookies for $5.

Unfolded fortune cookies.

Our final tourist stop of the trip was the Cable Car Museum which was just a short walk from Chinatown and also a short walk back to our apartment. It was so cool to see how the cable cars work, and I would definitely recommend stopping there. It's hard to believe that all the cable car lines are controlled from right there in one building.

These giant wheels pull all the cables for the cable car lines. 

For dinner that night we found a tasty sushi place and just tried to enjoy our last evening of vacation before getting back to reality :( We took the rest of the night easy and tried to get all of our things packed up for the next day. Then Wednesday we pretty much just finished packing and headed to the airport. I was sad to leave! We had so much fun in San Francisco and I feel like there were so many places that were left out of our adventure! I think if we were to ever go back there would be plenty of new things to do, but there are a handful of things I would do over again as well.

I think that wraps up the San Francisco trip! Finally! I hope you enjoyed the little tour and maybe it inspired you to plan a trip out there or to somewhere else that you've never been. Have a great night and thanks for reading!