Our non-stop flight from Baltimore took us to Oakland airport, so our first stop was the Rockridge neighbourhood where we met up with a dear friend and her three-year-old twins. When we lived in San Francisco many years ago we hadn't spent any time in Oakland, so we were really surprised by the beautiful homes and amazing views across the bay. If staying in SF is too expensive I would definitely try a home swap or Airbnb in Oakland near a Bart station.
We had an easy Mexican lunch at Cactus Taqueria which is about as child-friendly as you can get; high chairs, plenty of space for prams, casual, roomy bathroom, and mess on the floor is A-OK. We popped into Trader Joe's across the road for a few supplies and spotted wine packaged in tins! Too funny!
Then the allure of Smitten Ice Cream was too much. Our girls chose a cup each of Tcho Chocolate and Salted Caramel, which was made right in front of us with liquid nitrogen and had a super-intense flavour. It's a great industrial-style space to check out.
Still not quite on West Coast time, we were early to bed and then up early in the morning, so we headed to the Ferry Building on the F streetcar. The vintage streetcars are a fun experience and ours was originally from Milan with all the Italian signage intact. My husband and the girls continued on to touristy Pier 39 to see the sea lions, and I stopped at the Ferry Building Marketplace for great coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee (ie the kind we are used to in Australia!) and to meet up with one of my work colleagues at Solar Analytics who is based there. Check out our view of the bay for our coffee meeting!
The Ferry Building holds a farmer's market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays which I missed, but it was great to check out all the cafes, restaurants and gourmet food stores anyway. It was then time to check out, so took our hire car for a spin to Lombard Street navigate the hairpin turns with the tourists, and marvel at the hydrangeas in bloom and views to Coit Tower.
Then we headed to nearby lower Pacific Heights for lunch at wholefoods cafe Jane. The wait for a table was a serious competitor sport! Like most cafes we passed in San Francisco, it was full of people working on their laptops and eating/drinking coffee very slowly. There were lots of cute shops nearby including the Jonathon Adler store which had a striking glass bubble lamp in the window. The photo definitely doesn't do it justice.
We then drove through the Marina to take the kids over the Golden Gate Bridge which was a real thrill. There was no fog, which is unusual, and the views were glorious. (note, there is a toll to take the bridge so make sure you have some cash on hand).
Then it was time to head to the airport, but we decided to take our time and stop off to take pics of some of the places that we first met and where we lived, taking us through the Castro, Duboce Triangle, Noe Valley and Bernal Heights.
We couldn't resist stopping for one more ice cream fix at my all-time favourite, Mitchell's Ice Cream on the edge of Noe Valley and Bernal Heights. It's all about the flavours at this old school ice creamery, and although I was tempted by the tropical flavours of fruit from the Philippines, I went with my old favourite - Mexican chocolate. So good!
We only just scratched the surface of all the amazing things to do in San Francisco, but then - we only had 24 hours. Watch this space for our next trip.
Images: Steph Bond-Hutkin | Bondville