I would love to tell you that this is going to be an awesome post about how to plan a trip to San Francisco. About all the cool, unknown, never-done things that are hiding all over the city, BUT I can’t even remember the name of the super delicious coffee house I fell in love with my last trip, & when I tried to look it up, I got lost in images of decorative foam from various barista artists and just ended up making a list of places I want to go the next time I’m there. That’s what San Francisco is for me. This crazy magical city that I find myself visiting, getting lost in, and exploring every so often, where big things happen to me but the details are always fuzzy, I never do the same thing twice, and it always completely changes my life.
If you read my first post, you already know that Kristina and I are no stranger to the cement trail known as the I-5 that stretches from Oregon through California and beyond. In 2003, as we were each preparing to graduate high school (her in Aberdeen WA, me in Milwaukie OR) we were both becoming more and more depressed that we had committed to different colleges in different states and were on what seemed to be, different life paths. The universe, or the inevitable act of aging, was pulling us apart and we were not happy about it. Naturally, we resisted this sense of separation and decided to go on a memory making road trip together through California. We’d head out the summer after graduation, despite that we had no real plan, we had never traveled alone, and there was a mountain of concerns from our parents. But hey, we had GRADUATED. We were BEST FRIENDS. We were now ADULTS. I was driving a BRONZE HONDA CIVIC. WITH AUTOMATIC SEAT BELTS. NOTHING COULD STOP US.
Turns out, lots of things stopped us. Like not knowing where we were going, having no money, creepy strangers, the AC breaking, and crazed bees that fly into the car and scare you so bad that you both jump out, only to realize the car is still moving, down a hill, towards a cliff. We pulled off stunts we thought we’d only ever see in MacGyver (MacGruber for anyone reading this born after 2006) to make it there and back. Needless to say, we sure did create plenty of memories on that wild trip! And the whole California-wonderland-adventure came to a stop for us in sunny San Francisco.
Walking down Fisherman’s Wharf after arrival, we knew we wanted to stay, so we bartered with an elderly hotel lady for the cheapest rate we could negotiate and then set out to see the city. The doors of the Ghirardelli Chocolate store at Ghirardelli Square must have had our feet pass through them 8 or 20 times, because the lovely sales people would hand you a free chocolate sample upon entry. If the emptiness in our stomachs hadn’t made us want seconds, the emptiness in our wallets encouraged us to the point of making outfit swaps in the restroom just so they’d think we were new patrons and give us more yumminess to shove in our face holes. Which bless their hearts, they did. And so lunch that first day was a combination of chocolate, raspberry, white chocolate, and caramel squares. For this reason, Ghirardelli Square still gets a big thumbs up from us and is definitely something everyone should go do at least once when visiting the city. If you are not a broke 17 year old, you can even buy things there! Like ice cream, and more chocolate.
After the sugar high subsided, we soon realized that other than some candy, people watching and the views, just about nothing else is free in San Francisco (or anywhere really). Choosing to eat dinner rather than ride the ferry to Alcatraz made it pretty clear it was time to hit the road home in the morning. However, we were already addicted to the vibe of the city and the little bits we’d gotten to see, so we vowed to come back together some day.Fast forward more than a decade, and we kept that promise. Kristina had completely spoiled me on my 30th birthday by surprising me with a trip to Palm Springs with friends. It was more than I could have ever asked for, so when it was her turn to blow out the candles later that same year, I certainly didn’t want to disappoint. As I started planning, I couldn’t think of a better place for us to be celebrating this big birthday and all our future plans, than in one of our favorite places from our past. San Francisco round two! And this time, we could actually do stuff!!
To start, we hit up Foreign Cinema for Kristina’s bday dinner. Ambiance was everything you’d want out of a drive-in-movie-theatre meets quaint french bistro, and I believe “Rebel Without A Cause” was playing on the big screen while we dined. After chowing down on delicious dishes and sipping adorable libations with edible flowers floating on top, we headed out to sample a few swanky and casual bars. There were a few gems, but I can only remember Palmer’s Tavern off Fillmore because Kristina had her first REAL martini there! Combine that, its easy vibe, the red leather seats everywhere, and the fun couples we ended up chatting with and it is certainly a spot I’d wander back to. San Francisco served us up a multitude of healthy and hearty appetizers, clever conversationalists to chat with, and carefully constructed cocktails that, all be it left us buzzed, but also well balanced. Thanks to super convenient Uber drivers everywhere, the bartender had barely said “last call” and we were already whisked away back to our hotel. As we tucked into bed that night, we were smitten with the city, and 17 all over again.
Shopping, shopping, and more shopping provided us both with new shoes and coats (and maybe some other stuff, but you don’t need to know how much we shop! Not yet…). And our wandering led us to Washington Square, pizza slices, lattes, Telegraph Hill, touristy photos, and then back to the hotel to get ready for a rock show. I had no idea who “Shovels & Rope” were when I bought the tickets, nor had I ever been to The Fillmore prior to that show (neither had Kristina). Both of those things are now two of my favorite things forever. To say the show was magical doesn’t describe the gritty realness that was also present, and as Kristina and I swayed along with the crowd with tears in our eyes, we knew that San Francisco had given us another major memory and moment to share. I have been back to the Fillmore since, to see “St. Paul And The Broken Bones” and I loved everything about being in that venue all over again. Granted both bands I saw are completely freaking AMAZING live and I would suggest watching either group perform out of a shoe box if you ever have the opportunity, but The Fillmore as a whole has a little piece of my heart.
“Shovels and Rope” t-shirts in hand and smiles smeared across our faces, we headed back to the hotel for our last night of the birthday weekend. Well, it was supposed to be the last night. I mean we had the best intentions. We woke up, ordered breakfast to the room, packed our bags, loaded the car parked in the garage and set out for one last afternoon. Afternoons are tricky things. They so easily turn into happy hours. And when you realize you’re at the ferry terminal during happy hour, well, YOU GET ON A FERRY. The sunset views from our little boat were mesmerizing. Wind whipping us in the face, we laughed and watched with awe as the whole coast we were headed to was swallowed up in the dense San Francisco fog. It was like a scene out of Ghostbusters. Next thing we knew we were wandering off the boat and into the night on Sausalito. We were starving and immediately set up shop at the first Mexican restaurant we stumbled upon. Fun Fact: Kristina LOVES Mexican food! It is one of the main reasons she comes and visits me in California (She swears its to see me, but I know I’m not made of guacamole). Of course I love Mexican food too, and a margarita even better, so I was more than happy to waste away the hours with my bestie at Copita Tequileria Y Comida. We chatted about life and about the weekend and how we didn’t want it to end. How every time we get to spend consistent time together we’re so charged with energy and inspired, and wouldn’t it be great if just some how, some way, we could be neighbors again some day or at least work together…yeah, just work together… We walked back to the ferry, and after two Stella’s and too many ridiculous selfies, we found ourselves back at our hotel lobby, checking back into the exact same room we had checked out of a few hours ago. The next morning we drove to the Golden Gate Bridge and Kristina snapped some pictures as the sun rose. And then just like fog, all of a sudden, all at once, we were gone.
The whole drive back to LAX we talked about how we needed another trip to see each other on the books ASAP. My original plan for the end of the weekend was to drive back through a winery or two and stay a night in Santa Barbara before dropping Kristina off at the airport. But the magnetism of San Francisco had kept us in its clutches, giving us time to settle into all the fun we were having, and by the time we hit the tarmac that last day we knew we couldn’t spend the rest of our lives waiting for 30th birthdays to have fun together. That was the spark that lit the fire that is this blog! San Francisco reminded us that we don’t just create memories for ourselves, but stories we want to share. We vowed to make more time to have adventures together, and to create this space, Cake On The Floor, to share what we discover and learn along the way.
So, in short, what I learned about San Francisco and want to share with you is this: JUST GO. There are so many places to stay, eat, shop and visit with so many things to go and do, that you can’t not have fun or find something to inspire you! Kristina and I will definitely be going back (I wanna S.U.P. under the Golden Gate!) and of course the itinerary wont be the same. Plans or no plans, sometimes you just have to roll with the trip, with the city, with whats moving you at that moment. Because even if your plan falls apart, there are bees in your car, or your cake hits the floor, trips with your best friend will always leave you finding the funny in every fail, and that makes any trip a success.
Xx – Sarah