Happy Earth Day 2011! What a lovely coincidence that my post today is about my latest trip to San Fransisco, one of America’s greenest cities!
San Francisco is my favorite city in the US. It has everything – from world-class wine, savory seafood, shameless shopping, amazing architecture, easy public transportation, temperate weather, and plenty to do outdoors within the city and just outside its borders.
I was excited to take my mom there for a girls’ weekend getaway last month. On Saturday we flew into Oakland International airport and made our way to SF via the BART. The Bay Area has an expansive public transportation system that includes the BART as well as buses, the famous cable cars, and ferries. The city has also implemented many no-emission vehicles. Brilliant. Another pro: many of the places visitors go are within walking distance, if you can maneuver the hills! (I lived in my trainers.)
We came above ground at the BART station on Powell and Market Street, adjacent to Union Square, ground zero for tourists. The area was teeming with people. My mom’s first reaction was, “What is this place?” (Love it!) We maneuvered through the crowds pulling our rolling suitcases uphill about four blocks to our lovely boutique hotel, The Orchard.
Saturday was cool and drizzly, so we designated it our “shopping day”. The giant Macy’s, Williams Sonoma, Forever 21, H&M, and countless other household name stores provided shelter from the rain and loads of entertainment in the form of fabulous finds and people-watching! The weather cleared up later that evening so we strolled down to the Ferry Building on the water and ate dinner at The Plant, an organic restaurant with a view of the bay.
We started with the shitake mushroom bruschetta...
...and finished with the avacado, grapefruit, arugula salad with macadamia nut dressing. Yum!
On Sunday the weather was slightly better, so we took a tour to Sonoma. I typically avoid tours but without a car our means of transportation outside of the city were extremely limited. Luckily, the tour did not disappoint. I chose Sonoma over Napa because it’s closer (about an hour drive) and much less commercialized. Our first stop was Imagery Estate Winery, a biodynamic vineyard. This is the first time I’ve heard of biodynamics. Maybe I’m late to the party, but I learned that it’s “real” organic farming in which farmers use self-regulating ecosystems to maximize the yield and quality of their crops naturally.
The drive to Sonoma was overcast but gorgeous!
Lance was our viticulturist at Imagery, and he looooved to talk and pour. My mom and I were late getting back on the bus because we were so busy “learning about” wine.
Our next stop was downtown Sonoma, a quaint area centered around a town square with tasting rooms, shops, and restaurants. We grabbed a panini at the Sonoma Cheese Factory, after taking advantage of their free cheese samples for our appetizer. After lunch we tasted at Roche Winery, then tooled around the shops before we went back to the bus- this time we were NOT late!
The last stop on our tour was Buena Vista, one of California’s oldest vineyards. We drove down eucalyptus-lined road to the winery, which is about five minutes from downtown Sonoma. It started to drizzle, which added ambiance to the ivy-covered stone building that housed oak casks.
After a relaxing tasting, our driver gave us a quick tour of SF’s must-see spots. My mom and I jumped off in the North Beach (Little Italy) area so we could find some carbs to soak up the wine in our stomachs. We happened upon a trattoria at the corner of Green and Columbus and had the best bruschetta! Heaven!
We continued our tour on foot through the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. It’s historic significance is visible today, and the area and its inhabitants have retained a bohemian feel.
On Monday, our last day, the weather was perfect! It was sunny without a cloud in the sky. We walked through Chinatown to Telegraph Hill. Although I didn’t see the famous wild parrots, we had amazing views of the city from the base of Coit Tower.
We continued walking to Pier 39. We arrived just in time to catch the sea lions, who have been coming to the pier to sunbathe since the mid-eighties. It was fun to watch them play and lounge around on the wood platforms on the edge of the pier.
Our wine tour guide had recommended we rent bikes and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to the cute beachy town of Sausalito. On such a perfect day, we couldn’t resist! There are plenty of places to rent bikes by the Pier. My mom couldn’t remember the last time she rode a bike, and it’s been a couple of years for me, but it was just like riding a bike… haha. On our way to the bridge, we stopped at my favorite place it the city, the Palace of Fine Arts.
The structures in the park look like ruins from ancient history. They were originally built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition. Over the years the edifice has been rebuilt, keeping its original form in tact. After a short walk through the park, we were back on our bikes heading to the bridge!
There were a few steep hills we had to pedal up to get to the bridge, but once we crossed, it was all downhill to Sausalito!
Sausalito is adorable, and reminds me of the seaside towns of Cape Cod. We grabbed lunch at a sandwich shop overlooking the water, visited some boutiques, and watched a very talented artist balance rocks.
When it was time to return our bikes, we walked them onto a ferry and cruised back to the city. We had our last fabulous meal there at a French bistro, and called it an early night in preparation for our flights out of Oakland the following morning. My mom and I had a blast in SF! There’s still so much more to do and see, we’re already planning our next visit!