Two months ago, I took an impromptu trip to San Francisco. Well, sort-of impromptu. My boyfriend and I had been saving for years to see our favourite UK band (Catfish & the Bottlemen) play live in concert. We saw that they were touring North America and booked the next possible weekend flight (which happened to be in San Fran), using all the money we’d saved in our little tin piggy jar. It felt like a dream come true.
We had two full days to explore the city, with a half-day including travel time, so instead of building out a full itinerary, we decided to play it by ear.
ARRIVAL DAY (Friday Night)
When we arrived safe and sound in San Francisco, it was incredibly rainy. The humidity was a nice change though, coming from such a dry city like Calgary. It was close to midnight when we finally settled into our hotel and we were starving, so we hit up the nearest restaurant walking distance from our hotel, which turned out to be an Irish dive-bar. Our late-night chicken fingers, a glass of Rose (yes, I ordered Rose from a dive bar. No, I wouldn’t do it again), and a pint of beer cost about $40 US…yikes. It’s expensive in San Fran fo shoooo, so expect your wallet to feel a little lighter when you return home…
DAY ONE (Saturday)
The next morning, we woke up bright and early. This is important if you’re on a short schedule like we were; you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to explore the city, and since we were walking everywhere, extra time to sit down and rest your legs.
First stop…breakfast! Breakfast at Honey Honey Cafe is a MUST. I quickly scanned some breakfast joint reviews on TripAdvisor and this cafe kept popping up everywhere. Highly, highly recommend this place for a full, delicious breakfast and an intimate, cozy atmosphere. My biggest tip? Arrive early. There will be a line-up, but if you arrive before the late-breakfast crowd, you’ll get a table in no time.
Get the: Crab cake Eggs Benedict or the Huevous Rancheros. We got both (perks of travelling with another person). Two stomachs are greater than one. Oh, and the orange juice is also phenomenal.
After breakfast, we decided to get on with our daily activities which included exploring the shopping district, downtown San Francisco, China Town and the wharf. We also travelled to Oakland for the concert, but we’ll get to this bit later. Peep some of my street photos in the slideshow below:
I should mention that we accidentally came across this incredible art market in Union Square. I got to speak to a few of the artists, one of whom caught my eye: Stephen Bruce from Stephen B Studios, a contemporary artist who paints with acid on copper. His work was PHENOMENAL and after chatting with him for a while, he told me that his art has been featured on over 20 TV shows, such as (House, Revenge, Big Bang Theory, Law & Order LA, Californication) and movie sets (Iron Man 3, Horrible Bosses, The Avengers and The Social Network)
For lunch, we stopped for noodles in China town. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but they were greasy, carb-loaded, and oh so tasty. A bit expensive, but good overall.
It was around this time my feet started to hurt (silly me only brought a pair of Lemon Jelly rain boots and some narrow ripped Vans), so we headed into a Winners and I picked up some comfy, plushy sneakers (which I’m so glad I bought. They saved my life at the concert.)
Which brings me to my favourite part of the trip… the actual concert! We were exhausted from exploring the city on foot, so we headed back to the hotel via Uber and decided to rest up before heading into Oakland. Oakland, by the way, is a city on the east side of San Francisco Bay. If we could have spent another day in San Fran, you better believe we would have spent it in Oakland. The vibe of that city was so much different from San Fran. It’s a bit hard to explain, but our Uber driver explained it like this: Oakland is to San Fran what Brooklyn is to New York. Hipsters and hip hop, artists and entrepreneurs. It’s a vibrant, lively city with an up-and-coming feel to it.
The concert was held at the Oakland Fox theatre and I can’t say enough good things about this venue. As a piano player myself, I’m extremely sensitive to overall sound quality but this venue did a fantastic job keeping the sound clean and to the point. I could go into every little detail about how Catfish & the Bottlemen played the most amazing set ever, but I’ll spare you the fangirling in case you haven’t heard of the band. Let’s just say it was the best concert I’ve ever been too. Hands down (or up)
After the concert ended, we were HUNGRY, so we hit up this midnight ramen bar called Itani Ramen. Man was it PACKED. I guess this restaurant draws a crowd from the late-night concertgoers, but it’s a well-deserved crowd nonetheless. The ramen was delicious, in fact, everything we ordered was delicious.
DAY TWO (Sunday)
We had a slower start this day, as expected since we stayed up until some ungodly hour, still wired from the concert. We did have a small itinerary, however, because we wanted to walk the Golden Gate Bridge.
Once again, we hit up a highly rated breakfast joint in the morning: Brenda’s French Soul Food. I mean it when I say this was the most incredible breakfast I’ve ever had in my entire life. I feel like Anthony Bourdain would have raved about this place. The restaurant itself is located on Polk Street, a rougher section of the city, so be alert of that if walking. Also, the restaurant doesn’t take reservations – walk-ins only. Of course, when we arrived there was a lineup to get it. It took about half an hour, but we were seated and served very efficiently.
Get the: Crawfish Beignets, spiced with cayenne, scallions & cheddar – SO SO SO GOOD! You get three per order, but I could eat twenty of them.
Hangtown Fry: Crispy oyster, bacon & scallion scramble, with grits or hash, plus a cream biscuit or toast
Fried Catfish Eggs Benedict: Let me say it louder for the people in the back…FRIED CATFISH eggs Benedict. Essentially heaven in San Francisco (plus two poached eggs on a cream biscuit with creole hollandaise)
The bulk of the rest of our day was taken up by a spontaneous decision to get tattoos. Yup, tattoos. To commemorate the trip, we got the album artwork of Catfish & the Bottlemen tattooed at the quirkiest tattoo shop, Black & Blue Tattoo. Our tattoo artist, Who, was one of the most memorable people I’ve ever met while travelling. He was an excellent storyteller and made us feel right at home.
After the tattoos, we headed outside for a breath of fresh air (let’s be honest, the air in San Fran is about as fresh as old laundry), and went on the hunt for some dinner. Now normally, I always check reviews of restaurants before I make a decision to eat there, but we walked past Limon Rotisserie and it was an accidental favourite.
Get the: Quarter white chicken (Limon’s is famous for its open-fire, marinated rotisserie chicken
Mixed seafood Cerviche – fresh catch of the day seafood with octopus, shrimp and calamari
ANYTHING off their dessert menu. No further response needed.
So after a full and filling dinner, it was time to kick our tourist gears into grind and head to the Golden Gate Bridge. Originally we thought we could walk to the bridge, but it was at least a 45-minute trek, so once again, we relied on Uber. If you can rent a car, I would say go for it, although parking may be a bit of a pain. But if you’re looking to cut costs, I think renting a vehicle would be cheaper. We spent around $300 CAN total on Uber trips alone….so yeah, it gets a bit pricey.
Unfortunately, we picked a crazy windy evening to walk the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was a beautiful and haunting experience nonetheless. I say haunting simply because we did feel quite uneasy during the walk, knowing the history of the bridge and keeping in mind the many lived that were lost jumping off of it. Needless to say, we didn’t walk the full length of the bridge (we got about halfway), but that was plenty for us.
When we returned to our hotel, it was time for (you guessed it), sleep. We had an early, 7am flight back to Calgary so sleep was a sad, but necessary requirement.
This brings me to the end of my blog. I hope this little travel diary provided some unique insights and tips on how to best explore such an eclectic city. Overall, the trip was phenomenal and it felt so good to get out and explore the city on foot. This won’t be the lasttimew we visit San Francisco….we have plans to go back and see Alcatraz one day!
Goodbye for now!