When the sun shines in San Francisco…

After a wet start to our trip to the States, the sun has finally shown her face and is beaming down in San Francisco. 

This is a city that doesn’t mind cold weather or rainy days, but when things clear up and it gets a bit warmer, I doubt there are happier towns.

In Part II of what we’ve been up to in San Francisco (check out our first post “When the rain falls in San Francisco…” here), we take in a baseball game at AT&T Park, discover the locals’ secret trolley line that’s rarely busy and eat and drink our heads off around town.

We hope you enjoy our latest IG Edition.


Jim & Christina xx

From now on whenever I chicken out of going for a swim in Sydney because I think the water’s too cold, I’ll remember these guys and take a spoonful of cement. I don’t know how they do it, but these fellas are swimming in San Francisco Bay in early spring. And I think they do it all year round too.

I must admit, it must be quite an experience swimming in sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, but when the water’s 12°C (53°F) at best, I think I’ll take in the view like that way I have my martinis: dry!

We’re walking around the waterfront again today taking in the sights and getting as much of this amazing city as we can.

We’re so excited today. Our friends Peter and Melissa have managed to score us all tickets to the baseball! We love the SF Giants’ ground AT&T Park and the vibe on the train to the stadium is amazing. It’s also the strangest train we’ve been on. It has two levels like lots of other trains we’ve been on, but with an atrium in the middle.

The train’s full so it’s standing room only even up here on the gantries of the mezzanines.

After a quick obligatory pre-match drink at Momo’s, we join the crowd to the ballpark. This stadium has lots of controversy surrounding it because of its location. No one thought it would be any good because it overlooks the bay and because of its unusual shape.

They thought it would be too windy or that the humidity would be a problem. Its dimensions are strange too, which makes things harder. None of those reservations really came to be though, and now AT&T Park is one of the great stadiums in the MLB.

The stadium’s pretty full today and the atmosphere is great. We’ve got killer seats looking out over the bay (we’re hoping for a ‘Splash Ball’ this game) and just in the shade. It’s surprisingly hot this afternoon, which is lovely after so many days of chilly, wet weather.

However, I don’t think we’d have survived sitting in the direct sun for too long. The cold weather has meant probably more bar time than any of us were expecting. Nothing like the Beer Sweats when you’re sitting in the sun!

We come to the baseball for the game, but we stay for the food! I just wish Australia and the UK had food at sports games like this. On the right we have totchos – San Francisco signature pub fare.

On the left is the ultimate: Irish nachos (their name not mine). The Irish bar in the stadium serves thick cut chips loaded with chilli, beans, salsa and melting cheese. A masterstroke… which is what I’ll probably end up having if I eat this too many times.

I also feel I should mention the beer they have here. My dad fondly remembers the beers they served him at the baseball game he went to in Texas a long time ago. They called it Dome Foam and would pour it out of a gun into your cup. I don’t think it was particularly good beer.

Here at AT&T Park you’ve got all kinds of local craft beer options. And you can take your (full-strength) drinks back to your seat. We’re so impressed.

Cheers from San Francisco – go Giants!

Melissa and Peter have really spoilt us this trip. It’s hard to fathom that this is just the start.

After the game, we wander back down to the waterfront to find one more drink before home. Melissa likes the outside tables at Epic Steak restaurant right next to the Bay Bridge. But it looks like the rest of San Francisco has had the same idea this sunny afternoon.

Instead we head upstairs to Quiver Bar – the lounge area of Epic Steak.

Unfortunately we’re not hungry, so we’re still to experience the epic steaks of Epic Steak, the good news is the cocktails they make here are awesome. Christina’s gin margarita is so good and looks beautiful with the rosemary garnish and black salt rim.

Yet another reason to come back to San Francisco.

This afternoon we’re all following the tourist trail for a while. The difference between the tourist trail as visitors and the tourist trail when you’re with locals is you get to see the highlights of the city but with that extra knowledge that only someone born and bred in the Bay Area can give.

To start things off, we’re having a breather at the famous Buena Vista Cafe, known for its Irish coffee… and its crowds. Christina and I came here once years ago, but were totally put off by the heaving mass of people.

This time, Christina and I haven’t even made it through the door and Peter’s scored us the biggest table in the place and has already set the Irish coffee wheels in motion. The lady photobombing us is also serving our drinks and is an absolute legend. She’s shouting our orders out over the other people waiting (like mugs) at the bar then carrying them over to our table.

It’s not surprising the Buena Vista Cafe is so well-known for its Irish coffees. They are delicious. You should check out the story of how this place became the American mecca for Irish coffee. It’s pretty interesting.

Next we decide it’s time for a ride on the famous San Francisco trolleys. These lovely old things roll up and down the hills of the city and are the thing to do when you’re visiting. The only problem is the ones by the water are very popular. The tourist queues wind like rope first to the ticket office and then to where you board the trolley.

But Melissa and Peter have a little local secret that avoids all of that…

The California line runs all the way from the Financial District by the water to Polk Gulch then turns down Hyde Street all the way back down to the Buena Vista Cafe. When you get on at the start of California though, it’s little more than a commuter line and it’s often pretty empty.

You still get the views up and down the hills and you can still hang off the edge – it’s actually a cheaper ticket than if you sit down. This is a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be.

We’ve hopped off the secret trolley and found a watering hole I doubt many tourists have been to either. This is Shanghai Kelly’s Saloon on the corner of Polk and Broadway. It’s about as local as you can get and a lot of fun. Highly recommended if you’re after cultural emersion.

Back on the tourist route, we’re at Fishermans Wharf today. I love this sign… mostly because I love crab. I did exactly that just before we left for the States. But today we’re not after crab. We’re on the hunt for something a little more local…

We’ve come to the Boudin Bakery: the heartland of SF sourdough bread. Just on the outskirts of Fishermans Wharf it’s kind of touristy, but not as full on as the row of eateries right on the wharf.

This bakery has been making sourdough since 1849 and now has around 30 locations. But the flagship is here at Fishermans Wharf. It’s like a mini factory here as you watch the army of bakers march out the rows of loaves.

There’s also a bistro here where you can get one of my favourite dishes and something I’ve had a hankering for since we arrived: the bread bowl clam chowder.

It’s a good job we’re hungry. You basically get a whole sourdough cob loaf to yourself full of rich, delicious chowder. Well, I have the clam chowder anyway. Christina has gone for the lobster bisque.

If you’re going to eat anything in San Francisco, you’ve got to try one of these. It’s so good – and perfect when the weather’s not being kind.

San Francisco’s Ferry Building is home to awesome daily markets you should definitely check out. This beautiful old building is full of food, drink and craft – all locally made. Come here for lunch or for souvenirs and also for coffee.

We’ve heard that Blue Bottle Coffee (actually an Oakland roaster) is well worth looking for. There are quite a few locations here, interstate and internationally, where you can find it, but for SF, the Ferry Building is the place to go.

One of our favourite shops in the Ferry Building (other than the ice cream) is the cheese shop the Cowgirl Creamery. There’s an amazing array of our favourite way to eat dairy… though their not very keen on you touching the cheese inappropriately!

Quite an unexpected sight on the modern streets of San Francisco is the Palace of Fine Arts. This beautiful structure feels like it would be more at home in an ancient European city, but to be honest it’s not that old.

Built for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition world’s fair, this remarkable piece of architecture is the only one that still remains. Like with many other world’s fairs at the time the buildings were all temporary. This is to San Francisco what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.

Like the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Fine Arts has stayed – though it had to go through a major renovation in 1959 that took the palace from 40 years of ruination to its current state.

Now, the palace and its beautiful grounds welcome visitors and as a venue for artistic performances, receptions and events too.

Just down the road from the Palace of Fine Arts is Crissy Field park and beach, which runs right up to the feet of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The deep beach is perfect for a stroll – and it’s also dog friendly, which means if you’re here visiting and you’re missing your furry friends, this is the perfect place to come.

Christina is almost overwhelmed with all the mooching pooches here – and she’s even happier that the weather’s finally stable. Such a shame this is our last day in the city.

Our last SF breakfast.

Melissa and Peter have one final local trick up their sleeve. They’ve brought us to Blackwood – a cafe style restaurant that does American Thai food. But what exactly does that mean?

This is Melissa’s breakfast – a “pad see you”. It looks like a traditional Thai style pad see ew noodle dish but it comes with an egg, broccolini and capsicum. Delicious. I order the BW Paijun – a savoury pancake similar to a Japanese okonomiyaki but with shrimp, bacon, cherry and bell peppers, a poached egg and soy sesame sauce.

Genius and delicious.

Meanwhile Christina and Peter are destroying their Kai Gata with Crispy Rainbow. It’s a skillet of two fried eggs, pork roll, chicken mango, fried onion and Maggi sauce. They’ve also gone for ‘Millionaire Bacon’ which is thick cut candied bacon that sticks to your teeth and takes bacon to a new level.

And of course there’s a bowl of heirloom potato frites to go with it. After all, this is breakfast!

And before we know it, we’re off, coming back down to land amongst the city streets of San Diego. Landing in this city is always fun because you fly in through the buildings. It’s amazing.

Next, we get stuck into the wealth of Mexican food that SD has to offer and we meet up with some old friends.

We hope you enjoyed this IG Ed and that you’re looking forward to next Monday’s story. Stay classy, San Diego!

Jim & Christina xx

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