Tuesday, June 2, 2015

San Francisco City Tour By Car

San Francisco is a great city to live in after experiencing LA and NYC. LA requires way more driving and traffic than I can stand, and NYC's subway is so gritty. I like that SF is relatively small and very walkable (minus the crazy hills), and that when I do go somewhere farther, $7 Uberpool makes for a cheap and very convenient ride. After talking to a lot of friends, it seems that most people who do own cars in SF don't actually use them on a daily basis, but more for weekends. Street parking is difficult, and there is a lot of car window bashing and theft. The point of this ramble is that when my friend Natalie rented a car for a few days during her visit to SF, we took full advantage and hit up some of my favorite spots very quickly and efficiently. A car does come in handy in the city once in a while!

Waffle at Golden Coffee Shop

Lombard Street Views

Palace of Fine Arts
Golden Gate Bridge from Sausalito

  • My sister is so lucky to have Golden Coffee Shop right in her neighborhood. It's such a great diner run by a Chinese husband and wife team. There's a U-shaped bar that makes up the bulk of the seating here, and it's fun to be able to watch all the cooking, and to easily get someone's attention if you need anything! The food is cheap and delicious. The waffle is a must, and the bacon is always dry and crispy. Mmm...
  • It got nice and sunny as we finished up breakfast at Golden Coffee Shop, so we headed over to Lombard Street, the famous crooked street in Russian Hill that is lined by the most beautiful houses and flowers. The water and city views from this hill are stunning. 
  • Palace of Fine Arts in the marina district is the perfect place for a picnic. But we weren't hungry, so we just went to walk around, take in the architecture, and gawk at the beautiful houses. 
  • Vista Point (Conzelman Road) in Sausalito is the perfect spot for shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's off of the last exit in Sausalito before heading back into SF. If you have time, go to Fish for the best crab roll ever.
  • Natalie and I headed back into the city after taking pictures, and went straight to Ike's Place (in the mission), my favorite sandwich shop in SF. There are more choices than you could ever need, but make sure to try the Menage a Trois on the dutch crunch roll-- BBQ, cheddar, halal chicken, honey mustard, pepper jack, honey, and swiss. The sandwiches are BIG here. We shared one and were perfectly full.
  • Very conveniently, Bi-Rite Creamery is just a 5 minute walk from Ike's Place, and is home to the best ice cream! Since it was kind of windy that day, we were pleasantly surprised with a line of only 5 people! So good, and the dark colored wall outside the shop makes for a very nice backdrop for Instagram photos. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

A San Francisco Walking Tour

When one of my best friends came to visit me in SF last week, I had a great time mapping out how we would explore several different neighborhoods by foot. We walked over 6 miles, and had some pretty great food and drink in between.

Bread Pudding at Tartine Bakery

Painted Ladies

Truffle Fries at Taps Social House & Kitchen
  • Took an Uber from home to Tartine Bakery. It's really the best bakery ever. Their cake aux olives is amazing, as is their bread pudding. And morning bun. 
  • Walked to The Painted Ladies, aka the strip of Full House houses. (Note that there are some hills involved for this portion of the walk.) Did not see Uncle Jesse, but had a great time seeing lots of happy dogs being walked.
  • Got really thirsty, which got us going to the next destination-- lower pacific heights! (Stopped into La Boulange on Fillmore street. Their half spicy half sweet iced soy chai is my favorite. Did some window shopping. Love the Joie store on Fillmore!
  • Continued on to Cow Hollow. Looked around in the stores on Union Street, and passed by tons  of cute bars and bakeries. 
  • It was around 4:30pm, so we walked on over to Taps Social House & Kitchen, conveniently located next door to Nick's Crispy Tacos. Taps Social House has the best truffle fries and a very generous portion of it. We finished it all off.
  • Taco Tuesday! We then went next door to Nick's Crispy Tacos and enjoyed their amazing Chicken Tacos (Nick's Way of course-- this includes guac and a crispy tortilla with melted cheese)
  • There was a Warriors game on, so Nick's was packed and we never got to sit down. We decided to head to the wine bar Amelie in Nob Hill for a bottle of wine and charcuterie. Such a perfect way to end the day!

Friday, May 1, 2015

One Day in Rome

Rome! Another wonderful Italian city that is so full of energy and beauty. Due to some unfortunate planning, we ended up only spending one day and night in Rome. It was much too short and hurried, but we will be back one day!

The Pantheon

Ponte Sant'Angelo


Casa & Bottega

Casa & Bottega


Outdoor seating at Dilla

Knowing that we wouldn't have much time in Rome, we didn't want to splurge on a fancy hotel. Instead, we used airbnb and booked rooms in an apartment right by the Pantheon.


Casa & Bottega
Via del Coronari, 183, 00186 Roma, Italy
We stumbled upon this cafe in the early morning on the way to Pont Sant'Angelo, and I must've taken at least 20 pictures inside. I loved all the little details in the design. There were shelves with some books, drawings hung up, and the comfiest looking banquette seating. Oh and the cappuccino and croissants were amazing too!

Via Mario de Fiori, 41, 00187 Roma, Italy
Since this was our last stop in Italy, it was really important to me that our last meal include pasta. Really good pasta. We ended up going to Dilla, where we had to wait about half an hour for a table. I loved the cozy ambience of the restaurant, so I was fine with the wait. We were told to sit at the bar, which unlike in the US, isn't where you order a drink to wait for a table, but rather just sit and hang out. The friendly server gave us a complimentary meat and cheese plate and wine while we sat there. I really appreciated that! It felt like we were in a friend's home instead of a restaurant. Oh and the pasta-- get the black truffle cream and parmesan pasta!


As with every other site, go early! We got some good pictures before everyone else arrived.

Ponte Sant'Angelo
Travertine marble bridge that leads up to the Castel Sant'Angelo. Beautiful statues line the bridge.

The Vatican
The lines to get into the Vatican were already incredibly long when we arrived before 9am. First place we'll visit on our next trip to Rome!

The Colosseum
We arrived a little after it opened, and only had to wait 20 minutes to buy tickets and enter. I highly recommend paying extra for the audio guide, as there aren't a lot of descriptions and signs once inside.

Trevi Fountain
Unfortunately the fountain is under major renovation, and is currently closed. Another reason we'll have to return one day.

** If you're using Airbnb for the first time, use this link to get $25 off: www.airbnb.com/c/lshia?s=8

See the other posts from this trip here:
What to See and Eat in Florence
Westin Excelsior Florence
What to See and Eat in Milan
Park Hyatt Milan

Friday, April 24, 2015

Florence: What to See and Where to Eat

Florence is so incredibly beautiful. I loved the small town feel and the beautiful bridges. Although the city is filled with tourists and American students studying abroad (we were constantly seeing kids wearing US college/university sweatshirts), I still fell in love with the place. For me, it became the "best of" city on this trip. I had the best gelato here, best shopping experiences (no crazy lines outside the designer stores like in Milan!), best meal (my favorite meal of this year!), etc.

View from Se-Sto at The Westin Excelsior

Se-Sto at The Westin Excelsior

More Arno river views

Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower

Painted ceilings at the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower

David, by Michelangelo

Butter Chicken at Trattoria Sostanza

Artichoke Omelet at Trattoria Sostanza

Cake at Trattoria Sostanza

Panini at All'Antico Vinaio

Vivoli Gelato

The beautiful Westin Excelsior, Florence! Post is here.

Westin Excelsior, 6th Floor, Piazza Ognissanti
The views at Se-Sto are pretty unbelievable... Take full advantage. The cocktails are pricey but strong, and include a buffet of appetizers. Not a bad deal!

Trattoria Sostanza:
Via del Porcellana, 25/R, 50123 Firenze, Italy
Just thinking about this meal has me salivating... The butter chicken is simply out-of-this-world. The server told me that it's prepared by adding flour and egg to the chicken, waiting until butter is browned in a pan, then placing the chicken breasts in. I may try that one of these days. The Florentine steak is great too, and the artichoke omelet is a stand out. Make sure to finish with a piece of house-made meringue, chocolate cream, strawberry cake. All the right textures combined with a perfect sweetness.

All'Antico Vinaio:
Via de'Neri 65/R, 50122 Firenze, Italy
An easy lunch place with made-to-order sandwiches for 5 euros each. Unfortunately I found the bread to be way too crunchy. I had to take off the top half and just try to eat the fillings. The black truffle spread should not be missed!

Vivoli Gelateria:
Via dell'Isola delle Stinche 7/R, 50122 Firenze, Italy
Truly the best gelato, and I really did try a lot on this trip! The rice flavor is amazing.

We also tried Buca Lapi for their famous florentine steak, but were very disappointed by how chewy the meat was. It's also more expensive than Trattoria Sostanza. If we'd known earlier, we would've skipped Buca Lapi and gone to Trattoria Sostanza twice!

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower
The main church of Florence, and one you can spot from almost any viewpoint in the city. It's especially beautiful when lit up at night.

Galleria dell'Academia
Home of the stunning 16th century marble statue of David by Michelangelo. Make sure to get in line right when the museum opens, otherwise the lines snake around the streets and go on for what seems like forever.

Uffizi Gallery
A museum where the Birth of Venus is kept. Again, long, long lines. We didn't even make it here, but it's on my list for next time!

Piazza Michelangelo
A viewpoint on a hill that offers panoramic views of the Arno river. Unfortunately the morning we planned to get up really early to catch the sunrise here ended up being a very cloudy one.

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