A Travellerspoint blog

Day 2: Long Day, Long Faces, Long Waits and Raider Loss

San Francisco and Oakland

semi-overcast 23 °C

Sunday Morning, Day 2.

Well rested and fed from The Dylan, I BART-ed up north from Millbrae to S.F. city to see classic bay beauty, Golden Gate Bridge which never gets old to admire. She was as magnificent as when I last saw her, ages ago. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to do a combo Golden Gate Bridge- Sausalito tour (Next time, there will be.) I found a lot of peace merely gazing at the crashing waves and admiring the plant life I didn't go full on tourist at the Golden Gate Visitor Center- but just took some nice shots nearby in the park area.


Marina, Marina

The visitor center area was getting too tourist-filled for the liking, so it was time to move on. I hopped in a rideshare and headed towards the convergence of Marina Blvd with Mason St to stunning Palace of Fine Arts, Designated S.F Landmark #88. Oh, I needed more time to walk through in and around this marvelous structure and greet the swans and geese in the lake! Next stop was a visit to Fisherman's Wharf to pay my respects to main S.F. Marina-land via aptly named Marina Boulevard. Dotted along the way were handsome classic Franciscan homes and a long stretch of boats- all worth a pretty penny. This nauti-girl can only dream to live here- the most picturesque part of main S.F city center to live without worry on poop and pervs on the street.

Fisherman's Wharf


Finally at Fisherman's. Within steps of the wharf row of seafood shacks were shouts of the counter guys, "Get your fresh crab" and "Clam chowder here". It's so easily to give in to the temptations- and I did with a meaty $10 crab snack with melted butter on saltine cracker on the side. This time there was no giving in to a carb-loaded sourdough bread bowl soup or sandwich at flagship Bourdin Bakery & Cafe Just before eating, I briskly strolled walk along Pier 45 and through whimiscal Musée Mécanique, an old-timey arcade featuring vintage game displays. OK, the puppet displays were a bit freaky, Lack of time stopped me from skee-balling and teaming up for a min ice hockey or foosball match.


Over in Oak-town

Around noon was a swift check in at Millbrae hotel #2, Aloft. After briefly feeling out my new boutique 'Brae accommodations, it was off to the East Bay to venture in the "Dark Side"- that is Oakland. A seedy reputation often precedes the heart of the city- with good reason. Oakland's the ragged, disheveled little sister of San Francisco with more squaller and higher a propensity for crime. At least there is some sparkle to Oakland. How it shines quite nicely off the East Bay and its outskirts aren't so bad actually.

The Rundown: Oakland Coliseum and the Raiders


There was just one true reason why I had ever held Oakland dear: NFL's Oakland Raiders. The Los Angeles version of the team was the main team of my childhood. It hurt when they moved from L.A. back to their original home of Oakland in '94- but eventually came acceptance and support of their Norcal origins. Long after attending games at L.A. Coliseum, here I arrived at O.G. Dark Side Manor, Oakland Coliseum, to which the Raider organization bid farewell on December 15, for good. In witnessing the venue, it was stark clear why the Raiders said by-bye to Oakland. The place is a dump and no real efforts were made for renovation. It was as if the place had never, ever changed since the 70s. The pedestrian bridge leading to the parking grounds was a shabby barbed wire mess and pavement all around was woefully cracked up. As for the Oak Coliseum playing field, that was a patch-filled makeshift misery that should have never been approved for football.

The Game: TEN at OAK


Game on ! Despite the Raiders approaching departure , I and fellow fans were getting hyped for the Silver and Black versus Tenneesee Titans. This was the game before the swan song game at Oak Coliseum. Unfortunately, after the 2nd half, hype turned to headache as the Raiders got rundown by Titan dominance on both sides and lost , 21-42. Ugh! Long faces over the loss to the Titans and moreover the team itself
About as long as Raider fan faces was the wait to get on the BART and Amtrak from the stadium. Brutal! Good thing no one yelled, "Fire" in the sea of silver and black Raider revelers

Lounging It , Longing for Food at Aloft


Back to the Aloft, time to unwind. My feet were so beat. It was almost a struggle winding my way through a hallway that seemed to go on for a mile until reaching my room. I broke into the bed for a bit but later went down to the main lounge parlor to observe and relax. There was plenty of plush seating for kicking back. Perhaps the lounge is the best great selling point for Aloft with its comfy sofas and vivid, contemporary decor. All in all, Aloft, a Marriott property proved to be what it is hyped up to be, a very inviting and modern hotel that screams millennial hip. I mean... the vibe is super cas(ual) throughout the place, right from the reception desk with staff who seemed more like your friends checking you in and out than prototypical hotel professionals. Modern electric pop sounds dominate the entire lobby floor which resembles a social club and rec center in one. Instead of getting a newspaper at reception for gratis, I got the latest news from the long lobby news scroll built on the interior wall. And then there was, of course, the dedicated selfie spot situated in the lobby, a "cell phone" booth. Oh, how millennial!

It was a well over an hour of chill-laxing in the lobby when my hunger reach to the point of giving into some de-lish substance. The signature hotel cafe, Re:Fuel, was tempting with its healthy, artisanal snacks and pastries but only a good hot meal could satisfy. Predictably, the hotel offerings were overpriced as hell but the $15 for an Amy's Frozen dinner was just ridiculous and unacceptable. Since it was late and the local In-and-Out and other grub joints were not an easy walk away, it was time to press for an Uber Eats food delivery. There were some tasty Thai and sushi offerings but I wasn't feeling Asian. Ultimately, the menu at fusion spot, Barrel Bistro spoke to me. I made an order of Kobe beef Barrel Burger and loaded Patata Fries. My God, everything was licking finger delicious - thing was it took about 90 minutes to get my food! Naturally, this big time delay happened at my most desperate famished moment. But ultimately all was well with appetite satisfied and a good night's slumber.

And just like that it was the end of my Brea Area weekender. It was real, San Fran and Oak town -but it was time to get back to my beloved SoCal.

Posted by Marinarena 20:29 Archived in USA Tagged golden_gate_bridge coliseum nfl golden_gate oakland fishermas_wharf marina_district oakland_raiders raiders oakland_coliseum Comments (0)

Before the Bay

Pre-trip planning a visit to the Bay Area, San Francisco and Oakland area

The Bay Area had been calling me over and again- for well over 15 years. Finally, the SoCal girl answered. What took so long?

It wasn't SoCal bias or disdain of anything San Francisco or Oakland getting in the way. No rhyme or reason really. However, time was up, time and distance was kept away enough.


What truly instigated a visit up to the Bay - the desire to see the Oakland Raiders in the final year playing as their original Oaktown selves before jetting down to Las Vegas for the long foreseeable future. Surely, just a Sunday afternoon football game does not suffice for a proper Bay visit. A two-day visit is a tease but a full Saturday and Sunday was at my disposal for travel.

So, on to planning a quickie a solo Norcal weekender.

First thing's first: Budget for 2.5 days

I factored in about $500-$700 (Flights included) for a modest with some" frills" stay in the Bay area.
Frills pretty much meaning a splurge on a San Francisco foodie treat or two.

Packing: Keep it light and essential
Lightweight apparel
A good pair of walking shoes (The hilly San Francisco pavement is unforgiving)
Warm jacket - the wind'll get you good in Norcal.

My Specific Lugged Items

Outdoorsy Black Backpack as a carry on
Mermaid journal

Posted by Marinarena 12:47 Archived in USA Tagged san_francisco nfl sfo oakland bay_area sjc raiders Comments (0)

Day 1: The Wind, the Rain But Can't Complain(The Good Stuff)

San Jose San Francisco Millbrae

rain 20 °C

Something happened on the way to San Francisco- a pit stop in San Jose airport (SJC). I didn't get the memo of an arrival change until just before boarding. No e-mail alert, nothing. I kept hearing and ignoring calls for San Jose boarding but eventually I put 2 and 2 together and realized San Jose was meant for me. Would have been nice if Alaska Airlines put the arrival change on the gate screen - but no biggie. I made it on board my Saturday morning flight, landed safely at SJC and caught a free shuttle bus to SFO. Hilarity ensued with the funny driver doing his "sit-down" routine to entertain all of us weary SFO-bound passengers. He joked about just getting his driver's license and that the bus will go to Napa instead of San Francisco (Well, it would have been perfectly OK if he were "Syrah-serious" about Napa).


SFO Arrival

San Francisco smacked me in the face. Oh those swift, infamous and ballyhooed gusts blew right on in. And then came some wind-whipped raindrops. Indeed, I was not in Los Angeles anymore. Though it does get nippy in LAX area, San Francisco winds are something else! Right before stepping onto a warm hotel shuttle, I looked around and admired SFO. Yes, I said "admiring". Travel professionals do that sorta thing. How organized and efficient this grand, gray travel ensemble. When growing accustomed to swirling, stressful mess that is LAX, I know a difference right away!


Spending Time at (with) The Dylan

About a 5 minute shuttle drive later, I arrived at my first accommodations in Millbrae. The Dylan is like a fellow who is kinda slight but impresses with a mix of old and new school charm. This girl was won over. Deem Dylan a lux- motel, all dressed up with a modern, homey decor style especially dapper during the holidays. The most winning qualities of the Dylan? Humble hospitality and home cooking ability. Dylan does delicious, free breakfast. My plate was stacked up twice with egg casseroles done two-ways and cube cut potatoes, along with fresh fruit and yogurt. As much as the eating experience was enjoyable, Dylan decor touches in the extended lobby are uniquely stylish. The dining room features a quirky comic inspired mural. Features in the lobby include a giant Scrabble board and (get excited wine lovers) a flowing "vino machine" with 4 varieties from which to indulge. Tempting- but I was good though.

After getting my early S.F. grub on and admiring the lobby, it was off to my 2nd floor room. It was a perfectly fine, spacious place to stay. I tested out the bed: Comfy and big enough with a bonus of a manly figure (I call him Superman) etched out on the headboard, exposing his chest with the S.F skyline . Nice, so I didn't have to go to bed alone!

There was not a lot of time to get comfortable in the room. It was time for some San Fran exploring. Off I went!


Bart-ing It

Few fallen raindrops became a persistent sprinkle during the 5 + minute hop-skip-jump from The Dylan to Millbrae's transit station. From here began my first BART (Bay Area Regional Transit) light rail experience. After studying the BART routes, I dedicated to head up from Millbrae to the Embarcadero area. It was a smooth ride along the way- but short of very pleasant due to the screeching from the rail car at times (Note to myself: pack ear plugs next time). Fellow BART riders thankfully did not contribute to the racket. They were quite non-chalant on the way to Embarcadero and throughout my Bay Area journey trip. It was a proud moment on the ride up after riders swiftly swooped to the rescue of a wheelchair-bound man who had been almost jolted off from the hard rail car braking. What humanity! No one around remained glued to their cell phones pretending not to see him getting slammed sideways. What was odd to me 'bout BART: the configuration of the cars with couch-like, forward facing single seaters on one side but two seaters on the other side. More notable though was how beat up and filthy the seats were. Perhaps, some of the exorbitant taxes of San Francisco will go to renovating BART cars someday. Hmm... Wishful thinking...


Enamored at Embarcadero

A steady sprinkle turned into bonafide rain after leaving the Embarcadero BART stop. With hood on, I made my way towards the Ferry Building. Right before getting shelter inside, the autumn loving shutterbug in me had to capture the scene of brilliant yellow foliage reflected at a dampened Embarcadero Plaza. Continuation of rapture came within the Ferry Building. Stepping up to the second floor, my eyes fixated on the architecture of the place. All the while, my ears were entertained by Christmas music performed by a Sacramento-based orchestra composed of school kids.

Heading back down to the first level, it was time to let my taste buds delight in the Ferry Building. Oh, the numerous foodie temptations to try! Contenders for my appetite along 1 Ferry Building included: signature American and local #1 favorite, Gott's Roadside; Cowgirl Creamery's sandwich counter offshoot , Cowgirl Sidekick; seafood staple, San Francisco Fish Company, and empanada shack, El Porteno. Ultimately, barbeque heavy Golden Gate Meat Company was the winner -a surprising choice for me actually. BBQ is hardly ever my go-to gastronomical choice though but is difficult to pass up perfectly smoked flavorful meat that calls your name with smells alone. I ordered 1/4 beef serving but also had a square cut pizza to pair. A vacay getaway is never complete without trying a local pizza slice.

Ferry Building became one of the most impressive and unique shopping destination ever visited. Food shopping alone is an artisanal nirvana with premier indoor restaurants and cafes, but wine and olive oil stands, healthy juice-smoothie- kombucha stops and certainly not last and least, donut and ice cream shops. On the exterior, the Farmer's Market (remarkably Apple Pay friendly, naturally in Silicon Valley adjacent S.F) is a delicious stand out in its own right. Gifts and souvenir buying is quite unique. Lots of locally-sourced body care from Benedetta, Sausalito- made pottery from Heath Cermanics, home and garden items are worth to buy and pack for home delight.

Indeed, Embarcadero was my happy place of the trip. Beyond the interior delights of the Ferry Building itself were the peaceful moments of bird and ship watching. Even the steady rain did not dampen my spirits. After ogling the various seabirds, I took a stroll over to Pier 14. Along the way, a few street art displays caught my attention: one official a vibrant art installment of famous San Francisco landmark, Coit Tower, and an impromptu street find, an assortment of de-stemmed sunflowers on a plate with a matching yellow candle on its side.


Getting Lost Purposely in the Rain

From late morning to early evening, precipitation levels varied. Rain was so much to bear at a semi open Market Street bus top, so the decision was made to take cover in a cable car. Indeed, cable cars are tourist trite but they're simply cute and the ride was free. After getting my kicks from the complimentary lift, rain subsides a bit enough to do some idle walking in the Financial District. Soon after though, my soles got tired , so I thought to get a ride share. Bad idea. I was in the very tight heart of downtown where it was super challenging getting Uber or Lyft driver to pick up directly. Frustration poured down my face more than the rain trailing down. Eventually, I hopped on the $3 Muni (SFMTA) bus and winded through Chinatown (Note: Try to avoid Chinatown bus crush especially in the afternoon next time).

I thought to kinda wing it 'round the city for a while on the Muni. From Chinatown, I toured Russian Hill, North Beach and Cow Hollow- "good" northern neighborhoods of S.F. in which folks pay a filthy fortune to reside. Through the soaked bus windshields were merry scenes of Santa Pub Crawl featuring drunken young dudes and especially scantily clad gals in Santa get-ups. making their way down flooded streets. One girl just ate it big time on the pavement in Cow Hollow area in a failed attempt to jump a huge puddle. Ho! Ho! Ho! hilarity!

By early afternoon was the peak of rainfall. Even a middle aged local on the bus said that it was the most flooded he had ever seen. After waiting out a heavy rain episode and grabbing a pizza slice in North Beach, it was time to bus and BART my way back to Millbrae and The Dylan. The rain subsided later sometime after sunset and crashed in bed with my hovering etched out "Superman" protecting me through the night.


Posted by Marinarena 08:11 Archived in USA Tagged chinatown san_francisco napa san_jose sf sfo bart gotts_roadside sjc millbrae russian_hill north_beach dylan_hotel the_dylan cow_hollowembarcadero cowgirl_creamery Comments (0)

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