I Love You, California

So, as luck would have it, Kevin and I know LOTS of awesome people who live in (or very near) San Francisco. And so, when we were planning a very last minute trip (Kevin had a week off between ending a new job and starting a new one) San Fran seemed like the obvious choice.

It was a wonderful decision.

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We managed to cram a whole bunch of visiting and sightseeing into a few short days (neither of us had been to the Bay area since about middle school), and couldn’t have been happier with the way the trip netted out.

Here’s a quick overview by category (in no particular order):

Friends/Family:

  • The Hoffmans!: Kevin’s sister and her amazing family (April, Greg, Everett, Isaiah, and Lulu the dog) moved out to Pleasanton (a little outside of the city) from the Seattle area about two years ago and we hadn’t been out to see their California place until this trip. Their home is beautiful (no surprise there, with April at the helm) and we had a blast with them hiking, trampoline jumping at Rockin’ Jump, hanging out in the hot tub, having dance parties, eating delicious meals, and going wine tasting. I can’t believe I married into such a fun family!

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  • The Kellers: Speaking of wine tasting, we were joined by Kevin’s cousin, Eric, and his family on Saturday for a great day of vineyard hopping, picnic lunches, and conversation. (That is, Eric and Joey joined us for the outing and their sons Landon and Cole hung out at the Hoffman homestead with Everett and Isaiah, where we all ended up for some post-vineyard coffee and conversation.)

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  • Ezra and Sarah: These two were part of the Fulbright crew I taught English with in Malaysia way back in 2008, and we’ve loved staying in touch in the years since we’ve been back Stateside. The last time I saw Sarah and Ez in California was for their beautiful wedding in Sonoma in 2011, and now they’re about to be a family of three, so it was great to see Sarah with her adorable baby bump. We enjoyed a delicious dinner with Sarah and Ez and then explored their neighborhood, ending the night with gelato (YUM!).

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  • David and Devon: Kevin, Dave, and Devon go waaaaay back. They’re all Conyers friends, and I love hanging out with them and hearing stories from their Salem High School days. They live in Berkeley now, and met us for drinks in the city before taking us up to Twin Peaks for an incredible view (we lucked out with a clear night) and then across the bridge to check out the vantage point from Berkeley. We laughed a lot, filled up on Chicago-style pizza, and had the best time with these guys!

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  • Lauren Lavin: This was kind of a funny night, in a way. You see, Lauren and I had never met in person, but had become pen pals of sorts through our mutual friend Watson. We talk frequently (via email, text, and gchat), but had never met (for real, that is). Lauren moved out to San Fran about three months ago, and so we met up with her our first night in town for some authentic Mexican and bar hopping on Mission. Now we are OFFICIALLY friends!
  • Kevin Wakefield: Kevin and I used to work together here in Winston-Salem, and he’s since relocated to the Bay area for work. Kevin (Keller) and I caught up with him over lunch in Chinatown (at Great Eastern, Obama’s pick when he’s in town) and loved our time together.

Tourist-y Things:

  • The Cliff House/Sutro Baths: Okay — this place feels like a fairy tale. Sutro Baths used to be a bath house right on the water until it was destroyed by a fire, and now you can walk among the ruins and take in some breathtaking views of the water.

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  •  Grace Cathedral: An iconic church in the area, Grace Cathedral is a beautiful structure with an even more beautiful philosophy. The church is home to an Interfaith AIDS chapel and promotes a refreshingly inclusive atmosphere. The floors feature intricate inlaid labyrinths used for prayer and yoga, and the church currently houses a breathtaking exhibit of ribbons hanging from the ceiling called “Graced with Light.”

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Food & Drink:

We ate so much great food during our time in the city!:

  • The Grove: Recommended to us by a nearby boutique, this restaurant has a handful of locations, and we popped into the Hayes Valley spot for a quick snack the day we flew in. The restaurant’s cozy fireplace and modern-yet-comfy vibe was perfect for a rainy afternoon.
  • Taqueria Los Coyotes: This place was authentic and delicious — perfect for our California Mexican fix.
  • Elbo Room: We loved checking out this bar with Lavin!
  • Great Eastern: We knew this place was going to be a winner when we realized we were the only Caucasians in the restaurant, and sure enough we enjoyed awesome dim sum here for lunch one day.
  • Vesuvio Cafe: This renowned spot just next door to City Lights Bookstore was a favorite of literary types like Jack Kerouac (Kevin’s fave), so we were thrilled when Dave and Devon picked this spot for a pre-dinner drink.
  • Zachary’s Chicago Pizza: Getting Chicago-style pizza right is an art, but the folks at Zachary’s pull it off well.
  • Cafe DeLucchi: Sarah and Ez live near Little Italy, so Italian food was a must when we met them for dinner. Cafe DeLucchi did not disappoint, and Kevin and I LOVED our meals (we got pizza and gnocci).
  • Tartine: I wanted at least one good bakery experience while in San Fran, and Tartine was the perfect choice. Kevin and I popped in for breakfast one day and got a morning bun and croissant that were to DIE for.
  • Hayes Valley Bakeworks: This spot was just down the street from our hotel, and after reading about the bakery’s mission to provide marketable skills to people in need, I wanted to be sure to give them some business. I’m happy to report that not only is the heart of this business good, but so are its cookies (I got a Mexican chocolate snickerdoodle — YUM!).

Additional Notes:

  • Inn at the Opera: We lucked out with our hotel (located at 333 Fulton Street — easy for us to remember!) in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. There was wonderful shopping nearby (as well as great spots to eat and drink), and the location was perfect. The hotel felt European in the best way: small, yet absurdly comfortable with a kind staff and delicious (free!) breakfast (plus the price was right). We will absolutely stay here again and would recommend it to anyone traveling to San Francisco.
  • Lyft and Uber: These are the preferred ways to get around the city (as opposed to a standard cab), and Kevin and I enjoyed traveling around the city this way. Not only do you get where you need to go, chances are you’ll be driven by someone cool who has great recommendations on things to do.

Thanks to all our friends and family who made our time in the Bay area so much fun. We can’t wait to visit again soon!

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3 Comments

  1. April Hoffman

    What a delightful recap of your trip! Really enjoyed reading all the details in such a fun way. We thought it was such a great visit with you guys! SO happy you were able to come out! Love, April

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