Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fun and Food in San Francisco

Sara and I

Two weeks ago I traveled to San Francisco! The primary reason for my trip was a work related conference but I chose this conference in particular because my dear friend Sara lives in SF so I headed out a couple days early to hang with her. Our first order of business was to decide b/t driving up to Lake Tahoe for cross country skiing vs hanging around SF and Sonoma County for some spa-style relaxing. A quick look at the weather, and the expected 60 degree and sunny forecast for the city itself made that decision an easy one! So after luxuriously sleeping in, we had a late breakfast and headed up to Indian Springs Resort and Spa in Sonoma. Indian Springs is a resort originally built in 1913 with many upgrades since. Part of its claim to fame is the large mineral pool fed from water from 230 degree hot springs and geysers nearby. So you can bask year round in this beautiful, warm pool looking at the surrounding mountains. The water was roughly 92 degrees so even this preggars gal could spend a limited amount of time in there (though I mostly floated on a raft just dipping my feet in).

After we were nice and relaxed, we moved on to...well..more relaxation. In the form of massages. This was my first massage while pregnant and I was interested to see what, if any, modifications would be made. Basically, in short, when I was laying stomach down I was on a soft wedge device that allowed my abdomen to push down as far needed to be comfortable. No big deal. The message was good. I'm so spoiled with a husband who is a better masseuse than any professional I've encountered but it was still nice with the music and the smells and the pre-hot tub and the post- fabulous dinner at Solbar. It was such a great day!

The next day, we started with a great 5 mile hike on Mt Tamalpais in Marin County. While the day was overcast, and constantly threatened rain, the most it did was spit a bit. The temperature was nice- mid-50s- really excellent January hiking weather! There was enough elevation gain that we required frequent breaks to "look at the views" (read: catch our breaths) so as a bonus I could count part of this wonderful walk with a friend as exercise! And we saw an unidentified animal that I really think might have been a bobcat, which made this nature-lover's day:)

Me and 25 week babybison.

We then saw Silver Linings Playbook (was so-so) and popped over to a day spa that happened to have openings for both of us to have facials right before dinner. I'd never had a facial before. It was....interesting. It's nice to have your face massaged, it's nice to have fragrant lotions applied, but in my opinion it's NOT nice to have hot humid air blowing on your face for half an hour! I could barely breathe! At one point, I felt the beginnings of a panic attack as I was reminded of the last time I felt this trapped and hot, years ago in a small hut in Northern Africa......No joke.

I was visiting my cousin, Karin, who was in the Peace Corps living in a rural town in Mauritania (let's face it, all the the towns in Mauritania are rural except for the capital). She lived in a one room house, very luxurious as she was the only one living in it. One day, we were told a sand storm was coming. We did notice the wind had picked up a bit. The locals told us to go to our house and board up the doors and windows, making sure we had sufficient water and food. The sand storms can last for up to days. I was a little excited at first but once we were locked up in the suffocating hot, stagnant hut, my mind started racing with worst case scenarios. What if this lasted days? Was there any amount of money I could pay someone to drive me the hours to the capital where there were modern buildings with air conditioning and electricity to wait out the rest of the storm? (Obviously, this was a crazy thought- no one would be able to see to drive.). What if my heart exploded from anxiety? My cousin appeared calm, cool and collected so I did my best to hold it together, placing warm washcloths on my face repeatedly because the sensation of wet was better than the hot dry air. The storm lasted only 12 hours, much of which was at night so we slept through it. But, wow, it was an experience!!

So, lesson learned- facials aren't for me. But spa days and massages definitely are!

Sara and I had no shortage of delicious food during our two days together. Despite only living there for a year and a half, Sara has quickly learned the town like a local and had all kinds of fantastic eating plans for us. In total, we had four great dinners. In brief...

1. Nopa is a great spot that serves "urban rustic food" with local, seasonal ingredients. The space is cute and energetic with enthusiastic patrons and servers. To eat we started with the warm goat cheese with asian pear and fuyu persimmon- I really enjoyed this because I haven't had goat cheese in months out of concern it wouldn't be pasteurized, but this kind of place knows their ingredients well so I confidently enjoyed the creamy cheese when the server told me it was indeed pasteurized. For dinner I had the pasta dish that was so, so good but the details of which I can't remember and it isn't on the menu anymore (it changes frequently). But doesn't it look GOOD!!??!!

2. Solbar-
This was my overall favorite dining experience. A combo of the relaxing spa beforehand, being out in Sonoma County, the marvelous wine flight (don't worry- I had only 4 oz), the food, the company, our wonderful server who happens to be a marathoner (yup, I tipped well when I learned this!), the ambience-- just a great couple hours of relaxing, enjoyable, LIFE! I wasn't surprised that my food (hot and cold dungeness crab appetizer, petaluma crispy duck breast with garnet yam stew and beignets with Bailey's Irish cream sauce) was stellar- the restaurant won a 2012 open table diner's choice award as well as a Michelin star. For future reference, the spa (which we did not partake in, but looked nice though pricey) was voted #1 spa in the Americas and #10 in the world by Traveler magazine. Might be worth checking out as a weekend trip in the future.

3. Perbacco- This was a beautiful Italian restaurant near the financial district. Sara's mom was in town my last night so I got to have dinner with them both, which was great! This restaurant was oh-so-cute and the food did not disappoint.

4. Firefly- This is where we ate the first night. It is a cute, neighborhoody type place with excellent food. One thing I really appreciate about San Francisco is the neighborhood feel- so many small restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques. Definitely a great place to get into the feel of begin in SF!

Other sights in San Francisco:

On one of my daily runs!

Look at the middle pic- handheld pot pies!

This guy is wearing hooves!

It was a great trip and I was SO happy to spend time catching up with Sara. But after a week on the West Coast, I was definitely missing home. And now with the third trimester just around the corner, I won't be traveling for a while! Guess I'll have to just enjoy the rest of winter in Chicago. If only we'd get some snow!

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