24 Hours in San Fran

Mr.Awesome boyfriend and I had a mission…explore San Francisco like a true backpacker. Backpacker, you may ask? Well, it’s like backpacking through Europe but without the Europe. We packed smart and light with just one regular size backpack. To make the backpack light in weight, we chose to layer. We knew that it was going to be cold with a huge chance of rain. This may have stopped a few travelers but not us; it’s possible! We did our homework and sought out some essentials that would give us the freedom to travel around the city. First, we bought a clipper ticket. This is a pass that is scanned on the BART and MUNI buses. We did not have to worry about getting cash to purchase a ticket every time we needed a bus. It was just a swipe and go! We boarded the BART Friday night and arrived at the hotel at 11:07pm…

We booked our stay at the the JW Marriott at Union Square. It was an easy walk from the BART and luckily the weather was behaving. Mr.Awesome Boyfriend was able to get our room for free using his Marriott reward points. Checking in sounded like a commercial from “The Most Interesting Man In The World” (shout out to Dos Equis!)

Enter handsome man with backpack and cute to boot girlfriend.
Hostess, “Good evening, how may I help you?”
Boyfriend, “Reservation for %
@#$%.”
Hostess, “Oh you are a Platinum member, so we have upgraded your room, for free.”
Boyfriend, “Thank you miss”
Hostess, “What complimentary gift would you like for the morning or would you just want extra points added to your account?”
Boyfriend, “Points please, thank you.”
Hostess, “Here are your keys, breakfast will be served at 7am-10am for Platinum members in the Concierge’s Room-Have a great stay.”
Boyfriend and I enter the elevator
Me, “Did they just pay you to stay here?”
Boyfriend, “Umm Yes I think they did.”
Exit elevator…and seen.

We laughed all the way to the room! The room was on the 18th floor and the view was incredible. The sky was completely black, so the city lights where gleaming. The half circle window made the view even more glamorous. We knew it was late but we still needed dinner. We dropped our bag off and headed down toward Union Square.

We prowled in the night and found a Carl’s Jr’s close to BART, but it had a catch… we needed cash. I found a BOA (Bank of America) across the street on which to due business with. 🙂 I cashed a check at the ATM! It was really convenient and super easy. A big thumbs up to BOA. We headed back to Carl’s and ordered our meal. To make dinner a little nicer, we took our food back up to union square! The night was gorgeous the air was crisp and there was no sign of rain, yet! The park was lightly lit and the only visitors where us and a pigeon. The food was ok, it was fast food but it was enjoyed with the sound of drumming street performers.

After eating, we thought a little stroll up and down Powell St. would be excellent for the digestion. We did some window shopping but quickly worked up an appetite for dessert. We stumbled upon a little 50’s dinner that looked like they had some deliciousness. Loris Diner was so cute and they had 50’s memorabilia everywhere! I quickly choose an orange cream milk shake made with orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream and a cherry. YUM! Mr. Awesome Boyfriend had a classic vanilla ice cream milk shake. Double YUM!

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After that divine dessert, we headed back to the hotel for a good night sleep. I crawled into the enormous bed, closed my eyes; and let the memory of the city fade. We woke up to a gloomy San Fran and was very glad to have brought our layered clothing. Once outside, the weather was a nightmare; it was pouring rain! I questioned my sanity but thanks to our layering technique, and awesome windbreakers, we were warm and dry!

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We used our handy dandy phones to find the bus that would take us to the California Academy of Sciences. The only problem: we couldn’t find the actual bus shop. :-/ We walked up and down the street looking for a sign, or a bench… something that said bus stop. Frustrated, we finally had to ask a local. The local laughed at us and said, “It’s right across the street where that street light is.” Turned out he was right, the bus stop was a pained red line on the street and a painted number on the street sign. Alas, the bus came and we took a nice ride through china town. One thing that is nice about riding the bus, your not driving so, you can sightsee. We had one bus transfer and then the Golden Gate Park was insight. At this point the rain stopped. This was great because we had to walk a little bit to get to the California Academy of Science.

We actually decided to get a membership online a few days before the trip. It was the best idea ever! One membership allows access for the year that includes a guess pass. Members also get 10% discount on food and souvenirs. The membership was around $100 but two adult tickets for one day was $60, it just seemed worth it.

Our adventure started at the entrance door. To get in they needed to scan our membership ticket. Mr. Boyfriend whipped out his Galaxy Note popped open his e-mail and boom, we got in! You have to love technology. We of coarse took a potty break, then saw a line for the planetarium show. We figured it had to be the best place to start… and it was! The planetarium show was breathtaking. It was a production called LIFE and was narrated by Jodie Foster. It answers the basic question: How did LIFE begin on Earth? Morrison Planetarium is the largest all-digital planetarium in the world. State-of-the-art projector and software technologies allow the planetarium to produce the most accurate and interactive digital Universe ever created. It was amazing and very educational! ;-D

After the production, we ended up going to the roof. Yup, the roof. The academy has a living roof that has rolling hills and is flourishing with plant life. Apparently, by having a “living roof” the building stays cooler and helps naturally  light the inside. You should always take time to smell the roses, or in this case gaze at awesomeness. Once we finished taking in the beautiful sight, we headed down stairs for some grub.

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We decided to eat at the academy cafe because there where plenty of choices and the prices seemed reasonable. There is everything from sandwiches, to tacos, to fresh pastries, and pennies. We went with the fish and chips. It was fish-a-licous! The meal was super fresh and surprisingly not too greasy. We were fortunate to eat outside because the rain stopped.

After lunch we checked out the lower floor which showcased the aquarium. The best part was the interactive monitors next to the exhibits. You just had to touch the screen and it gave you all the info about the creatures. My favorite part was the albino alligator! You don’t see that everyday. In the center of the building you will notice a giant 4-story sphere of awesomeness. That is the enclosed rain forest where people can go from bottom to top and be surrounded by plant life, birds and butterflies. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to check it out. But, it is on the top of our to-do list for next time.

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Once outside, we were surprised to be greeted by the sun. This gave us motivation to walk around Golden Gate Park. We first walked over to the De Young Museum and checked out some of the outside art. There is a nice little path right outside the building that showcases some amazing sculptures.

Next to the museum is the Japanese Tea Garden. It looked like a great place to walk but the line was long and it was cash only. Also, if you go on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday before 10am; admission is FREE! So, in that case we decided to skip the garden and look at other options.

We stumbled upon a little lake that lead us to Strawberry Hill. This is the highest point in the park measuring at 430 ft. The views where amazing and the path lead us to a man-made waterfall. At the top all of San Fran’s wonders could be seen, even the Golden Gate Bridge!

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After our little hike in the city, we decided to take the show on the road and catch a bus to Ghirardelli Square. Using our handy dandy phone we quickly found the right bus to get us to our destination. The clipper cards where fabulous and made our traveling so much easier.

We about half way to our destination when I saw it: the real Golden Gate Bridge. Mr. Awesome Boyfriend and I quickly jumped off to see the famous landmark. By this time, the wind really kicked up. I was so glad I had my windbreaker because it was a cold harsh wind. If the weather wasn’t as cold we would have walked across the entire thing! We noticed before catching our next bus that there was some construction going on. It was for the 75th anniversary of the bridge which will be opening May 27th 2012. We made a mental note to come back. 😀

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Our bus dropped us off at Fort Mason Green. There used to be a huge military base there to protect the bay from intruders. Now, it is more of a museum and a memory of the past. The view along the coast was beautiful and Ghirardelli Square was in sight! But we couldn’t help but notice something in the water. We stopped for a second and realized it was a person swimming in the bay. I thought, “Are they out of their mind?”. It had to have been freezing cold. Then we saw another person and quickly decided that it had to have been a triathlon race.

We grabbed a few photos and strolled into the square. The weather looked like it was about to take a turn for the worst so we stopped into a familiar place; Loris Diner! I had some delicious clam chowder, to warm up, and Mr. Boyfriend had another vanilla shake. We had a window seat facing the bay where we could watch our devoted swimmers and watch as a storm rolled in off the sea.

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This was the perfect time to rest, eat, and change. You always want to make sure you have extra pairs of clothing and change them during your down time. After freshening up, we headed outside.

Yes, it was cold and drizzling, but my gloves and hat made it bearable. Our adventure lead us toward the famous Pier 39, but we had to slow down because of tummy problems. That is one trouble that is unpredictable and can ruin a trip. However, we found a 7/11 convenient store and found tummy problems best friend: Pepto-bismol! It works on everything and after about 20min the tummy problem was better.

On the last trip to San Fran, we found the Ripley’s Believe It or Not attraction. However, it was closed. So, this time we made sure not to miss it. The tickets were about $30 each but we spent more than an hour in that place. It was like a weird modern museum with a twist. Every inch of the building was covered with artifacts to discover. It was totally worth it! Plus it kept us out of the rain for a bit while the storm passed.

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By the time we finished up with Ripley’s, it was dinner time. Luckily, the rain had stopped and it was a beautiful crisp night. We strolled into the “little Italy” of San Fran and thought it would be a great place to eat. I love Italian food! The restaurants were buzzing with locals and the smells where intoxicating. We choice a restaurant because of it’s car! Yup the owner custom painted his car with the glorious Mona Lisa. The same name as the resturant… smart business man. ;-D The owner was outside chatting it up with the locals and had the waitress lead us into his domain. I found our window seat a little cramped and hot. So, we asked if we could eat outside, like the owner. It was awesome!

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The outside sitting area had heat lamps and you could still smell the rain; and a hint of garlic. I had some lovely red wine with dinner. For dinner, I enjoyed the Macara which is homemade cheese ravioli and meat cannelloni and a veggie cannelloni in tomato sauce. It was so fresh and delicious; I would eat there every week if I lived closer. Mr. Awesome Boyfriend ate the Fettuccine alla Piero which had a tomato sauce with prawns, calamari, mussels, clams and garlic. It was wonderful listening to the owner speak in his native tongue while we ate a feast and gazed upon the nightlife. Just a side note: if you eat there prepare to wait. It is the true Italian way; they take a long time to eat! This just made me want to visit Europe even more!

It was getting pretty close to midnight, so we decided to head to BART to catch our train home. Luck-a-ly BART was pretty close because I was stuffed and tiered from a long journey.

That is how we spent 24 hrs in San Francisco! It was very successful and made me want to backpack through Europe. Everything we packed was well used and we had no hiccups along the way.

Below is a convenient check list: Socks are essential and could mean the difference between a good foot and a hurt foot. Especially, when there is a possibility of rain; you don’t want wet/cold feet! When walking for long periods of time, exercise underwear just makes everything better. They prevent chaffing and provides excellent support. An under shirt will help anyone stay warm and keeps you dry when sweaty. They are: small, lightweight and can be easily changed during a potty break. 😉 The outer shirt can be a regular T-shirt but we chose cotton long sleeved shirts because of the bad weather. My lightweight fleece was perfect in the nippy San Fran! I love the fleece because it is easy to take on and off. Mr. Awesome Boyfriend choose a thermal under shirt because: 1) he gets hot easily and 2) it is lighter than a fleece. Beanie hats and light weight gloves are perfect because they are warm and small enough to stuff in a backpack. I just wish they were water proof! Of course, you will want to bring a few toilet trees: tooth bush, deodorant, hair bush, hair gel etc. However, keep in mind most hotels will provide at least soap and shampoo. I brought a lip gloss just to add a little color but not a whole make up counter… remember the goal is to pack light. Toothpicks and paper towels are goodies that people forget but, it is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!

Our cell phones were the main tool that really made this trip special. I have the Samsung Galaxy SII and Mr. Boyfriend has the Samsung Galaxy Note. We used the heck out of ‘Google maps’ which helped us navigate to our destinations and organize the bus schedules. The 4G made it possible to book our hotel and even buy tickets to our entertainment. We made sure to bring backup batteries, chargers, 10A Power Brick (to charge the batteries) and earbuds. The Jawbone JamBox is amazing! It is a little speaker with Bluetooth capability that has attitude! We use our phones to listen to music in the hotel. A water bottle is needed and can be refilled pretty easily. Last but not least, the Power Bars came in handy as snacks before lunch or dinner. All together, the backpack weighed about 10 pounds and Mr.Boyfriend carried it the entire way!

My Items Qty. Boyfriend Items Qty. Community Items Qty.
Socks 2 Socks 2 Hair Brush 1
Underwear 2 Underwear 2 Tooth Paste 1
Undershirt 2 Undershirt 2 Floss 1
Extra Outer Shirt 1 Extra Outer Shirt 1 Q-Tips 20
Light Fleece 1 Thermal Undershirt 1 Fingernail Clipper 1
Light Windbreaker 1 Light Windbreaker 1
Beanie Hat 1 Beanie Hat 1 Sewing Kit 1
Light Gloves 1 Light Gloves 1
Misc. Medication 1
Tooth Brush 1 Tooth Brush 1 Toothpicks 20
Deodorant 1 Deodorant 1 Paper Towels 10
Misc. Makeup 1 Hair Gel 1
Jawbone JamBox 1
Cell Phone Battery 2 Cell Phone Battery 2 10A Power Brick 1
Cell Phone Charger 1 Cell Phone Charger 1
Spare Battery Charger 1 Spare Battery Charger 1 Water Bottle 1
3.5mm earbuds 1 3.5mm earbuds 1 Power Bars 4

Bon Voyage!

-Girl in Pigtails

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