February 20, 2013

discover the curious city

This week we bring you city guides from two different continents. Check out our other city guides here: 1, 2, 3.

6 Days & 1000 miles
LA > Big Sur > San Francisco > Berkeley/Oakland > Sacramento > LA

Day 1: Big Sur

We set out on the road before dawn at 4am in hopes of reaching Big Sur early enough to fit in two hikes and two meals. We were lucky to be the only ones along the scenic drive up the 101 freeway. It was the most peaceful and ethereal experience to watch the California sky awaken to reveal a sweeping and morphing terrain. It was like a runway show except the road was the model and we were the spectators.
Our first hike of the day was to McWay Falls which is located in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The actual hike is really short and easy and the views are truly breathtaking. It shouldn't be this easy to experience such beauty, but then again we are in California.
Hike number two to Jade Cove Beach is probably my favorite for a couple of reasons. Firstly it was so damn hard to find. The little sign on the side of the road is nearly invisible so after driving back and forth passing it by several times, the sheer joy of identifying its location was enough for me, but it gets better. The hike down to the beach is so rocky, slippery, and steep that you have to use a rope to get down there. Once in the cove, the thing to do is to prospect for jade and quartz. We saw two hardcore prospectors and Antony tried to copy their digging methods which was pretty hilarious. I found some really cool rocks and Antony found a small piece of "jade," but it's most likely just a green rock.
We had breakfast at Big Sur Bakery before the two hikes. Their egg quiche is amazing and has the consistency of custard/flan. After the hikes we had lunch at Nepenthe which is atop a hill and has the most envious views of the coast. I ordered a glass of wine to wind down which I highly recommend if you want to feel invincible.

Day 2-3: San Francisco
Do: Presidio, Heath Ceramics in Sausalito & Muir Woods

Although we lived in the Bay Area all four years of college, we were nested in our own little bubble across the bridge and never really explored San Francisco. This time we made an effort to do some touristy things whilst pretending to be locals.
We finally got a picture in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Presidio which has a whole network of trails enough to explore your whole day away. For lunch we headed to the Mission to try the much blogged about Tartine Bakery. Okay yes I get the hype now. Yes to the giant hot pressed sandwiches, yes to all the pastries, yes to the unlimited refills of iced tea, and yes to the people watching. If you still have room left or if like me you have that secrect pouch in your stomach reserved just for dessert, I suggest you walk over to Birite Creamery for the best Salted Caramel ice cream of your life.

Across the Golden Gate Bridge you will find Sausalito and Muir Woods. The Heath Ceramics Factory is in Sausalito so if you're an admirer of mid-century design and handcrafted objects then this is a must do. We took a tour of the factory and learned all about the process of clay-making. We were lucky to be there on a Friday to see all the craftsmen and artisians working. The Factory Showroom is also onsite where they sell their discounted and overstock products. I picked up a few pieces to display on my new shelf in the kitchen - score!

There is nothing more equally epic and humbling than standing in a dense forest of towering 300ft Redwood Trees. Muir Woods is the place to experience this.

Day 4: Berkeley/Oakland 
Do: UC Berkeley Campus & Elmwood/College Ave. (namely Jeremy's)

We always visit Berkeley because of nostagia. Walking through campus and recalling all the stupid things we did makes the heart feel full.
The food in Berkeley is unbeatable - Chez Panisse, Cheeseboard, Cesare, Zachary's etc... But sometimes you just want to eat that 10 pound burrito you used to down after that all nighter in the library or studio. So we went to La Burrita and it was just like yesterday again. We walked off that brick of a burrito and did a little shopping on College Avenue. No surprise I bought something at Jeremy's. We met a friend in Oakland for dinner at Boot and Shoe and I was blown away by their cocktails. I recommend their New Orleans Buck and their off-menu Cilantro Collins.

A little random but we spotted the Google self-driving car on Highway 24!

Day 5-6: Sacramento

Our last stop was Sacramento. We didn't do much exploring because we were mostly hanging out indoors playing games and catching up with friends, but the yearn for food did lure us out. My friend told me that Sacramento is touted as the "farm to table" food destination of California because of its proximity to so much farmland.
For brunch we ate at Red Rabbit and we decided to start the drinking festivities early. I got a mimosa and Antony got the French Toast which is amaretto, whiskey, maple syrup, lemon, egg white, bitters, and cinnamon. I usually don't like whiskey cocktails but wow this was so good and so true to its name.

In the afternoon we relaxed at Temple Coffee and drank their famous Bliss Tea which is a peppermint tea with steamed coconut milk and honey. My best description of the tea is sighing ahh. The downtown location is a nice stroll to the State Capitol Building.

On our last day before we set out on the road home, we had one final meal at Fox and Goose. This place is an English Pub so I had their housemade scone with a side of cream and their fish and chips. The highlight was the scone w/cream. Probably the best scones outside of England, I speculate.

5 hours later on the 5 freeway and we were back in LA.

Buenos Aires is a big, beautiful city, and I have no regrets that we spent a week of our honeymoon there. I actually wish we had more! Buenos Aires is not a city that you can see in 1 or 2 days. I definitely think you need at least 5 days if you want to see all the different parts of the city. You know I researched the hell out of this trip, and yes, there's a spreadsheet with all my findings. However, even with all that research, we absolutely benefitted from having wi-fi at our apartment and hotel. We ended up being able to visit almost all the major neighborhoods in Buenos (as the locals call it).

RECOLETA is famous for the cemetary that is the permanent resting place of Evita. The cemetary is not morbid or scary, as you might imagine, but really beautiful - like cemetaries in New Orleans. Recoleta is a very affluent neighborhood (no subway access), and you can find the stores of lots of European luxury brands. The streets are tree-lined and the architecture is beautiful. We snacked at La Biela, which was a popular cafe for politicians, writers like Jorge Luis Borges, and now tourists. Recoleta is also home to several museums such as the Museum of Belles Arts, and the National Library, but we didn't have time to drop by.

LA BOCA is the neighborhood often photographed in representations of Buenos. Caminito, specifically, has brightly painted buildings, cobblestone streets, and tango dancers in the street. We were disappointed that everything there had transformed to be a tourist trap. Dancers are just street performers expecting donations, every store is a souvenir shop, and everything else is a restaurant. Beyond that small area, La Boca seems to be economically struggling. Most buildings are vacant, and they are just ghosts of their beautiful former selves. I would say La Boca is not a safe neighborhood if you are traveling alone or at night, and we were very careful. We did enjoy delicious pizza at Banchero, a few blocks away from Caminito, but we had to walk all the way back in the sweltering heat to find a cab.

PUERTO MADERO is the relatively newly redeveloped port area of Buenos. Many up and coming restaurants and condos are located here, and the city's richest and politicians reside in Puerto Madero. We were charmed by the area, but our Airbnb host said it wasn't as alive as the rest of the city, which I suppose is true. A large part of Puerto Madero is the Ecological Reserve, which is truly an oasis in the middle of the city. We went on a short hike through the Reserve, and it was a beautiful retreat from the city. You never see green space like that in LA, and the street vendors lining the Reserve made my mouth water!

PALERMO is the hippest and trendiest neighborhood in Buenos. It is also an affluent neighborhood with access to huge green spaces, the zoo, botanical gardens, etc. We stayed in Palermo, close to the zoo, and we liked coming home to our little neighborhood. We ate dinner one night at Rio Alba, which was just around the corner from our place. Palermo itself is divided into several areas, but mainly Palermo Viejo and Palermo Soho. Once you're tired of craning your neck and admiring the architecutre, shopping and eating in Palermo is the thing to do. Palermo is different from the rest of the city because it features more independent designers and craftsman. There are stores in Palermo that you can't find anywhere else. Another night we rode the bus into Palermo Soho to eat at La Cabrera and then wandered around the streets where hundreds of people were sitting out on the sidewalk cafes eating and drinking at midnight.

DOWNTOWN/MICROCENTER features tons of buildings that make Buenos look like Paris. Like a lot of the buildings in Buenos, they were beautiful but not always well-maintained. It's a very obvious reminder that Argentina is struggling financially. We walked down Avenida de Mayo from Congresso to the Presidential Palace, and we almost melted into puddles of sweat. The architecture was gorgeous, but I really recommend that you don't visit in the middle of Argentine summer!! We took a break at Cafe Tortoni, arguably the oldest cafe in the city (and now filled only with tourists). Calle Florida is a major shopping street in the area. Think of 3rd Street Promenade but much longer. There is a stuffy mall and the street is lined with stores. All the brand names are here, from low to high end. We also saw something like 4 McDonalds in the 5-6 blocks that we walked.

SAN TELMO is the oldest neighborhood in Buenos, and it still maintains some of that character with cobblestone streets and  colonial architecture. San Telmo is famous for the flea market every Sunday, for which we were not in town : (. San Telmo is a charming neighborhood, and perhaps one of my favorites to just stroll around and people/building watch.

I really appreciate certain aspects of the Argentine way of life. Whenever we dined out, we were forced to slow down and appreciate each other's company and the food. We would grab a table inside or on the sidewalk and wait... and wait. Eventually the waiter would come by and give us a menu. Then the waiter would return... some time later. The food would come out, we would ruminate on the deliciousness of the food for a good 30 minutes, and the check would stay in the waiter's pocket until we asked for it. Every meal was at least an 1.5 hour affair. After lunches, we would go take a siesta with the rest of the city until the weather cooled down. The lifestyle is definitely slower paced, and perhaps it seemed much more than way since we were on our honeymoon, but the practices of enjoying each other and savoring food are definitely lost in our American culture.

Had we more time in Buenos, I would have visited the Belgrano neighborhood, more parts of Palermo, Las Canitas, and checked out some horse races and the museums.  If you're visiting Buenos and you have questions on transportation, lodging, or other logistics, feel free to contact me!

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