We landed at SFO at 10:10am PST on a Saturday. After picking up our luggage, we headed up to the Airtram and then to the BART station to go downtown. $8.65 and thirty minutes later, we arrived at the Powell St. Station in Union Square. Our first view of downtown was of the beautiful buildings on Powell Street and the trolley. However, before we could enjoy any of it, we needed to eat something. We went into the first place we saw that wasn’t a fast food joint, which was Tad’s Steakhouse on Powell Street. It was a decent enough place, we ordered at the counter and sat down to eat some pretty good burgers before moving on. We walked to The HI San Francisco Downtown, which was very close to the train station, to check in. The helpful women at the front desk allowed us to check in early, and explained the amenities of the hostel, which include: daily activities and city tours and complimentary breakfast.
We went up to our private room (with en suite bath) to freshen up. The room was pretty large and cutely decorated. We settled in and changed clothes before heading out to explore the city. My sister had recommended that we go to City Lights Bookstore, so we walked over to check it out. We walked through Union Square, which was festively decorated with a Christmas Tree and skating rink. We had to walk through a tunnel to get to Chinatown, which made me think of the tunnel scene from “The Stand” and I rushed us through it. We fought our way through the crowds and found City Lights on Jack Kerouac Alley, right where it should be. It featured three glorious floors of books, and a good selection of Beat Generation works. Naturally, we browsed for a while, taking our time on each floor. Outside, Kerouac Alley was very colorful, with murals on the walls and quotes etched in gold on the cobblestones. Of course there was one from the man himself – “The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great…”.
We walked back through Chinatown and took in the sights and smells. Women haggling over cabbage, shopkeepers trying to lure us into their stores, fireworks going off in the street, it was a pretty authentic scene. That night we met my cousin, Katie and her fiancé, James for dinner in the Mission District. Mike and I got over there early so we could check out the neighborhood. We picked up a coffee from Muddy Waters Coffee House and popped into some of the stores in the area. There were a lot of really cute and unique stores along Valencia Street. Our favorites were Needles and Pens, Wallflower Vintage and Wonderland Gallery. The stores were interspersed with a diverse set of restaurants and cafes. My first choice for dinner was Lolo’s, a tapas restaurant, but there was an hour and a half wait, so we decided to moved on. We stopped at La Taza (a cute cafe with lighter fare) for a beer and to get our dinner plans straight. Katie wanted to take us somewhere memorable, and once that was settled, she certainly delivered. We walked to The Crafty Fox, and I am so happy that’s where we ended up. It is a brilliant gastropub located on Mission Street, and has a bar up front and long shared tables in the back. We staked out an area at the end of one, and went up to the bar to order. They had an excellent selection of craft beer and the food was amazing. Mike and I split the salmon skewers and the wild boar sausage, both of which we loved, and I had the New Kids on the Hops (Altamont Beer Works) beer, which complimented our food choices wonderfully. Plus, the company and conversation made the evening even better, of course. Katie and James proved once again to be fantastic hosts (they were also nice enough to open up their home to me in Korea).
We all took the subway to our respective homes, us going back to Union Square and Katie and James going farther down the line, to Berkeley. Once we were off the train, Mike and I decided to stop for one more drink at a bar his coworker recommended: Golden Gate Tap Room. We got our hands stamped at the door and walked up a flight of stairs to the bar. It was more or less a beercade, except unlike some of the ones in Chicago, you had to pay for the games. We each had a beer and played a couple games of Mrs. Pacman before feeling too old for the young crowd and retiring for the night. Back at the hostel, we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.