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San Francisco

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San Francisco

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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.
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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.
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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!

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Even the waiting room for Coast Starlight made us feel like royalty:
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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.
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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!!
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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.
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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. large_A9775A55EE14E622464028ACC8B967DE.jpeg
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).
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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.
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Until then, it’s onward to New Orleans!!!

-Heidi

Posted by baecation2016 06:42 Archived in USA Tagged california san francisco coffee portland tacos coast_starlight Comments (0)

Seattle mornings, Portland nights

A tale of two cites, one crowler and Amtrak Cascades ride away

semi-overcast 48 °F

We seem to love our morning excursions so much better our nights! (Probably because we're well rested and sober, haha).
After our Airbnb host Rose (originally from Negril, Jamaica by way of the UK) gave us a ride, we arrived at Pike Place Market.
It was breathtaking.
Rose dropped us off in front of Beecher's Handmade Cheese! We could see the cheese makers were hard at work and the aromas were great. We ordered the Mariachi Mac and Cheese to tide us over until we found a breakfast spot. Needless to say, it was fantastic.

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Strolling through the Farmer's market, we saw an array of fresh produce, seafood, and bakery items. Heidi and I were really looking forward to seeing the fisherman throw some fish around but alas, we didn't see any action.

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We ate breakfast at the Sound View cafe (which was an apt descriptor, all the seating provided views of the Puget Sound). I tasted Northwest clam chowder, and it pains me to say this as a native New Englander but it was MORE FLAVORFUL than New England clam chowder. Ugh, okay it's over. Now back to breakfast:

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Heidi got the crab cake frittata and I got the salmon and prawn omelette.

The portions were huge, the amount of seafood was generous, and given that the prices were fair. Most of the eateries in the Market were pretty expensive, so Sound View cafe was a great value.

Next we perused the flower shops, artists, and vendors. The flower arrangements were beautiful and pretty cheap considering what was going in them. I understand now why all the local business had such beautiful bouquets.

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In a search for good Seattle coffee, we happened upon the world's first Starbucks:
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Given our talks with locals, we just couldn't support a coffee purveyor that lead to the demise of local coffee shops and wholesalers (Seattle's Best Coffee was bought out by Starbucks). So we got a pound of coarse ground roasted on site at Local Color.
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Overall, Pike Place Market did not disappoint. I could've spent the entire day there if we had the time!
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A small hiccup in our travels to Portland turned into another fun adventure. Originally we planned to drive from Seattle to Portland. I made reservations at a car rental agency only to find out that I couldn't take one of their cars one way without more documentation. Heidi, my quick thinking cutie, recalled that with our Amtrak USA Rail Pass we get 8 segments and we only used 7 given our time constraints. So we just scored a "free" train ride to Portland! We had some celebratory craft beers at Old Stove Brewing Company and had a "Crowler" prepared for the trip. They pour 32 oz of your favorite draft into a can and seal it with their canning machine. After taking the underground downtown bus to King St Station, we were on our way!
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Amtrak Cascades is an older train that makes several daily trips along the Pacific Northwest from Vancouver, BC to Eugene, OR.
We can never seem to escape large groups of field tripping school children (from Daley and Millennium Parks in Chicago to Pike Place Market) and our trip to Portland almost kicked it up a notch with middle schoolers! Luckily, Amtrak saw the writing on the wall and placed them in their own train car.
The trip was a quick 4 hours (sadly too overcast to catch a glimpse of Mt. Ranier, our Airbnb host jokingly said the best view Seattle folks get of the mountain are from the Internet), enough to drink some craft beers and get in a cat nap.

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We made it to Portland! It was raining pretty heavy so Heidi and I protected our packs with rain covers (tucked away in a secret compartment at the bottom). We walked to Deschutes Brewery for dinner and more beers. There were a ton of great stuff on tap. I stuck to IPAs and Heidi pursued her new interest in Saisons. I ate a delicious burger with plums, bleu cheese, and cream cheese with a side salad adorned with IPA dressing. Heidi has never seen me eat meat so it was shocking for her to see how much I enjoyed it! Heidi had an Alaskan King Salmon with spatzel, mushrooms, and peas shoots. She loved it!
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Even though we were kind of full, the lure of good ice cream led to a Lyft ride to Salt and Straw. The line was super long (out the door and onto the sidewalk) with eager patrons, but definitely worth the wait. Coming to get ice cream here was singlehandedly one of the best life choices I've made. It's up there with going to medical school and dating Heidi. We seemed to forget or refused to acknowledge how full we just were from dinner and all the beers. The quality of artisan ice cream cannot be captured in words. Heidi captured it in a dance (see my Instagram post @claudsee) and in a cute smile. Thanks SO MUCH to fellow Tufts track alum Megan Sears Caldwell and Jen Morse, my research mentor while at Duke, for the recommendations!

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This morning is our last in Portland, we really want to do some biking and eat some delicious local food (". . but is it local?" -- Portlandia) before heading to our next destination by train. . . San Francisco!

Happy [train] travels,

Claudia :O)

Posted by baecation2016 08:08 Archived in USA Tagged beer market ice cream place seattle coffee portland pike cheese Comments (1)

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