Who is ready for a super long post?
The hubs and I took a much-needed vacation to San Francisco last week to visit our college friend D and his fiance. Neither one of us has had a proper vacation in at least two years, so this has been planned for a while now. (We have only been married for about a year at this point, and we didn’t take a honeymoon after our wedding for various reasons, the most important of which was that I needed to study for my Bar exam.) Happily, a few days before we were scheduled to show up in SF I saw on the Facebook page of another one of our college friends that she (H) and her husband (D2) had relocated to the SF area as well, so we looped them into our plans. The hubs thinks I spend too much time on FB, but now he has to be quiet about it. 😉
We stayed with our friend D and his fiance, who live in Redwood City, so there was a fair amount of driving involved to get everywhere. Fortunately they are awesome and didn’t mind being our chauffeurs/travel guides. Here’s what we got up to in the 4 days that we were there (I’m not counting an additional 2 days that we took off for travel to and from SF – those time changes are a b*tch.)
Day 1 (Friday):
We slept in and got up just in time to drive over to Santa Clara for lunch at Orenchi, which is a Japanese ramen restaurant. We got an order of spicy edamame, which was devoured before I could take a photo. I didn’t realize that my hubs had never had edamame before this trip! He loved it, so I think that will become a common snack at our place. We both ordered huge bowls of ramen, in two different flavors (I can’t remember much about either one other than that his was the standard pork/chicken broth base and mine was a shrimp/scallop broth). Mine was just a little spicy and had some really well seasoned ground pork in it. Yum.
After we were full to bursting with ramen, our friend David suggested that we check out the Winchester Mystery House. I grew up watching things like This Old House and HGTV with my parents, so I had seen a program on the house a long time ago, and I thought it would be fun. The house was built by Sarah Winchester, who had married the owner of the Winchester Rifle company. After her husband and daughter died, leaving her all alone, she saw a psychic who told her that she was being haunted by the spirits of everyone who had been killed by a Winchester firearm, and that the only way to appease them was to build a house and never finish construction. She bought a farmhouse in CA and started building, and the construction continued without a break until her death in 1922. You can read more about the house here: http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/learn.cfm.
The house is a serious trip. There are incomplete walls everywhere, floors with random holes, windows that look out onto nothing, staircases to nowhere, and all sorts of crazy things. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon while we digested our large lunch. When we completed our tour of the Winchester Mystery House, we wandered over to Santana Row, a shopping district right across the street, to window-shop and get some frozen yogurt at Pinkberry (salted caramel and chocolate hazelnut – yum!!!)
Those two stops took up most of our afternoon, so by that time we were ready to meet H and D2 for drinks and dinner. Our first stop was Single Barrel, a prohibition-era themed bar in San Jose. The best thing about this bar is definitely a tie between the drinks and the atmosphere. The drinks are classic cocktails, some with a modern twist, and the bartenders are great. I had a whiskey-strawberry smash for my first drink, and it was good, but I decided to switch it up for my second round. My second round was a drink they called an “elderflower smash.” It was phenomenal. I had to share a sip of it with everyone else at our table, so they could understand it’s deliciousness. I’ve already bought some St. Germain in an attempt to re-create it myself (it was good, but not quite the same, so I’ll have to tweak my recipe).
The staff at Single Barrel really stick to the prohibition-era theme too. They’re all dressed in period-appropriate attire and are very courteous, but even better, they don’t play lots of loud music. There was some music in the background, but it was at a level that you could easily talk and be heard not only by the person next to you, but across the table from you. Since we were out with friends we needed to catch up with, the ability to talk without shouting was awesome. I’m a horrible blogger, and I didn’t get any photos of Single Barrel, but it’s sort of an atmosphere you have to experience for yourself anyway.
After a few drinks, we all decided that we were hungry, so we headed over a few blocks to Original Gravity (http://www.originalgravitypub.com/) a restaurant with brat/sausages and a good bar. We all got another drink (I got an espresso stout), a sausage (mine was a Pepperjack, which is pork with pepperjack cheese and spices, with peppers and onions) and some fries. While the regular fries were good, the poutine-style fries were everyone’s favorite (we went back for a second order to share). I’d also recommend this place to anyone. It was very low-key, and the picnic tables outside in the back of the restaurant were great to enjoy the warm Bay-Area weather.
Day 2 (Saturday):
After staying out late the night before, we opted for a more laid-back day. We had brunch at a family-style restaurant called Stacks (http://www.stacksrestaurant.com/). Imagine a nicer, more expensive Perkins or Denny’s. The food was basic and tasted great. I had an omelet with avocado and salsa, and our group split a stack of blueberry pancakes (which were huge). Once fortified, we set out to meet some of D’s friends at the Santa Cruz boardwalk (the same one where Lost Boys takes place). We rode roller coasters and cheesy carnival rides, had a beer and played some foosball and air hockey, and just basically wandered around.
D is one of our friends that we used to play board games with all the time, and he and his fiance had recently gotten two of our favorites – Small World and 7 Wonders – so we decided to eat dinner at their place with some beer and board games. I think everyone really enjoyed it. I rocked the games and won 3 of 4 we played 😉
Day 3 (Sunday):
We spent the entire day Sunday at D’s dad’s house, which has a good-sized pool and hot tub. We lounged around, drank beer, ate some pizza, and played Cards Against Humanity (if you don’t have a dirty/awful/sarcastic sense of humor, I would recommend staying away from this game – it’s a twisted version of Apples to Apples). I also got a ride in D’s dad’s Tesla roadster, which is an entirely electric sportscar. It has amazing acceleration, and it was a bit odd to be in a car going that fast without hearing a roaring engine. I’m a car lover, so I thought it was fun (not that I subscribe to Car and Driver or anything, but I can appreciate a nice machine).
On the drive back to D’s house we stopped at a local place, Taqueria El Grullense (http://www.yelp.com/biz/taqueria-el-grullense-redwood-city) for burritos and horchata (i.e. drunk food). I was so full that I just mooched a few bites off my hubs’ burrito (he didn’t miss it, those burritos were huge!) In hindsight I should totally have gotten my own horchata, because it was delish. I also had to explain to D and my hubs that if they like horchata, they should try Rumchata, which is equally delicious, but alcohol. 🙂
Day 4 (Monday):
D’s fiance had to go back to work on Monday, so we decided to go into SF itself to grab pastries at Tartine and do some sightseeing. The baked goods at Tartine are totally worth the hype. There were 3 of us, so we ordered a few different things so we could all try them. We got a morning bun that had some awesome orange-sugar on it, a hazelnut-chocolate tart that was super rich and chocolate-y, an order of their bread pudding with strawberry topping, which was heavenly, and a few macarons. After Tartine we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped for a photo-op.
We wanted to do some more walking around, so D suggested that we go check out the redwoods in the Muir Woods. They. are. huge.
As a last culinary adventure, we went to a Burmese restaurant in SF called Burmese Superstar (it also has a sister restaurant down the street called B Star). We didn’t do a whole lot of research for this trip, because we knew D already had a bunch of things in mind, so I was surprised to hear that Burmese Superstar had been featured on Food Network for their Fermented Tea Leaf salad. I thought it sounded gross, but I resolved to try a few bites. I originally told D and my Hubs that I only wanted a little, but they saved 1/3 of the salad for me anyways, which was good, because the salad was delicious and I immediately went back for the rest! In addition to the tea leaves, there was also romaine lettuce, sunflower seeds, and all kinds of goodness. It totally won me over. I also got a dish of Basil Garlic Chicken. I was super impressed that even though I didn’t ask for it to be extra-spicy, it came with a good kick to it (being very pale, I sometimes have a hard time convincing waitstaff at Asian restaurants that I want things Spicy – with a capital S).
To walk off yet another huge meal, we wandered down the street to a local place called Green Apple Books. They had a great selection of both new and used books. I had just bought some books to read for the plane ride to and from SF, so I passed on those, but I did find some really cute notecards that were blank inside. I snag these whenever I find them, because I like to keep gender-neutral blank notecards on hand; they’re such great all-purpose cards and you never know when you’ll need a last-minute congratulations/birthday/sympathy/etc. card. Also, have you ever tried to find a boxed set of cards that doesn’t say “Thank You” on it or look like there was a girly explosion of rainbows, butterflies, and pink?! It’s hard.
Since we were flying out early in the morning, we had another chill evening at D’s place playing board games and getting our stuff rounded up and packed. It’s amazing how much my stuff got spread out when we were only there for 4 full days!
There was really only one hitch in our whole vacation. On Thursday morning when we left DC our first flight was super full, so they asked if anyone would gate-check their luggage. I have never had a problem with doing so before (famous last words…), so I volunteered immediately, just so I wouldn’t have the hassle of dealing with my carry-on suitcase. Unfortunately, as we found out when we arrived in SF and went looking for my bag, the attendant who checked my bag pulled the wrong luggage tag, so my bag was ticketed under a man’s name and ended up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His bag was ticked with my name and came with me to SF. The baggage attendant was super helpful and got my bag tracked down right away, told the Cheyenne airport where the man’s bag was, and arranged for them to be re-routed to the correct locations. I was already grungy from a full day of travel and I wasn’t sure when my bag would be delivered to us, so we stopped at Target and I grabbed a t-shirt and cardigan, bathing suit, a couple pairs of underwear, a black jersey dress and some nicer black and gold sandals. I figured as long as I could wash my jeans and my bra, I could make those last me through 4 days if it was absolutely necessary. I had put my toiletries and makeup in my huge purse, so all I needed other than these clothes was a toothbrush (which was in a ziploc bag in my carry-on) and a loofa (ditto). Thankfully everything worked out and my bag showed up later in the evening on Friday, so I only had to make do for 1 day.
It was a great trip, and we’re already plotting our next vacation to the Bay Area. We’re also saving up so we can take an even bigger trip next summer. To China and Thailand. Yep, that’s right, China and Thailand. We have a friend and former roommate in China who is teaching English, and we really want to go check things out while he’s there (and we think he’d like the visit). I’ve always wanted to take a trip to the jungles of Thailand or Cambodia to check out the wildlife and all the old temples, and I happen to have a friend from law school who is working in Thailand, so we’re hoping to add that on to our trip to China. I mean, we’ll already be flying a ridiculous number of hours to get there, so we might as well take advantage, right? 🙂
Anyone else take a long-awaited vacation recently? I had plenty of reading time on the plane, so get ready for some book reviews!