San Francisco, CA 5/26-5/29, 2017

It’s already mid-June (it’s crazy to think that the first half of 2017 is gone!!!), and it’s been almost 3 weeks since I had my 8th solo travel to San Francisco!! Time flies with its full speed, seriously. I wanted to write about my trip sooner, but I’ve been very busy with my PhD work and I got really sick, so I didn’t get to write. Now is better than never, though! I tend to plan a vacation when there’s a jazz concert I want to go to. This year, Phoenix has been doing so much better than the past years, there have been many awesome shows, but still, majority of musicians I like never play here. So it’s been my dream to live in the city that has a great jazz scene, which would make it either New York City or San Francisco (I heard that Seattle is pretty good, too, and I’m really hoping to go to Seattle this October!). There was a concert that I really wanted to go to in SF, and the time was perfect (Memorial Day weekend), so I decided to go on another solo travel to SF! (I’m going to write a separate post about jazz.)

I have a good friend who lives in SF and could’ve potentially let me crash at his place, but I booked an Airbnb place this time. There were many homes that were available, but the listings were going fast because it was a 3 day weekend, and they were quite pricey for me to afford. I got lucky and found a reasonably priced (for a grad student) place in Potrero Hill neighborhood. When I look for an Airbnb home, I care about the price the most, but I also care about the safety since I am traveling alone. There weren’t many reviews available, but it seemed like a cute home, so I just decided to book it, and it was such a great decision! I took a Lyft from SFO to Potrero Hill, and the Lyft driver said that Potrero Hill is one of the prettiest and safest neighborhood in SF. This neighborhood was very hilly and it was great for the whole view of San Francisco. I could see all the tall buildings and the Bay Bridge! My host was very sweet and her place was very artsy and cute with a gorgeous view of the bay area! The first night I got there, she offered me a glass of wine and the dinner she got from the Sunflower Vietnamese restaurant she got a night before. She also had a cute kitty cat!

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This was my second time visiting San Francisco. I had a short weekend trip to SF in May 2016. I had only one day to explore the city; I walked through the Golden Gate Park (which was such a beautiful place) the first night, and I walked from Mission Bay neighborhood to the Lombard Street and Hyde street all the way to the North Sea. There was so much to do, so much to see, and so much to feel! So for this trip, I had planned to visit places that I didn’t get to explore last year, including Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park (wanted to re-visit), SFMOMA and Aquarium of the Bay, but I realized that my plans were too crammed. My host recommended to visit the farmers market that takes place at the Ferry Building Marketplace by Embarcadero, so I was going to do that, but I ended up sleeping in the next day (I only had one hour of sleep before getting on the plane, so I was very exhausted by the time I got to San Francisco..), which means that my plans got all mixed up, so I decided to just play it by ear. I was supposed to go to the SFJazz center to see Michel Camilo for his solo stuff at 11am, but very unfortunately, that didn’t happen, either….

Anyways, I started exploring. I was walking towards the Ferry Building, but I randomly decided to check out this bakery called b. patisserie in Pacific Heights close to the Presidio. I could’ve taken a bus, but I forgot to bring cash (it’s $2.50 to get the MUNI pass including trains and buses, and one pass is good for about 3-4 hours), so I started walking down. The houses along the hill were beautiful. It was the perfect combination of Victorian houses and modern houses. All the houses had beautiful flowers in their front yard, and there was even a “secret passage” that had a bunch of flowers!! I should’ve walked through there and see where it takes me to, but I just kept walking down the hill. All the cars need to be parked orthogonal to the hill because of the steepness of the hills. I saw many cars coming up the hill, and somehow I could feel that the cars are working very hard to drive up those steep hills. Actually, I saw a lot of people biking up and down the hill, and it was pretty impressive. I bike a lot and just going through the headwind is already hard enough for me, but going up-hill without gears sounds pretty crazy!!! I did see a dad on his bike, and his son attached to his bike, and he was biking uphill. Commitment. Pretty cool. Walking down the hills and looking at the buildings from the top of the hill somehow reminded me of my childhood. When I lived in S. Korea, I had to walk up pretty steep hill to get to my apartment. It was less steep than SF, obviously, but I remember “hiking” every day to go to school. I used to ride my rollerblades and scooter downhill. Nostalgia!

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One thing I absolutely love about traveling alone is that I can walk around the city while listening to my favorite kind of music until I get exhausted. My go-to playlists for my solo travels include all Hiromi albums, and Chick Corea’s albums, but this time, I was pretty into The RH Factor, led by Roy Hargrove, a jazz trumpeter I’ve become a fan of after seeing him at Blues Alley in DC. The RH Factor was the groovy, funky music that has jazz fundamentals, and this album was cool because some tracks included rappers and vocals. I was listening to his album “Hard Groove”, and this was a perfect playlist for walking around the city.

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On my way to b. patisserie, I noticed that I would be walking near the Painted Ladies. Painted Ladies refer to the Victorian/Edwardian style houses that were painted in three or more colors to highlight the architectural features of the house, and apparently these “Painted Ladies” on the Steiner street are the most famous ones that attract lots of tourists. There was a park across from these houses, so it was a great spot to relax and appreciate the beauty of the architecture. It was also very cool to see the City Hall behind these Painted Ladies!
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After this short break, I continued my exploration, and I loved seeing a lot of different kinds of flowers! I was taking tons and tons of photos of flowers, and it made me feel like I should start my flower collection! My favorite flower is sun flower, but I also love daisies as much as I love sun flowers. There were daisies everywhere on the street!! I took photos of daisies whenever I caught them! Some streets I walked on seemed to have better maintenance; the houses had beautiful landscapes with lots of flowers and trees, the streets were clean, the neighborhood generally felt safe, and they had this unique vibe I could only get from this city!! (Well, of course, there were some scary and shady parts of the city, but that’s inevitable for big cities, I guess.) I’m going to share some of my flower photos I took! Last time I went to DC, I really wished I had brought my DSLR, so I brought my camera to SF and I’m so glad I did. My iPhone7 takes really good photos, too, so I was so busy taking lots of photos using both my camera and my phone.

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It was a little bit after lunch time, and I finally arrived at b. patisserie! I go crazy about baked goods!! I love baking and the list of pastries, cupcakes, cakes and cookies I want to make goes on and on. It’s my dream to own a jazz & art cafe where I can serve coffee and the pastries I bake (possibly simple bites, too)!! So I follow a lot of bakers on Instagram, and I came across b. patisserie Instagram account before I came to SF! Their baked goods were so precious and it was quite overwhelming to decide what to have! After staring at these cuties for a while, I finally decided to have a raspberry tart and chocolate croissant-like pastry with a glass of iced americano! It was really pricey but totally worth it!

After my baked good lunch, I proceeded to the Presidio of San Francisco. The Presidio is a state park that was formerly used to be the US military fort. It became the national park in early 1990s, and it has many hiking trails and recreational areas such as Crissy Field, Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point. I could feel the purifying, elegant and graceful vibes as I entered the Presidio. Tall trees, green leaves, daisies, bright blue sky with some clouds and clean air were just enough to make my heart smile! I was so inspired and moved; my heart was filled with joy and happiness! I could feel that my exhausted body and soul were healed by the nature. Walking in the Presidio was like walking in a peaceful forest, and it helped me clear up my head! I kept walking along, and I started seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. Because it is a hot spot for tourists, it wasn’t surprising to see a lot of people as I got closer to the Golden Gate Bridge. After resting a bit and taking many photos and some selfies, I decided to head back. One thing that I should’ve brought with me was a portable charger because my phone was dying!!! I thought about getting a Lyft, but it was hard to get one and the traffic in the Presidio was quite bad. So I minimized my phone usage, and decided to walk all the way down out of the Presidio. Fortunately, I had my iPad with me so I could still listen to my music. I was walking along the ocean side, and it felt like all the stressful thoughts were blown away by the gorgeous Pacific Ocean view! Walking through the Presidio was an excellent idea.

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I finally got out of the Presidio, then I realized I was walking in the Little Russia in Richmond district. I tried to find Starbucks to rest a bit and charge my phone, but somehow it was hard to find one! I got a Lyft ride to the SF Museum of Modern Arts (MOMA) to meet up with my friend. He couldn’t make it, but I got to explore the museum before they closed! Modern art is very interesting, it makes me think from different points of view. I bought a few postcards that had the art pieces that I loved, and I realized it was almost 8pm! The sunset in San Francisco is not till 8:30pm, but I didn’t want to walk around the city alone in the dark. Since I am so used to the hot AZ weather, windy, 70 degree weather was a bit chilly for me, so I had some udon noodle soup for dinner, and caught a bus to go back to the Airbnb home. I only had a five dollar bill, but the bus driver was kind enough to let me stay on the bus! This day alone, I walked about 12 miles (31,176 steps)!!!

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Next day, I woke up early, but stayed in bed till 9am. As I expected, I was so sore from hiking around the city!! I wanted to go to the Aquarium of the Bay and meet the otters, but my plans failed because my friend didn’t show up to the brunch place on time. It was also really sad because I really really wanted to go to this ice cream place called Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous in Dogpatch, but for some reason, they were closed that day…. So I decided to head over to the Fisherman’s Wharf, and I ran into my friend in the train! We caught up, walked around the pier, had pizza, and saw a group of people protesting for the animal rights!

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I headed back to the Market area because that’s where the SFJazz center is, so I took the F train from Fisherman’s Wharf. These trains are so cute and they are in different colors. The one I was one was a yellow one, and I took a few photos on the train 🙂

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I had some time to spare before the show, so I checked out the 20th Century Bakery, really close to the SFJazz center on Fell/Franklin Street! I actually went there for the Russian honey cake (Medovik, they’re called). I first had the honey cake when our previous postdoc made one and brought it on her last day in our lab. She was born in Russia but grew up in Germany, she was super cool. Their honey cake tasted a bit different from what my friend made, but it was still tasty. I’ve made this myself before, but it’s very time consuming and pretty hard to make. I will have to re-make this honey cake sometime this summer…

I have so much to say about the concert, but it will make this post way too long, so I will save my words on the concert at the Miner Auditorium at the SFJazz Center. All I can say is that it was an amazing concert created by three legendary pianists from Cuba. I was so grateful to be there and experience that chemistry!!!
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I would love to take more vacation days, but for now, I can only afford one or two full days. Regardless, it was a valuable experience. I love this city so much, its nature never ceases to amaze me, and the music scenes they have inspire me so much. Traveling makes me appreciate a lot of things in my life, and I always learn, think and feel something new. I am so glad I had this trip and I can’t wait to come back to San Francisco!!

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