I visited the city by the bay -- and the West coast -- for the first time last week. After a 5 a.m. flight, a quick layover in Chicago, and a nosedive into Bad Feminist, I arrived around lunchtime with my luggage intact at a downtown BART station, desperately seeking coffee. I automatically presumed I could walk the 0.8 miles from the station to the hotel, no problem. The sun was shining, my carry-on didn't weigh that much and I was wearing flats. Right?
WRONG. Within 0.2 miles, I joke you not, I put my stuff down on a street corner and requested an Uber. Hills, man. I couldn't hack it. I waited a few minutes, and feeling impatient (I'm in SF! I need to go explore!), grabbed my things and continued on.
Another 0.2 miles, and I was d.o.n.e. Requested another Uber. Felt mildly embarrassed because: 1) I actually do love to walk everywhere, and I wish Des Moines was much more walkable, 2) I especially love to explore a new city on foot, 3) I was literally four blocks away from the hotel.
I came to the base of yet another hill (see picture above, imagine facing the opposite direction) and wanted to puke. Sweating through my light leather jacket, straining with my now-a-million-pounds bag, I slowly started up it and basically gave myself a pep talk every step while internally cursing the entire time.
It didn't help that I kept passing people sitting on a sidewalk stoop looking at me like, Girl, have you lost your mind? and women pushing strollers with babies in them UPHILL. So, there's that.
But I made it. The Fairmont stood proudly and exquisitely upon the top of Nob Hill; I checked in and momentarily collapsed on the plush, white bed. A quick shower and change of clothes later, I was off to Tartine. (Fun fact: the Fairmont has a neat, storied history, so look it up if you're interested in that sort of thing.)
If you're a foodie at all, you've likely heard of Tartine; it has what Michael Pollan calls the "best bread he's ever tasted." I didn't quite know what to expect, but after a 30+ minute walk, I felt famished. The bakery was much, much smaller than I anticipated, but completely packed with folks snagging real estate on the dark wooden tables inside or perching on the mishmash of chairs outside the windows.
Insider tip: there are two lines, one for the pastries and bread and one for the lunch menu. I made the mistake of getting in the wrong one and then it took twice as long to order. But when I got up to the counter, I ordered a chocolate salted rye cookie and a cappuccino to start (don't judge me), followed by a prosciutto and provolone hot pressed sandwich. Of course it was amazing.
I sat for a while -- tired of walking already, happy to have a place to sit in the busy room -- and just people-watched for a while, which is one of my favorite pastimes that I'm normally too much in a hurry to do.
To my right sat a ridiculously thin, blonde woman, downing a bowl of coffee and picking at a large croissant, all while reading fashion articles on her iPhone in French and pawing through her Louis Vuitton (Note: the tables were really close together, so I wasn't being a total creep).
To my left sat an elderly couple, sharing a fruit tart and both drinking coffee. They wore -- I kid you not -- the exact same thing: flat black shoes, khaki pants, short-sleeve white button up shirts, and hats. The only difference was that she flung a black cardigan around her shoulders and topped her version off with a black beret, while he opted to go sweater-less and covered his head with a tan fishing hat.*
The cutest part? After a few moments, he moved from across the table to sit right next to her. They both crossed their legs while sipping their coffee and pointing out things in the cafe to one another, laughing. At one point, she set her cup down, turned to him, placed her hands to either side of his face, and kissed him tenderly.
All I could think was, I want that. It was beautiful to witness.
Eventually I left the bakery and strolled through the Lower Haight and Alamo Square areas, stopping in a few shops and mostly just looking around. I walked up to the de Young Museum (where the main exhibition featured Keith Haring!), passing through a beautiful park and a white-haired woman jamming out on rollerblades on a tennis court. By this time, a chill had set in and gray clouds abounded, so I figured I had done enough walking for that day and called a Uber to return to the hotel. (Notice a theme here yet? Ha).
OKAY. It hadn't rained in like, months, and so naturally it does during the 3.5 days of this trip. Super frustrating, even though all the SF folks were thrilled, and I know California is in a drought, but.... What are the odds?!
I will say that people were definitely still out and about, probably because of the massive Giants celebration parade, but my point is the rain didn't stop anyone and it wasn't going to stop me.**
Anyway, the Ferry building was a dream. I bought some olive oil and black truffle sea salt, granola and dried fruit, and taste-tested almost everything. Delicious highlights included cheese at Cowgirl Creamery (I wanted to take it all home and the guy let me sample everyyyyything which was sweet) and XOXOC beans from Rancho Gordo.
Then, since the rain continued, I grabbed another coffee and a cranberry scone and sat to journal for a bit.
Stay tuned for part two...
*This is my favorite anecdote of the entire trip.
**Thanks to my mama for teaching me how to rally regardless of circumstance.