This song, or rather the verse of the song was playing in my mind on repeat for a good week before C and I flew to San Francisco, and it continued to do so for at least another week after we got back. Which really isn’t a bad thing as I quite like this song, but not as much as I loved this city!
To be fair, I loved San Francisco (or at least the idea of it) even before I went to visit, I don’t know why, it just seemed like my kind of place – maybe it had something to do with it’s large Asian community or the city’s intense love of food! What ever the reason, I always felt that this may be the one city in the U.S that I could see myself ‘fitting’ into.
Although C and I were in San Francisco for only one very intense day on our 5 day trip to California – I can now wholeheartedly say that the city lived up to my expectations in every way :)
The day before the the 4th of July weekend – C and I got up at some ungodly hour and hopped onto the first plane out of Mexico City. Although it was tough getting up so early, but landing at San Fran airport at 9 am local time, really was worth it – we had the WHOLE day at our disposal.
After the usual airport faff-about, we picked up our car rental and by 11 we were at our hotel, The Westin San Francis on Union Square. What a majestic hotel (can things be majestic in the U.S?) and the location was absolutely perfect for a day of sightseeing.
Although we did not request an early check-in, luckily for us our room was available upon arrival (really lucky actually, as their check-in time is 3pm!). So after we dropped our bags and freshened up a bit, it was time to hit the streets and eat!
First Stop: Yank Sing Dim Sum Restaurant.
There is no way I’m going to visit the city with the largest Chinese population in the entire US and not get involved in some dim sum. After doing a bit of research before we arrived, and having been told on very good authority that Yank Sing offers one of the best dim sum restaurant in the city, we made a bee-line for it for brunch.
The restaurant was not in the famous China Town as I had imagined it would be, but rather a 15 minute walk from our hotel in a rather modern business area. Located on the ground floor, it is a wonderful space with high ceilings and large windows. The minute you sit down you are accosted by a number of aunties pushing their trolley of goodies tempting you with them. Everything from dumplings, to noodles, to crispy Peking duck to vegetables. It was REALLY difficult not to say yes to EVERYTHING.
I was in heaven. I have not had good quality Chinese food, let alone dim sum since I left Singapore 3 years ago and I was so tempted just to go for it. But I still had the whole city to explore, so I decided I needed to be focused and just order my favourites. We had:
- Xiao long bao – a wonderful minced pork dumpling filled with a hot broth.
- Hakaw – the very clean flavoured steamed prawn dumplings.
- Sui mai – a steamed dumpling with pork and prawn mixture
- Fried pork dumpling – did you know they are called potstickers in the U.S? I had no idea!
The food was excellent. The quality of the dim sum was top notch and the variety abundant. I was one happy bunny. I tried to explain to the old Chinese man that cleared our table, that I had grown up in Singapore and how much I missed this type of food -all of which was acknowledged with an uninterested grunt – ahhh no one can be more dismissive than a Chinese uncle! oh how i have missed it ;)
After brunch, C and I decided to walk around for a bit and take in the sights and sounds of San Fran by foot. We window shopped on the sleek streets of Geary Street and Market Street, we walked through the hustle and bustle that is China Town, wandered up to the quieter neighbourhood of Nob Hill, meandered through the restaurants and cafe’s of Little Italy and finally ending up at Fisherman’s Wharf.
I was really looking forward to Fisherman’s wharf as I had heard such good things about it, but that whole area was a bit of a let down for me. It was just a tad too touristy – the fact that it was the day before 4th of July probably didn’t help either as it was heaving with sweaty people and the whole energy was incredibly manic.
At Fisherman’s wharf there is a whole array of sight seeing activities you can choose between, and although the huge crowds were putting me off we decided to do the one hour ”San Francisco Bay Cruise Adventure”. I was quite determined to do this tour for two reasons.
- I thought it would be a fun way to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz
- My feet were absolutely KILLING me! However I refused to say anything to C, as I had insisted (against C’s excellent advise) to wear my cute black ballerina shoes…and although they complimented my “city-sight-seeing outfit” perfectly, they are just not suitable for 3 hours of serious walking!
So, I grabbed at the opportunity to sit on a boat for an hour! Although here too I was disappointed – I promise I am not a Grinch – I have come to the realisation that I just don’t play well with other tourists.
Alongside 300 other visitors, we piled onto this ferry – which promised ‘unobstructed views of sensational skylines in every direction’ which would have been the case if you were not staring at the back of someone else’s head! C and I managed to secure a spot outside on the bow of the boat, and I was feeling pretty smug about my conquest - however within 3 minutes of leaving the sunny and warm harbour, your hit by this incredibly cold front which made me hastily retreat inside. Unfortunately the Ferry’s windows were so dirty, it was impossible to see anything through them - but at least I was sitting down and slightly warmer. C braved the elements longer than I did, and managed to take some wonderful pictures:
After our rather disastrous stint at Fisherman’s wharf, we both just wanted to get out of there, and decided to make our way to the Ferry Building Market Place, which had been recommended to us, by C’s cousin. C was quite intent to walk the 2.5km distance (my feet were telling me otherwise) but as luck would have it, we bumped into this very friendly (if not slightly eccentric) rickshaw driver who said he could take us there for a nominal fee as he had just finished work but was heading that direction!
We zoomed through rush hour traffic, and within 15 minutes he dropped us at the entrance of the Ferry Building, the moment I walked through those doors, I knew it was the place for me! This really must be the foody Mecca of San Francisco, with shop after shop selling everything from organic food produce, to artisanal ice cream, regional cheeses and fresh local seafood and everything in between. I quickly forgot the sweaty mass of people we left behind on fisherman’s wharf, and started to in vision myself living here!
The Ferry Building itself is a converted Ferry and transport terminal that was built in 1898 in the Beaux Art style that was so favoured in the US during that time period. It was once the main gateway to San Francisco up until the 1930s, however the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the rise in automobiles, meant the slow decline and neglect of this once impressive building. It was not until 2002 that the city decided to restore the grand dame to her former glory and today it has become a hub for independently owned and operated food businesses, and is once again a proud landmark of San Francisco.
C and I spent a short while browsing through the shops – but by this point we were worn out and hungry and sat down at the first seafood restaurant that we saw, Ferry Plaza Seafood. We ordered a large glass of crisp white wine and dozen oysters and a Dungeness crab to share- this was probably the happiest moment of my afternoon! The oysters were fresh, creamy and tasted of the sea, the crab was good (if a little bland), and not one sweaty tourist in sight!
It was only after we ordered our first glass of wine that we noticed, how empty our restaurant was, compared to the bustling restaurant next door. Apparently Hog Island Oyster Company is the place to be when it comes to seafood. Although I enjoyed our restaurant, next time I’m in SF I would love to see what the hype is about, and go try out Hog Island (even their website is cool!).
Our last stop on our epic San Francisco tour was at the famous Peruvian restaurant La Mar by Gaston Acurio, where C wanted to go for a drink. We sat by the bar and after just doing a quick glance at their bar menu, I decided I was still hungry and we needed to have chicharon de mariscos (deep fried seafood) which was excellent. The restaurant looked beautiful and sophisticated, unlike the La Mar in Peru, which is far more casual, and if the chicharon is a good indicator of what the food is like – it would definitely be a place I would recommend.
By 8pm we finally decided to call it a day, and head back to the hotel. It was probably a combination of being utterly exhausted, slightly tipsy and very happy – but by 9pm I crashed in the wonderfully fluffy and impossibly white bed at the Westin, and had the best night sleep that I can ever remember having!
San Francisco – what a magical place! Although we only got a glimpse of the city and slight feel of the vibe during our day walking around, it has definitely left me with an itch to go back.
Until Next Time!
Where we went:
Yank Sing, Dim Sum: http://yanksing.com/locations/stevenson.html
Bay Cruise Adventures: http://www.blueandgoldfleet.com/san-francisco-bay-cruise-adventure/
Ferry Building Market Place: http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/
Ferry Plaza Seafood: http://ferryplazaseafood.com/
Hog Island Oyster: http://hogislandoysters.com/