Muir Woods – Day 7

We woke up on Friday with the sad remembrance that it was our final day of vacation. However, thanks to a red eye flight, we pretty much had the entire day to do some final exploring!

Chris fixed breakfast for us again on our final morning at her lovely home. This time we had bagels, fruit, ham, sausage, eggs, and hashbrowns. It was yummy!

From her house we drove a couple of hours over to Atwater to visit the Castle Air Museum. Andrew loves aviation and he was super excited to visit this place. I don’t remember the exact number of planes they had, but it had to have been over 30? 40?

The admission price was $15 which I don’t think was worth it. Everything was outside in the boiling hot sun which definitely detracted from the enjoyment level. They also had a small museum you could walk through. It again was okay, but nothing special.

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Perhaps the coolest thing they had (IMHO) was Air Force One!

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Anyways, by this point it was around 12:30pm so we started trekking back to SF to figure out what to do with the rest of our time. During this point we decided we were going to try and visit Muir Woods!! We had heard so many good things about it that we knew we had to at least make an effort to see some coastal redwoods.

It was a long drive but got there around 3:30pm or so and were able to find a parking spot. Our suggestion is to visit early in the morning or a couple of hours before close. Parking is scarce and the popularity of this place continues to increase.

We were SO glad we decided to visit. I mean, check out these trees. Beautiful!

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Muir Woods also has a few different trails you can hike on, but we weren’t really prepared for that. We stuck to the main loop and walked slowly taking in all the scenery. It’s hard to believe that Muir is so close to San Francisco because it feels other worldly.

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After hanging out there for a couple of hours we decided to head back to SF. Andrew was tired of driving and truth be told, we mainly wanted to just get rid of the rental car. As nice as it was, it was also a hassle and we didn’t want to deal with parking in SF.

We returned it and then decided to head to the airport early since we had nothing to do with our suitcase. We got to the airport around 7pm, did security, and then ate dinner at one of the sit-down restaurants since our flight wasn’t leaving until midnight.

I know, I know, we could have spent more time in the city. But we were pooped so we were fine with chilling in the airport and taking it easy.

We finally made it home around 2pm the next afternoon. We were tired, but so thankful for our time in California! It was an unforgettable trip!

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San Francisco to Sequoia – Day 5

On Day 5 we said goodbye to San Francisco and hello to the start of a journey to 2 National Parks.

We checked out of our hotel and headed over to City Rent a Car. Their location was a couple miles from our hotel so we got over the pretty quickly. We definitely recommend using them for your car rental needs. The guys at the front desk were super nice and another bonus is that you can return your car after hours. That was a major selling point for us considering that places like Enterprise did not offer that option.

So, we headed out in our Nissan Sentra and were able to easily navigate ourselves across the Oakland Bridge. Since it was around 8:30am we thought we might hit morning traffic, but nope. It was quick and easy!

And so began our long drive to Sequoia National Park! We skipped breakfast this morning (oops) so we decided lunch at 11:30am wasn’t too early. Andrew had never been to In-N-Out so that’s where we decided to eat.

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We both got the double-double with Animal Style fries. This was my second time eating there and I still don’t fully understand the hype? Don’t get me wrong. I definitely enjoyed my meal, but west coast people always talk about In-N-Out like it’s the best food EVER. Perhaps their love for this place is similar to east coast people’s love for Shake Shack? Anyways, I did enjoy my lunch. Promise!

From there we kept trekking to Sequoia. We made it to the entrance gate around 1:30pm or so. Unfortunately, nobody told us it would still be another 1 hour drive to the parking lot in the Giant Forest. You ascend something like 3,000 feet and it’s switchbacks the whole time. So needless to say, the speed limit was low and slow.

BUT, we eventually rounded a corner and then the big trees began:

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At this point, my excitement level started to grow! You may not think seeing big trees is something to get excited about, BUT IT IS! These trees were magnificent, and things were only just getting started!

We eventually parked the car and hopped a shuttle bus to see General Sherman – the largest tree by volume in the WORLD. Seriously, it was incredible.

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How can I describe the wonder of this tree with words when I can’t even fit the whole thing in a photo?!

We spent a couple hours just hanging out and wandering around through the trees. I had hoped to also do the Moro Rock hike because it is also incredible I’ve heard, but we just didn’t have the time. We still had a 2.5 hour drive to our AirBnB for our trip to Yosemite the next day, so our time was crunched.

In hindsight, we should’ve probably skipped Sequoia. We didn’t give it the appropriate amount of time it deserved and it made for a lot of car time while on vacation. On the other hand though, I am still thankful for even a small amount of time to gaze at these skyscrapers called trees.

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Like I said, once we left Sequoia we still had a long drive ahead of us. We didn’t make it to our AirBnB until around 8pm. At that point we still needed to go back out for gas and dinner.

Our AirBnB was absolutely incredible though. We stayed with Christine who is 73 years old. She is climbing a 14,000 foot mountain in September, but it”s casual. WHO AM I KIDDING?! It’s incredible. She’s incredible. What am I doing with my life?!

Well anyways, if you plan on going to Yosemite, stay with her. I cannot recommend her home enough. Click HERE for her AirBnB listing. She makes you breakfast each day of your stay and it is legit. Pancakes. Waffles. Eggs. Hashbrowns. Bagels. The list goes on and on. Plus, she also stocks your room with drinks and snacks galore! It was heaven.

I digress though. Once we settled in, Christine gave us directions to the gas station and the town of Mariposa. We ended up eating at Burger King because we wanted something fast and simple. The town was quaint, but it was a 30 minute drive from where we were staying.

We got back around 9pm and were in bed by 9:30pm or so. Our next day would involve conquering the Yosemite Valley and we had an early start to the day to get ready for!

San Francisco – Day 4

Tuesday was the 4th of July and we were super excited! Neither of us had ever been in a big city for fireworks so this was quite the change of pace.

The morning started out pretty casually with Andrew doing some work stuff for an hour or so. After that was done we were headed to Mama’s on Washington Square to meet up with our friends for brunch.

We decided to take the bus to get there and all was going fine until we got to a bus stop in Chinatown. At this point 2 transportation officers boarded the bus asking to see everyone’s proof of fare. I showed them my Visitor Passport on my phone and they asked to see the QR code. As fate would have it, my phone chose this moment to then take a million years to generate the code.

In the meantime, one of the officers commented that my Passport had been activated on July 1st and was making it seem that I didn’t have appropriate fare. I pointed to the top of the phone where it clearly said that the Passport expires on the 7th.

It felt like years but the code finally popped up and they told me I was good to go. They then pulled a mom and her two small kids off the bus. I think she had fare but her kids didn’t. I understand they were doing their job, but it still made me sad to watch them walk off the bus.

We finally made it to Mama’s – one of the best brunch places in SF we had read. It had over 3,000 Yelp reviews so we figured it could be trusted. It was no surprise then that there was a long line out the door when we arrived.

We hopped in line with our friends and after about 20 minutes we started debating whether or not we should go elsewhere. After a fruitless search for another restaurant on Yelp, we decided to stay put.

Remember in an earlier post where I questioned who would ever want to wait 2 hours in a line?? Well, I became that person. We waited for 2 hours, but we kept our spirits up and it actually went pretty fast.

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Once inside we made it to the counter to order! I got the delicious french toast sampler (orange cranberry, lemon berry, and one other I can’t remember) and Andrew got their Monte Cristo which they are famous for. They were both sooo good!! I highly recommend eating at this place if you’re in San Francisco, but get there early so you don’t have to wait as long as we did.

After that, we decided it was a good day to explore Golden Gate Park so we hopped in an Uber and headed that way. We walked through the park for a bit which was great since the weather was a bit warmer and we felt like we were away from the crowds.

We headed towards the water so that we could see the Dutch Windmill in the park. It was certainly a site to behold!

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See what I mean? I know, I know, it’s just a windmill. But we really liked it!

From there we walked down to the beach and then on up around by the Sutro Baths and Lands End.

People. If you go to San Francisco, I cannot recommend walking around Lands End enough. It is technically a hike, but I had on TOMS and was fine. The views are amazing AND we got to see 10-12 whales out in the water. We enjoyed it so much we sat down on a bench at one of the overlooks and just watched them for about 30 minutes.

Whales were an awesome bonus and we also got to see the bridge too:

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This was probably my favorite afternoon that we spent in the city. It was laid back and we felt more like locals than tourists. Except, you know, when we started taking photos of the bridge.

After that we stopped by a local coffee shop and then headed back to our hotel to hang out for a bit before dinner and fireworks. I will admit though that on the way back I made Andrew go in a gas station with me so I could buy an It’s-It. It’s-It is an ice cream sandwich with two oatmeal cookies and ice cream (vanilla, cappuccino, strawberry, mint, etc.) sandwiched in between and then covered in chocolate. It’s a SF tradition so I had to get one. And you guys! It was so delicious!! I tried to find one later in the week at two separate gas stations to no avail. They aren’t sold anywhere near me either, so now I’m questioning if I should have them shipped to my house?!

Anyways, after that we really did hang out at the hotel for a while. Then we took an Uber to a place called Nick’s Crispy Tacos for dinner. They were having a special that night- $2 street tacos, $2 nachos with salsa and guac, AND $2 margaritas! That’s a deal wherever you are!!

This place was bumping too. And I don’t necessarily mean with people (although there were quite a few of them). There was a DJ set up in the back and he was cranking out the tunes at quite the loud level. The lighting consisted of chandeliers and the seating was mostly these huge semi-circular booths. It was quite the set up and we had to show our ID’s before heading in.

Regardless, the food was good and I really enjoyed the guac. I would eat there again for sure. Especially with such cheap prices!

After that was done we headed down by Ghiradelli so we could watch the fireworks. We were so excited at first and then we were so disappointed. As you know, SF is on the bay. The bay brings in a lot of fog. The 4th was a very foggy evening. So, the fireworks were shot into the fog and then not much was visible. Sure, there were some fireworks that we could see and they were nice. But overall, this was a disappointing end to our time in the city.

After that, we walked about 1.5 miles back toward the hotel, called an Uber, and went to sleep shortly thereafter. All in all, it was a great day!

BUT, the fun isn’t over! On day 5 we rent a car and head out for some national park action. Stay tuned!

 

P.S. If you have questions about transportation, food, things to do, etc. let me know! I am by no means an expert, but I am more than happy to answer any questions you have.

San Francisco – Day 3

Monday was wedding day for our friends Whitney and Jasen! The wedding was set for 11am at City Hall so we had some free time in the morning.

We headed around the corner from our hotel to a small coffeeshop called the Oakside Cafe. It was a local place and I had one of the best vanilla latte’s ever. We both got breakfast sandwiches and enjoyed them amidst the eclectic art and decor on the coffee shop’s walls. From there, it was back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding!

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This photo was taken inside City Hall and although it’s not the best representation of the building, I think it gives you an idea of how elegant it was. I was sincerely surprised at how beautiful it was. City Hall conjures an image in my head by default, but in my head it was never this ornate! I mean, the dome on the outside has real gold on it! It’s that impressive.

Here’s another photo from the wedding:

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I didn’t get any good photos of or with Whitney and Jasen on my phone. But I am excited to see how their photos turn out when they get them back!

After the wedding, there was 7 of us who headed to Blue Barn for lunch. It’s a sandwich shop over in the Russian Hill neighborhood and I highly recommend checking it out. The sandwiches were huge and tasty and everyone left feeling full.

From there we walked over to Lombard Street. I was amazed by the traffic jam this street caused simply because people wanted to drive down it. There were people everywhere – both in cars and on foot. The top of the street had a great view, but we only spent minimal time there before moving on…to Ghiradelli!!

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You see, I gave up sweets for the month of June. Therefore, by the time we were leaving for SF, I was pumped about getting a huge sundae from Ghiradelli. I got the brownie sundae with homemade hot fudge and it was just as incredible as I hoped it would be. We also only had to wait in line for about 15 minutes before making it to the front of the line. It helps too that Ghiradelli passes out chocolate squares for free while you wait.

At the end of this we didn’t really have a game plan so we just walked around the wharf. We decided we’d go find the famous Pier 39 sea lions. And here they are in all their glory:

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Yeah…anti-climactic. Apparently this is pretty common during the summer months. But hey, at least we got to see a few!

By this point we were pooped so it was back to the hotel to hang out until the dinner reception for the wedding.

We headed over to Beretta at 7:30pm which was down in the Mission. It’s a cool Italian place and the wedding reception was downstairs in its own room.

Oh. My. Food. The lighting was dim, so I didn’t get any photos. BUT I’m pretty sure we got to eat at least half the menu.

We had: glazed olives, meatballs, calamari, crab cakes, margherita pizza, sausage pizza, arugula salad, manicotti, panna gelato, chocolate gelato, and tiramisu. And those are the foods I can remember. There might have been more.

If you ever go to this restaurant, you NEED to get the panna gelato. It was one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever had. And I say that as someone who was over the moon excited about having tiramisu that night.

Needless to say, Monday was a delightful and slower-paced day than the one before it. Get excited because Day 4 is coming!

The Alcatraz Library

I love visiting libraries when I travel, but sadly I only got to see one while out in San Francisco. But truthfully, I’m not sure if this one even counts because all of the books were gone. (I’m going to say that it counts though)

Let me backtrack and explain what I mean.

If you read my Day 2 recap of our trip to California, you know that we made it over to Alcatraz for a tour of the prison. As we journeyed through the Cellhouse, we came to a door with a sign over it that read, “Library.”

Oddly, I was the only person who took a photo with that sign. People seemed much more interested in taking photos of the solitary confinement cells to my right. Weird.

But, as you can see, my enthusiasm was big:

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I was so excited to walk through that door and turn the corner! What would a prison library at the Rock look like, I wondered. Well, as it turns out, it looked like a whole lot of disappointment.

When we rounded the corner, the only thing in the room was this:

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand the prison is no longer in use, so there is nobody needing to check out any books. But I expected something a little more exciting.

Despite that though, it was cool to read that the library contained 15,000 volumes! Prisoners would read anywhere from 75-100 books a year! I know that had time on their hands, but that’s still impressive.

Anyways, to date, this is definitely the most random library I have visited. If you go to Alcatraz, don’t blink because you’ll miss it.

San Francisco – Day 2

Remember how Day 1 in SF for us concluded around 9:30pm? Well, the result of that was an early morning wake up at 6am. With neither of us capable of falling back to sleep, we decided we might as well get our day going!

We left our hotel around 7am and took a bus to the Union Square area of the city. We walked around for a bit trying to find the location of the cable car stop. We realized we were going the wrong direction and eventually found it when we noticed 5-6 people standing in a line.

So, we hopped in a line and waited for about 20 minutes until we saw the cable car coming down the hill. At this point, the line had gotten rather long behind us. I definitely recommend trying to do this early in the morning if it’s on your SF To-Do List. I’ve heard that in the afternoons the wait time can be around 2 hours. And who wants to waste time standing in line for that long? (As it turns out, me. But for something more exciting than a cable car…we’ll get to that on Day 4 though).

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Here’s a shot of the famous cable car. It’s also a National Historic Landmark and one of the only ones you can ride! (Or is it the only one you can ride?) Anyways, it’s cool.

We took the cable car all the way to the end of the line. As a reminder, you need to pay with cash and it’s $7 one way. Thanks to our Visitor Passport though, we were good to go! This particular line drops you off right by the Buena Vista Cafe which is famous for their Irish Coffees. We sadly didn’t get to try one, but we’ve heard they’re quite tasty!

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I used to wonder before our trip how it was possible that people got photos on an empty cable car. The key is to take that photo at the end of the line when everyone is getting off. As you can see, that’s what I did and it worked out great.

After hopping off the cable car we walked over to a hotel in the Fisherman’s Wharf area where our friends were staying. We met up with them and then walked to breakfast at Joanie’s Happy Days Diner. The coffee was good, the staff was friendly, and the food was tasty and affordably priced. We recommend eating there!

After breakfast, our friends were heading up to Muir Woods and we headed over to Pier 39 for our tour of Alcatraz! I could’ve printed our tickets off at home, but I’m a stickler for a real ticket, so we went to the will call window and picked them up. It was a quick process.

Then we hopped in line and waited to board the ferry to take us to the island!

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The boat we took over to the island.

We enjoyed the ferry ride over to the Rock, and it didn’t take too long either. Even in July, I highly suggest wearing pants and bringing some sort of jacket. It was chilly even with the sun out.

But, you also get great views:

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When we got to the island, we listened to a Park Ranger give a quick rundown of where things were on the island and then we joined a volunteer-led program that focused on the island as a military fortress. It was interesting and quite informative! There was so much I didn’t know about.

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After that, we made our way up the hill to the Cellhouse where we would begin our audio tour.

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The thing that probably surprised me the most about Alcatraz was the beautiful vegetation. It was all so pretty and there were flowers everywhere!

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See what I mean? Gorgeous.

Anyways, the audio tour walked us through the Cellhouse and was narrated by former prison guards and inmates. We, of course, got to see plenty of jail cells too.

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In the end, I think we spent close to 4 hours at Alcatraz, and I am sure we could’ve spent more too. The island was much bigger than I realized. And, fun fact: when you watch one of the old Star Wars movies and Darth Vader’s ship door closes, that is actually the sound of a cell door closing at Alcatraz.

After Alcatraz we made our way back to the Wharf and got a snack as it was now mid-afternoon. From there, we moved on to Musee Mecanique! It was an antique, coin-operated arcade…and it was awesome!

We walked in and were instantly amazed by the incredible amount of machines in the collection. However, there was one in particular that I was looking for: the arm wrestling machine. You see, I am a huge Julie Andrews fan, and Musee Mecanique owns the machine that she arm wrestled in The Princess Diaries movie. So I had to take a stab at it.

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It was hard and I got my butt kicked…twice. Oh well. We still had an awesome time and wish we could have stayed longer! But, we were out of time and needed to meet up with our friends again for a bachelorette party.

You see, the whole reason we went to California was to see one of my best friends get married. And we had planned the bachelorette party for Sunday night, the night before the wedding.

So, Andrew left me at our friend’s hotel so that he could hang out with one of his old roommates from college who now lives in SF. And I met up with the girls. We started the evening with a cruise around the bay that lasted 90 minutes. It was pretty foggy, but I still got a photo of the bridge that I love:

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Over in this area by the bridge we also got to see some whales which was unexpected. So that was awesome! I cannot stress this enough though: bring a jacket! Sunday was by far the chilliest day we had while in the city, and of course, it was the day I was out on the water twice. Despite the chill though, we still enjoyed the cruise!

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After this, we took a trolley down to the Ferry Building and then walked to a restaurant for dinner. After that, we went back to the hotel, gave Whitney some gifts, and then spent some time praying for her. It is a memory I’ll keep with me for quite awhile.

From there, Andrew and I met back up and took an Uber to our hotel and called it a night.

Day 2 was pretty eventful and on Day 3, things keep rolling!

San Francisco – Day 1

Our flight out of Louisville was scheduled to leave at 6:09am Saturday morning. So, our day started around 3:15am. We got ready in a daze and headed to the airport around 4am or so.

We got there a little earlier than necessary because we were going to leave our car in long-term parking and were unsure of how long that might take. It didn’t take long at all. As we began going through security, we realized that I had somehow received TSA pre-check. Because of this perk, I didn’t have to take my shoes off or wait in a long line of people. I just scooted on through. Great start to the trip!

We then boarded the plane and were headed for Chicago where we would have a 90 minute layover before finally flying to San Francisco. We flew United and I must say, I love that they give Stroopwafels out for their snacks. I love those things so much.

Anyways, the morning was pretty uneventful until we were on the plane in Chicago. At that point, we were delayed an hour on the tarmac because of a low ceiling in SF. They weren’t letting planes in or out. A bit annoying, but we finally got moving.

On this flight, we dealt with a screaming 2-year-old the whole time, but I can’t be mad at him. I suspect that his ears were not feeling so great. In the end though, we finally touched down in SF and collected our suitcase.

I highly suggest taking the BART from SFO to the city. It only costs $8.95 (depending on where you are headed) and it was a nice experience. We took it to the Civic Center station and then hopped an Uber to our hotel.

We chose to stay at The Metro Hotel in the Haight-Ashbury area of the city. If the Wharf is super touristy, this area is the opposite. The staff was friendly, our room was adorable (albeit small), and the price was spot on for SF.

By this point it was 2pm and we hadn’t had lunch yet, but I already knew where we were heading first: Bi-Rite Market 3 blocks up the street for some ice cream!

We both went with the single cone which allowed us to choose 2 flavors. I got the chocolate peanut butter and the blueberry buttermilk. It was so good and only $4.50 per person which is comparable to ice cream prices in Kentucky.

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Alamo Square Park was right around the corner from Bi-Rite so we thought that would be a great place to enjoy our ice cream. It sits atop a hill and has great views. Additionally, this is where the famous Painted Ladies houses are. If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, you may know them better as “The Full House houses.”

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Sure, this was a touristy thing to do, but they were so close that I had to take a photo. After we finished our ice cream and sang the Full House theme song, it was time for lunch.

Andrew had heard about this place called Ike’s that was supposed to have some pretty good sandwiches so we looked it up and realized it was only about 1.2 miles from where we were. After sitting on planes all day, we decided walking didn’t sound so bad.

Once we arrived, we were greeted with so many tasty (and crazy) sandwich options! Andrew got the “Chased and Confuzed” and I got the “Menage a Trois.” My sandwich was pretty tame considering, but Andrew’s was insane. It had bacon, flamin’ hot cheetos, ranch, red pesto, and stuffed jalapeno poppers. It was a pretty good sandwich, but they were HUGE. We would’ve been much better off splitting a sandwich, but we had no idea about the size prior to ordering.

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Andrew in sandwich heaven.

At this point in the day, it was around 4pm or so and we were starting to feel really tired. We purchased our Visitor Passports and began figuring out a bus route to get back to the hotel. The Visitor Passports can be bought for 1, 3, or 7 days and give you access to the buses, subways, cable cars, and trolleys. Basically, you can ride any kind of transportation except for BART.

We got back to our room around 5pm with plans of grabbing dessert with our friends who were in town later in the night. But by 7pm, we knew that going back out wasn’t in the cards. We rescheduled with our friends and decided we would get together for breakfast the next morning.

We were in bed and asleep by 9:30pm. No regrets. At that point, we had been up since 3am EASTERN time, so we were pooped needless to say.

On Day 2, things really get going! Stay tuned!