Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Last Weekender: San Francisco

San Francisco is one of my happy places. It was one of the first places I ever traveled too, and one of the few cities that I've had the chance to visit over and over. From going to Berkeley with my Model United Nations team twice during high school (complete with a day of sight seeing in SF both times) to two weekend trips to San Francisco in college for the Weekender, I was excited to spend the weekend in the Bay area.

(Every year, USC students head up to San Francisco for the Weekender--the weekend that our football team plays either Stanford or Berkeley.)

Every trip has been spent with good friends and have only lasted a weekend, but slowly and surely I've been checking off all the To Do's around San Fran---multiple trips and vintage shopping adventures on Haight & Ashbury, Golden Gate Bridge photo ops, eating a bread bowl with clam chowder at Fisherman's Wharf, shopping in Union Square, riding Bart and Muni all over the city, and exploring Berkeley. I was excited to relax this trip and just spend the weekend hanging out without worrying I was missing anything. I only had one goal for the weekend: to make it to Ghirardelli Square for the first time to try an ice cream sundae.

Since I had a night class until 8, we left for our road trip at 8:30 and started the long drive to my roommate's house in Los Gatos for the night. Despite an I'n'Out drive through stop (sense a theme happening?) and stop for gas and snacks, we made it to her house by 2am. After sleeping in and eating a Starbucks breakfast, we drove the last hour into the city. It was my first time staying in a hotel in the city, so I had zero expectations. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Union Square because my roomie's dad had work connections with the hotel. I was already impressed by the location and skyscraper, but my jaw dropped when we walked into our room and raised the blinds. Our room was on the 31st floor (woo! highest I've been in a building) and the view of the bay, city, and Alcatraz was incredible.

It was around noon and we started looking Ike's place's online menu for lunch. With some scandalous names and crazy combinations--the Kryptonite sandwich has 7 meats and 6 fried food items shoved in there--Ike's Place was recommended to us as having the the best sandwiches that are also the size of a small child. After ordering the Nacho Girl sandwich with avocado, lettuce, cheese, and salmon burger, we all hopped onto Muni to grab the food. Once we walked a few blocks and found the shop, we skipped the growing line and picked up our sandwiches, chips, and Ike's sodas to go. The concierge at the hotel told us the local thing to do would be to picnic in the park, so we grabbed a spot on the hill at Dolores Park and dug in.

With one brief stint of someone crazy yelling and strangers helping people fly kites barefoot, I think we all felt pretty satisfied that we were experiencing the true city. We hung out for awhile and somehow all of us managed to eat our entire sandwiches while promising we were never going to eat again.

Our never eating again plan quickly ended once we got back to the hotel, put on some warmer clothes, and taxied over to Gharadelli Square. While it was underwhelming, I wanted to finally check this tourist stop off my list. I wish I had saved more room to have a sundae all to my own, but the bites of the original sundae were absolutely delicious. After eating, we moved on to the next stop request of irish coffees. I tried a sip of a friend's, but seeing as how I don't drink coffee and don't like whiskey I was happy not ordering my own.

A quick taxi ride back to the hotel, and our food adventure continued with hotel treats. One of the best parts about our hotel was that we were allowed into the hotel's "club" which had free breakfast, snacks, and appetizers at 6. Our food intake for the day was already reaching all time highs, but we managed to grab several fried macaroni and cheese appetizers and fruit for dinner in the room while we got ready to go out for the night.

Friday night was spent at the Triangle Bars, and although I had a great time there last year, I ended up in a bad mood and having a pretty meh night. I'm going to blame it on sleeping on a couch the night before and walking all over San Fran that made me get tired and grumpy.

The next day we had breakfast and quickly threw on our USC game day outfits before catching BART to UC Berkeley. I always geek out over public transportation and BART has always been my favorite, so I was very happy to start off game day that way. The weekender game day went pretty similar to USC: we stopped at the frats to tailgate, ate a bacon wrapped hot dog, and headed to the stadium. It was fun hanging out with so many Trojans and friendly Cal students at a few frat houses. After spending half the game in the stadium and realizing we were going to win, we celebrated at the college sports bar Pappy's next to campus. It was so much fun being at a college bar which was actually affordable and nicer than the bar at USC. As much love as I have for the 90, having actual cheap drinks and a bright atmosphere was a very nice change of scenery. It was a ton of fun, but by the time we finally took BART back to the hotel we were all so exhausted that we napped and rested until dinner.

We ate dinner down the street from the hotel which was slightly expensive and average (except for an amazing Russian Mule drink) before heading to a bar called Playland. Although we were skeptical of the name, it ended up being so much fun. With a chiller bar on the first floor and a dance area on the second, we stayed there for most of the night and had a great time. A little after 1 we decided to try to bar hop with little success--we made it to another bar before realizing that it was a little too odd to hang out in or mention on the blog and called it a night.
Best drink of the night.

That Sunday was the end of my first week of half marathon training (btw training for my first half marathon!), so I knew I had to do my first long run or lose the momentum I had just started. I ran 4 miles down Market Street and along the harbor. It was nice being in cool air and getting to run downtown and along the ocean in such a pretty city before having to make the 7 hour drive back. Before leaving, I took advantage of free breakfast with a view at the club one last time before throwing all my stuff in my suitcase and heading out.

The rest of the road trip back was filled with In'n'Out (duh), playlists, traffic, and a million weird conversations. It was a little sad knowing that was our last Weekender as students, but if Instagram is any indicator of after grad life (obviously the best source to take seriously) then we will soon be one of the millions of alum that make the annual trip up to the Bay next year. 

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