my day alone in San Francisco

The day after we landed in Southern California for our summer trip, Casey and I jumped back on the plane (sans kids) and headed to San Francisco, for one day. He went for business; I went for fun.

Warning: Tons of photos. But it’s a city to be savored.

Whenever I can, I tag along with Casey on business trips–thanks to wonderful parents who look after our kiddos. Every time he heads out the hotel door for business meetings he looks at me (still laying in the hotel bed) and asks, so….what are you going to do all day, alone, by yourself?

I kind of laugh.

Isn’t that every mom’s dream? A few moments of total alone time? An excuse to be selfish and remember what it was like when every second of the day was your own? To eat when you want, shop when you want, and no one to look after? Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change being a mom for my single-lady days but it’s sure fun to live it up here and there.

So for one day I explored San Francisco.

Our hotel–the old Westin–was right in the heart of shopping and food. Great old vintage building:

I spent the morning being lazy, watching TV, reading and by 11am I was on my feet hitting the streets.

Now apparently I missed the “summers in San Francisco” memo.

I’ve been to this city about 10 times before. But always in the Fall, when the air is crisp and cool and the sky is blue. So I sort of expected the summer to be similar but warmer.


The summer there is sort of like a So. Cal winter–cold, gray, and sometimes foggy.

Yea. I brought flip flops.

And thankfully I threw in running shoes at the last moment.

So…I was ever so stylish with skinny jeans, running shoes, and every layer of clothing from my suitcase. Warmth over fashion?

The first place I looked up was Britex Fabrics. Many of you mentioned it in my “do you have a favorite fabric shop” post. So I plugged the address into my phone and google maps said it was 200 feet away from our hotel; 3 minutes on foot.

Um. Awesome.

The store was beautiful. 4 narrow floors of fabric, and fabric, and trims, and buttons.

It’s not for the casual sewer–the fabrics are pricey. But if you’re looking for something, anything unique they have it.

I fell in love with these colorful eyelets.

But not $25/yard in love. Actually, looking at these pics now I should have purchased the green and orange one.

After Britex I hit the street for more adventure.

I was hungry. So I jumped on a Trolley, headed for the wharf.

If you’ve never taken a ride, it’s probably worth trying out. Be prepared for frequent stops, jerky movements, grinding gears, and lots of laughter from the riders (our driver was hilarious).

I landed at the very touristy Fistherman’s Wharf. I remember this place–and Pier 39–from many childhood visits.

So what did I eat?

This of course.

Oh I could just inhale that scent all day long.

Clam chowder and bread bowls ready to go.

Sadly, I’m not a seafood person.

But I’m always a grilled cheese one.

For the next hour I sat on a bench in the warm sunshine (if finally came out!), with steam and lovely smells from the bakery pouring down near me, a street performer singing and playing “Mrs. Robinson” on his guitar, and just people watched. Does it get more San Francisco than that? This moment alone made my day.

And got me thinking about the best San Francisco movies of all time (based in the city or Bay area). Here’s what I came up with. Let me know if you have more to add:

What’s Up Doc?

The Graduate

Escape from Alcatraz

The Birds


So I Married an Axe Murderer

The Rock

Forrest Gump–parts of it

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill–interesting documentary

The Game–love me some Michael Douglas

The Social Network

Kuffs–has anyone else seen that movie?

Full House–not a movie–shot on some Burbank sound stage–but that classic opener!

After lunch I explored the wharf.

One day I’ll take a tour of Alcatraz. And quote Phil Hartman–I mean Vicki–while I’m there.

Close up:

An hour later I was ready for dessert.

Specifically, Ghirardelli Chocolate….or a freaking huge, indulgent, Ghirardelli sundae? Sure.

(a cute sign I saw on my walk to the square)

Ah! Heaven.

My treat is on the left (not a frappuccino-y drink, but a huge mound of gooey ice cream sin). The guy next to me had the thing on the right.

2 scoops of ice cream, 2 types of homemade Ghirardelli fudge/caramel, fresh whipped cream, (hold the nuts) and a cherry on top = $8.

Crazy? Yes.

Worth it? Totally.

He did pretty good with his mint ‘n chip:

(thankfully I only ate half of it).

These cute kids played at the fountain near the shop. And I felt a small ping of loneliness for my own kids. Isn’t that funny? We look forward to peace and quiet from our crazy mom lives. And the moment we get it, we just think about the kids. It’s a balancing act.

Very San Fransisco. Can’t you smell the air?

I decided that after melted cheese and 10 thousand calories of ice cream and fudge I should probably walk my way home. So I went up one hill, and the next, and another and tried to find side streets with cute homes and a San Fran vibe.

There were quiet streets:

and populated streets:

Cute architecture.

Grass and trees. It’s not all cement!

More trolley cars.

This is the closest I got to the Golden Gate Bridge. What a shame.

Next trip I vow to snap a pretty photo. I blame the fog.

Pretty view from the top of some street–one of many streets I hiked. That’s the funny thing about Google maps. They’ll hold your hand from point A to point B, re-routing when you make a wrong turn. But there’s no way to tell on the blasted map if a street has a 60 degree incline! Can Google, Apple, or somebody please work on that?

Pretty hydrangeas.

The top of Lombard Street:

The bottom of Lombard Street:

Cute houses in-between:

I understand why people leave their hearts here.

retro wall:

Just a corner store.


I promise, this is the last trolley car.

And yes, I stopped here.

I finished off the day strolling around town with Casey and eating yummy Indian at a nearby restaurant.

24 hours well spent!

The next morning I hung out at the airport for 3 hours while Casey boarded another flight for Seattle (busy travel man).

I enjoyed the free wifi and decided that a turquoise plane is really, really cute.

And what a difference an hour plane ride makes. I went from the drizzle above, to the sunny Long Beach Airport. Btw, Jet Blue planes are pretty cute too.

Landing at small airports is the best. I love de-boarding into fresh air, right on the tarmac. Although a bunch of cameras and “hail to the chief” playing as we walk down the stairs would be a nice touch.

Instead I walked by myself to these quirky little bungalows.

Yep, that’s the airport.

Here’s what it looks like inside. Sometimes small birds are flying around and poking at crumbs on the floor next to you.

Thanks Northern California for a fun visit! I loved your sites, smells, and sounds.

I think I’m still a Southern Calif girl at heart though.

Just driving by this reminded me why.

Happy Weekend, wherever you are in the world!

  1. 1) Christen

    Okay… I know I’m a bit late in adding a comment but I arrived at this post by way of another posted recently. A movie to add: Mrs. Doubtfire (awesome Robin Williams classic). He was known to walk around the neighborhoods between shoots, dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire, and interact with unsuspecting locals. Wish I was one of them!

  2. 2) Mary

    LOVED your post. I am a mom and I am going to travel alone to SF this weekend too. Everything that you mentioned sounds exactly what I might end up doing. Thanks!

  3. An amazing post! I stumbled on it when googling what to do alone in SF and you really made me smile šŸ™‚ You have a beautiful way of writing – painting your day with words and photos. Looking forward for my day alone in the city in a few days!

  4. 4) darlene

    i cannot imagine how i missed this post …. san francisco, i did leave my heart there, i’m a 3rd generation san francisco girl, mom born here, gramma born here, grampa born here … i love it … graduated from the old lowell high school on masonic and then … delved into the hippy world of the haight/ashbury … lol … seriously, i still love the city and would love to visit, but never to move back; it’s changed a lot and i like what i remember … the summers suck; cold and fog, lots of it …. but, in may when school is almost over and september, around the jewish holy holidays, the weather is SPECTACULAR — that’s when we cut classes and went to stinson beach in marin county …. oooh, the memories … so lovely …. i’m glad you had a wonderful time there …
    the *trolly* is really called a cable car; bouden’s sourdough should have a hard enough crust to make your gums bleed when biting into it … ymmmmm goooddd ….

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