When my flight was on time, my seat on the plane included extra leg room, and there were great food and movie selections, I should have known something was bound to go wrong. Even when my luggage was first out on the conveyor belt, it still didn't hit me that my good luck was bound to run out. It was probably when there was no line up as I picked up my rental car that I should have really been nervous. Unfortunately, it happened the moment I hit the road, excited to begin my 6 day San Francisco to LA road trip: the rental car clicked, clacked, smoked...and then broke down. My road trip was not off to a good start.
The car breaking down isn't really what went wrong. As I mentioned earlier, the car literally broke down the moment I left the Hertz parking lot. What actually slowed me down was my (unsuccessful) attempt at negotiating a car upgrade due to this "major inconvenience." I guess Hertz is still in business for a reason.
Anyway, after getting on the road (again), I was headed to Mountain View. This little city is home to quaint streets, cute shops, restaurants, cafes and beautiful homes. What stood out to me more than anything though, was all of the technology I was seeing people around me using: little gizmos and gadgets, self-driving cars, Google glasses, drones in the parks and skateboarders were even controlling the board's direction through the movements of their heads. People were playing futuristic games everywhere I looked. What type of games, you ask? I have no idea. It was as if the locals of this city were all members of a secret club. I wanted in.
For dinner, we went to CasCal and shared some delicious pan-Latin tapas on a beautiful outdoor patio. Afterwards, we went to the Beirhaus for some tasty patio beers. There was a great selection of beer and they were served in giant mugs. Food and drinks were enjoyed by patrons on picnic tables in what felt like a neighbour's backyard patio....well, until I tried to talk to some people, that is. My attempt at conversation made me feel like I was actually a desperately unwanted and despised neighbour crashing another neighbour's backyard patio party.
The table to the left of us were playing cards, but the deck they were using was the size of an 8 1/2 by 11' sheet of paper. It appeared to be another one of those futuristic games! Desperate to learn about all of the fun I was missing out on, I asked them about this game they were playing. Unfortunately, there was no response; they all just looked around nervously at one another and then back at their cards. The continued playing the game in silence, as if I had never spoken. It made me wonder if they were forced to sign some sort of confidentiality agreement.
I decided that instead of staring at or asking about the activities strangers were engaged in, I would head over to the land of self-driving cars, Google Glass and probably giant cards too. At Mountain View's Googleplex campus, I was able to get an answers about technologies like a holodeck, and also learn why things like miniature swimming pools, volleyball courts, slides, a giant dinosaur eating flamingos, and a restaurant without bills were at a workplace. The experience may also have been the highlight of my life.
Upon the conclusion of my Google tour, I was a little embarrassed to get back into my car and actually drive it myself to Carmel. Feeling bummed out to be leaving the Silicon Valley suburb and The Future, I decided to pay $17 to access the 17-mile Drive to get there. The $17 includes a map of the drive and it outlines 21 points of interests with descriptions of each (My favourites listed were The Lone Cypress, The Ghost Tree and The Lodge at Pebble Beach).
The conclusion of the 17-Mile Drive ends right in Carmel by the Sea which is a stunning beach town. At sunset and sunrise, dolphins jump and play along the beach's shoreline. Aside from great beach walks and views, this town is full of great restaurants, pubs, shops and beautiful beach homes. My new plan in life is to invent something in Mountain View and buy a beach house in Carmel.
The locals were very friendly and keen to share the best places for food, drinks, music, apparel and even crazy hats (The latter reco came from the owner of The Carmel Hat Company). I was sad to leave this little town, but time was of the essence and the Bixby Bridge and Big Sur were waiting. Part 2 of this road trip covers the windy roads of Route 101, and Big Sur's hiking trails, terrifying mountain lions and friendly deer. In the meantime, feel free to leave your favourite things to do in Mountain View and Carmel in the comment section for others to see!
No one believes me when I tell them about my two fingered waiter in San Francisco with a mustache longer than Lombard Street. This server made it especially difficult for me to make my final meal selection as he raved about every item on the menu; in the end, I ordered a pasta dish. While I was eating the dinner, he pulled up a chair and asked me what I thought of the food. Next, he pulled out a knife and fork he brought for himself, and began eating off of my plate. I immediately told him I was finished as I quickly lost my appetite and couldn't get the fear of things turning into that Lady and the Tramp dinner scene. With pasta sauce dripping from his mustache, he asked if I would mind if he took my doggy bag home.
I'm not even sure this, uh, gentleman was the friendliest person I met during my stay in this city. Another day, my waitress took it upon herself to let me know that she was a newish member of a society of very liberal and open relationships. Learning from my experience with the two-fingered moustache man, I strictly limited my responses to this young lady: "yes," "no" and "what are your happy hour specials?" Unfortunately, I heard quite a bit more about the cult this waitress was in. I'll save the full story for a time when I have subscribers who pay a membership fee to this blog.
I did spend the first half of the trip exploring the city on my own, so it was a little comforting that strangers always seemed more than willing to talk and share...I also learned that I had sharing limits with strangers (food and TMI). The trip was incredible as there was so much to see and do in this beautiful city. So, if you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair...and check out some of my favourite sights and activities:
1. Pier 39 It had restaurants, shopping, entertainment and delicious wines from Napa and Sanoma. It also had a great view of Alcatraz...And I'm glad it did because it was the only one I got. I had planned on taking a tour of the prison, but did not know I would need to buy tickets in advance. If you are interested in going, avoid disappointment and purchase yours ahead of time here.
2. Rent Bikes and Ride Across The Golden Gate Bridge You can rent bikes in many places in the city, but I chose Blazing Saddles, right by Pier 39 so I'd have a nice ride over to the Golden Gate Bridge. The bike rental cost $5-$10 for a couple of hours.
3. Telegraph Hill For great views of the city, homes, gardens and even parrots, you can climb the 400 stairs of Telegraph Hill (Lombard and Telegraph Hill Blvd) . We paid an extra $10 to also climb to the top of Coit Tower. The view from the very to was pretty incredible, but you have to line up to look out the tiny windows. We also had to line up to get back down.
4. Lombard Street This street is one of the most crooked in the U.S. It is steep, curvy and hilly.
5. Vesuvio Cafe (255 Columbus Street) This historic bar is in North Beach that was a favourite of many Beat Generation celebrities. It is open from 8AM (6AM on weekends) until 2AM, 365 days a year.
6. North Beach Known as "Little Italy," this little pocket has some delicious Italian restaurants along Columbus Street. I can't guarantee your server won't join you for your dinner.
7. Chinatown I loved walking through Chinatown and really enjoyed eating at Floating Sushi Boat (700 Grant Street). I wish I could say I liked it for the food, but really, I think it was because I liked selecting the sushi I would eat off of a little boat that floated by my table. When I get back to this city, I will find DJ's vet clinic. #sanfranciscogoals
8. Shop in Union Square Called "San Francisco's Crown Jewel of shopping districts," it is not to be missed if you are a Becky Bloomwood. It is also a great place to plan lunch, dinner or coffee around as there are also many restaurants and coffee shops.
9. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) This museum is located on 151 Third Street and showcased an incredible number and variety of contemporary and modern art displays. Tickets range from $18-25; teens and children are free. If you know the date and time you want to go, you can skip the line and order tickets here.
10. The Painted Ladies You can find these homes on Steiner Street across from Alamo Square. We couldn't resist an old school, super happy, park picnic, Full House photo shoot in the park. When I go back, I'll have to pose as a Fuller House "She-Wolf" pack member, mid howl.
11. Haight and Ashbury I had always imagined what it would be like to grow up in the 60's, and the Haight invited me to be a flower child, if only for an afternoon. We strolled around vintage shops, coffeehouses and parks and spread some peace, love and happiness...and money. This stroll also caused us to be late for an event we had tickets for later that night. I don't think I'd make a very good hippie.
12. Golden Gate Park After leaving Haight and Ashbury, we checked out Golden Gate Park. We passed ponds, gardens, beautiful bridges, a carousel, a Japanese tea garden, Strawberry Hill, buffalo and some pretty peculiar people.
13. California Academy of Sciences: This museum is home to an aquarium, planetarium, bio dome and a natural history museum. On Thursday evenings the museum has a live DJ and serves drinks from 6-10PM. Admission is 21+, the cost is $15 per person and it feels truly amazing to pet a sting ray with a beer in your hand.
Your turn- Please share your favourite things to do and, if you met an interesting stranger, be sure to tell us about them in the comments sections below.
My name is Sara and I love finding new things to do in a new city. This website is an attempt to share the things that excite me in a new place through stories, photos, lists, travel tips and tricks.