Monday, March 22, 2010

San Something-O, Part 2

A couple months ago Steve was registering for a conference in San Francisco and invited me to go along.  We decided it would be more fun if he took a few days off for us to enjoy the city, then I'd go home and he'd stay and do his work thing.  I love San Francisco, sign me up!  Olivia had flown to Boston and Montreal and I even managed one flight without Steve, so I didn't think anything of it.

But then I started thinking of a trans-con flight with a toddler.  On the previous, much shorter flights she was 7-8mos old, and I have come to realize that she has become a wiggle worm busy child.  When we flew to San Antonio, it was a two-leg flight and took all day so I made sure to pack plenty of snacks and toys she'd never seen before.  But even with the blessing of an empty seat to put Olivia in it was tough to keep her entertained and happy when she's used to being able to walk around and nap in her own bed.  Steve and I both have a low tolerance of disruptive noise in church, at a movie, and especially on an airplane, so it's really frustrating when it's our own kid.  I was surely going to die, especially on the flight home from San Francisco when I'd be baby-wrangling solo.  I played out different scenarios in my head... Benadryl or not, car seat or not, buy a ticket for Olivia or not, cancel my plans or not, what are some toys that will magically captivate her for five hours?  She doesn't even watch TV for longer than a minute or two.  My dad even offered to fly out standby to help me on the way home.  Bless his heart.

Footloose and fancy free
But by the grace of God I was able to arrange for loving hands to care for Olivia so we could enjoy the trip by ourselves, and that changed everything.  Suddenly I could research restaurants that weren't necessarily kid-friendly, plan activities during the afternoon since we weren't bound to the hotel room for naptime, and look forward to four days with my husband, the longest we've been sans bebe since she was born.  Plus, at the last minute I got a promotional email from Travelocity that saved us a bundle on our hotel.  We've been to San Francisco before (previous trip here), and this time we tried to do a few things we'd never done.  Our hotel was right on Powell so we rode cable cars for the first time.

  They stop right at the crooked part of Lombard Street, which we'd never seen before.  We visited galleries and eateries in new neighborhoods like Russian Hill, the Mission, and the Marina District.  We window shopped on Union Street and Fillmore.  We saw the Palace of Fine Arts which was designed by the same architect who did the house where my dad lived in the Berkeley Hills.  We went to the Ferry Building and its associated art and farmers markets.  All of that for the first time!  (I don't follow the traditional "If you have three days do this" itinerary.)  Having booked a hotel in Union Square the fourth time in a row, we also visited some old favorites like Britex Fabrics and Belden Place.

Irish Coffees on St. Patty's Day
And we ate.  A lot.  We arrived on St. Patrick's Day and had Irish coffee at the Buena Vista, a chicken taco* at Nick's Crispy Tacos, an apple fritter at Bob's Donut & Pastry, and pork dumplings & corn fritters for dinner at E&O Trading Co in Union Square.  (I had seen something about their fritters on Food Network and they didn't disappoint.  Also one of the best mojitos I've ever tried.) 
Tartine Bakery
Thursday morning we had sourdough French toast for breakfast, a wonderfully fresh blueberry & walnut salad and a tiny part of the extensive beer list at Monk's Kettle, coffee and a lemon tart at Tartine Bakery

Monk's Kettle
For dinner we headed to Rose Pistola in North Beach and had a selection of their in-house cured meats (!) and shared the penne bolognese (meh).  On Friday we did First Breakfast at Eppler's Bakery on Market - the most perfect warm cheese danish with cappuccino - and then Second Breakfast at Lori's Diner (which gave me deja vu so I may have been there before).  Lunch was tacos* on a patio (beautiful day, great people-watching) in Pacific Heights, then dinner at our standby, Cafe Tiramisu on Belden Place
Belden Place
Steve got a fantastic steak and I had the penne puttanesca, which I will be blogging about separately.  It was that memorable, mostly because of the anchovies.  Saturday we headed to the Ferry Building, which had lots of food but not much to eat.  Most of it was produce at the farmer's market, or meat/fish/bread at the artisan shops inside.  Steve found us some delicious breakfast sandwiches from Golden Gate Meat Co and Peet's Coffee and we sat out back overlooking the water.  Lunch was a slice of pizza in the Embarcadero Center while watching St. Marys beat Villanova.  Then I kissed Steve goodbye so he could go to his conference, and rode BART to the airport (sniff, sniff).  Got dinner at perhaps the best airport food court ever and ate it on the plane - yummy enchiladas - way better than the in-flight meal service that you have to pay for anyway.

*One thing I love about tacos & enchiladas in San Fran is you never get flour tortillas.  They're all corn, which I much prefer, and come doubled because they inevitably break while you're eating.

I'm seriously thinking about planning our next vacation starting with entries on  I didn't get many pictures of food this time, but that site is so me.

The farmer's market was incredible and made me daydream about living in SF and incorporating fresh produce like fennel and kumquats into my kitchen repertoire.  Never mind the cost of real estate or the all the hills.  Our legs and feet were sore every time we got up from sitting even though we rode Muni and cable cars a good bit.  SF just isn't a walkable city like Boston.  I still don't feel like I've really gotten to know it, and I still have a list of things we didn't get to do.  Next time I will shell out $8 for a pint of Salted Caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite; this time it was right after lunch and I was expecting scoopable and we didn't have a fridge.  Last time we went to SF it was August so the weather seemed cool, but this time it was March and SF was uncharacteristically warm and sunny.  No argument here, and my last day we got the classic cool weather so I still felt like I had the full experience.

Coit Tower

As close as I need to get to Alcatraz
Palace of Fine Arts
I did feel guilty about being so giddy/relieved to take a trip with just Steve, but every time I'd see a baby and start missing mine I just thought about flying with a little one and it was all I needed to stay in the moment.  (And for the record there were two toddlers on the overbooked flight and they didn't do so well.)  I had a wonderful time with Steve.  And I even got caught up on my parent magazine reading and am recharged in the mommy department.  Olivia did great at home, although I missed out on her first solid-food puke.  Fortunately it was an isolated incident and not a full-blown stomach bug, but I got the phone call while at the Palace of Fine Arts, and so now I am probably always going to think about vomit when I think about the PFA.  Since I got home Livi's been kind of fussy especially when I leave the room, so I'm thinking she got plenty of attention while I was gone and may also be working on some molars (lots of finger chewing).

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