Five Days in Frisco

Colin and I just got back from “frolicking in Frannie” – our trip to San Francisco!

We’ve been looking forward to SF for a while now. I bought Colin tickets to the SF production of Hamilton (our musical obsession) way back in December when they went on sale. I gave him the tickets for his birthday in March and we’ve been planning our trip ever since. Even though this was my third time to San Francisco, I discovered there was still so much to see and do. I love the city by the bay and if I had to move to an American city, it would probably be this one!

Here’s an overview of our five days full of Frisco!

Day 1:

We arrived on Friday after what felt like a full day of skytrains, getting through customs, flying and finally taking an Uber to our hotel. We don’t have Uber in Vancouver so we were psyched to use it in SF. Once we arrived at the Fisherman’s Wharf Marriott (we scored an awesome deal on Priceline), we headed right down to the wharf for a famous bread bowl of clam chowder. Colin LOVED the Boudin Bakery sourdough!

If you squint, you can see apx 6 sea lions behind us

After dinner, we walked over to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and the shops. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many sea lions in the summer. And then it was back to our hotel for a change of clothes – I still can’t believe how chilly it gets in SF! We were in California in July and I was freezing in long pants and a sweater. We put on our warmest and headed out for ice cream sundaes at Ghiradelli’s. We both forgot that we are pretty lactose intolerant so those sundaes didn’t sit too well.

Day 2:

Started our next day with brunch at a nearby diner. After that we headed to Pier 41 where the Alcatraz cruises depart. Unfortunately, we had not booked ahead and were informed that the next available tour wasn’t until August 20th (this was July 15). Whoops! So instead we headed for Coit Tower. Google Maps said it was a 12 minute walk. They neglected to mention that it was also 450 steps up to the base of the tower. My legs were DEAD! Luckily, to get up Coit Tower itself you take an elevator, so my legs got a break. The views were awesome! It’s a San Francisco landmark I’ve always known about but this was the first trip I actually went to visit it.

View from the top! With a foggy Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

Coit Tower!

After taking in the view we walked back down the hill and hung out in Washington Square admiring a beautiful church while we waited on a table at Tony’s. 30 minutes later we were enjoying a delicious wood-fire pizza and a giant meatball. YUM!

We didn’t go for a ride but we did pose next to a cable car – that counts, right?

From there we decided to walk through Chinatown to Union Square, taking in lots of SF sights. We took a break at the Starbucks in Macy’s after doing some window shopping. Next was an impromptu wardrobe change when we went to Target and bought new outfits. And then we took an Uber over to West Portal where my friend, Robert, is a chef at a little diner. We had a delicious dinner there and then visited crooked Lombard Street before getting back to our hotel. It was a busy day!

Hello, Lombard!

Day 3:

Day 3 was our Golden Gate day! We started our visit on Baker Beach with awesome views of the Golden Gate Bridge. I wish we had thought to bring a blanket and a picnic so we could have enjoyed it more. Then we moved on to Sutro Baths, another SF first for me. These are the ruins of old public baths that existed in SF before the 1906 earthquake. There were also awesome lookout points, caves and Seal Rock (with sadly, no seals).

From there we drove over to Golden Gate Park (which is actually nowhere close to the bridge). We walked around Stow Lake and saw waterfalls, gardens and the California Academy of Sciences. We had lunch in the park and then walked out on the other end into The Haight. I love this unique neighbourhood of San Francisco. Colin and I both admitted that it was probably a little too cool for us, but we appreciated walking through nonetheless.

Back at the hotel, we got changed and then went out for dinner. We headed to Surisan, a Korean fusion place by our hotel. And it was DELICIOUS! Probably the best meal we had all trip. The atmosphere and decor were really cool and all of the dishes were so tasty. With full bellies (and light wallets), we headed back to our room for the season premiere of Game of Thrones! Yes, the Marriott had HBO!

SO YUM!

Day 4:

Day 4 was my birthday! I turned the big 2-5! Unfortunately, it was also the day that I woke up with an awful head cold. I had a runny nose and watery eyes all day – it was the worst! But despite my gross-ness, we trekked out to enjoy the day. We started with breakfast at IHOP and then took the ferry across the bay to Sausalito.

Sausalito is a super cute little waterfront town with lots of great shops. I’m sure if I was feeling better I would’ve enjoyed it more. We shopped around a little and then went into a fancy restaurant for drinks and an appetizer. We took the ferry back, picked up a late lunch at the San Francisco Ferry Building (awesome food options!) and then returned to the hotel so I could have a Nyquil-induced nap.

Colin woke me around 6pm and we made our way to the Giants baseball game we had gotten tickets for. I’m not a huge baseball fan but it was the only day the Giants were playing while we were in town and live sports games are always a good time. It was a fun evening, even though I was still sniffly and the Giants lost. Back at the hotel, Colin held up a video of a candle behind a mini cheesecake for me to make a birthday wish before passing out.

Day 5:

Our last full day in San Francisco was the reason we had come in the first place: Hamilton! We started off our day by going for brunch at Mama’s in North Beach. Mama’s is a famous brunch place that, according to the lady in line in front of us, is always lined up no matter what time of day and is Michelin rated! We waited 90 mins from the time we got in line until the time food arrived on our table. Colin even went to get us pastries to tide us over while we stood in line. The food was great but, if I’m being honest, not worth the wait.

Worth the wait?

After Mama’s, we had to lie down in the park for a little while to aid in our digestion. Then it was off to walk through some neighbourhoods and explore some more. We started in the Castro where we got to see the home and camera shop of Harvey Milk. Then we walked through the Mission and Delores Park. And then we took an Uber to San Francisco City Hall – the most beautiful building! It was so gorgeous and we got to see a few couples taking their wedding photos there.

How gorgeous is this building? The inside is even prettier!

We grabbed a beer and then a quick bite before it was Hamilton time! Colin and I (and everyone else in the theatre) were so excited to be there. Even though our tickets were for the very back row, the show was amazing. Everyone was on the edge of their seats – the energy was so electric. It’s the kind of musical where you cheer, laugh, cry and dance in your seat the whole time. It was 100% the best part of our trip and I would give my right arm to go see Hamilton again.

HAMILTON!!!!!

Leaving Day:

On our last morning in SF, we thought it would save time to get room service breakfast delivered to our room. Sadly, we didn’t read the fine print about service charges and delivery charges and ended up paying $81 USD for breakfast! Not a great note for our last morning. We checked out and then headed down to Anchor Brewing Company where we had booked a brewery tour. It was fun to learn about America’s oldest craft brewery and see how they make their products. But I’m not a huge beer fan to begin with, so I think all of the free samples were probably wasted on me.

After the brewery tour and one too many sample beers, we went across the street for sushi lunch. And then it was time to Uber to the airport and head home! We got through security with little trouble and were back in Vancouver before 7:00pm. And by 9:00pm we were reunited with Ellie and at home on our couch watching Parks n’ Rec!


An awesome trip to San Francisco for sure! We had a great time and were so psyched to finally see Hamilton after singing along to the soundtrack for the last year and a bit. And we’ll be back in SF for a day in September with my mom when we visit Portland and Napa Valley! But I think that’s it for summer trips for us – save maybe a couple days in Kelowna when Colin’s sister in law has her baby.

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LA: Must Sees & Maybe Passes

I figured since I did one for New York, I might as well do one for LA! I just came back from my second-ever visit to Los Angeles.  Colin, his mom and I were there at the end of March for a quick week of sight-seeing and relaxing on the beach.  Read on for the highlights and lowlights of our itinerary!

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Uber
PROS: Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that Uber is a popular ride-share program.  You also know that LA traffic and transit are notoriously horrible. Uber was absolutely our saving grace.  We got all around LA, from Anaheim to Venice Beach, via Uber.  We saved a ton of money and met some interesting drivers – from world travelling photographers and ex-racecar drivers to our very own LA tour guides.

CONS: We don’t have Uber in Vancouver.  The worst part of Uber is that we couldn’t bring it home with us.

VERDICT: Uber is definitely the way to go when visiting LA.  It’s cheaper than taxis (and sometimes cheaper than renting a car) and way more convenient than public transit.  I couldn’t be a bigger fan. Uber, please come to Vancouver!

The Farmer’s Market
PROS: The Farmer’s Market has been a staple in LA since it opened in 1934. I really loved this space – so many stalls with all different types of cuisine.  We sampled gumbo, pizza, gyros and bbq in our two visits and barely cracked the surface.  Plus, it’s a covered outdoor market so we actually got to eat next to a giant tree.

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CONS: It’s not your traditional Farmer’s Market – it’s more like a diverse sprawling foodcourt.  And I do wish we had done a bit more research to make sure we hit up the best stalls.

VERDICT: Definitely check it out! There is something at the Farmer’s Market for every taste bud.

The Grove
PROS: The Grove is the beautiful outdoor shopping centre right next door to the Farmer’s Market.  There are lots of shops and a gorgeous fountain right in the middle.  I love that LA weather is so pleasant and rain-free that an outdoor mall is actually a viable option.  An outdoor mall in Vancouver would be open for max 2 weeks a year.

CONS: While the Grove is beautiful, it’s also beautifully expensive.  We were pretty much priced out of all of the shops.  But we did enjoy lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, splurging on a Michael Kors purse for Colin’s mom and window shopping.

VERDICT: If you can afford it, definitely check out the Grove for some fun shopping.  And even if you can’t afford it, it’s still a fun place to visit.

Trader Joe’s
PROS: I know Trader Joe’s isn’t LA-specific but I could wax poetic about this US chain until the cows come home.  I love Trader Joe’s.  I love the fun snacks, chalkboard signs and funky re-usable bags.  But most of all, I love that they sell wine for $2.49!

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CONS: Again, the biggest con is that we don’t have this wonderful chain (with its wonderful liquor prices) in Vancouver.

VERDICT: Always go to Trader Joe’s. Always.

Going to a show taping
PROS: We went to a taping of The Late Late Show with James Corden (we were hoping to see Ellen but she wouldn’t give us tickets).  It was fun to be at a live taping and see how the production of a show comes together.  James Corden was hilarious and we really loved seeing his guests Sam Heughan (yum) and Luke Bryan (yummier). Plus, we were on TV!

CONS: There were so many lines! We arrived at 2:30 and stood in line (outside in the sun) until past four.  And then we were brought through security only to sit in another line.  We were taken upstairs to the studio where we, you guessed it, stood in line, until they finally took us to our seats.  Another con, musical guest Rita Wilson performed her song not once, not twice but three times.  There are certain songs I would love to see performed three times in a row – this was not one of them.  Also, we didn’t get any free swag 😦

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VERDICT: If you’re prepared to wait a while in lines, it can be a fun experience. It would probably be best if you’re really into the musical guest, just in case they have to perform 3+ times.

Universal Studios
PROS: We decided that instead of Disney, we would go to Universal Studios during our trip.  This was a great call since Disney is way busier and neither Colin or I particularly enjoy rides.  Universal was amazing! We went to a bunch of shows to see stunt people, special effects, animal actors, etc.  We went on the studio tour and got to see lots of movie sets, more special effects and even sat through some 4D rides.  But the best part was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  We had checked online before our trip and saw that TWWoHP wasn’t opening until April 7th and we were leaving on April 5th. But when we arrived at Universal, we were told that it had been “soft open” for a few weeks! Actual tears came to my eyes. I was so excited! I literally skipped into the magical world and was just blown away by the whole place.

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Butterbeer!

Butterbeer!

CONS: I thought I would be listing long lines here but strangely enough our Saturday visit to Universal Studios was not too busy at all. So I guess I would say the cons of the day would be the food (overpriced and lacklustre, which is to be expected of fast food at an amusement park) and the one ride we went on: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. As I mentioned above, neither Colin or I are ride people.  We don’t do roller coasters, heights, and you would probably have a hard time even getting us on a merry-go-round.  However, we decided to be brave and try the Forbidden Journey.  There were a bunch of cool Harry Potter artifacts along the way, no lines and many ride-goers had assured us it would be nothing like a roller coaster.  They were right.  It was worse.  Needless to say, we did not enjoy ourselves.  I spent the entire ride muscles straining to hold on as tight as possible to my seat, eyes practically glued shut and silently willing myself not to cry.  We made it through, but I don’t think we’ll be risking it on any other rides again soon.

VERDICT: Universal was great! I would definitely recommend it. I think it’s better for an older crowd and there’s tons to see/do if you don’t love rides.  If you’re happy to skip meeting Mickey Mouse, this would be my recommendation.

Hollywood Tour
PROS: We took a tour on our second day in LA.  It picked us up in Anaheim and drove us around to Venice Beach,  The Santa Monica Pier, Rodeo Drive, The Grove/Farmer’s Market, the Walk of Fame and then back to our hotel – all for $50! It was a great way to see a lot of LA in one day. I particularly liked our stroll along Rodeo Drive and seeing all of the stars on the Walk of Fame.

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CONS: The timing seemed a bit off.  We got off for an hour at the Santa Monica Pier – not during meal time or when the amusement park was even open – but only half an hour at the Walk of Fame.  We also wished our driver had pointed out some more sights to us during the drive.

VERDICT: I’m usually not a fan of tour buses but if you’re short on time and want to see the highlights of LA, this is a great way to do it.  It was nice to not have to worry about transportation or where we needed to go.

Anaheim Ducks game
PROS: So our initial reason for going to LA was actually to watch our Vancouver Canucks play the Anaheim Ducks.  Actually, this was Colin’s reason.  I can’t really condone going all the way to LA to watch a hockey game, but it was a fun experience.  And the Canucks won!

Go Canucks Go!

Go Canucks Go!

CONS: It’s kind of hard to cheer against the home team.  I missed being able to cheer along with the crowd.

VERDICT: If you happen to be in Anaheim during hockey season and you’re a fan, sure, take in a game!

LA Clippers game
PROS: Our next professional sporting game was in the famed Staples Center and we got to cheer with the home team.  I love basketball and haven’t been to a live NBA game in a long time so this was a real treat for me.  Plus, the tickets were fairly cheap and the Clippers won!

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CONS: We wanted to see the Lakers, of course.  Unfortunately, we got priced out of that game.  Sorry, Kobe 😦

VERDICT: I might be a bit biased here since basketball is my favourite sport and we don’t have a team to watch in Vancouver, but I would definitely recommend taking in a game and cheering on the home team!

Olvera Street
PROS: This street is tucked away behind a large church by LA’s Union Station.  It’s referred to as the Mexican Market because it’s home to stalls and stalls of Mexican food, clothing and other wares.  As someone who has never been to Mexico, this was a pretty cool area to explore.  We ended up buying some beautiful blankets (for only $10!) and snacked on churros while listening to a travelling mariachi band.

CONS: As authentic as the stalls looked, I resisted my urge to buy some of the traditional Mexican items.  I would prefer to buy them in Mexico! So, I guess this isn’t really a con, but more of an increasing desire to travel to Mexico!

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VERDICT: Again, as someone who hasn’t actually been to Mexico, I really loved this little market and think it’s a great LA stop.

Marina del Rey & Venice Canals
PROS: The canals themselves are actually pretty cute.  They’ve got nothing on the Amsterdam canals but there are lovely homes all along and a bunch of little bridges.  It’s a quaint little community and sort of hidden off the main streets.

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CONS: The marina, on the other hand, was a pretty big let down.  We walked for quite some time to get there and then were pretty disappointed when we realized we had made it.  Maybe we didn’t go to the right part?

VERDICT: See the canals.  Skip the marina.

Venice Beach
PROS: We spent the last three nights of our trip at a beachfront hotel on Venice Beach.  It was awesome! The beach itself is beautiful – not too busy, great waves and nice warm sand.  And then the boardwalk and Venice Beach culture is so eclectic.  I loved walking around and seeing all of the vendors, street performers and shops.  It was the best place to stay and so much fun to explore.

Colin & his mom getting their wave frolick on!

Colin & his mom getting their wave frolick on!

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CONS: While we didn’t run into any issues, I probably wouldn’t recommend any midnight strolls in the area.  The locals are definitely fun and seemingly harmless but even when we went out after 8 looking for a late dinner, we ran into more open tattoo parlors than pizza shops.

VERDICT: Absolutely check out Venice Beach – and sample the fish tacos by Muscle Beach! They are, as the sign says, the best in Venice Beach.

The Santa Monica Pier
PROS: The Santa Monica Pier is really fun.  As soon as you spot the iconic ferris wheel, you know it’s going to be a good time.  There are lots of people, vendors and amusement park rides and games for all.  And, best of all, off the end of the dock you can spot seals and (so I’m told) dolphins!

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CONS: The pier is well-known and therefore, flooded with tourists and overpriced vendors.  I wouldn’t suggest it for too much shopping or dining if you can avoid it.

VERDICT: Being the end of route 66, it’s iconic, so you might as well see it. But I would go mainly for the seals 🙂

In N Out
PROS: Well, at least we can say we checked off a California must? All of our Uber drivers told us we couldn’t leave LA without trying In N Out.

CONS: I wish we had left this one out. I’ve had In N Out twice before and was not impressed either of those times. I don’t know why I thought this time would be any different. To be honest, the food is nothing special (sorry, Californians!). And to make it worse, we decided to go lie in the sun afterwards to let the gross food really take its toll on our bodies.

Yuck.

Yuck.

VERDICT: Hard pass.

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Los Angeles was a great trip.  It was so nice to spend six days with Colin and his mom, to be in the constant presence of palm trees and to not have to worry about work or school or anything else.  We fit in a lot of fun stuff but also made time for relaxing on the beach and watching TV back at the hotel.

Since coming back to Vancouver in 2014 to finish my degree at UBC, I haven’t done a lot of big travelling.  It was  a change to be more settled and to not have future plans to move to so-and-so foreign country for 1-6 months.  But I have had so many other great life experiences and opportunities.  And I’ve really started to embrace the idea of local travel.  As much as I want to jump on an international plane every time I see a flight deal posted, with work, rent and two weddings this summer, I know it’s not realistic.  And I’m learning to be okay with that.  I still plan to see a lot of the world – there are so many countries I can’t wait to explore.  But in the meantime, there’s a lot of my own backyard to see.  The last time I went to LA, I was 12, so this was kind of like a first trip for me.  It was fun to play tourist and go on a little adventure, even if it was only a 2 hour plane ride away.  And we have other plans this summer to head down to Seattle, do our Calgary roadtrip and possibly even fit in a trip to Montreal when we’re back in Toronto.  So yeah, lots to see around here while I save up and countdown to the next big trip 🙂

Down by the bay

This past weekend I decided to tack on a few vacations days to our Family Day holiday and spend them down in San Francisco (aka Frannie) with some lovely ladies who I first met in Amsterdam a year ago!

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Carlie and I ventured down from Vancouver to meet our friends, Stephanie and Candy, who both live in Frannie and go to San Francisco State.  I’ve been to Frannie before but it was Carlie’s first time. And lucky for us, we had our own tour guides! It was the perfect way to see the city: enjoying the tourist highlights while also getting a bit of a local perspective. And while the forecast called for mostly rain, we did luck out with some awesome rays of sun. My blissful 5 days in Frannie were filled with friends, sights, fabulous food, photos and so many laughs.  It was an awesome way to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while and recharge before going into a pretty busy stretch at work.

And here is Frannie in photos:

Alcatraz!

Alcatraz!

Chilling with the sea lions on Pier 39!

Chilling with the sea lions on Pier 39!

It doesn't get more Frannie than clam chowder in a bread bowl on Fisherman's Wharf

It doesn’t get more Frannie than clam chowder in a bread bowl on Fisherman’s Wharf

JUMP! Our classic "jumping shot" from Europe made it to the Golden Gate Bridge.

JUMP! Our classic “jumping shot” from Europe made it to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Take me back to the beach please!

Take me back to the beach please!

<3

According to Candy, the most authentic Mexican tacos in all of SF!

According to Candy, the most authentic Mexican tacos in all of SF!

Welcome to the Castro district!

Welcome to the Castro district!

That one time we ended up at a comedy show in a hidden bar in the Mission

That one time we ended up at a comedy show in a hidden bar in the Mission

One of my favourite Frannie neighbourhoods with my other favourite: a puppy!

One of my favourite Frannie neighbourhoods with my other favourite: a puppy!

Winding down Lombard Street!

Winding down Lombard Street!

Golden girls by the Golden Gate

Golden girls by the Golden Gate

The stunning view from Twin Peaks! Our first sight of Frannie was off to a good start :)

The stunning view from Twin Peaks! Our first sight of Frannie was off to a good start 🙂

The gorgeous Moraga steps!

The gorgeous Moraga steps!