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.
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