I arrived in the Bay Area on Saturday in order to attend a conference at our Google HQ this week. No offense to Silicon Valley, but I had no desire spending an entire day in Mountain View prior to the conference. Therefore, I decided to stay in San Francisco for a night in order to explore the city on Sunday. Other than wanting to hit up a few coffee shops, I had absolutely no pre-set agenda. How unlike me. Instead, I decided to simply see where the day would take me.
Below is how I spent 24 hours in SF. It's not meant to be a prescribed recommendation, as some of my decisions weren't particularly practical. I'm sure I could have utilized my time more efficiently, but traveling on a whim is liberating. You don't feel the stress of staying on schedule or sticking to the script. Detours happen, and in a city like San Francisco, they unearth some awesome finds you probably wouldn't have included on your agenda otherwise.
Not surprisingly, my jet lag kicked in and caused me to promptly wake up at 5 AM. As I peered out the hotel window into the dark city skyline, the thought crossed my mind that I should go see the sun rise. I immediately threw on some clothes and drove out towards Marin County.
Standing atop Battle Spencer, I anxiously awaited the sun to rise at 6:45 AM. In my head, I was anticipating an epic, possibly life changing, view of the sun rising up in the distance and casting a glow upon the silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge. That never happened. It was cold and foggy. That's San Francisco for you. Nevertheless, the view was still pretty beautiful and worth the short ride up.
I planned on driving back south to Crissy Field and catching a view of the bridge from below. The area was unfortunately closed off to traffic for a half marathon that day. Therefore, I decided to head towards the nearby neighborhood of Russian Hill for a cup of joe at Saint Frank. This was one of the sexiest coffee shops I had ever visited. The souring ceiling and lowered counter created a sleek yet somewhat impersonal space. Thankfully, the pour over coffee I had was amazing and the baristas were super friendly.
Following my morning adventure, I headed back to my hotel in SoMa. After a quick workout at the gym, I ditched my car and took the MUNI light rail out to the Mission District. This too-cool-for-school neighborhood is home to endless independent shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. It's also home to Dolores Park. The top of the park offers unobstructed views of the San Francisco skyline and some fascinating people-watching.
Walking the endless slopes throughout the city can build up quite an appetite. I headed east to grab a bite at the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. The Farmer's Breakfast grilled cheese sandwich (Tillamook cheddar, Zoe's applewood-smoked bacon, roasted potatoes and chive butter, anyone?) totally hit the spot. I then walked down the block to Sightglass Coffee for an afternoon iced latte. The space was perhaps even more breathtaking and inviting than Saint Frank. Unfortunately, the service was disappointingly pretentious. To experience it for yourself, check out this spot-on Funny or Die coffee shop parody.
I was too lazy to hit up all the shops in the Mission District. Thankfully, I stumbled upon Heath Ceramics. You can easily waste a few hours here checking out the locally made objects, exploring the factory and relaxing at the Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk.
I got back to my hotel around 3:00 PM. Not sure what to do with the rest of the day, I sat around lazily for an hour or so. Just when it seemed like I would happily spend the rest of the day watching Storage Wars, I found out that there were sea lions sun bathing on Pier 39. I took the Market Street Rail up to the pier to check out this popular tourist destination. It's rather silly but still pretty cool to see dozens of sea lions piled on the docks and barking at one another.
Instead of taking the crowded street rail back, I opted for a leisurely walk along the pier and through downtown. At this point, the crowds and car traffic had started thinning, so I was able to take some pretty cool photos of the hilly roads and surrounding buildings.
Before calling it a night, I headed to Parc 55 Hotel for dinner at Kin Khao. I read about this Thai eatery on Bon Appetit's most recent list of top new restaurants in the country. I've always found it ironic that Thai food, known for its intense flavors and spice, tends to be so one-note in the US. It seems like every restaurant has the same, standard pad thai and curry dishes.
Thankfully, Kin Khao sticks to its roots and serves up some seriously authentic yet inventive Thai cuisine. I had the blistered eggplant salad for my appetizer and the Khao Mun Gai chicken fat rice dish for my entree. While the flavors definitely aren't for everyone, it was exciting trying something refreshingly new and unique.