In honor of having the day off for Independence Day, my housemate Karina and I decided to adventure off to San Francisco! While not too far from Novato, where we’re living, it is a bit of a trek, and between traffic and parking costs, driving there is something I try to avoid. So, we decided to take the ferry! This ended up being quite fun – not only is it barely more expensive than bussing, but it also gives you some fantastic views as you pull into the San Francisco Ferry Building!
From there, we headed to Chinatown. As the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, and the oldest Chinatown in the U.S., this had been on my list to visit. After passing through Dragon’s Gate, which marks the entrance to Chinatown, Karina and I first just wandered around, glancing around at the shops and the hanging lanterns over the street. We bopped in an and out of a few shops, and then headed to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, which I head read about. We got free samples (!), but otherwise this was a fairly uneventful stop; we essentially waited in a long line to walk into the store for about two minutes – but the free samples were tasty! By this point it was just after noon, so we decided to start scoping out a lunch spot.
We passed a few Chinese bakeries, a few dim sum spots, but nothing that particularly caught our eye. Then we saw a little hole-in-the-wall advertising lots of options, and figuring it would be as good as anything else, we stepped in. After standing there confused and looking around for several minutes (“where are the menus? what are the prices?”), we finally tried to ask the owner/worker where the menus were. Waving us to a table, he told us to sit down, said it was all you can eat (for a reasonable $8 – inc. tax!), and that he would bring us the food. We laughed, delighted by this turn of events (indecision on where to eat -> decision -> confusion -> now we’re sitting down to eat and have no idea what we’re about to eat!).
A few minutes later, we were brought several barbecue pork bao and some pork dumplings (I do not know exactly what they were called. The bao were excellent! Karina had never had them before, and I love them! We were quite pleased. Still, this was an all-you-can-eat affair, and we did not want to fill up too fast. So, making friends with a family at the neighboring table, we shared a bit of our food and it was quickly gone. Next, our server brought us fried rice with fried shrimp on top, and little spring rolls. This was followed by noodles (at Karina’s request) and birthday buns (at mine). We continued our neighborly sharing, and they reciprocated, offering us some broccoli and squash in a delicious brown sauce. We next asked for seafood dumplings and another kind of bao. Karina and I were truly having an excellent time, laughing as we tried things we couldn’t quite identify, looking things up to try to educate ourselves, and generally eating ourselves silly. We concluded our meal with dessert buns – wisely splitting one each (despite the all-you-eat-deal) of the custard and taro buns. Both were delicious! I know and love taro (and its color!), and the custard bun was a fun new one for me! With full stomachs and happy hearts, we headed out.
Continuing our day of adventures, we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf – a spot on Karina’s list. Wandering down the coast and in and out of shops, passing up the ridiculously priced $20 admission to see the interior of a giant boat, and enjoying the sight of Alcatraz Island in the distance. After grabbing some ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s (dairy free for me!), we wandered through Ghiradelli Square, where I took a yearning gander at the extravagant Ghiradelli ice cream offerings (very dairy-full!), and acquired two free chocolate samples!
Feeling we’d had enough excitement and adventure for a while, we next headed to look for a cafe at which to hang while waiting to meet up with some other friends for fireworks. You might think this would be an easy task, but it was not. Few coffee shops exist near the wharf area, and those that do are mostly chains (i.e. Starbucks) with little-to-no seating available. We were looking to buy real estate for a few hours – not just coffee.
After walking in and out of about three unsatisfactory places, we headed to Cafe Francisco, which perfectly fit our bill! Karina got a lovely little espresso, I opted for a delicious Caramelita bar, and we even scored a table near an outlet! Continuing our luck and wondrous adventure of a day, a man in the cafe kindly offered us free fresh watermelon, which we happily accepted! I have no idea what the occasion was, but we certainly weren’t complaining!
After a few hours of work/reading, Karina and I headed back to Sausalito to meet our friends. Our journey was a bit eventful, involving us racing (i.e. sprinting for a half a mile) to a bus stop, only to have the bus not show up – even after almost 15 minutes; us then ordering an Lyft, which called us and to which we had to walk multiple times because traffic was blocked; the Lyft then dropping us about a half mile past where it was supposed to; and then us finally finding our friends. We walked through the cute town of Sausalito to the pier to watch the fireworks, but funny enough, we never really saw any! They were supposed to happen at 9:30, and by 10 we were tired of waiting and decided to head home – we saw a few from the road at least! This was Karina’s first time in the U.S. for July Fourth, but even she agreed that we’d had a fantastic day, and fireworks or no fireworks certainly wasn’t going to change that!