After our trip to Idaho and San Jose, we traveled up to San Francisco for a few days. San Francisco has been on my list since I saw Forest Gump in the Dothan movie theater.
Greg and I pretend to be outdoorsy from time to time so our first stop was to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito en route to Muir Woods. We ate a really unique/delicious salad and pizza at Bar Bocce (highly recommend this place for food and views!). Sausalito is picturesque. It’s hard to believe anyone lives there.
Next we headed to the main event… Muir Woods. I looked up a few different trails ahead of time. We settled on one that was about 2 miles long. We wanted to see the woods but not spend the entire day there. Muir Woods is a busy/touristy place. I recommend taking a trail that is at least 2 miles or longer to get away from most of the tourist traffic. Besides the traffic, Muir Woods is pretty incredible. It’s so quiet! It feels like you’re on set for Jurassic Park. Something about the light gives it another worldly feel… not to mention the trees are hundreds of years old and HUGE.
After Muir Woods we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge again back to SF. Before heading to our AirBnb we stopped at Palace of Fine Arts… I just like to see as much crap as I can. Palace of Fine Arts was neat. I wouldn’t say it’s a must see though.
Finding a place to stay in SF that wasn’t super expensive was difficult. We ended up booking this super cute AirBnb in the Mission District. If you’ve never stayed in an AirBnb there a few things to know: 1. Always read the listing carefully 2. There will be surprises 3. It’s not a hotel. With that being said we were pretty happy with our stay. When they said “Mission District” they really meant “closest to.” When they said “yogurt and granola” they meant “there’s some there but it’s been there over a year, check the dates!” What did not surprise or disappoint was the resident cat, Squirrelly Joe.
To end day one we went on a taco hop for dinner, watched street celebrations of the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA championship and finished it with ice cream at Humphry Slocombe (I got the “Secret Breakfast” flavor). We had the best homemade red mole sauce at El Metate that I’m still dreaming about!
Nothing like starting off a day of vacation with a phone interview! We also had to return our rental car. Driving in SF is an experience… one that I would not like to have again. With the dreadful tasks out of the way, we headed to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Art Museums are weirdly (?) comforting to me and I really enjoyed the SFMOMA. It has a diverse collection of fun/entertaining art for everyone. It wasn’t so woo-woo-out-there like some modern art can be. I would highly suggest checking it out. One of my favorites was Warhol’s Dolly’s, of course.
We did some walking and headed toward Ghirardelli Square/Fisherman’s Wharf because you haven’t been to SF if you don’t. Along the way we stopped and got a donut at Bob’s Donuts and then I stopped in the precious shop of an illustrator/stationer I follow on Instagram (@paristosf), Ferme à Papier. I bought a few cards because how could I not.
I’m not one for staying on the beaten path but we went to Musée Mécanique in Fisherman’s Wharf. It was actually pretty neat and comical. My favorite “game” was the Opium Den where you put in your quarter and skeletons start coming out of the walls and doorways of the puppet living scene. It was so wacky.
We continued our walking tour to Chinatown and stopped in the famed City Lights Bookstore for a browse.
Finally, we decided to have a traditional SF dinner of oysters and po’ boys at Hog Island Oyster Co. In standard Vacation-Mollie style we finished off the evening with ice cream and picking up a bottle of wine before heading back to our temporary home.
This day we decided to explore the Mission District. To start, we ate at Tartine Bakery which definitely lived up to all the hype. We got an open faced sandwich thing and a lemon tart. This is also where we had the best coffee of the trip. Definitely go to Tartine!
I love art and Greg loves history so we went to the Mission San Francisco de Asís. It’s the oldest building in SF and has survived fires and earthquakes. It also has a pretty little cemetery.
We hung out in the park for a while watching everyone’s dogs play and a hippy girl with her butt hanging out walk a white fluffy kitten on a leash. Some guy brought his parrot to fly around and buzz everyone and that’s when we tapped out.
We had lunch at a really cute Cuban place called Media Noche. I got the ceviche which was perfectly refreshing and Greg got the Cuban sandwich. Their bathroom has shiny pink banana wallpaper which was a plus for me.
There was more ice cream.
Later we met up with Greg’s friend Jack (who we stayed with in San Jose) for dinner. We went to the Lyon Street steps for some views before walking to Hong Kong Loung II for dim sum. The dim sum was delicious.
Because we can’t stop the party, we went bar hopping. Most notably was the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar inside the Fairmont Hotel (which is beautiful itself). Let’s just say I was excited, Greg and Jack were… less than excited. It’s super kitschy and the drinks are not great and expensive but it’s a definite experience! We finished the night at a little hole in the wall and called it day.
Our flight was at noon so we wanted to get in a good breakfast before we left. We went to Mission Beach Cafe as soon as they opened at 9. I got the pancakes with bourbon syrup and they hit the spot. The story of the rest of the day was flight delays and getting home at 2am. Oh we did sit by Lou Holtz. Nonetheless, we had a great trip!
*** Tips and Thoughts ***
- Here’s the google map I made with a bunch of places that were recommended to me, we visited, or I researched. I have it organized and color coded. I even plotted where there are some murals (art walls) to see.
- SF is definitely walkable. I wouldn’t recommend driving. We either walked or took Lyft everywhere. We didn’t use the public transportation because I didn’t look into how to do it. Bikes are also an option.
- There is a big homeless population in SF which was kind of shocking to me. More so than NYC.
- Greg doesn’t normally wear his sweaters on his shoulders like that… he was tired of carrying them.
Once again Greg and I were lucky enough to make the trek out to Idaho with On River Time (the nonprofit Greg works for). This was our third year together (Greg went one year by himself). Yet again, we parlayed it into a mini/cheap vacation. Check out last year’s post here and 2015 here.
We had a great time with the kids. I even got to go out and fish this year. I was not excited about it at first because tbh I knew I was going to have to wear a hat but then I caught one! And then I caught more! Despite the hat, I had fun fishing. Oh and in that first picture I didn’t know how to hold a fish for the camera… no one told me! All fingers with a little bit of fish *eye roll*.
Usually the kids get to visit Yellowstone but this year we switched it up and went to the Grand Tetons. We had an awesome guide named Sarah who picked up a lot of random animal poop all in the name of nature and learning. She took us on a hike and to see a beaver dam. She was awesome. She was totally nerding out on nature and that’s exactly the type of guide you want.
After our Idaho adventure we hopped on a plane to San Jose where we spent a few days with Greg’s college buddy, Jack. He and his girlfriend, Char were our gracious hosts. Really, they were great and it’s awesome to have friends in appealing locales (anyone live in Hawaii? Costa Rica? France?).
As we were leaving a couple came to take their wedding pictures and I cannot think of a better place. There are so many colors in cliffs and then the water and then the beach, oh my. I would love to see their photos.
On our way back to San Jose, we stopped in Monterey (Big Little Lies!) for lunch and picked up local sea bass to cook for dinner. It was pretty much the idyllic day with perfect weather and good company.
The next day we went on a five mile hike in the San Jose valley. As we were hiking the view continually changed. The terrain is just so different than Alabama. It felt other worldly at times. And at times it felt like we were in Italy. Everything is golden and green and so much texture.
When we got back from our hike we had the ultimate Silicon Valley experience… we went to LinkedIn. Jack has been working there for the past year as a coder (whatever that means, idk). He gave us a little tour around the building he works in (because LinkedIn has multiple buildings). Everything was Marvel themed. They have espresso machines, sparkling juice machines, snacks, and fridges packed on every level. Like, no wonder everyone wants to work in tech. It was really neat to see and despite what you might think they don’t have cubicles per se and there is a lot of natural light.
We went to a near by town where popped into a local bookstore and then to a beer garden. We had a low key dinner back in San Jose. The next morning we left for San Francisco!… Stay tuned for that post.
On June 1st, Greg and I set out west again for 14 days (read about why we go and last year’s trip here). It was tiring, surreal, and mostly fun. We spent ten days this year in Idaho with two consecutive groups of 12 kids. It was pretty similar experience to last year and we even went back to Yellowstone.
Since we had two groups of kids it kind of felt like Groundhog Day. We ate the same things, did the same activities, everything the same like it was the first time. Except when the second group of kids left for Yellowstone, Greg and I headed to Las Vegas!
It was a nine hour drive from Idaho and I didn’t drive a mile. I did read a whole book though. We stayed only one night with Greg’s childhood friend before heading to California for our final destination. Neither of us really had any desire to “do Vegas” but I wanted to experience it a little bit. My friend Claire recommended eating on the patio at Todd English’s Olives restaurant in the Bellagio. We saw fountains, the strip, casinos, and had great food. I feel like we got enough of the Vegas experience in one night.
On our way out we did get to see the famous Dale Chihuly glass installation in the lobby so that was neat.
Because I’m really into jamming a trip full of activities, the next morning before we headed to Cali, I planned for us to visit the Neon Museum. It was pretty hot out even at 9:30 in the morning but it was so worth it! If you ever go to Las Vegas I think this is a must do and see. I took a lot of pictures so feast your eyes…
I don’t make Greg do ridiculous poses. I encourage him and he’s always willing, God love him.
The museum is all outdoors and tours are an hour long. There are certain historical/popular signs they tell you about but I don’t remember anything because I was too busy taking pictures and trying not to melt.
The arrangement of the signs were so thoughtful. Some look like they were put there haphazardly but that’s part of the subtle intention. It’s a photographer’s dream!
I have a thing for rust and patina and these signs are so perfectly worn. It’s almost like it was manufactured BUT IT’S NOT!
AND LOOK AT THOSE COLORS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh look, I found mine and Greg’s initials. How sweet.
After the tour we walked around “Old Vegas” for a while, got some coffee and breakfast. And here’s one last shot of me being a tourist… Giant flamingo!
You still here? Good! Next stop is SEVEN MAGIC MOUNTAINS! And it’s just as magical as it sounds.
Out in the desert about 15 miles from Las Vegas is a new art installation by Swiss artist, Ugo Rondinone, that went up in May. I don’t remember how I found out about it but I’m going to say Instagram.
It’s really in the desert. There are signs telling you to not leave the path because you will be bitten by a poisonous snake and die if you do. So it really has that “wow factor” you know?
It will be up until May 2018. It really is super cool seeing these giant neon boulder statues in the middle of the desert (and risking your life to see them). I like your style, Ugo! I didn’t want to leave but it was kind of hot.
Back in the car we go and our next stop is Orange County, California. We left the blow dryer air for cool ocean breeze. We stayed with a buddy in Costa Mesa. He took us out for superbly delicious tapas that night and the next day we met two of my college homies in Venice for brunch. We ended up parking right near the Gold’s Gym Arnold Schwarzenegger made famous.
We ate at a really pretty place called Rose Cafe. It was so picturesque. If I’m being 100% real, that’s why I picked it.
I ordered avocado toast and took this picture…
Sometimes “basic” just feels so right.
Venice seemed really very California. I wish we could have spent more time there but I guess I’ll have to go back!
After brunch we headed to The Getty. I love museums so much. I didn’t take any pictures because I WAS ENJOYING THE ART LIKE ONE SHOULD so you’ll just have to take my word on it.
We didn’t want the day to end with Max and Amanda so we headed to Hermosa Beach for more tapas and pitchers of sangria.
The only picture of the four of us is this screen shot of a snapchat. It’s perfect though. (We did miss you Liz!) After we left Hermosa Beach, Greg and I headed to Laguna Beach for gelato and watched the sunset… can’t stop, won’t stop!
I really wanted to do some hiking where I could see the ocean so the next day we hoped on the Pacific Coast Highway and went down to Crystal Cove. We were supposed to do a 5 mile hike but it turned into a 6.5 mile hike because we hiked in the wrong direction to a parking lot instead of taking the trail. Whoopsies!
Once we got on the actual trail, the hike did not disappoint. We started by hiking in the canyon and then it wrapped down toward the ocean. It was an incredible view. You could see all the beaches from Newport to Huntington. It was the most ocean I’ve ever seen.
I was slightly obsessed with seeing cacti “in the wild.”
After lunch in Laguna we hit the road again. I don’t know if we were delirious or addicted to seeing things but we decided to head down Huntington Beach Pier to watch the surfers. Do as the Californian tourists do.
Congratulations, you made it to the end!
We left the next morning out of LAX and made it to Birmingham around 9 pm. Don’t worry because we already have next year’s trip planned!
Next month we’re driving up to NYC and then I’m heading to Houston for a a couple of days. If you want to follow along, you can find me on Instagram and Snapchat under the user name: @molliejoydesign
Do you have any trips planned? I’d love to hear!