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California Dreaming: San Francisco

It was a last minute decision, made after a couple of drinks (well, okay, maybe a couple more than a couple) at an office holiday party.

“Let’s go to San Francisco!” I said. My husband was astoundingly agreeable to my vacation plans, and so a week later we found ourselves at Orlando International Airport, suitcases in hand and boarding passes printed, waiting to travel to California. We have a friend in the area, so we weren’t utterly out of our element, but this would be my first time in the Bay area in over a decade, and a first for my husband entirely. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but despite chilly temperatures what we found was an amazingly warm and inviting city.

When you think of San Francisco, you probably picture the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, barking sea lions lounging on the wharf, and eating clam chowder out of a sourdough bread bowl at Pier 39. These are all definitely things we sought out during our week-long vacation, but of all of the things we did on our trip, they weren’t the sights that stood out the most. We spent the bulk of our time in Excelsior, Mission Street, and Daly City, which are largely regarded as some of the last blue collar, working class neighborhoods in the Bay area. As any local will tell you, each neighborhood in San Francisco is a world unto itself. For us, these particular neighborhoods came to feel like a second home. Climbing to the water tower at the peak of McLaren Park afforded us sweeping views of the entire area and helped us get our bearings. The redwoods there are far from the largest that California boasts, but to two Florida natives such as ourselves, it was a grand experience.

Each little corner store and bodega was a treasure trove of exotic produce and snacks, there were unique and inviting bars on almost every street, and the hole-in-the-wall restaurants were among the best we’ve ever encountered. My husband took a special shine to Pupusas (a traditional Salvidorian food, which is essentially a stuffed corn tortilla and something I could happily eat every day for a month). In this corner of SF there are so many vibrant cultures and such an eclectic mix of people; it’s an atmosphere that simply cannot be recreated or imitated. Of course, the local watering hole played no small part in our rosy outlook on the trip – a special thanks is definitely due to the crew at The Broken Record and Hood Grub for keeping our bellies full and our constitutions properly fortified during our travels.
San Francisco’s many tourist destinations are well worth a visit; we could easily have spent several days in Japantown alone and the Botanical Gardens were a sight to behold. However, if there is any one thing that really resonated with us during our travels, it would have to be the completely unique atmosphere and culture that we found in the heart of the working class districts. 

We’re already planning our next vacation out west and I’d happily encourage you to do the same. IVHE offers a host of different properties in SF, from Oakland to Golden Gate Park, so you’re sure to find a neighborhood with a particular rhythm that seems to speak right to you.

Thank you to our guest blogger Emma Sledge 


  1. Nicely done, Emma. I lived in the Bay Area for years; you really did a great job capturing the ambiance of San Francisco.


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