-Each Tuesday I post about my last week in a new city. These tend to be more like travelogues, but you might find some running anecdotes scattered in here too! But be warned, these post always end up being novels!–
After two weeks in the Arizona heat Abe and I headed back to California! Coming from 118 degree weather, we were anything but prepared for the 68 degree days that we experienced over the last week! Despite the unexpectedly chilly weather, I was pleasantly surprised with all that the area had in store for us.
With two days off right away, Abe and I rented a car and headed to San Francisco. It’s always a nice reprieve from the company car when we splurge for a rental and it set us up for a few low key days to just be tourists! Immediately we plugged in the gps coordinates for our first stop: the Golden Gate Bridge!
What a spectacular sight. The Grand Canyon was an unbelivable natural wonder, but the Golden Gate Bridge was a man-made architectural marvel. I had no idea it was just so big! Yes, yes, yes – I’ve seen the history channel “making of” shows that illustrates how thick the cabling is, but I think it is definitely something you have to see to really understand the magnitude of. Did you know that bridge is 1.6 miles across?! How is that even possible?
I, of course, was delighted to acquire one more stamp for my National Park Passport. Naturally, it was the second time in a row I forgot the darn thing and just had to stamp some scrap paper to paste in later.
Abe and I walked about halfway across the bridge, overlooking the bay and Alcatraz.
From the Bridge we continued on our tour of all the great San Francisco tourist stops. First, we drove through the Presidio.
Then we headed up and down those crazy San Francisco streets to Lombard Street. It was just like in the movies! Not only would the hills have killed the company car, but I don’t know how well the 27′ long hot dog would have done on those curves down Lombard.
I was glad we actually got to drive down it, instead of just walk, because that was an absolute blast!
With the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard street checked off our bucket list, we had to experience true San Francisco culture and off to Castro Street we went! We knew we had made it to the right area when we were greeted by the football field sized rainbow flag. Ok, that might be an over-exaggeration! I’m not exaggerating though when I say that we saw a handful of naked men on a street corner – I’ll spare you that photo though!
From there, we scouted out our home for the night – a youth hostel on Union Square. This was Abe’s first stay in a hostel and it didn’t fail to deliver on the grimy, yet eccentric experience you expect from a hostel.
We had to go down a shady back alley, and up the walkup, but eventually we made it to our cozy four-man room that we would be sharing with a French couple.
Since it was no Four Seasons, we dropped our bags and grabbed a bite to eat.
Over dinner we decided it was time for Abe to experience another first: an authentic musical. The Scottsboro Boys, a Tony-nominated musical based on 1930’s racist America, was playing just down the street from our hostel. At only $15/ticket it was a steal!
The musical was fantastic. Even though it was a dark story line, recounting the wrongful convictions for several African American boys, it was done in such a way that it was actually very engaging and fun.
The next day we were supposed to head to Alcatraz, but we missed the memo that you have to buy your tickets days in advance for that! Bummer!
Cutting our losses, we decided to go for breakfast. One of the previous Hotdoggers had recommended an app for my phone called TVFoodMaps. The app maps out all the restaurants around your location that have been featured on TV food shows, like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Talk about the best app ever! At it’s suggestion, we decided to try Dottie’s True Blue Cafe.
We knew it would be good when there was a line out the door. Waiting to be seated, I had plenty of time to peruse their menu and scope out all the pastries they had on their counter. They’re known for blueberry cornmeal pancakes, but what caught my eye almost immediately was this enormous s’mores bar.
Abe and I ended up being seated next to another duo, all at the same table. I couldn’t resist this s’mores bar (even at 10 in the morning) and saw the perfect opportunity to make friends. I ordered one for the table, they heated it up, and we split it four ways. Talk about five-star sanctimonious! The girl said, “alright, I think it’s time to get each other’s names now,” and we officially met Holly and Josh.
Breakfast was an absolute delight. I had a spice pancake with pepper jelly. Abe had these black bean cakes that were also to-die-for! Holly let me try the Whisky Fennel Sausage Scramble that Dottie’s is known for, which was out of sight. I can definitely say the best part of traveling is making those unexpected friends.
After they rolled us out of breakfast, we crossed the Bay Bridge and went off to UC Berkeley. Abe and I wandered around campus for a bit before going to Sather Tower, their 307′ clock tower, the third largest bell-and-clock tower in the world! For only $2 we went up to hear the noon 61-bell carillon performance.
We also poked around their law school for a bit. With the current job only lasting a year, Abe is on the lookout for his next steps. I had the privilege of teaching a lecture at this high class establishment.
Our last stop in San Francisco was a very special one to me. My mom, whose blog about being an expat in Istanbul you can read here, is a librarian. I grew up with some simply fabulous books, one of which was “Fanny at Chez Panisse.” It’s the story of Chef Alice Waters’ daughter and her adventures at Chez Panisse, a fine dining French restaurant in the bay area.
Abe and I originally planned to have lunch at their cafe, but because we left breakfast at 11:30 and our lunch was planned for 12:30 we were just too stuffed with s’mores and had to cancel. I still went to check it out though and bought an autographed copy of the book! And with that as our final stop, we headed back down to Monterey.
We did head to Milpitas, CA one evening to have dinner at Abe’s friend’s house. Max, who Abe knows from their service together in Kuwait, Erich, and their parents put on an incredible meal for us – all with very unique and ethnic food, much of which I had never heard of much less tried!
We started with Jack Fruit, which was this sticky, tropical goodness.
For dinner we had chicken hearts and gizzards (yes, I tried them – yes, they were tasty!) and a goat curry. Their mom is from Seychelles, an African island, and a lot of the food was native to her culture. I also tried mussels for the first time. (How did I get this far in life without trying all these foods?!) Abe and I have really lucked out with these homemade dinners recently! We may be back after a meal like that.
The next few days we actually got some work done! After working, Abe and I went for a nice run along the trails in Ford Ord Dunes State Park. I ran there earlier in the week when it was cloudy and overcast. The second run there it was sunny and spectacular. This time I went the opposite direction of my first run (which had disappointedly ended up running along the streets) only to discover how how beautiful, yet hilly that side of the park is. It’s like there were sand dunes or something there!
Nothing beats a good seven mile run like a walk on the beach. Although that was almost a workout in itself!
That night we headed down to Cannery Row in Monterey at the suggestion of just about everyone, including my very trustworthy Grandma. We had dinner at a pretty good Mexican restaurant, which should have included “breath-taking views” on the menu. Abe and I look out our window overlooking the ocean only to see two seals!
Also on the agenda for that evening was going to a tattoo place so Abe could get a new tattoo. Anyone who knows me, knows I love going with people to get tattoos – especially if I’m the one who convinced them! Anyone who knows me also knows that I’ll claim to get a tattoo or piercing with them, but would never actually follow through!
(The one footnote there is the great Nose Piercing Incident of 2008, when my girlfriends made me go first! The nose piercing lasted a whopping three months, but I did it!)
While I was waiting for Abe to get his tattoo set up, I perused options for myself. They had this wall with countless frames and I told Abe to give me the coordinates for a frame and I would get something tattooed from one of them. D-8 tattoos were all bleeding skulls and H-12 consisted entirely of bald eagles. Abe clearly wasn’t any good at picking coordinates, so I had to enlist the help of someone else to help me pick out my first tattoo – that’s how I met Cleveland Dave.
Dave was in the shop getting WANDERLUST tattooed on his legs. Once I heard that, I knew this guy was going to be awesome! He was doing WANDER on one and LUST on the other, and I warned him that he better not to lose a leg, because then he’d just end up a lustful one-legged guy! Putting up with my bad jokes, he was still down to try his hand at picking out coordinates. Unfortunately, I wasn’t up to get a magic 8 ball and that game ended pretty quickly! (I hope you’re happy Mom and Dad if you’re reading this!)
Abe and I ended up leaving that tattoo parlor both bare because they couldn’t do exactly what Abe was looking for. Oh well, I love going on adventures like that!
Then, our last day in Monterey turned out to be, by far, the best day on the job yet! It’s awesome that the last two Sundays have been our best days in each place. We’re certainly setting a pattern of ending on a high note.
Sunday started with an absolutely excruciating run along the ocean, but I’ll be dammed if I didn’t feel awesome after it! I think I was just exhausted when I started, but after running next to the coastline I couldn’t have been in a better mood. At one point during the run I heard some barking – turns out there were a pack of seals on the rocks down by the beach!I mean, how cool is that? My runner’s high at the end of the run was sky-high and that pretty much continued for the rest of the day.
So why was the rest of the day so incredible? Well, let’s start with our event – the Carmel Beach Dachshund Society Wiener Roast. Yep – wiener dogs, wieners, and the Wienermobile! We pulled up, a full 45 minutes before the event was actually going to start, to more than 50 little Doxies!
And just like that, I spent the entire day just playing with dogs! How could I have had more fun?
Assured this was probably the coolest thing happening in the area, I invited Cleveland Dave down for all the fun!
After the event Abe and I had plans for one more touristy thing we had not yet done in the region, the scenic 17 Mile Drive around Carmel and Monterey. Dave, relatively new to the area with the Army, hadn’t been so he came along too.
What an asset he was to the trip – he narrated the trip for us in fantastic British accent!
Disappointingly, I was not able to get a stamp for my park passport on this drive! For $9.75 you saw some gorgeous coastline, some incredible houses, and a lot of golf courses. For the more golf-savvy that course might have been a big deal, but for as an amateur put-putter it left little impression on me.
With our bucket list for the area complete, it was time for dinner! Abe opted for Mexican food back at the hotel, and so Dave showed me around to the best Thai place in Monterey! I have been craving Indian or Thai food for awhile, but since Abe knows the best mexican places everywhere we go I haven’t been able to indulge!
We headed down to a quieter downtown area of Monterey that wasn’t the tourist trap of Cannery Row. Not only was the area perfect, but the restaurant was also one of the best yet! At 7:00 on a Sunday you would expect any restaurant to be dead, but this place was packed, with a wait! Definitely worth it!
I had a pineapple coconut chicken curry and Dave went with basil pork. Normally one person always orders something that’s the standout winner, but both of these dishes were delicious!
The dinner was topped only by the conversation. With an undergrad and masters degree in history, I was already impressed. However, Dave is also studying Farsi at the military language institute in town! That’s not something you hear every day. He also backpacked through Europe by himself for six weeks after graduating school. You can see where the WANDERLUST tattoo stemmed from!
I think I need to get back to Monterey just to hear more about all these awesome adventures and get ideas for my own travel bucket list!
And that was it for Monterey! With an absolutely incredible last day, start to finish, I headed back to the hotel to pack for the next adventure: Los Angeles!