in the unlikely event that anyone cares what we did out there:
* arrived in SF and took a BART train to a station three blocks from our hotel in the edgy/hip/mexican Mission District. public transit is awesome.
* hotel was fine - it was actually a hostel. it was basically like a dorm, though we had our own room and bathroom. i am sure that sometime in the recent past it was a sleazy flophouse crackhead hotel, but it's fine now. $60/night in a cool location in san francisco isn't bad - amazing rooftop bar/deck and cool moroccan restaurant/lounge downstairs. http://www.elementshotel.com/
* walked around the Mission - bodegas and taquerias and pawn shops mixed with art galleries, bookstores, hip boutiques, etc.
* had lunch at a random taqueria, where we had awesome burritos. there was a spicy housemade guacamole goo in a squeeze bottle at each table that was addictive. i probably squeezed ten ounces of it on my burrito, chips, plate, face, etc.
* san francisco is so pretty - we weren't even staying in the north/rich/famous side of town, but the vistas of all the hills and trees and houses stacked tightly together everywhere was just awesome.
* walked up to the haight-ashbury area, which was actually better than i thought it would be. it had the expected crusty hippie and gutter-punk contingent, but there were a lot of nice restaurants and shops and the homes/apartments flanking the area on steep hills were great. lots of awesome victorian houses.
* had dinner at Foreign Cinema, next door to our hotel. http://www.foreigncinema.com/home.html
fine dining outside (under heat lamps) with a foreign film projected onto a huge screen. very, very nice place. we were still stuffed from our burritos, so we ate light - oysters (my first time with oysters, and i am now obsessed), salmon and hamachi tartare, salad, mussels, wine, etc. delicious food in a beautiful environment. very memorable.
* asked the server for a recommendation for post-dinner drinks and entertainment, and ended up at a bar a couple of blocks away where this cool gypsy jazz band (http://www.gauchojazz.com/
) was playing - horns, accordion, fiddle, guitar, etc. http://www.amnesiathebar.com/Amnesia/Am ... html
no cover, cheap-enough drinks, very cool place with a sort of victorian/speakeasy/absinthe sort of feel. no smoking in cali, so it was a pleasant place to be. we were exhausted though, so we left early and were asleep by 11pm.
* woke up and went straight to Ocean Beach, on the far west side of town next to golden gate park. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Ocea ... .jpg
this was our first beaching of the trip, and it was a beautiful day - 60, sunny, and windy. we frolicked and it was fun.
* walked through Golden Gate Park (very nice) and through another segment of the Haight-Ashbury area, where i spent a lot of time and money at Amoeba Records, probably the best record store in america. http://www.amoeba.com/
they have everything. they probably had 75 linear shelf feet of jazz records, most of them still in shrinkwrap. i bought a lot of music that sounds like GZHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!.
* we then made our way downtown to the Ferry Building area - this was more "classic" san francisco, with lots of streetcars and whatnot. the Ferry Building is a large marketplace with restaurants, gourmet food shops, etc. and also serves as the ferry terminal for ferry boats across the bay to sausalito, etc. my gf bought some delicious olive oil. we had lunch at Hog Island Oyster Co. http://www.hogislandoysters.com/templat ... Id=0
which was amazing. we ate incredibly fresh oysters, fresh oyster stew made to order, salad, etc. outdoors on the pier area and watched boats and seagulls and people. the weather was literally perfect.
* after oysters, we took a streetcar up a 90-degree incline to chinatown, which was about what you would expect. it was very touristy, and mostly consisted of chinese restaurants and stores selling chinese junk, but it was also really interesting. tea shops, herb shops, chinese healing practitioners, lots of bright signs and red lanterns. it was fun.
* we then walked through the union square area, which is a congested shopping district like soho in new york. lots of really expensive stores (prada, etc.). the architecture was great. we were exhausted and decided to go to the hotel to rest up for our 9:15 dinner reservation.
* had dinner at COI, where we had an incredible, adventurous 11-course dinner with wine pairings (which turned out to be a 14 or 15-course dinner with all the little surprise dishes they brought out.) some of the dishes were better than others, but all were an A+ and some were an A+++. http://www.coirestaurant.com/menu-dinner.html.
all but a couple of the pairings were just amazing - there were a couple of duds where they paired ho-hum beers with two delicious asian dishes. it was very expensive, but incredible. i won't bore you with details of each dish, but i will say that one of the four (!) desserts was the best dessert we've ever had: chocolate mesquite cake with pumpkin ice cream, roasted pumpkin seeds, etc. god. i could eat that into infinity. oh, and we finished off with a small vanilla/olive oil milkshake that we still fantasize about.
* drove through Napa, which was gorgeous. stopped at a couple of wineries, and had lunch at Bouchon. http://www.bouchonbistro.com/
* drove through wine country some more, got sidetracked in Santa Rosa (maybe the most beautiful suburban town ever), then drove through some redwood forests in the dark on a harrowing road up to Mendocino, which is about four hours north of SF on the coast. got in to the hotel (http://www.stanfordinn.com/
) sort of late, and just had time for a family dinner at a seafood place, then zoned out in front of the fireplace.
* relaxed and had a very good breakfast at the hotel, then headed into downtown Mendocino. i was not really expecting much from Mendocino, but it was a really charming town. it has a sort of seaside-new england feel and sits directly on the ocean amidst bluffs, huge rocks, etc. it reminded me of "goonies." the day was cool, grey, and misty, adding to the new england-ness of it all. the town is pretty touristy, but not in an off-putting way. mostly it felt like what it is - a small upscale/hippie coastal town sandwiched between redwood forests and a craggy coastline. there were several good restaurants, some fun shops, cafes, etc. the people who live here are very lucky - there are some amazing old houses perched atop bluffs overlooking the ocean.
* we tromped around in the wet sandy beaches and coastal grasslands and just had an amazing time exploring the coast. it was the most beautiful place i have ever been. we took a lot of photos, but i doubt they will do it justice.
* we then went into the mendocino forest state park area and walked around huge redwoods (very tall ones, but not the super-wide ones which lie an hour or so away). the forest smelled awesome. we didn't have much time here because we had to get back to the hotel for the wedding ceremony, but it was awesome and we really want to go back.
* after the ceremony we went out for a delicious, though laborious, 4-hour chef's tasting dinner with the family and guests at a quaint house-based farm-to-table restaurant in mendocino. http://www.maccallumhouse.com/pages/res ... html
it was very good.
* our flight left SF at 3pm, so we left mendocino around 7:45 to drive down Highway 1, the coastal highway. it was unreal - 175 miles of a narrow, winding road following the coastline. for most of it, you see the ocean from bluffs of varying heights on the west, then huge forested hills on the east. around 70 miles north of SF, the landscape was even more dramatic, as we followed the road around huge coastal cliffs with massive rocks coming from the ocean. i hoped to see whales, but this is not whale season. this scenery was just unbelievable.
* we wanted to stop off somewhere for seafood or something, but the drive took longer than expected, we hit traffic going into SF, etc. so we had a bit of a scramble getting to the airport. a bit of a stressful end to such a relaxing, regenerative couple of days, but that's fine.
perhaps this will wear off, but we left just completely enamored with the area. my gf and i talked at length about maybe moving out there, and maybe we will. it was nice to come home, but for me KC felt like such a huge letdown! haha. KC is charming and quiet and cheap, but it was great to see a place that justifies its expense (unlike NYC imo).