Taking it Easy in San Francisco, CA
Of course during our 2013 road trip, we had to stop in San Francisco, but by the time we got there we wanted nothing more than to take it slow, keep the activities to a bare minimum, and try simply to enjoy the sites without forcing ourselves into traffic – which as far as West Coast traffic goes, started in San Francisco for us. We felt it immediately as we tried to maneuver our Yukon Denali through the busy city streets. The public transportation system is supposed to be really good in San Fran, everyone told us so, but without really know where to get buses, how long the waits for them were, and not really wanted to deal with the traffic and crowds, we just didn’t even try.
Yes. We were that tired.
Last time I was in San Francisco I was able to stay in a hotel that was pretty central to most major shops and eateries, which made it really easy to walk to some pretty great stops. I also went when tourist season was low, so I got to do fun things like ride the world-famous cable cars all the way up to the San Francisco Maritime National Park and take in the views. This time however, I avoided it and with my husband and three kids joining me, we decided to rent a beautiful home in the neighborhood of Richmond in search of our solitude and peace. The rental was gorgeous (note, it comes with a cat, so if you are allergic, it might not be for you), and you can easily access parks and other attractions we were told even via public transit.
We did venture out and still managed to find peace at Golden Gate Park, a short drive from the house we rented, where we admired the small herd of American bison as they grazed in a gated meadow in the park. We sat on the cool grass surrounding one of the Dutch windmills at the edge of the park, hidden away from the busy-ness of it all. We sank our feet in the cold waters from the waves that came in on Ocean Beach and spent a little time just walking on the sand.
But, our real time in San Francisco was mostly spent in two places. One was in our Airbnb rental and its neighborhood, where we went to the store, took a walk, and even went to the movies.
The second place where we spent most of our time in San Francisco was while standing in line at Mama’s in the neighborhood of Washington Square. Let me start off by saying that as a true New Yorker, the whole standing on long lines to eat anywhere is just insane to me. I just won’t do it…and often times as a local, I don’t have to. But, I wasn’t a local here and my husband really, really wanted to try this place. (Travel Tip: the way to get along with your honey or anyone you are traveling with is to compromise. Just give in and let the other person choose sometimes.)
The line was for an hour and a half wait by the time we stood at the back of it. I wanted to die. But I didn’t. Instead, I left my husband and kids and walked around and checked out the Coit Tower, though didn’t go up because of, again, long lines. The views from Telegraph Hill are so great, I could see everything – did I tell you how it was incredibly beautiful and sunny in San Francisco? Oh yeah…we were winning with the weather!
I toured Saints Peter and Paul Church, which was gorgeous and also cool in that it is the church that has been in some big movies (i.e., Dirty Harry) and is where Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe took their post-wedding photos (on the steps of the church because they weren’t actually allowed to get married there). I mean, really, it’s so Hollywood, isn’t it?
When we finally got into Mama’s (2.5 hours later), we were not only starving, but also tired. You would think that it would be enough to turn you into a monster. But something amazing happened. Once in, we were mesmerized by the sight of orders being quickly filled with some of the most appetizing brunch combos ever.
We made it!
The Paisano Benedict with prosciutto and grilled tomato. French toast with house baked bread made with cranberries, fresh orange juice and walnuts battered in egg whites and served with berries. Dungeness Crab Omelette with avocado, tomato and Havarti.
Spinach and mushroom Benedict. So yum.
And then to boot, the staff was really sweet and most of them all members of Mama’s family. I met Mike, one of the grandsons who also gave me a tip of when it was best to come (after work hours, during the week, not during tourist season), as well as his favorite dish (the Monte Cristo) and the most popular one in the restaurant (the Paisano Benedict). Suddenly, the long wait didn’t matter because the food was incredible – I have to admit, it really was – and the service was pretty stellar. No one rushed us, we received really attentive service and lots and lots of smiles. It cost the five of us a pretty penny to eat there because of course we ordered half the menu, but I would eat there again, just when Mike suggested it was best to return.
Aside from standing on long lines at eateries, the other touristy thing we did was visit the Fort Point National Historic Site, where we got super close to the Golden Gate Bridge, and climbed the steps of the fort placing us directly underneath this beautiful bridge while providing us with informational tidbits of the area’s history in the process. It was a windy, foggy time of day, very close to closing when we arrived, which meant very few people, and one of the best (free) attractions of the city almost all to ourselves!
Friends we met up with in San Francisco and every one with whom we connected online who is from this wonderful city speak of it with the same love and passion as we New Yorkers speak of our wonderful city. And I get it. San Francisco is really great, with tons to see and so much to do, but on this trip we chose to do a little less. Nonetheless, we had a good time and because we weren’t in hurry to fit a lot in, we got to take in our experiences a little deeper and connect with people a little more. A lot of our time there was great, from our Airbnb rental in Richmond (check the listing for it here), to our half day in line at Mama’s, to our late afternoon excursion to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Seems every time I go, I am left with a lot to love about San Francisco and even more reasons to return.
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It's such a laid back city until you also don't feel pressured to do 150 things like you do in NY. When I lived there and out of town visitors would come I would target a few sights and leave it at that. Usually the regular touristy places and a local spot or two. Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, North Beach, Lombard Street, Union Square, Market Street, Embarcadero are all convenient to each other so that are on the list. More local attractions might be Japantown and Historic Fillmore, Ocean Beach, GG Park, GG Bridge, The Presidio and the Palace of Fine Arts, Castro, Mission, Twin Peaks…such a wonderful city!
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So true! It's horrifying to some people that we were in San Francisco and didn't do a lot – like we wasted our time or something. Truth is, there is value in travel when not doing everything too. I don't look back at my time in SF and feel I missed anything because we really enjoyed our relax time there.