Travel Log: A Week in San Francisco

This blog has taken me almost a full year after my trip to post. It was one of those pieces that I’d resume writing and then inevitability forget about, which is surprising because it’s about an incredible trip I had exploring San Francisco. I guess better late than never because reminiscing on it has brought back all the feelings of kicking back in Northern California for a few days.

Last October a work opportunity brought me to the Silicon Valley to learn about destination marketing tech and strategy. This was my first time on the West Coast and with my signature travel style of just winging it in my free time, I found myself accidentally having a work trip more exciting than most leisure vacations that I’ve taken (this is probably due to travel and marketing tech being my passion) but I left feeling like I had made the most of being out there.

When I travel for work, I’m of course doing whatever would have been done in the office remotely along with absorbing everything that I possibly can from learning opportunities. I use my time away as an opportunity to build a routine in a whole different environment. With that being said, I try to stick to my typical diet, habits but in a hyper local to the area way. The work day usually ends a lot later with networking tacked on but spare time is spent wandering and seeing what I can find.

Where I Stayed: I made a temporary home out of the StayPineapple Union Square San Francisco. This boutique hotel was cheery, bright and within perfect distance of anywhere I wanted to go. It was hard to leave my room sometimes due to amazingly comfy pillows, slippers and the most extra branded robes I’ve ever seen. I found myself waiting at the hotel bar before meeting up with a friend one night and ended up chatting with the bartender for an hour, who had the coolest travel stories from also working for an airline. He told me about his experiences as a life-long local and gave me a run down of how the city has changed over the years. It ended in a Canadian couple chiming in and us all speaking about what it’s like to live where we all live and the places we’ve been. The hotel wasn’t in the convention district so I was grateful that I was in passing of people there for different reasons everyday. They also have free pineapple water and cupcakes in the lobby, so that was a perk.

Where I Ate: If you go to San Francisco you HAVE to stop by the BOWL’D Acai food truck. I signed up for a loyalty card for this truck because my coworker and I ate there almost every day during our stay. They have “health shots” that’ll cure any sickness brought on by a long travels and acai bowls that’ll actually keep you full. The owner works the truck sometimes and was happy to answer any questions we had about how they got their start. The attention and thoughtfulness put into their menu items stand true to their narrative of fresh, healthy and accessible. If you’re looking for a more hearty option then stop by The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. This place is the BOMB and even offers gluten-free bread. During a conference break one day I sat with a coworker at the park next door, ate their “classic” and enjoyed the beautiful October weather. Other recommendations include pretty much any sushi spot you can find, most cater to gluten-free diners and I’ve found their raw fish is usually incredibly fresh.

bowld

Me being the epitome of health

What I Sipped On: While waiting to catch my flight back to NY I had a chance to enjoy some drinks with a few friends that decided to move out West. We stopped by a dive bar called High Tide which is full of locals playing pool and cheap drinks. High Tide has ceilings adorned with autographed dollar bills left by bar goers. We then stopped by Swig which combines mixed drinks from scratch with a live DJ and cozy but young ambiance. Another night a coworker and I explored the rooftop bar scene and ended up looking out onto the city and sipping prosecco fire-pit side at Charmaine’s on the rooftop of the Proper Hotel. I’d also suggest checking out Brass Tacks, it was a great spot for conversation and a casual glass of wine.

Where I Wandered: I had a day between my flight and conference end to explore which led me to a whirlwind tour of the city. The night before I found myself at the Swedish American Hall on a random MK adventure to see Good Old War (a longtime favorite band). It was a beautifully historic but no BS theater. It was one of the most intimate shows I’ve ever been to, everyone was so happy to be there and the bands that played were entirely candid.  I couldn’t fit in everything that I wanted to but I made sure to explore every park I came across while accidentally stumbling upon San Francisco classics. I made a bad Uncle Joey joke in front of the “Full House House,” I went to spots that ended up looking familiar only to remember that they were places I’ve seen in movies. I window shopped ornate gems in Chinatown and explored streets that San Francisco sound legends once called home. My “for next time list” includes: shopping crystals at Love of Geyesha, visiting the Camera Obscura and maybe getting touristy at Fisherman’s Warf.

More Unexpected Highlights: The Golden Gate State Park at sunrise was my favorite part of the trip. I journeyed there alone before my afternoon flight and it ended up being one of those moments that make you feel everything yet completely calm at once. Watching the sun come up and illuminate the bay while only the morning joggers were around was incredible. I sat on a rock on the shore for an hour watching dogs play fetch and just taking it all in. That week was the first time I had ever touched foot on the West Coast which something I didn’t think I’d be able to do until I was way older. That morning made me realize the importance of travel in my life and why I’m so determined to build a life and career in it.

All in all, San Francisco is definitely a bucket list city. I forgot to wear flowers in my hair but I did experience a trip full of authenticity, great people and a place where history and the bustle of emerging tech industry meets. It was a city that was more of a feeling than a place, one that has strengthened my bond with certain songs that I’ve loved for years and one that I still go back to sometimes when I’m finding inspiration for my future trip planning and art.

NorCal, I hope we meet again soon!

In case you decide to take the trip out & need a solid playlist: Going to California by MK Harrigan on Spotify

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Things to Do in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

I’ve stumbled into many of my favorite places with absolutely no idea what to expect. I am the queen of taking a recommendation, putting it in my trusty maps app and heading out on an adventure. I heard of Eureka Springs while looking for a fun way to kill time while I was a travel journalist’s conference in Branson, Missouri. This was my first time in the Midwest and I had the urge to see as much as possible in my little amount of time there. So there I was on a beautiful Thursday morning in the midwest with my coworker- running off a suggestion, a few hours to kill and being in close proximity to a state we’ve both never been to. It took one google image search full of cobblestone streets to convince us.

The drive into Arkansas is a culture shock for an Upstate New Yorker. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more mega churches, cows or curvier roads in my whole life. After a little motion sickness from possibly the most scenic but most turn-laden ride in existence, we arrived in Eureka Springs. The beginning of the town reminded me a little of something you would find in a New York mountain town but when we got to the heart of the destination I realized it had a flare and uniqueness all of its own. The first thing I noticed about Eureka Springs is that it’s a stairstep town with stairways functioning as named streets leading up to paved streets lined with gorgeous brick buildings and people strolling. The next thing I noticed is that the LGBT community is celebrated and supported as rainbow flags adorned many of the establishments. It was a breath of fresh air in the Midwest to see people of all sexual orientations and genders to be able to have no holds on who they are in this haven.

If you walk around you’ll find memorialized springs that were once claimed magic, healing people suffering from all sorts of ailments. Bath houses that once gave those an opportunity to experience the magic are still existing as luxury spas and places for those visiting to rest their head. Yet there is no shortage of healing still happening present day in this town- shops claiming to spiritually heal are plenty and alternatives to western medicine like CBD oil are sold throughout the town. If anything, the tranquility that Eureka Springs offers is healing in its own way and the spirit of the town will certainly lift yours.

There were so many places to eat in such a small town but having been so hungry my coworker and I picked a place at random and were really glad we did. The restaurant, Mud Street Annex, advertised all-day breakfast and donned a beautiful neon sign inside deeming itself the “home of Ozarka water.” We were captivated by every little decoration but what the waitress excitingly showed us when walking to our table stole the show. In the floor there was a window looking 20-feet below where a spring resided, a hidden gem just like the town itself. We had lunch with the spring in view and I was pretty content with an iced tea and gluten-free turkey melt in hand.

After lunch came more exploring and admiring architecture. During our wandering something that made my whole trip happened- I was admiring the music of an old man playing acoustic guitar with his pup and balloon animals in tow- when I went to tip him for the free entertainment, the sun came out and lit up the park. He exclaimed “this town really is magic” in response and in that moment I was very sold on that notion.

EurekaSpringsDog

The cutest little park pup in the world, you’re welcome.

If you get the opportunity to visit this town, please do. It is an absolute gem full of locally owned businesses, adorable cafes and enough history to make your head explode. The whole town is like a giant art park, my favorite pieces included a memorial to a made-up goddess and a humpty-dumpty sitting on top of a wall on a hill. It was a great escape from the evangelical vibe of the Midwest, even with an artsy giant Jesus statue on an adjacent hill overlooking. My best advice is to talk to the locals, they really make the town and have the best facts to share, they’ll provide you with history you wouldn’t have known. Wander the streets, take in the music and take advantage of every photo opportunity. Next time I’m in the Midwest I plan to make a trip out of it and stay at their treehouse resort (yes, they have one of those awesome, right?) or spend the night in their haunted hotel that gives you a “ghost tracker” as a companion for your stay.

Arkansas isn’t all cows, mega churches and dirt roads. If you check this state off your travel bucket list, make sure to pay a visit to Eureka Springs- you’ll be glad that you did!

For more history, things to do and fun in Eureka Springs click here.

 

Things to Do in Jacksonville Beach, FL

I’m on my last semester of college and I feel like a major milestone in that is spring break. I didn’t have the funds to dish out over a thousand dollars to go do the typical college spring break in Mexico but I am so so so happy I didn’t. I ended up a month before break booking a flight to Jacksonville Beach, my housemate Megan’s new hometown, with her and my friend Nikita. It was an absolute gem of a place and I will definitely be back. There were 3 major things there that stood out to me: the food, the bars and the people. We landed on probably the only warm day of our trip but spent the majority of it going from beach bar to beach bar and trying to lay out anyways. Most of our time was spent at this bar right on the ocean called The Pier where we ate our weight in free(!!) chips and salsa, and drank whatever drink special they had. By the end of the trip we were pretty close with the manager and many complimentary tequila shots were taken.

If you go to Jax Beach I also really recommend going to Safe Harbor Seafood. We had the best shrimp nachos in existence there and it’s right on the harbor so the views are great. Another highlight was spending only $8 for bottomless mimosas at Zeta Brewing Co. All of the places we went were full of really genuinely nice people too. Maybe that’s just because I’m a New Yorker and everyone is a little more rough up here but the whole place just radiated happiness. Another honorable mention of a bar, is Surfer The Bar, it’s generally new to the area and highlights a dope indoor food truck and large screen that plays surfing films on repeat. Every bar had unique character and many opportunities to eat while you drink or vice versa.

Another highlight was I met some incredible people down there, and am still in consistent communication with one cool surfer in particular. Everyone I met was so easy going and made you feel right at home.

All in all, I will definitely be back, if not to eventually stay for good someday. It was a vacation that I am so glad I took, definitely a place that you can go to and be like wow I found my people. So if you decide to visit Jax Beach, bank on eating lots of fresh seafood, drinking tequila and maybe meeting a cool surfer.