Hello! Hope this year has been treating you well. 🌼
Do you have any plans to visit San Francisco this year? On this post, I’ll be sharing the Weekend Itinerary with my visiting girlfriends when we wandered to four picturesque places—two city parks, a beach, and a historic site, and experienced gastronomical delights from a variety of local food joints (jump to the summarized itinerary!). Thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the read!
BTW: I can’t believe we’re already halfway through 2018! It’s been a few months since my last post about my approach on the blogging world—someone who is still navigating the journey with baby steps. Hopefully my take on “blogging and the slow life” gives you inspiration and motivation for your own creative expedition. Please share your thoughts on it, I’d love to hear! Or connect with me directly on ☞ Instagram or ☞ Facebook and send some more inspiration my way!
My girlfriends flew over from Chicago for my birthday last December. As you read along, you’ll get an idea of what it’s like to spend Winter in San Francisco which is one of the many reasons why I love our uncharacteristic seasons.
I could not express this more when I say that our weather is so moody, you can get mild Summer vibes during the day in some days of Winter yet often chilly days in June and July. Let’s not forget SF’s microclimate where the temp varies in different neighborhoods—we tend to always have a light jacket/sweater when out and about in the city. What has stayed consistent in my experience living in San Francisco for—now 10+ years—is that Fall has always felt what Summer is supposed to feel like.
On a previous post, I wrote about the long weekend with my visiting parents last September and little did we know that weekend would have record breaking heat! Also: San Francisco’s diverse food scene inspired me to take them to a variety of local food joints where we experienced bits of different cultures through their flavors. Follow this link to see last year’s Labor Day post.
Friendships are Blessings
Upon their arrival on Thursday midnight, I welcomed each of them with a surprise lil sweet treat I picked up that day, along with a welcome love note. Perhaps something you can do the next time you have out-of-town loved ones visiting you. It could be sweet treats from your local bakery, a bottle of wine, or anything that you know they’ll enjoy. Taking the time to show appreciation for someone—no matter how big or small the gesture—will make your guest feel extra special and appreciated for their presence.
This weekend was a great opportunity to be grateful for what relationship I had built with each of them (that includes all sour, sweet, and even salty memories—the best kind of friendship right!?). The intention was to spend a slow weekend full of quality time together and not to focus too much on celebrating my birthday, but to celebrate, mostly, our 10+ years of friendship. Since they are out-of-town guests, I wanted to show them around, of course, while keeping in mind that we chose our time together TO BE TOGETHER, TO BE PRESENT, AND TO RELISH MOMENTS.
That is what I appreciate the most with anyone I spend my time with. Smartphones buried and forgotten, time spent bonding—we’ll barely notice the day pass. Only the sun and skies tell time.
Visiting new places means going on adventures to explore something new, but if your day is filled with too many places/activities, you might end up too tired and overwhelmed to enjoy each other’s company.
It’s not about the number of places you visit, but the memories you make with one another. Consider slowing down and not focus too much on the itinerary. It may feel as if the trip is not worth it if you miss a specific landmark or that long drive to a scenic view, but from experience, that isn’t true at all. What makes it special is that you and your company enjoy your trip regardless of how relaxing or adventurous it may be.
Planning an itinerary is good so that you have an idea of what to expect on your trip but don’t be disappointed if you can’t cross-out each and every activity on your list. When you suddenly realize you can’t make it to all the places on your list, that means you’ve already gone to enough places and have made fulfilling memories with your company. You will appreciate the trip even more if you’re not exhausted by the end of it. Yay!
Showing them around was the expected thing to do but we did so without the pressures of hectic tourist to-do lists. Oh, the countless stories we shared! Learned something new even though we have been friends for years. Truly, friendships are blessings!
A Warm December Weekend
Social: Novela in South of Market District
We started our day at The Mill, a coffee shop in the Alamo Square neighborhood, for some light breakfast—coffee, hot cocoa, and their delicious breads and viennoiseries. This local spot is a joint venture between Four Barrel Coffee and Josey Baker Bread which means you get to experience both of these local yummies—and more!—since they also feature other local bakeries on their menu.
The space is bright and airy, and spacious enough if you’re with a group. Also ideal, as with any coffeeshop, you can nab a solo corner—book in hand or their read-and-return daily paper, all the while surrounded by its lively and pleasant coffeeshop vibe. You may see a long line form all the way to the door but it moves fairly quickly. Also worth mentioning, this is one of the coffeeshops in the city without wifi but who needs wifi when you’ve got engaging conversations with company!
The interior is modern yet inviting: exposed ceiling/wood beams, skylights and front window walls that provide natural light, white subway tile in a straight herringbone pattern, long communal table, reclaimed wooden shelves display their beautiful ceramic pieces, wall art consisting of seasonal art pieces, and the spacious open-kitchen where slow coffees and freshly baked breads take place.
What I love most about this coffee shop is the variety of baked goods offered from beloved local bakeries such as b.patisserie, Neighbor Bakehouse, and Dynamo Donuts. The experience doesn’t have to end with your visit. Take home a loaf of their fresh in-house baked bread made with organic ingredients to enjoy the next morning!
Faves: any of JBB’s fresh-baked bread, any of the unique flavors of Dynamo Donuts, Raspberry Pistachio Hazelnut Croissant by Neighbor Bakehouse, and b.patisserie’s Kouign-Amann—oh, so buttery! Oh, so flaky!—though it’s traditionally a large cake that originated in north-western France, North America’s viennoiserie version is considered a kouignette.
After our bonding over breakfast, we walked to Alamo Square Park to enjoy quintessential views of the city and of course partake in countless casual (and often times goofy) photography.
The girls have visited a few times in the past and believe it or not, we’ve never gone to see our iconic bridge—gasp!—so we drove down to Crissy Field East Beach—driving through the scenes of lavish mansions and various styles of historic Victorians of the Pacific Heights, and the charming Marina Style (Spanish Revival) residences of the Marina District. Whether you are driving or walking around these neighborhoods, these homes will surely introduce you to San Francisco’s eclectic mix of architectural styles.
East Beach is where you get to unwind and tune out. I personally think the views here—the sunlit Golden Gate Bridge with the shadowy hills of the Marin Headlands as its backdrop, is mesmerizing and feels like landscape art brought to life.
Photo tip: the view of the bridge from here is best in the morning as the sun shines brightly on it, emphasizing the bridge’s famous color, International Orange, while the west-facing side is best during . . . Good guess, sunset!
We had our lunch at North of the Panhandle, Souvla—a fast-fine Greek restaurant—inspired by the souvlaki (Greek fast food known for its grilled skewers) joints in Greece.
Slow travel tip: for a slower pace, hold off going to East Beach until after lunch since Souvla is just a block away (neighborhoods Alamo Square and North of the Panhandle is right next to each other) from Alamo Square Park and spend some time amongst locals, meet plentiful furry friends—woof!—slow down, and savor the park’s overall community vibe.
I’ve been to a couple locations of Souvla and this is their second location which I prefer going to since opening in 2016. Just like the first location in Hayes Valley, the space is a bit tight yet bright and clean with a modern atmosphere: outdoor bar tables and chairs at the front, floor to ceiling front door and windows, copper tabletops, white subway tiles, huge chicken roaster facing the counter seating, and more seating offered as you walk past the narrow hallway leading to my favorite feature of this location—their patio seating area under a canopy of string lights. So, lovely!
Oh, and their restaurant motto, “make it nice and be nice”, is so accurate by experience. Such a very nice way to spend a relaxing lunchtime.
PS: We couldn’t get enough of their greek fries and their sauces!
On our way back home to recharge for the night, we stopped by Dolores Park for a bit. This was the first sightseeing spot I took my parents to when they visited me last year, and surely one of the city parks that’s easily a fave of residents and visitors alike. You can even spend an entire day here just like in Alamo Square Park, and perhaps feel like a part of the community! The diverse neighborhoods surrounding the park (Dolores Heights, The Castro, and Mission District), offer a huge variety of food and hangout joints. We’ll explore more of these neighborhoods for you on future stories.
PSA: CLICK ME – LOVE DOLORES ~ LOVE OUR PARKS #LEAVENOTRACE
For dinner, I planned on taking them to SoMa StrEat Food Park, a food truck park in our neighborhood, but we were met with the unexpected closing time. Good thing South of Market has countless other dining options; just a few minutes walk from the food truck park is a Thai Restaurant, Basil Canteen. The space has an Industrial vibe with exposed brick walls and huge steel beams, and the building is actually a San Francisco Landmark, #199. It was converted from a turn-of-the-century, family-owned Jackson Brewing Company to a top floor living space and commercial warehouse (after the last member of the family has passed and the complex was sold off) to the 90s conversion of a mixed-used development of condo lofts and restaurant—the now Basil Canteen.
I got something here that’s traditionally (but a bit much for me) spicy and they let me change my order at no additional cost without hesitation whatsoever. I was actually the one who hesitated since I’ve never done that before but my friends convinced me otherwise and I’m glad they did because the dish I got to replace it was amazing! Great overall experience + the kindest staff who was very accommodating. As for the rest of the table, they had no complaints and left with clean plates! We did not plan on eating here and I’m glad we did.
San Francisco offers a number of cocktail bars and lounges, and Novela is one of my top choices. The place is a book-themed bar with classic literary references mixed with a contemporary atmosphere.
The interior is gorgeous—elegant yet casual and a little bit quirky—real books chromatically arranged on wall shelves cover the entire wall with chopped firewood below, interesting—you just have to see it for yourself—wallpaper in the bathroom, contemporary wingback chairs, and birdcage chandeliers.
Craft cocktails and punches are unique, flavorful, and some are seasonal. I’ve brought them here the other few times they visited, so along with our go-to drinks—Leopold Bloom (strong but refreshing and fruity), and their really good house punch, Hemingway’s Code Hero (deep and smoky)—we also got a couple of seasonal cocktails, and Miss Moneypenny for our friend who is more into sweet and fruity.
Also, due to its proximity to our apartment—this place has been a frequent spot for lounging and drinks whenever they visit—and for some reason, every single time we go here, we end up spending so much time immersed in somewhat-deep conversations about life as if we were in a therapy group, then we leave as if we experienced some sort of revelation in our lives. LOL. Perhaps that’s how you know the libations are uniquely and perfectly crafted. Thanks, Novela! 😂
See: Palace of Fine Arts
We spent most of the day at the iconic Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District. To fully experience its beauty and serenity, go during the weekdays, while the weekends and Holidays call for people-watching as it gets a bit crowded. However, you can easily find a peaceful spot in one of the benches, or lay a picnic mat and relax in this idyllic park.
Designed by Bernard Maybeck, a California Architect, this Roman and Ancient Greek-inspired structure evokes awe and grandeur as you stroll around the artificial lagoon—complete with graceful swans drifting—the magnificent rotunda, curved colonnades, and sculptures—like the statues of weeping women atop the columns symbolizing “the melancholy of life without art”.
The structure was one of ten—and the only surviving—palaces constructed for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, nicknamed, Jewel City—a 635-acre World Fair hosted by San Francisco.
National and international pavilions showcased momentous innovations and the arts of their time, and a celebration of the city’s unity and perseverance to rebuild from the ashes—nine years following the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.
The structures on the PPIE were built with temporary materials and were left to ruins, pulled down by the end of the fair but the Palace of Fine Arts lived on—reconstructed and preserved to the awe-inspiring Beaux-Arts beauty that we now greatly admire and appreciate.
PS: Here’s a fascinating video about the grand festival: https://vimeo.com/110961704
A visit to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without experiencing our Food Truck scene. For our last dinner in the city, John and I took them to Spark Social—the younger sibling of SoMa StrEat Food Park.
We were able to nab a lovely spot in the pergola with a fire pit and swinging benches, adjacent to their converted English style bus with an open-air deck that has some pretty great views of the city.
Faves: EVERYTHING from Bowl’d Acai, bowls from Koja Kitchen, Tonkotsu Ramen from Torraku Ramen, Sweet Crepes from CREPES S’il Vous Plait, and Strawberry Fields from SPRO Coffee Lab.
As the Golden Hour began, we all started to feel a little chilly. Getting cozy by the fire pit and sitting on the swinging bench, I savored the good food we were having but more importantly, savored the moment. I intentionally paused, listening to conversations and just smiling at them like a creepy person—I looked back at the short weekend I had with them with nothing but pure appreciation: happy and thankful.
Here’s to more sweet memories made with friends/family and I hope for the same for you and your travels too!
Eat: Breakfast at The Mill + Lunch at Souvla + Dinner at
Soma StrEat Food Park Basil Canteen
See: The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square Park + Golden Gate Bridge views at Crissy Field East Beach + Mission Dolores Park in Mission District
Social: Novela in South of Market District