After arriving in Antioch and settling in, we didn’t waste any time taking the train to San Francisco. It’s only about a 45 minute ride and the trains run past just about anything you’d want to see in the city, making it much easier to get around than driving there. We got off at the Embarcadero stop, which is right in the heart of all the city piers on the bay.
Our first destination was the Ferry Building. This former ferry terminal has been taken over as a foodie emporium and was really fun to explore. (sidenote: This may be common knowledge, but I’m just realizing how crazy food-obsessed San Francisco is. There are more restaurants per capita here than any other city in the U.S. and good food is celebrated more than anywhere I’ve ever seen. We have a lot of good eating to look forward to!)
The Ferry Building also has a huge farmer’s market each week that we’ll come back to when we have the chance. I’ve read that it’s not uncommon for 25,000 people to show up for the Saturday market and that the food trucks there are some of the best eats around. Can’t wait!
After a quick stroll through all the yummy stalls, we headed down to Pier 39 for lunch at Boudin Bakery. Being from the MS Coast, I of course pronounced this as “BOO-dan.” The woman trying to give us directions looked really confused and we finally figured out it’s “boo-DEEN.” I’ll forgive them the mispronunciation because the sourdough bread bowl was fantastic!
I see a lot of sourdough in our future.
Pier 39 was packed with people, and we enjoyed walking through the little shops. Before leaving, we decided to stroll along the waterfront of the pier. There we are, just uninformed tourists strolling along, and we turn a corner to see this:
Oh hiii Golden Gate Bridge! I kind of forgot we would see you from this pier!
This was a true “Welcome to San Francisco” moment as we watched the fog roll over the Marin headlands and the chilly bay wind blew in our faces. We could also see Alcatraz just off the coast, so it was a perfect panorama. Our plan is to come back another day and bike over the bridge and into Sausalito (my secret plan is to also use this an excuse to enjoy a pack of Pepperidge Farm Sausalito cookies!).
As we continued our stroll along the pier, we heard the unmistakeable groans of Pier 39’s famous sea lions. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Charlie took off in a jog toward this sound!
These lazy guys are hilarious. We watched one stay propped up on his front (legs? paws? fins? arms?) with his head fully titled back to the sun for about ten minutes. It was like he was stuck in a yoga pose, deep in thought. It was a pretty great moment to be watching the sea lions with the bridge in the background and then look up to see all of San Francisco rising up on its steep hills behind us.
When I could finally tear Charlie away, we headed further down the wharf area and made our way to Ghirardelli Square. The park in front of this square is beautiful, with soft green grass rolling down the water and a cable car turn around off to the side. I’m sure it’s definitely on the front page of the visitor’s guide, because after one look you’re suddenly evaluating how realistic it would be to move there!
We had heard about the ice cream sundaes at Ghirardelli’s cafe, so we decided to split one with a chocolate chip cookie on the bottom (made with G chocolate chips of course). It was fantastic!
Since we’d now had entire sourdough bread bowls and an insane amount of chocolate, we took a walk up Russian Hill to find Lombard Street. And by “took a walk,” I really mean we went urban mountain climbing. The hills in this city are steep! The redeeming part of all that climbing is that you get fantastic views of the rest of the city as you make your way up. We were able to turn around several times and have different, more spectacular views of the bridge and the wharf area where we just were.
We found Lombard Street, the curviest street in the country, and enjoyed watching everyone try to drive through its twists and turns. Every little twist has a garden full of hydrangeas off to the side, and I really want to come back when they’re in bloom. One sign said there’s over 2,000 blooms when it’s in full season – maybe my dad will come out to see this glorious display of what he calls “trailer park flowers!” In his defense, one of the most sacrificial things he’s ever done for me is to pay for his hated flower to be the main blooms of our wedding – thanks Dad!
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Chinatown and the Nob Hill (little Italy) area. We stopped at a dim sum restaurant that advertised 3 pieces for $1.60. We figured this was the way to go, since we could try several different things without overindulging. However, communication with the lady behind the counter was hilarious – we had no idea what the other was saying and somehow ended up with three of everything we ordered, rather than just three pieces of dim sum. The best part of Chinatown is that you can mistakenly order nine things and still pay less than five dollars!
So I’d say our first time in San Francisco was a success. We loved how there was something fun going on everywhere we looked, some cute cafe to try on every block and how lucky we are that spring seems to be the perfect time to be here. We can’t wait to come back and see the rest of the city and bike the bridge!
See more pictures from our first San Francisco visit here