Even the (fill in the blank) is better in San Francisco!

By Monday morning, I could not wait to get out of Las Vegas and on to San Francisco. I always find it funny that in two cities so many love to visit (New York and Vegas), my skin crawls, and I cannot wait to leave. Jason and I agreed that we’re both more adventure travelers; vacation for us is full of activities and seeking out great local food. In Vegas and New York, I’ve found, your experience improves with the amount of money you spend; in many of the places we have visited on our road trip, fistfuls of Benjamins are not a requirement for a fantastic experience.

Spicy Sly burger @ Pearl's

Coming up the  gate from the plane in San Francisco, I was thrilled to see that the majority of the vendors had the words green or farmer in their names. Even the shared van ride to our hotel was pleasant, and provided a nice contrast to the experience we had with a pesky cab driver on the way to McCarran in Vegas. We checked into the Hotel Monaco, a Kimpton Hotel. (Aside: I *highly* recommend the Kimpton line of boutique hotels should you ever find yourself in a city that hosts one. Talk about a hotel with fantastic customer service and a unique feel!)

On a recommendation from the hotel concierge, we abandoned our plans to re-up on In ‘N Out Burger and instead went around the corner to Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers. I enjoyed the Spicy Sly, a beef burger smothered in spicy pumpkin habanero sauce, peppers, onions, and jack cheese. Jason wolfed down the award-winning Bula Burger: spicy pineapple teriyaki sauce, bacon, mayo, and swiss. “Even the burgers are better in San Francisco,” we both unanimously agreed. Delicious!

Jason & Lauren & the Cable Car

We headed out to the old cable car to catch a lift over to the piers. Call me a typical tourist, but riding the cable car was such a cool experience. The views up and down the hills were stupendous, and I am fairly certain I was grinning like a giddy child the entire time.

We sauntered over to Pier 33 to pick up the ferry to Alcatraz Island. On Jason’s recommendation, we elected to do the night tour, and it was 100% worth it. Unlike the day tour, during which the ferry takes you the short way around the island, the night tour takes you the scenic route, with fabulous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the backside of Alcatraz. The day tours, I’m told, usher tourists on and off the island pretty rapidly, but the night tours allow tourists to spend some time learning more about Indian occupation, Civil War era Alcatraz, escape,  and some of the famous prisoners who inhabited the island during its time as a prison. A very unique, eerie experience, if not FREEZING! (Clearly, my sturdiness against the New England cold has weakened in my nearly 2 years in DC.)

We caught the ferry, then the train back over to Union Square by our hotel, and we went in hunt of a late night bite. At the recommendation of a local Bay area guy we met on the bus, we checked out Katanya Ya. Though I would never have guessed it, they have incredible sushi for a  good price, with big chunks of fresh fish. We each had a bowl of ramen in miso and soy sauce and a small side of veggie tempura. It was so tasty, it literally FELT good to eat.

Though I have been to San Francisco before, this is the first time I feel I’ve actually experienced some of its finer features. I think I could stay here…

Sample cell in Alcatraz
The special view of Alcatraz for night tour ferry passengers