San Francisco Series: Welcome Back Home!

We are back in Montreal after a week in San Francisco!

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Our favourite sport in SF, the beaches!

We really had a lot of fun exploring this city, but we were also very surprised by a few things. I hope these few pointers will help you out if you are traveling to San Francisco soon. Here they are!

First, San Francisco is a really expensive city. As Canadian, we were expecting to spend more money than back home. However, we were not prepared to pay as much for simple things. Food was particularly expensive: I don’t think we ever found any sandwich for less than 10$. Ouch!

Concerning food, beware that not much will be vegan in the main attractions. Of course, San Francisco is a seaside city, and, therefore, seafood is everywhere. Vegetarian options are usually available, but you’ll have to ask for no cheese or no eggs if you want to stay vegan. Also, make sure you visit Greens because it is quite amazing!

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Greens’ chocolate banana cake with coconut sorbet. Yum!

Second, San Francisco is weirdly shy about grocery stores. We had trouble finding fresh vegetables and fruits, which is why we were so happy to bump into the Fort Mason Farmers’ market. After that, we wandered in the city a lot and couldn’t find any food stores, until we used a GPS to go to Whole Foods. I definitively recommend googling for food stores because you might not find any by chance.

Third, layers are key! Any travel guide will tell you that San Francisco’s weather can change quickly. Well it’s true. Bring a warmer sweater or coat in your backpack because the city can turn out to be colder than expected.

Fourth, some parts of the city are better explored with a taxi than by foot. We were quite surprised to see as many homeless people hanging around the city’s main attractions. However, most of the time we did feel safe. One time we were quite happy to get to our destination was when we were looking for the Asian Art Museum. We thought it would be okay to go from downtown to the museum. Well, we walked quickly and were weirded out by the ominous feeling of some of the street corners. Nothing happened, but we decided to take a taxi to Japantown after our visit. So listen to your guidebook and be careful where you go on foot.

Speaking of feet, bring comfortable walking shoes because things are far from one another. Also, hills are really no joke in San Francisco, and you will be happy to have some friction with the ground.

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Enjoying the Pacific with my Winter boots.

Overall, we were quite happy to visit San Francisco. We really enjoyed the bay, the beaches and the nice weather. The sun was amazing and the break from the rain and snow was a true blessing.

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Home sweet home… ah, snow!

Let me know what are your travel plans for 2016, if you have any recommendations or other travel tips! 🙂

San Francisco Series: Day 6

Today, we walked all day! But, as we have learned from our experience, we stayed close to the water and ended up crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

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On the way, we stopped at the Wave Organ, but there was not much music going on today. Still, it was a great spot to take a break and enjoy the view.

We then moved on to the Warming Hut and saw the most photo-loving pelican.

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We then proceeded to cross the bridge which was a lot of fun and wind. The view of the city was also quite exceptional.

Today was a perfect way to start the year: sea, sunshine and great company! We even saw a hummingbird!

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San Francisco Series: Day 5

Today we took a car and drove on the Golden Gate bridge to Muir Woods.

If you are planning to visit the giant trees, make sure to get there early: we were there by 8:15 and easily parked and did not pay the entry fee as the office was not opened yet (a signed said we could go in, no worries). Double win! Or should I say triple win: by coming in early you avoid big crowds and really take advantage of the magic, mystery and ambiance of the forest.

After a great walk, we headed to Sausalito where we enjoyed a great view of the San Francisco bay. We walked along the water and took in the great scenery. The sun was so nice!

We then rolled on to the Napa Valley where we were amazed by the size of the vineyards. It was so much bigger than expected. It was really impressive to see these giant fields!

When we came back to San Francisco we were really hungry, and so we stopped at Whole Foods. This store is so exciting for me as we don’t have them back home. We found great fruits, spreads and breads for our new year celebration.

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We started our celebration near the water, which was quite nice as the sun was setting on the bridge and the bay. Perfect way to end the year!

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For 2016, I wish you all to find something that your care about and explore that passion. I also hope that you will give yourself some time to take care of yourself and the people you love. Have fun in 2016 and take time to enjoy it!

San Francisco Series: Day 4

Today was our first rainy day, and the lazy weather went perfectly well with our lazy mood after yesterday’s walk-o-ton.

We started the day with the Exploratorium which was a really fun place, but we felt like this is the kind of museum you really enjoy if you are a kid, or if you have one with you. Filled with fun and interesting hands-on activities, the place was buzzing with excitement.

After this, we continued to the Ferry Building where we saw some seagulls and sea lions in action in the pier. It was quite surprising to witness such big animals feasting on fish. We went inside and feasted too: special mention to Stonehouse California Olive Oil and their extensive olive oil selection (I couldn’t resist the lemon infused one). We found great vegan food at Delica: delicious fried tofu, sea weed salad, lotus root salad, wild rice roll, and potato croquettes. Yum!

We then moved on to Union Square and the Asian Arts Museum. This museum is really nice and has a rich selection of magnificent pieces. We strolled along for a few hours then went back to Japan town to eat some more.

It was a really fun and relaxed day which was really nice. So far, so good San Francisco!

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San Francisco Series: Day 3

NO MORE WALKING TODAY!!!

We were clearly on a roll after yesterday, but let me tell you that there is no way we will walk as much as today tomorrow!

Our day started with what we thought to be a little walk to the Golden Bridge Park. It seemed so close by on the map… Well along the way, we walked some crazy steep stairs (some of them were so steep, I preferred to look at my feet while climbing up), saw amazingly beautiful homes and enjoyed the sun.

When we got to the park, we were a little bit confused as there are roads and many cars circulating all over. We thought the park was going to be a green oasis. The Flower Conservatory was a sight to be seen, and the many orchids we saw there were delicately beautiful. It was also interesting to be in such an old greenhouse.

After that, we went to the Shakespeare Garden. It was a little bit disappointing as there was not much going on due to the season. It was however a great spot to take a peaceful break from the crowd.

We then found our way to the Japanese Tea Garden, which is apparently the oldest or biggest garden of the kind (my mind is a little mashed up because of the exhausting walk). It was clearly a sight to be seen, and we felt far away from North America. The different sculptures and plant arrangements were mesmerizing.

By that point, we were starting to be hungry. So, after finding our way out of the park (which is not as easy as you might think), we trotted to Kabuto, which is a sushi restaurant. They didn’t have a lot of vegan options, but we did discover the mountain potato roll. Mountain potato is quite different from our regular “field” potato: it is slightly gooey and has a mucilaginous (think okra) texture. Well, paired with ume (pickled plums) and warm rice, it was quite good!

From there, we continued to Lincoln Park where we did not end up where we wanted to be. We were aiming for Land’s End, but found the Legion of Honor Museum instead. Well, at least the view from there was quite breathtaking, and we were on the other side of the bridge.

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At this very moment in the story, we were both tired, out of water, with sore feet and without a clue as to how to get back to our hotel. So after  walking in the rough direction of the hotel for about an hour, we went in a launderette to call for a taxi. We were welcomed by the Asian owner and a “No business?” Only 5 minutes later, our yellow (see golden with angels flying around it) cab arrived, and 30 minutes later we were in front of a warm and tasty meal from ‘Hot Spuds’: deliciously creamy and warm potato skins with vegetables and a thai salad (all vegan!). Yum! A perfect way to end a walking extravaganza day! (According to google maps: 20.7 km)

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San Francisco series: Day 2

For our second day in San Francisco, we took all our daring spirits and climbed a lot of very steep streets. Of course this was torture a lot of fun early in the morning. The exercise was very welcome because we have been eating a lot!

Of course this climbing had a purpose: Lombard Street! I have to say, this chunk of road is very cute! The houses are so well tended and the quantity of flowers made us forget we are still in December. Not to mention that the walk to the top of it gives great viewpoints of the bay.

After Lombard street, we walked to the Coit Tower. Once again, very steep streets, but interesting sights. The view from the tower was spectacular.

We cannot get over how beautiful the bay is! After the tower, we climbed down and walked to China town. We passed in front of many antiques shops and enjoyed the sun. Once in China town, we were greeted by the usual show of trinkets, paintings and souvenirs. We found our way to Waverly Place, the square and the Blossom Tea Company.

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We were expecting a little bit more from China town however and were not quite satisfied with our stroll there. So we took on Bush Street and walked to Japan town. After all this walking, we were starving and stopped at the House Kippu (quite a funny name for a restaurant if you are a French speaker) for Bento boxes. Yum!

The potato croquettes with the plum sauce were so good: crispy on the outside, warm and smooth on the inside. The plum sauce was a perfect match. The rice was also made fresh and cooked to perfection. The avocado rolls and inari were also very tasty.

It was quite a change in scenery to be in Japan town as the street signs, store fronts and everything around you is in Japanese. Japan Center is a great place to shop for Japanese goods and taste some Japanese food. We had a really great time there!

And since we didn’t walk enough today, we decided to walk back to our hotel and to pass by the marina to enjoy the view of the bay again. Once again, the temperature was perfect and the sun so good!

We had a great day of walking today! If you have any recommendations, please let us know! 🙂

San Francisco Series, Day 1

We are in San Francisco!

Our first day was a lot of fun! We walked a lot, had great weather and went to a great restaurant: what else is there to ask?

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We started the day with warm bread from Boudin: Amazing! The variety was great, and the sourdough taste was rich and tangy.

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After that, we walked along the bay and were quite mesmerized by the temperature and flowers. Something quite out of the ordinary in December for us Canadians.

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When we got to Fort Masson, we had the surprise of stumbling upon a farmers market… I didn’t think that Californian farmers markets would be as different as ours: I mean, they were selling orchids and fresh citrus!

We also walked to the Palace of Fine Arts. What a funny sight in North America! We were quite impressed and awed.

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For lunch we had a great meal at Greens. I had the Holiday Sampler and an unpronounceable grape juice which was quite extraordinary. As desert, we shared the banana chocolate cake which is served with coconut sorbet while admiring the beautiful view of the bay. Yum!

Anyways, today was a great day! We can’t wait to see what San Francisco will display for us tomorrow 🙂 If you have any vegan restaurant recommendations, please let me know!