3. San Francisco, California

Overview:
I love this city, and every time I arrive, I ask myself why everyone doesn’t live there. It’s beautiful in basically every direction and there are so many things to do–both natural and cultural. Plus, it’s almost always temperate, and the air has this sort of atmospheric quality to it. So this time around, I also asked everyone else why everyone doesn’t live there, and they all said it was too expensive. Fine.

How I got there:
DCA–>SFO, direct on United.

Where I stayed:
My colleagues and I stayed at Best Western Plus The Tuscan, and I’m not going to lie–I was a little skeptical when I found out. Securing rooms is always a struggle during the conference we were covering, and last year we ended up in a Hitchcock-themed hotel that gave me nightmares. But The Tuscan exceeded my expectations in every way. The only downside was the location, which wasn’t great for where I was working–and probably wouldn’t be for tourists, either. But plenty of people choose to stay in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, and you could do much worse in San Francisco for the price.

What I did:
I spent most of my time in Union Square for a conference–and here’s photos from multiple days on the same street corner to prove it.

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The rest of the time, I walked around as much as possible in order to see as much as possible.

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I really only made a couple of stops, one of which was the Ferry Building and Embarcadero. Inside the Ferry Building, I found Rancho Gordo, a specialty food shop selling heirloom beans. This was easily the most exciting thing that happened to me while I was in San Francisco.

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Embarcadero

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I also made a point to go visit the sea lions at Pier 39. I’m pretty sure you can skip the rest of that entire area–it reminds me of Chicago’s Navy Pier in super touristy way–but I was staying close by, and I really, really like both sea lions and waterfront views.

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Where I ate/drank (well, the places worth recommending):
Foreign Cinema – Movie-themed restaurant that’s very good and inexplicably bathes its outdoor dining area in aggressive red light. And as I was told by a taxi driver, its next-door neighbor, Lolinda, has one of the city’s only rooftop bars
The Slanted Door – Modern Vietnamese food in the Ferry Building
Zuni Cafe – Loved it but not sure how to describe it. Just go. And make a reservation first, even for lunch.
20th Century Cafe – An Eastern European spot! Such a special place in my heart for those.
Asha Tea House – Ginger honey tea that makes you feel like you were slapped in the face in a really amazing way
Blue Bottle Coffee – There are apparently a lot of these, including the one I frequented in the Ferry Building, so I guess I’m not the only one who liked it.

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Foreign Cinema
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Zuni Cafe
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20th Century Cafe

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What I missed:
Everything with gluten and sugar, thanks to the proximity of this trip to the date I set my New Year’s resolution. In particular, Tartine did not happen for me. Also, one of these days I’m going to get myself into the ever-crowded Frances–or even newer sister restaurant Octavia would do. I will go at 5 p.m. and sit at the bar alone and have zero qualms.


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