Fifteen hours of driving from Portland later, we made it to San Francisco. I know, fifteen hours. FIFTEEN HOURS? And only a day and a half in San Francisco? What a cruel reality, but time is of the essence when I am working a 9-5 job with limited (but still a decent amount compared to other companies) vacation hours and a mission to drive down the west coast. I can’t quit my day-job to travel full-time like every other travel blogger on social media apparently because, I mean, I have bills to pay and student debt lingering over my head so… I do what I can to maximize my time.
We stayed at the Kimpton’s Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square and fortunately was within fifteen-twenty minutes of walking to some of the major places we went. We were also able to valet our car, but take out the vehicle as often as we needed during the entirety of our stay. I will say this now, both the hotel and the car were sponsored partnerships, and both played an essential role specifically during this San Francisco trip moreso than the rest of the road-trip. Staying in San Francisco is not cheap, since even a hostel-style, poor-quality community hotel can be up to $185+ a night (minimum). And those hills in San Francisco are aggressive - fortunately the Buick I was driving had hill-assist and helped with our brakes as we were stopped at a steep incline.
After checking into our hotel following our fifteen hour drive and an experience with one of the managers of the hotel, we were hangry after eating cold-cut sandwiches all. day. long. and decided to go to Cocobang for some comforting (and spicy) Korean food. This hit the spot for some late night bites after a long day of driving.
The next morning, we ordered room service from the hotel, and then we called our car to be pulled up to the front and we were off to drive the hills of San Francisco! We stopped by Boba Guys to see if this was actually worth the hype (it was). Why was Boba Guys worth the hype, you ask? The boba pearls were so perfectly cooked, not too chewy, not too soft - the perfect bite to each pearl. The drink itself - not too sweet, not too bitter. I parked outside of the Chinatown location while my cousin was fortunate enough to wait in line to head in - oh yeah, there’s a line that typically forms, so make sure you head there early enough if you are a person who cannot fathom lines for places that are actually worth it.
After we got our sugar-fix, it was time to do the ultimate San Francisco drive-by of all things tourist spots like: Golden Gate Overlook to, YOU GUESSED IT, look at the Golden Gate Bridge (shocker). There was a lot of parking (thankfully)! Even though the weather was in the high sixties this day, the WIND at the overlook was unreal, and felt like the temperature dropped twenty degrees. Also, wearing a skirt up here was not ideal considering I was having several Marilyn Monroe moments before I could take that idyllic photo in front of the bridge (and with my Boba Guys in-hand). Next up on our joy-ride drive was Painted Ladies (yes, you have seen the Painted Ladies in intro to Full House)! We got street parking, hung out and chilled out in the sunshine on the grass, and then drove to the infamous and winding Lombard Street: infamous for its incredibly crooked (and inefficient) roads surrounded by gorgeous Victorian mansions.
On the way to Lombard Street, we were at a traffic light and I was telling my cousin that one of my favorite street artists had an installation in San Francisco, and I would love to look up where this piece was located within the city. As the light turned red and I finished telling her this, I looked back to the road and up in front of me was… the B0rdalo II installation and I immediately freaked out and (illegally) took out my phone as tried to take the best photo possible before the traffic light turned green. PHEW. So glad I captured this. I was first introduced to B0rdalo II in Lisbon during my time of working at PAGU. Tracy Chang was kind enough to connect me to one of her friends she studied with abroad, and he was kind enough to show me around the city of Lisbon - and even better, all of the local street art. When I was in Lisbon, the B0rdalo II exhibit was extended, and I had a chance to see his amazing work. B0rdallo II is an artist who collects the trash of people and reconstructs this trash into beautiful installations - reminding people of the waste they have left behind to create these amazing structures.
Before heading on this road trip, a friend of mine from college who moved to the Bay Area reached out and provided a few recommendations for me. We reconnected during this visit, and she brought my cousin and me to Elephant Sushi for dinner. This. place. is. amazing. They open at 6 PM, but typically a line forms out the door before opening. We got there at 5:20 and were first line, but quickly after we got to line, several people followed behind us. The quality of this sushi, and the price, was incredibly satisfying. I dream about the salmon pesto to this day - it haunts me, it was so good. There are only twelve seats available, and limited hours of operation - so be prepared to wait, it is worth it.
After dinner, my friend brought us to Local Edition for drinks. This place was an awesome. Great drinks, live band, people swing dancing? The vibe was upbeat, welcoming, and all around jazzy. Plus the live band was so good, I couldn’t help but feel inspired to learn how to dance (I won’t, because I have two left feet). We headed back to the hotel after Local Edition - an early morning was ahead of us as we had another day of driving to look forward to, but fortunately, it wouldn’t be as long as the drive from Portland to San Francisco (we thought).
The next morning, we woke up early, checked out of our hotel, and went straight to Chinatown: the oldest and most historic Chinatown in the country. My cousin taught me some history about the gates of Chinatown and why we are greeted with the two lion stone statues at the gate. The male lion is on the left with his right paw on top of a stone - this represents him guarding the structure and/or empire. The female lion, on the right, has her left paw on top of a small (infant?) lion, representing her guarding the occupants within the gate. You can typically find these lions at each Chinatown gate.
We pulled over and parked because we figured it would be a good idea to get some snacks for the road (but we are the snack, for your record… JK). We saw that Good Mong Kok Bakery had very positive ratings about the takeaway dim sum… and so we took away some dim sum, but had no where to eat this. Thanks to our trusty, oversized Buick which not only helped us on our uphill (literally) battles in San Francisco, we also had a space to eat our food: the trunk of the car.
After a quick photoshoot in the streets of Chinatown with our food (lol, thanks Instagram culture for conditioning me), and eating our (what was supposed to be) light meal, we were off to San Jose to get one of our favorite Vietnamese dishes: Banh Cuon at Banh Cuon Tay Ho. Banh Cuon is a rice roll dish, typically filled with pork and topped with fish sauce (nuon mam). Even though we were full from our dim sum, we had planned on stopping by San Jose to get some delicious Vietnamese food.
And then we were off for a quick (lol, so we thought) pit-stop on Highway One!
West Coast Road Trip Series
San Francisco & San Jose-ish: Welcome to the Bay Area