21.05.2016 - 22.05.2016 63 °F
While our time in San Fran was brief, we accomplished more sightseeing there than in any other city so far! But first, let me tell you about the fancy old train that took us there.
After waking up bright and early in our Portland AirBnb (we got a bit “overzealous” at Deschutes brewery and fell asleep quite early), our host Jen told us about a great breakfast spot just a few blocks away called “Mehryi’s” (pronounced Mary’s hahaha). So we loaded up our packs, french-pressed some coffee to-go, and set to walking. Since it’s a very small place in a somewhat remote area of Portland, the few locals inside were incredibly curious about the two girls with the giant packs walking into their secret spot. The food was so fresh and delicious, and as a bonus, our server was even “Feelin the Bern” if you know what I mean.
Our train wasn’t set to leave until 2:15pm, so we had a few hours to kill in the city. Those hours were DOA when we walked into Powell’s Bookstore. This store occupies a FULL city block downtown, and dedicates entire floors to certain genres. I could’ve walked around browsing in there all day, but it was also pretty depressing knowing everything I bought would have to fit into the pack on my back. So, I bought a small anthology of railroad stories to fit into my side bag and some souvenirs to remember the greatest bookstore of my life.
From Portland, we boarded the Coast Starlight Superliner headed South to Los Angeles. Having read about the train before, we knew we had to get the sleeper car for this trip. The Coast Starlight is the only train left in the Amtrak system with a working parlor car. This old gem includes a hardwood bar, wine and cheese tasting, and a movie theater in the lower deck. There are plush, swiveling armchairs in the viewing area, and a separate, fancier dinner menu with private seating. You get the sense that you are in old Hollywood, being treated like a star!
Even the waiting room for Coast Starlight made us feel like royalty:
We had a wonderful evening on that train, despite the quality of service not quite living up to the regal surroundings. Maybe we are just faster-paced, East Coast Yankees, but things seemed to take a whole lot longer than on our beloved Empire Builder.
We detrained in Emeryville, CA at about 8 am local time. That is the closest station to San Francisco, and it’s about a 25 minute drive from downtown. We were greeted by the lovely and talented Ayako Sawanobori, who had so generously offered to pick us up from the station in her Prius.
Since SF is only 7 miles by 7 miles, there are so many things to do even in a limited amount of time. Within 3 hours, we drank iced coffees from the original Philz Coffee walked along Baker beach to the Golden Gate Bridge,
had some brunch cocktails in Harvey’s in the historic Castro district, visited Dolores Park, and so much more!!
It was like going on a guided tour for free. I can’t thank Ayako enough for spending her Saturday morning showing us around.
It was such an extensive sightseeing journey, we were almost too tired to get tacos for lunch (almost)! There is literally a taqueria or cantina on every single corner of the Mission neighborhood, so it was a good thing we had Yaks to tell us which one is the best (La Taqueria on Mission St). Although the line outside the door kind of gave that away too.
The toughest part of seeing SF, for us, was the homeless people. When we found out that people are paying upwards of $6000 per month in rent, it became easy to see why so many people could not afford it. There are huge camps and tent cities everywhere occupied by people who just could not make it work. Every corner had someone sitting with a sign on their lap asking for money. It really took a lot of the bloom from the SF rose to see so many suffering in such a wealthy city that is doing nothing to help them. Seeing how comfortable everyone is with that status quo was hard to stomach.
Anyway, after tacos we headed to one of the “must-visit” places on our list: 21st Amendment Brewery. Claudia and I both enjoy several of their brews, and we wanted to see first-hand what kooky beers they would be coming out with next.
Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that there was a SF Giants game about to start, and we were just a couple blocks from the stadium. So, it was really packed in there and we didn’t get to chat with anyone about beer. We bought a couple pints, pushed through the sweaty, swearing masses, and then quickly left that joint and headed to get some much-needed rest.
Since Claudia’s birthday was the next day and we knew we would be on a train for the whole thing, we decided to start celebrating early. We stepped out on the town and had a wonderfully SPICY dinner at an Indian restaurant named New Delhi. The hot chili sauce was so hot that the chef himself was the only one allowed to bring it to us. We hadn’t had very spicy food all week, so Claudia got a little over-eager and almost burned her cute little face off (It was really funny).
San Francisco was a real treat! I hope one day I can come back to ride the cable cars and eat Rice a Roni in Alamo Park with DJ and Stephanie Tanner.
Until then, it’s onward to New Orleans!!!