The Hills Are Aliiiive… in San Francisco

On our journey on the West Coast, one of our favorite stops was San Francisco.  We actually started with the idea of visiting SF and grew the vacation itinerary from there.

Well, let me just warn you– one of the first things you notice about San Francisco is that it’s not New York and it’s not D.C.  And by that, I mean, the city is big, and there are a LOT of hills.  I mean, of course I’d seen the San Francisco hills on TV, but I  kind of thought that the city was on a giant slope, or maybe there was one area of town that had a hill.  I was wrong.  W-R-O-N-G.  Instead of like here in West Virginia where we generally make our roads between the hills/mountains/what have you (or through them), they make the roads over the hills in SF.  No biggie, except when you have miles and miles to canvass and a limited amount of time to do so.  (Also, the hills are calf burners, not slopes.)

Every time I go to New York or D.C., I end up staying in a pretty much the same area of town.  In D.C., you’re in the NW quandrant.  In New York, you don’t have to go too far from Midtown.  So I was a little shocked when I started looking at the map and realized the things I wanted to see were miles and miles away from one another.  I thought, “No big deal, I’ll take the subway.”  But then I got there, never saw a sign for one— sort of forgot about looking for one, and then and decided the bus would be a better option.  Or the trolley car — those ran right in front of the hotel.  Well, we took the bus once.  We took the trolley car zero times, and the husband became exasperated and hailed a taxi thrice over a couple of days (including the trip to the airport).  Other than that, we got a little bit of exercise.

When we drove the rental car into town and saw where our hotel was (at the top of Nob Hill — more about that in the next post), I was concerned.  I would have not have taken the brand new Prius we rented up that hill if there weren’t already like 15 cars parked perpendicularly on the street.  (The Prius had 6 miles on it when we rented it — Six!  Seis!  XI! — I didn’t want to roll backwards into traffic with this shiny new car.)  But they were sitting there, not rolling over on top of themselves, so we decided to brave it.  We found the hotel, got our room, and started exploring.

I had the best Japanese food of my life about 20 minutes later.

We ate at Katanaya Ramen on Geary St.  I had some sushi with a quail egg on top:

Whatever the hell I got to eat-- with a quail egg on top.
Whatever the hell I got to eat– with a quail egg on top.

Mine was pretty decent.

But the husband got some soba noodles and kimchi fried rice.  When I tasted the kimchi fried rice, the clouds parted.  I heard angels singing.  There could have been some trumpets — it was hard to hear over the sound of me stuffing it into my face.  (No pictures available — too quickly disappeared.)

I think the owners were a little afraid of what happened at my table.  The chopsticks went down.  I mean, I can use the chopsticks.  I am proficient.  But no.  You cannot shovel rice into your face with chopsticks as quickly as you can with a fork.  (Or at least I can’t — I’ll put it on my skill development to-do list.)

Anyway, after we recovered from our delicious lunch, we set out to explore.  We walked down to the easternmost pier and made our way to Fisherman’s Wharf.  We saw a good amount of sea lion wrestling, which was good fun:

These sea lions are pretty awesome -- gotta say
These sea lions are pretty awesome — gotta say (they have  self-initiated wrestling championship playoffs)

We also had a good view of Alcatraz that day — much better than on our actual trip to the island the next day, when it was so foggy you would be eaten by a shark before you even saw it:

View of Alcatraz from Fisherman's Wharf
View of Alcatraz from Fisherman’s Wharf — dun dun DUN!

Waking up in sleepy Sonoma, we went to bed overlooking this:

View from the top of the Mark Hopkins
View from the top of the Mark Hopkins

Quite a contrast.

More to come about the history, the fun neighborhoods, and some of the sights we visited!

What’s your favorite city?  Do you have any travel tips for finding the best food?  

Avenue of the Giants

I just got back from my first trip to the West Coast.  My husband and I spent a week traveling through California, Nevada, and Arizona, seeing the sights.  My next several posts will be a recap of what I found, what I saw, and what inspired me on our trip.  My mind unwound on this trip.  Completely.  The thought of home and daily life and responsibilities seemed so far away.  It was a good break.  Tiring (we drove about 1,300 miles and took a short flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas), but good.

One of our first stops was the Redwood Forest in Humboldt County, California.  Specifically, we took the scenic route known as the Avenue of the Giants.  It runs parallel to Highway 101, and doesn’t add much time to your trip.  If you are ever out that way, I highly recommend this small detour.

Because. . .

Walking through these trees reminds you of where dreams are made.  Every children’s story involving a fairy, or an elf, or a talking woodland creature — it seems like they could never have been imagined anywhere but here:

Looking up, up, up....
Looking up, up, up….

Pictures, of course, cannot do them justice, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t try:

There I am, holding it up....
There I am, holding it up….

The trees don’t have much in the way of roots.  They are mostly held up by balancing their limbs and growing them in a specific way to ensure they remain balanced (smart trees — must be working considering some of them are 2,000 years old):

A recently fallen tree, even without massive roots, created a small pond where it stood.
A recently fallen tree, even without massive roots, created a small pond where it stood.

I can’t imagine what kind of natural force it would take to force one of these babies over.  I mean, I don’t even think hurricane-force winds could do it.  Soil erosion and the tree’s own inherent weaknesses seem like they could be the only thing… and if one is coming down and you happen to be in the way, all you can do is pray, and/or run:

Or maybe make like a turtle....
Or maybe make like a turtle….

This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip, and one of the main reasons we wanted to head for Northern California.  Most of the scenery (aside from the Redwoods) reminded me a lot of home in West Virginia — they had cows, canyons, and much more land than urban sprawl. It’s a gorgeous landscape that you can’t find anywhere else on Earth– what could be better than that?

Have you ever visited a place that you instantly felt seemed unreal?  Where was it?  What was your experience?