I’ve traveled quite a bit around the U.S., but the only time I’ve visited the State of California was a short weekend trip to Los Angeles with a couple of close friends. Last week, I finally took the time to take a girls trip for my girlfriends’ 30th birthday- destination: San Francisco. This beautiful city has so much to offer that a 4-day trip couldn’t possibly encompass it all; however, there a few sights and stories worth sharing that made this trip incredibly exciting, relaxing and memorable enough to leave me wanting more.
Traveling from Houston, I met up with 5 of my closest friends from Atlanta at the San Francisco airport after picking up our rental van, Becky. I had quite a few adventures at the airport and even a little scare that I may not make my connecting flight in time, but perhaps that is a story for another time.
The rest of day one was much more laid-back: a casual lunch at Chili’s to cure our hunger headaches, Starbucks for my friends, a quick trip to the grocery store to stock up on weekend food, and late-night girl talk and bonding around the kitchen table at the cutest little AirBnB (although the location wasn’t the best and it would have been more convenient to be a little closer to the city- lesson learned).
Our next day was spent in Napa Valley, exploring two vineyards that were so different from each other, yet so beautiful in their own way. The first vineyard, Castillo De Amarosa, was an ancient castle that was a wonderful adventure to explore, and our memorable tour guide Tysha was quite the comedic match for me and my quirky friends.
After stopping for lunch, we finally made it to our second destination, Sterling Vineyards. This location was surrounded by beautiful scenery and was more of a chill and relaxing evening…so much that we were so exhausted after dinner that we went home and straight to bed!
Saturday was our craziest day thus far, from wasting 5 hours in the morning and almost being late on returning the rental, to then discovering the cost of transportation without a rental. Thankfully still managed to survive the cold, foggy, windy weather in the city where we explored the Golden Gate bridge and the house from “Full House”, enjoyed some warm soup bowls of sourdough bread and found the best deals shopping in Chinatown.
Being that it was Saturday night, we did make a fair attempt to go out for birthday celebrations and dancing, but I admit that I had just as much fun when we decided to karaoke on the long Uber drive home where we ended the night with a hot pizza and endless laughter playing Cards Against Humanity. Honestly, it’s true that sometimes these raw and unplanned moments end up being the best nights and parts of the vacation we will always cherish. Happy Birthday to these lovely birthday beauties!
That being said, my favorite day of the trip was Sunday, for far too many reasons to list. We started off walking down Lombard Street, the world’s steepest and most crooked street that happens to be filled with courageous taxi drivers and pedestrians alike, surrounded by beautiful European-style architecture all the way down. We then made our way to Fisherman’s wharf, a gorgeous waterfront tourist attraction where we observed the Sea Lion’s while we waited for our ferry boat to Alcatraz.
Alcatraz is an ex-federal penitentiary turned popular tourist destination, housed across the chilly waters of the San Francisco Bay- a point of interest that you don’t want to miss if you’re at all interested in learning about the history of the city. In 1907 the island was designated the Pacific Branch of the United States Military Prison, and from 1934 to 1963 it served as a federal prison for some of the most dangerous civilian prisoners including Al Capone and Roy Gardner. I was mesmerized during the guided audio tour of the prison, feeling constant chills as we passed by the hundreds of 5 by 9 cells consisting only of a cot, toilet and small sink.
To learn more about the history of Alcatraz, I highly recommend visiting their website because there is so much more to be known than I could ever do justice describing on here.
On a brighter note, our moods were immediately lifted after dining with the most delicious food I’ve had in a long time: Tea Leaf Salad and Chili Lamb at Burma Superstar– authentic Burmese homestyle cooking that we just could not get enough of. We ended the night making it to Ghiradelli Square just before it closed, picking out chocolate for our loved ones and singing Happy Birthday with a virtual candle app and a small slice of chocolate cake given to us out of the pure generosity of the staff.
I would say that aside from our air BnB not being in a more centralized location, the only downside of the trip was our missed opportunity to explore more of the city via Cable Cars, but overall this trip was both fun and relaxing, filled with time to bond with my friends and still get enough rest, and being able to fully explore so much of what this beautiful city has to offer.