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After a very fun weekend in Sacramento and Napa, we packed up our in-laws’ car to head to San Francisco. We were excited — we had Alcatraz on the docket for Monday, followed by seeing some friends and wandering around the city the next day. We stayed down by Fisherman’s Wharf, which was a great location in a nicer-than-expected Best Western. The only not so nice part was that our room overlooked a street under construction, so it was NOISY.

After parking and checking in, we went down to the water and had a small lunch and looked at some sea lions. They were mesmerizing, let me tell you. Watching them rise up, then roll into the water, then jump back up on the floating pallets. They were loud, and not at all graceful, but something about them made me want to just stand there for hours. But we had a boat to make, so we left the wildlife and walked over to the pier for Alcatraz.


A few of the really cool sea lions

I’d been to San Francisco once before with my family, almost 10 years ago at this point (WOW). We didn’t do Alcatraz though…mostly because we preferred to sleep in instead of taking the early morning tour with the friends we were with…and I’ve always been curious. Waiting in line for the boat it was hot, and our SIL and BIL kept telling us how unusual it was for the city to break 70. I was rolling up my sleeves and sweating, but when the boat pulled away into the bay it suddenly became freezing. All of Alcatraz island was pretty cold — jeans and sweatshirt weather for sure, and we were a little underdressed.

The tour was really interesting. We learned people actually raised their families on the island, which seems crazy to me. It was perhaps a bit sanitized though, sort of giving the impression that Alcatraz was a place for reformation, where prisoners had music hour and craft time and were served some of the best food in the country.


Heading out to the island


We found some goslings

After that, SIL and BIL had to leave to go home and we were on our own. We met one of my former colleagues for a drink by the water then went out to dinner by the Wharf. I realized then why I had been feeling so utterly relaxed this trip — it was because I hadn’t planned anything! We were following the others’ lead, letting them take us around. I hadn’t even paid attention to the time for three days, just going with the flow. It was very different from my normal Type A approach to vacations and so refreshing. Buuut the downside is that Tuesday morning we stood in our hotel room, realizing we had never even cracked a guidebook and wondering what to do.

We ended up breakfasting in Alamo Square park, overlooking the Painted Ladies, Full House style. Then we went to Golden Gate park where we walked around for a while, but soon our short-and-t-shirt attire was no match for the cold Bay breezes, and we left sooner than I would have liked. After a trip to the Presidio in search of bridge views, we walked across town to get back to our little waterfront nook. Sometimes that’s the best way to experience a city, just walking and popping into little shops and cafes. We walked down the crazy-curvy Lombard St, got some gifts for Mother’s/Father’s day in Ghiradelli Square, and went back to the hotel to put on jeans and sweaters.


How do you park on this hill?

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We had dinner plans with a close friend from college, and he was taking us to Mission Chinese! The newly-opened NYC branch has wait times of over 2 hours, so we were glad to game the system and go to the original :)

The food was delicious, and really more multi-ethnic than pure Chinese. We got orders of sizzling cumin lamb, thrice cooked bacon, pineapple pork and fried rice. Really good. Then we went back to our hotel to finish a bottle of wine from Napa so we wouldn’t have to sacrifice it at the airport.

Phew. That was a very abridged recap, but suffice it to say we had a wonderful time, and really packed a lot into four days! We were again delayed flying home, due to the FAA furloughs, but we didn’t really mind. In light of everything that has happened over the past couple weeks, sitting in an airport for a few extra hours didn’t seem that bad. Also, it sure beat being at work, and after so much walking around and visiting, sitting still and reading actually sounded pretty good.

Until next time, California!

What kind of getaways do you prefer, relaxing vacations or active trips? We like to mix it up, but if I had to pick….anywhere with a beach might win.