Welcome back! To me, that is. Once again I know you’re all anxiously waiting for some new sass to hit the interwebs and I am here to serve. Herewith you will find a non-brief (tried to make it brief but failed) recollection of my 6 month stint in Northern California. I went a bunch of places, ate a lot of food, and saw a lot of things. And, as a way of recording my time and adventures, I will now commence to sharing them with you. Many of these activities were conducted with friends or family members, though I may not mention them specifically. You know who you are. Here’s to you, great friends and family of mine!
In no particular order except how the events come back to me, here is 6 months in NoCal as experienced by Miss Sassy Pants:
Drove to Santa Cruz. Walked and shopped among the hippies in downtown Santa Cruz. Walked the boardwalk at Santa Cruz, spontaneously bought a too-expensive beach chair and sat on the beach to watch my first west-coast sunset. Hiked Mount Diablo, elevation 3,864 feet, approximately 5.5 miles up and 5.5 miles down. Subsequently missed meeting my future husband the next day at Fleet Week due to my inability to walk thanks to epic first hike of my life.
Drove the Golden Gate Bridge greater than or equal to 5 times (over and back). Almost crashed my car on the Golden Gate Bridge due to amazing views and taking pics while driving greater than or equal to 5 times. Walked the beach in Sausalito, parked little Rose next to a Ferrari. Had dinner on the water in Sausalito, best cracked Dungeness crab in my life.
Was a passenger in a short drive up Scenic Highway 1. Hung out the window to take gorgeous pictures and take in the salty coastal breeze. Went from wearing a tank top on one beach to huddling in a sweatshirt and scarf on another about 10 miles away. Hiked up a large hill in bare feet because the potential views were enticing and ballet flats wouldn’t cut it. The view ended up being totally worth sore feet and dirty flats. Put toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time at Muir Beach. Saw some massively huge Redwoods at Muir Woods. Drove through Muir Woods National Park. Discovered that there’s a lot of things and places named after John Muir. He was an important guy back in the day, something to do with nature and preserving or whatever. Discovered Stinson Beach accidentally along Highway 1. Stopped here and ate at an adorable little cafe – best grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Walked along the beach and wished briefly I knew how to surf. Also wished briefly I could move there and hang out on the beach at my whim like the locals. Drove to a tiny town called Fairfax to try to see their Santa Claus. I missed Santa, but I discovered some cute shops, and a neighborhood Irish bar with live legit Irish music. Drank a beer by myself at the bar just to enjoy their camaraderie and beautiful playing and singing. Got lost on the way home thanks to AT&T. Found my way thanks to my iPhone (see how I did that?).
Went to a San Francisco Giants game and watched them beat the Arizona Diamondbacks. Became an instant fan of Buster Posey because a) awesome name, b) great catcher, c) nice tush, d) cutest guy on the team. Bought a t-shirt and am a fan for life (don’t tell Grandad). Ate a healthy helping of garlic fries and paid $9 for a Miller Light, just for the experience. Enjoyed being a local while the Giants cruised their way to being World Series Champions.
Ran a 5k along San Francisco Embarcadero with thousands of other women and men to help fight and raise awareness for breast cancer. Also a good way to stay in shape and enjoy the sites and weather. Ran a 10k at Chrissy Field in the Presidio with 3,000 other women for the annual Mermaid Run. Love the free t-shirt and awesome view of Golden Gate Bridge and the bay.
Went to a farmers market at San Francisco Civic Center and witnessed chickens being illegally sold from the back of a sketchy truck. Chickens were kept in paper bags with 2 holes for breathing. Ick. Enjoyed the Walnut Creek Farmers Market in late summer and early fall. Flirted with the flower man and got free sunflowers. Walked through a Berkeley street market and marveled at the amount of different organic / meat-less food. Went shopping way too many times at the “top grossing mall in California” walking distance from my apartment in downtown Walnut Creek. Vowed to eat at as many restaurants in Walnut Creek as possible in 6 months, then found my favorites within 3 weeks and went mostly to these 4 places regularly (I’m predictable and like what I like).
Went to a pirate bar, a dive bar, and an awesome house party for Halloween. Almost lost my roommate on a Carl Jr. (aka Hardees) run post-Halloween festivities. Discovered a designer outlet thanks to a coworker in an obscure corner of Concord. Went there too often, but have some great dresses for the cruise and the summer. Walked along the Marina. Walked Polk St. Went to Nick’s Crispy Tacos. Witnessed Nick’s going from daytime tex-mex haven to swanky bangin’ nightclub. Weird. Skipped work to play tourist with a friend in San Francisco. Went to Union Square, watched ice skaters, saw the huge Christmas tree, had appetizers and huge drinks atop Macy’s with a great view of the square and the skyline. Witnessed a Santa bar crawl. Never saw so many different sized and dressed Santas anywhere. Attended a Christmas party at a college friend’s apartment in the Financial District and discovered I love balconies no matter how small or weirdly placed they are – she had 8, including one in each bathroom. Walked Embarcadero many times, saw new things each time. Went in each shop on Fisherman’s Wharf, enjoyed Dungeness crab from at least 3 different restaurants. Watched the sea lions nap in the sun and bark at each other. Couldn’t find a decent San Fran Christmas ornament for my mother (still in the doghouse for this one).
Met a bunch of people who work for Google. Realized 1) it’s true that they’re all really smart, 2) I don’t want to work there despite free food and bike riding. Got a mini tour of one of the Zynga studios. Realized I’d love to have free gummy bears, soda, and cereal available to me all day, but I don’t want to work there either. Realized start-ups are super trendy and everyone wants to be in the club…it’s hard to be a corporate worker bee with all the creative types inventing the next Facebook. But they sure are fun people.
Spontaneously solo road-tripped to Monterrey just to see the bay from that side. Intended to find a quiet beach to plop down and read, and instead walked the historic district, found a massive antique store, and got a parking ticket. Realized then how close I was to Pebble Beach and cruised down Highway 1 to check out the greens. Paid a friendly gate attendant $9.50 for entrance and had probably the most beautiful 17 mile drive of my life. Didn’t even realize there was more to see than “just a golf course” and was pleasantly and amazingly surprised at all the gorgeousness. Wished I’d had a real fancy camera for about the thousandth time. Spotted George Lopez in an golf antiques and art store. Bought Poppa Pants an awesome (in my opinion) yardage guide because a) I know he’s going to go there eventually and could use this, b) I wanted to get him a souvenir, and c) it was the only thing in the club shop under $25. Had dinner at the Tap Room (at that bar in the picture) and made friends with some fairly wealthy gentlemen of leisure. We chatted college football and basketball, and I practically convinced them they loved VT as much as I do (it’s a gift). Also convinced them no one does college football like The South. South EAST that is. It’s hard to disagree with me when I speak the truth.
Made friends with a random chick and her boyfriend after my roommate drunkenly / creepily followed them to a bar. Definitely the number one most interesting way I’ve ever ended up with a good friend. Found a bunch of Hokies at the Bus Stop bar every Saturday (and one Thursday), made friends, and cheered on our boys in Orange and Maroon as we cruised our way to 11 straight victories and an ACC Championship (again). Talked smack about Stanford at work to the haters before the Orange Bowl. Talked smack about Stanford at work to the haters after the Orange Bowl. Talked smack about Cal Berkeley football all the time because they are turrible all the time.
Drove through every neighborhood in San Francisco and then realized there were more that I’d end up not seeing. Ate amazing Italian food in North Beach. Saw adorable little uniformed Italian boys playing basketball at the Catholic school. Attended the best musical / play / live performance of my life when I saw Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest running musical revue. Went to the top of Coit Tower. There were a lot of stairs. Rode a trolley. Napped in Alamo Sqaure. Took multiple pictures with the Painted Ladies while listening to the Full House jam (thanks to my awesome cousin). Found the real Full House house. Drove down Lombard Street and the “crookedest street in America,” numerous times. Got stuck in San Francisco traffic a billion times, once during the first thunderstorm in years. Went shopping in Haight-Ashbury. Got scared by the panhandlers. Found some awesome deals and had yummy hot chocolate with a new good friend.
Salsa danced in the Mission. Ate mediocre Thai food in SOMA. Had a fantastic and huge brunch in Hayes Valley. Read a book on a blanket somewhere in Golden Gate Park. Got somewhat lost in Golden Gate Park. Attended a concert in Golden Gate Park. Drove the length of Golden Gate Park and discovered Ocean Beach at the end of it. Watched wind-surfers, thought it looked simultaneously thrilling and frightening, and got sand in my cowboy boots. Enjoyed a delicious meal at the Cliff House (or Cliff House). Walked part of the cliffs and once again wished for a fancy camera.
Ventured to the beautiful Napa Valley in a chauffeured town car. Thought we could handle 4 or 5 wineries and realized our error after the 3rd. Drank amazing wine. Discovered a delicious and weirdly named cheese (which I now cannot remember) in some random roadside grocery. Went to a members-only wine tasting in Sonoma. Enjoyed an unplanned road trip with girlfriends to Sonoma and all flirted shamelessly with our precious waiter at Girl and the Fig. Found some delicious wine by picking the prettiest building along the way.
Sacrificed my future first born child to fly back to VA for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Wanted, then yearned, then was desperate for Bose noise-canceling headphones. Realized flying west is definitely harder on a body and internal clock than flying east. Loved every second of my time in Frisco Bay, and couldn’t be happier to be back on the right coast. Because they just don’t do BBQ out there like they do here.
And if I left something off, it’s in my heart and mind full of happy memories!