San Francisco

Ol' Blue Eyes crooned, "I left my heart in San Francisco" and I too have felt that magical pull of the city by the bay. My trip to San Francisco began with an unforgettable plane ride involving one sweet but clumsy flight attendant, one jug of Bloody Mary mix and my not-so-perfectly positioned lap. For the record, I didn't order the tomato juice in question but I certainly wore every fluid ounce of it! By the end of the two hour flight, I smelled like a walking tailgate party. Fortunately for me, Alaska Airlines has some of the absolute best customer service and worked quickly to remedy the issue.

My boyfriend had never laid eyes on the Golden Gate Bridge before so I made reservations to dine at Greens Restaurant which has spectacular views of the San Francisco Marina as well as The Bridge...yes, capitalized just like that. Considering the terrible luck I had experienced on my now-infamous plane ride (the other gate agents knew who I was before I explained my story), I suppose the Universe attempted to balance out my fortune because we were seated right by the window where we were treated to a breathtakingly beautiful sunset! Of course, I cannot forget to mention our delectable meal. Greens is a farm-to-table vegetarian restaurant with a wide assortment of menu items. As my family and friends would confirm, I am extremely greedy and always hungry so I had to order a little bit of everything! We settled on the grilled Knoll farm figs, fresh spring rolls, summer squash and pesto pizza and mesquite grilled polenta with herb butter. For dessert, we shared the plum gallete with ginger streusel. I'm salivating on my keyboard as I recount the experience.

Hotel:

San Francisco Marriott Marquis

Beautiful and in a prime location, the Marriott Marquis is massive! We were within walking distance to shops, grocery stores and even a movie theater. The hotel has a trendy little cocktail and dining spot on the 39th floor, aptly named The View Lounge that offers incredible views of downtown San Francisco. Word to the wise-finding a first come, first serve seat in the lounge was difficult and getting a seat by the windows required some patient surveillance efforts. If we were to rank attributes of this establishment, let's say scenery is first, drinks are second and food comes last. Don't expect to eat a full dinner here. This is more of a pre-game or happy hour spot where the fabulously dressed come to enjoy a mixed drink and a stunning sunset.

Southern Belle Borrower thrifty tips-Prices at this hotel are on the high end of the scale. Luckily, I was able to join my boyfriend at a work conference so there were no accommodation charges for me on this trip. Parking fees are $75 a night so beware and use a ride share service if you can help it. Since we didn't want to eat every meal at a restaurant, we walked to the nearby Trader Joe's to pick up some snacks for our room which had a refrigerator.

 

No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a trip to see the sea lions at Pier 39! They are loud, stinky and absolutely adorable. If you're interested in learning more about these marine animals, feel free to follow this link https://www.pier39.com/the-sea-lion-story/

While catching a glimpse at the sea lions may have been my boyfriend's top goal at Pier 39, my focus was on a round, fried delicacy. Trish's mini donuts are heaven in a plastic cup! They're sweetly topped and not greasy at all. https://www.pier39.com/merchant/trishs-mini-donuts/

For the record, Pier 39 is tourist central! Be prepared for possible crowds and overpriced souvenirs. We didn't purchase anything other than the donuts but if my memory serves me from my 2014 trip, there is a plastic bag charge in effect. Bring your own reusable tote to save some cents and the environment!

 

Alcatraz

The incomparable Alcatraz...from its use as a military installment to the Native American occupation in 1969 to its final days as the "inescapable" prison, there is a wealth of history contained on this rock. This tour has been on my bucket list for over two decades and if you're a history buff, you'll need to make a trip to experience Alcatraz too.

I highly recommend booking your tour far in advance (tickets are available 90 days ahead of time) as they tend to sell out. We used https://www.alcatrazcruises.com/ for our tickets and selected the early bird option. Choosing this departure time enabled us to be the first group of guests on the island that morning and allowed for a more relaxing experience. Once you're dropped off, you can return on any departing boat that day giving you full control of your tour length. Word to the wise-wear comfortable shoes. You will be doing a considerable amount of walking up and down the hills of the island especially if you're in search of the escape attempt locations listed on the map.

We were greeted at the entrance by a former inmate, Bill Baker, who also wrote a book about his incarceration at The Rock. As a proud bibliophile, I forced my boyfriend to trudge back up the inclines with me so that I could purchase a book and have Mr. Baker autograph it. Alcatraz-1259 is also available on Amazon for anyone interested in checking it out. A little winded but not deterred, we opted for the self-guided tour so we retrieved our headset and made our way through the public shower/intake area. When you visit, wander around and check out the infamous Cell Block B which housed brothers John and Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris. Using makeshift rafts and artificial "heads," these inmates managed to escape after widening the ventilation duct openings in their cells. Did they successfully make it to shore or did they drown in the cold San Francisco Bay? We may never know the answer but have fun speculating!