A Bay Area bear hug (part one).

Well, I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco.

My heart is already devoted to the mountains of Park City, where my handsome mountain man and crooked-eared dog fill it with gratitude daily. But I sure did become quite smitten with the City by the Bay during my weeklong visit. As I peel through the expected overload of photos from my trip, they fall easily into two parts: the days in the Marina and the days in Redwood City. Welcome to my California Adventure, Part One!

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Let me set the scene. Holly and Mandy are old friends from my Durango days- the best Durango days, really. We were in our relatively carefree mid-twenties, finishing up college and waiting tables together.

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We worked hard- and we played hard, too, whether it was taking advantage of the Colorado sunshine or sipping cocktails after work until the wee hours. As our lives took us in different directions, we kind of splintered off. Holly married her true love, had her first baby, and moved to Glenwood Springs. A few years later, I also got married, took a leap of faith, and moved to Utah to start a life there. Mandy traveled farthest of all to plant some roots: the island of Maui.

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When Mandy let us know that she’d be on the mainland for a work event near San Francisco, Holly and I didn’t hesitate to hop on board for a reunion trip! Before this week, the last time we were all together was when I still lived in Durango. (I moved away in 2001. Do the math!)

Despite my many visits to the Bay area, I’m not familiar enough with the city to know what’s hot and what’s not. With a little research and some luck, we ended up in a gorgeous vacation rental in the Marina/Cow Hollow neighborhood. The space was bright and airy, beautifully renovated with a large kitchen, plenty of room for us all. It even had a sweet little patio out back, which overlooked the hidden city gardens.

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The best part? It was a block and a half from Chestnut Streetwalking distance to awesome restaurants, shops, and bars. Perfect! We cracked open a bottle of wine and chatted away, working up an appetite. After a quick drink at Circa, we landed at a teeny table on the adorable covered patio at Isa, where we enjoyed lots of shared plates, tasty drinks, laughter- and possibly the happiest waiter I’d ever had.

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In the morning, Holly and I headed out into the marina fog in search of a market. We soaked in the beauty of the neighborhood, the gardens and paint selections differentiating the homes (connected to each other, like brownstones). Chestnut Street was already bustling, shop owners starting to open up for the day. We picked up supplies at a lovely urban market, which lured us inside with vibrant displays of fresh produce- Cali style.

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Mandy took over the bacon station while I worked on a cheddar cheese scramble with onion, red pepper, and cilantro. We piled eggs into green chile tortillas and munched on giant strawberries as we planned our day. The sometimes elusive San Francisco sunshine was out, begging us to get out and explore!

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Without too much of a set plan, we started walking toward the water. I loved seeing how unique the different houses were, despite being side-by-side and likely built a block at a time. The breeze from the marina was chilly, particularly for our thin-blooded island girl. We pointed toward Fisherman’s Wharf via Fort Mason, pausing for photos of each other, the sea, and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

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The Wharf was hopping.  Fishermen were bringing in the morning’s catch of salmon. Hungry seals poked their heads up between boats, hoping for a fishy bite. A couple of men played steel drums, and every now and then, a tour bus would honk its way by us. Everywhere we looked, someone was selling seafood- huge vats of live crabs, clam chowder in bread bowls, and the biggest lobster I’ve ever seen. After poking into a couple of shops, our grumbling tummies led us to a sunny table at Cioppino’s. Chowder, bay shrimp, crab, and a bowl of their signature dish fueled us for more shopping and touristy sightseeing.

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In this part of San Francisco, it’s hard to miss the giant Ghiradelli sign. It’s always there, whispering chocolatey sweet nothings through the city noise. Almost against our will, we gravitated toward The Square and dove headfirst into a couple of monstrous ice cream sundaes. Thank God we had the entire trek back to our apartment to work them off.

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After an afternoon of digesting resting (and warming up, for Mandy), we got cleaned up and headed out on the town. Our late start meant an hour wait for a table at a highly recommended Mexican restaurant, so we dropped in across the street for a cocktail first. The meal at Mamacita was worth the wait. Extra spicy jalapeno margaritas, ceviche, tasty tacos, and rellenos made for a delicious ending to a delicious day.

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Saturday’s mission: power shopping. The once-a-month flea market on Treasure Island sounded intriguing, so we donned appropriate footwear, grabbed breakfast to go, and headed over the bridge. The flea market was a hodge-podge of junk, collectibles, antiques, and local art- and it felt like browsing the Museum of Crazy. There was so much to take in, wagging dogs everywhere, and the people-watching was incredible! I’d have snagged all sorts of vintage goodies if I lived close by, but instead, I took photos. Shocker.

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I did find a couple of tiny treasures to take home with me. Before we left, we stopped to appreciate the view of the city and the Bay Bridge. The flea market was set up on a park of some kind, green space right on the water, with a huge dancing statue reflecting the sun.

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After a stop into The Grove for amazing salads and some wine, we continued browsing shops on Chestnut and Union.  We kicked up our tired feet for awhile before heading out for Holly’s sole food request of the weekend- SUSHI. The best part was the chocolate chip cookie dough “sushi” roll dessert!

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Confession: my head hurt on Sunday. We slept later than usual before making our way toward The Tipsy Pig for brunch, which we hoped would include a yummy Bloody Mary.  Chipotle vodka? A chipotle salt rim? Yes and yes. The food was scrumptious, too!

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It was after 2pm by the time we left as tipsy little piglets, so we walked off our brunch along Chestnut. I found a few cute city clothes to bring home and made friends with some four-legged beasts, too. I now think Cholula needs a little Frenchie BFF at home, don’t you?

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Holly talked me into doing her P90X workout video with her (ouch) before we got prettied up for our last night on the town. We browsed the guest book had there were a few mentions of the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from our apartment. After a confused lap around place, peering out all of the windows, we saw it: a (somewhat treacherous) ladder leading to the roof! The sun was setting and the light was warm and glowing. There she was, beyond the rooftops- the lovely Golden Gate. The view was such a surprise! I’m so glad we found it before we left.

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We were in the market for an early dinner, since we all had to pack that night. We chose a small plates and wine bar called Bin 38, starting the meal off with wine flights. Mine was bubbly-themed- Cava, Prosecco, and Champagne. My favorites! The restaurant was dead, and our service wasn’t the best- but the waiter had salt-and-pepper George Clooney hair and spoke with an Italian accent, so who cares? We shared an incredible cheese board, truffle fries, creamy burrata, springtime risotto, crème brulee, and some kind of chocolate dream. Candles and a big glass of Tuscan red wine- the perfect ending to our reunion.

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We spent the next couple of hours packing suitcases and laughing at a movie. I said my goodbyes to Holly before I snuck off to bed- her flight was early. Mandy and I had a couple of hours together in the morning, sipping coffee and getting our last bit of chatting in before we hugged a lot and parted ways. She headed off to the airport, to fly over the Pacific Ocean to her island paradise and two little ones.

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As for me, I hopped in the car with my dear friend, Nancy, to start Part Two of my California Adventure. After the last few fun-filled days with my old crew, getting to continue my vacation with one of my closest friends would be icing on the San Francisco cake.

Sunny, redwood-y, beachy icing. With wine. And guacamole.

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**Stay tuned!**

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