Thursday, September 25, 2014

our first real vacation, part two. (where we stayed and what we did)

last time i talked your ear off (or wrote your eyeballs off? not sure of the appropriate expression here) about how we just went on our very first vacation and how we ended up in san francisco. 

nowhere in that post did i mention where we stayed or what we did or how we felt about it or anything like that. and in case thats what you were looking for (like, i dont know, if you happen to be here because youre planning a trip to san francisco and want to find out some fun not super touristy things to do), thats what im going to talk about today, where we stayed and what we did. 

so lets get going, shall we?

where we stayed: 

honestly, finding a hotel for this trip was a little problematic: we werent going to have a car, so they location needed to be excellent, but we also didnt have a lot of money budgeted for the hotel room, so anything in the immediate vicinity of any of the typical touristy areas were WAY out of the question. so i started looking at maps to see what kind of areas were in the MIDDLE of the things we wanted to see, so that we could get where we wanted to go easily via public transit. 

this sounds really simple in theory, but for someone that doesnt travel, this was a seriously tall order (also, after anything more than 20 minutes or so browsing hotel sites keeping all the details/prices straight was impossible so i kept getting things mixed up). but after lots of advice from a friend thats an expert at travel, and more research than id ever done for anything at school (bear in mind i majored in fine arts so my idea of tons of research is probably way below average), we eventually decided on hotel carlton, which was basically right on the edge of downtown downtown and fancy downtown. 

this turned out to be an excellent decision. this hotel was everything id dreamed of, and more. i joked on twitter about how literally everyone i know would have hated this hotel (small rooms, no pool, no gym, small tv, basic cable, no mini-fridge, no free breakfast, in the middle of the city, valet parking only), but it had everything that *i* look for in a hotel: historical building, convenient location, high end mattress/linens, great customer service, impeccable decor, and most importantly, an appealing restaurant with things that i can actually eat (oh, and their AAA discount is NO JOKE, like, almost 30%). i ADORED this hotel. like, didnt-want-to-ever-leave-ill-just-become-eloise-and-live-here-forever adored it. 

honestly i wasnt even going to give the hotel its own bullet point but i was so heart eyes emojis over it i just had to. if youre looking for a sweet place to crash in san francisco, hotel carlton gets 34526789046 thumbs up from me. 

what we did: 

while we were planning the trip, people kept asking what we were going to do there, i guess expecting some grand agenda of sightseeing and tourist activities. because every time i answered "oh, i dont know, eat? sleep in? enjoy not being at home?", i was generally met with an overwhelming list of suggestions that were either unrealistic for a short, car-free trip, or really expensive and would totally take away from our "only eat awesome food" budget.

really all i cared about was going to the walt disney family museum, golden gate park, and maaaaaybe fishermans wharf. and food. really the primary motivation for this trip (and really everything i do) was food. if youre familiar with the area, you probably know that none of these things are exactly close to each other, BUT the location of our hotel made it seem pretty easy to do at least those three things in the two full days we had for activities. 

i set my usual (very low) bar for trip at "lets go to one place each day, maybe come back to the hotel and chill for a while, then go out to dinner". and boy was i wrong. 

we ended up doing way, way more than i had anticipated. and it was awesome

sundays agenda was to go to the walt disney family museum, and then possibly fishermans wharf in the evening (each one was only one short bus ride from the hotel, this seemed totally reasonable). i feel like now is a good time to mention that we had NO intentions of going to see the bridge (wed both seen it, and its just a bridge), or going to alcatraz (because it was really expensive and took most of the day and neither of us was interested in spending half our vacation at an abandoned prison), or walking the trails around/through the presidio (because we didnt think wed have time). 

well, a missed bus stop (because somebody was depending on google maps to tell him when it was time to get off the bus, cough cough) on the way to the museum meant we did  see the bridge (and obviously take the required selfies):

and of course, we *saw* alcatraz (i felt the need to photograph it since it was an unusually bright and clear day):

then we asked the lady at the golden gate bridge information desk exactly how we were supposed to get to the museum. she said "theres a free shuttle coming in about 40 minutes over there". james and i looked at the map at the shuttle stop and were like "yeah, theres NO WAY thats a 40 minute walk, lets just go" and followed the nearest walking trail toward that general direction. 

which was all fine and dandy for about 20 minutes until we get to the point where all the trails get all tangled with all the roads that go through the presidio and theres a freaking highway that cuts through and we can NOT tell where we are and all signs point to us being totally and hopelessly LOST and i start having a meltdown about being lost in a strange city and tired and too hot to wear a coat but too cold to not wear a coat and hungry and WHY COULDNT WE HAVE JUST GOTTEN OFF AT THE CORRECT BUS STOP and then like five minutes later we found ourselves at the correct park by the museum (chrissy field?) where unbeknownst to us (because im terrible at travel and didnt think to research what kind of free events the city might have) this was happening:

which, if you cant tell, is some kind of farmers market/food truck extravaganza (i believe it was called off the grid?), OF THE UTMOST FANCINESS. seriously, there was a champagne bar at this park (also, you can drink in public in san francisco?). obviously my meltdown subsided and we decided on ice cream for lunch because we are adults. 

and only then (after the bridge and trails through the entire presidio) did we reach our intended destination: 

(i feel like i should add at this point it was like 1:30 pm and HOLY MOLY we can do a lot real fast without a toddler in tow)

now if youre into disney and museums (which are probably my two favorite activities), the walt disney family museum is AWESOME. the museum is HUGE and covers everything from walt disneys family history, personal life, and career all the way from his first experiments in animation all the way to his death. we were there for a good three hours and  learned SO much. one particularly amusing part of the museum is actually the lobby, where they have case after case after case of basically every award walt disney was ever awarded with. 

heres a picture of a case with JUST academy awards: 

obviously my favorite part of the whole museum was the part about disneyland. and obviously my favorite part of that was the teeny-tiny-scale model of the original park plans: 

james and i spent at least half an hour looking at it, pointing out the changes and comparing it to the park today. this was probably my favorite not-food part of the whole trip. 

also, the museum has a separate gallery that has special exhibitions of various disney-related art, and we happened to catch the very last day of the mary blair show. now, until this point i had no idea who mary blair even was, but it turns out shes the artist/conceptual designer behind basically everything disney did in the 50s and 60s. 

meaning there was TONS of concept art from alice in wonderland (among other things, obviously, but the alice in wonderland rooms were my favorite:

im really glad we were able to catch the very last day of the show, it was TOTALLY worth the extra $5. 

oh, and then james drew this cute little picture in the guestbook. i guess thats his thing now:

by time we were finished with the museum it was almost dinner time, and we had to decide if we were going back to the hotel, or wanted to try and find somewhere nice to eat around fishermans wharf. we decided to go straight to finding dinner, which resulted in quite the transportation fiasco as the bus that took us out of the presidio was headed in the opposite direction of where we needed to go, and then a guy at a liquor store gave us some VERY bad directions, and then we ended up taking another bus and a cable car to finally get where we needed to be. 

which (after what had happened that morning) had me REALLY grumpy, but then we went to the penny arcade and to an gluten-free friendly italian place that had THE most amazing baked polenta (id have to say this was my favorite food-related part of the trip) so it was all better. 

since we kind of frequent the ghirardelli ice cream place at california adventure, i thought it would be fun to to to the actual ghirardelli square: 

but in all honesty, the disneyland version is better. it was crowded, ALL the tables were dirty, the service was meh and my strawberry ice cream TOTALLY had chunks of other flavors of ice cream stuck in it. totally overrated. literally my only disappointment the entire trip. 

since we did almost everything on the list (and a whole bunch of stuff that wasnt on the list) on sunday, mondays plans were minimal: we were going to take the bus to golden gate park, see whatever there and then do whatever for the rest of the day (as long as we didnt stay out late because we had to be at the airport at 11 on tuesday). 

so we went to golden gate park. the bus route we took dropped us off near the middle of the park, and it was way too cold/windy to want to walk towards the beach end, so we had a picnic of snacks near a lake and we saw rose gardens and we went to the outside of the super awesome science museum but then we saw the tickets were $35 each (no student discounts) so we passed on that:

then we walked towards the haight street end though the really awesome kids playground but couldnt go on the concrete slides because grown ups arent allowed to play in the park without kids (true story: there were like ten signs that said that). 

we spent the rest of the day leisurely browsing the shops on haight street. obviously we went to amoeba even though thats something we can totally do at home:

(actually, the haight street amoeba is WAY nicer and more pleasant to shop at than the hollywood one). 

we went to quite a few REALLY great shops, including an artisan foods store with FREE SAMPLES of everything, the oddities shop from that tv show about oddities shops, and a vintage shop with actual historical pieces going all the way back to the 1890's, BUT it seemed that the majority of stores (that we went to, at least) had a strict "no cameras/no pictures" policy so i dont have much to show for our shopping day. 

oh, dont worry though, even though we were totally over it by then, we did make sure to walk as far as ashbury street:

while i did really enjoy shopping in the haight-ashbury area, i was certainly caught off-gaurd by the distinct lack of any actual hippies. sure there were plenty of hobos and drug dealers, but mainly most of the folks we saw around were obnoxious teenagers and hip young people. and while the area near golden gate park seemed to mostly be eclectic, hippy type shops, but closer to ashbury street, there seemed to be a lot of higher end stores. not that i was disappointed by any means, its just, i felt a lot more like i was in like, santa monica rather than a neighborhood widely known for its association with hippy counterculture. just my observation. 

to complete our adventures in accidental sightseeing (seeing as neither the golden gate bridge, presidio, nor haight-ashbury were even on our list of activities for consideration) the bus route we took back to the hotel involved walking through the fancy, historical part of downtown, (you know, like city hall and stuff), right at sunset:

which was, quite frankly, a heck of a lot more impressive than i was able to quickly photograph while trying not to freeze to death. it was a nice end to the touristy portion of the trip. 

seeing as our flight home was at 1:00 all we had time for on tuesday was one last breakfast at flour & co (an AMAZING and surprisingly cheap bakery/breakfasty joint with gluten free options that just so happened to be three blocks from our hotel) before going to the airport,  flying home (seriously, why would anyone drive from la to sf? its cheaper and SO MUCH FASTER to fly), getting picked up and dropped off at home (thanks again, mom!), and then going STRAIGHT TO MY FIVE AND A HALF HOUR SEWING CLASS (not one of my best decisions, but im proud to say that i did survive). 

so yeah, long story short, it was an AMAZING trip to have as our first experience of being on vacation together. we did so much fun stuff, ate so much good food, and it took me a good two weeks to recover enough to get back into somewhat normal routines as far as home and work are concerned. 

so yeah, that was our vacation. i cant wait to do it again. though next time id like to bring alice, cause i think shed get a kick out of it too. 


  1. Sounds like an awesome trip. I love those vacations where you plan minimal things but you end up seeing more than you planned on, and it's still all awesome. And yeah, Ghirardelli sucks.

  2. it was really great. i had no idea wed end up doing so much, but I'm so glad we did!

    yeah, i didnt have SUPER high expectations for ghirardelli, but i did NOT expect it to be THAT bad...