Welcome to MarMar Monday! KB’s sister, MarMar, is excited to share her travels with you. This week we’re chatting about her trip to San Francisco, California!
Hey everyone! So, this is a very special post about me, because I am going to write about my 21st birthday trip that I took with my mom to the one, the only, San Fransisco, California. So… why San Fran for a 21st? Basically, because it has four of ya girls’ favorite things: wine, opera, Full House (OG series only), and Alcatraz. Oh, and the classic Audrey Hepburn hit Roman Holiday musical rendition featuring the songs of my baby Cole Porter just so happened to be doing its’ pre-broadway run at the Golden Gate Theatre. So yeah…. we’s a goin’. San Francisco also happens to be right next to Muir Woods National Monument and Napa Valley, two amazing places that I would happily revisit/retire to.
I’m gonna give y’all the skinny on some of the best sights to see in San Francisco first, based off of their order of importance to me. Y’all ready?
“Everywhere you look…”
Stop one: The Painted Ladies. If you don’t know what these are, you obviously are not a 90’s baby and do not understand the phrase “Have mercy.” We’re probably ringing some bells now, and yes, Full House predominately featured the Painted Ladies in their opening credits.
What exactly are the Painted Ladies? Isn’t it just a row of houses? Golly, I am so glad that you asked! The Painted Ladies are a series of houses that are either Victorian or Edwardian in style that feature three predominant colors on their façades. While, technically, there are Painted Ladies all over the world, 710-720 Steiner Street is extra special. Artist Butch Kardum designed these beauts that are nicknamed “Postcard Row” and overlook the Alamo Square Park
BUT… betcha didn’t know, the Tanner resident actually is NOT one of the Painted Ladies; it’s at 1709 Broderick Street, just ten minutes down the road. I bet that they definitely had their fair share of picnics at Alamo Square though!
A Day at the San Francisco Opera
If you’ve read my “about me“, you know that I am a classically trained opera singer. Well, during our trip, Mom and I went to the glorious and world-renowned San Francisco Opera. Seriously, the beauty of the War Memorial Opera House easily matches the Palais de Garnier (Paris Opera House) in France or Wiener Staatoper (Vienna Opera House) in Austria. To make matters better, one of my favorite productions (and the center of my junior music history thesis), Mozart’s Don Giovanni, was in performances. PUHLEASE feel free to read the synopsis of this masterpiece.
The building is part of the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center. The opera house was commissioned and finished in 1932. The space at 301 Van Ness Avenue has been the home of the San Francisco Opera since their opening night. The house was designed by architect Arthur Brown, Jr., the same man who designed City Hall, which (conveniently) is adjacent to the house. At least in San Fran, the government can’t forget that the arts aren’t important. HUH HUM. The performance hall features 3,146 seats and standing room for an additional 200 people behind both the orchestra and balcony seating areas.
Outside of opera, this building was the host to the San Francisco Symphony from 1932-1980, which moved to its current home of 201 Van Ness Avenue. Perhaps the most interesting fact about the House, however, is that it was the groundbreaking site for the San Francisco Conference for the new U.N.O (United Nations Organization) in April 1945 following the end of World War II. So, the next time someone says the arts “don’t matter” or are “not as important,” please clap back at them with this fact!
Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary
Switching gears, I’m going to talk about something that I am very passionate about, the American Prison system. I have always been so enamored about the idea of mass incarceration, solitary confinement, and sentencing within prison systems. I mean, come on, Jean Valjean stole a loaf of bread to feed his family in Les Mis, and thousands of (predominantly Black/Latino) individuals are serving excruciatingly long sentences for marijuana possession, even as we are 11 states into legalization and it is glamorized by celebrities and media. But, another topic for another day.
OKAY. Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary: you’ve definitely heard the name, seen the movies, and heard of the crooks who inhabited it. The inescapable fortress. The prison where they sent the worst of the worst. Alcatraz Island has a very interesting history pre-penitentiary that shouldn’t be overlooked (which you’ll learn all about when you visit).
What to Expect at Alcatraz
Nowadays, the good ole Island of Pelicans is part of the U.S. National Park service. You can visit the grounds daily by Ferryboat. There is also an option for a “Behind the Scenes Tour” and HELL YEAH, that’s what I reserved months in advance. I not only learned about some of the inhabitants and got to go with a ranger in some pretty cool places (aka the dungeons where there were solitary confinement chambers and woo-wee was that place dark and the food hall, just to name a few), but I got to learn more about the american prison system of the early 1900’s and how it has effected the system today.
Alcatraz is very honest about its history. It speaks about prison violence, sentences, and all of the terrible ish that went down there and in other prisons like it (like Eastern State Penitentiary). However, Alcatraz now uses their platform to educate its visitors about prison reform and how we can all be advocates on harsh subject matters such as mass incarcerations or wrongfully convicted individuals.
Alcatraz has a gallery of art created by former or current convicts serving their time in the multitude of federal prisons across the country. This display shows that just because someone did a bad thing doesn’t also mean that they can create something beautiful. What once was an Island of Incarceration now stands to be an Island of Freedom. (I wish I had thought of that on my own, but tbh that’s their tag line for the park so imma give credit where it is due.) I implore you to make this the most important thing at the top of your to do list when visiting San Francisco, because the experience will definitely change you for the better.
Special San Francisco Spots
Other notable destinations in the city are Fisherman’s Wharf, which is the city’s “tourist trap” area. BUT it has a lot of super yummy restaurants, like Boudin Bakery Cafe. You can also go to the adorable KitTea Cafe and spend your morning/afternoon/whole freaking day hanging out with the sweetest lil rescue kitties, some of which are available for adoption via Hopalong Animal Rescue.
Be sure to visit The Presidio that overlooks the park AND is home to the one and only Walt Disney Family Museum. Now is when I am going to share a fun fact about me, you ready? In 2017, I spent my spring semester of college in the place where dreams come true as a Fairy Godmother in Training at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at the one and only Walt Disney World. So yeah, big fan.
I absolutely loved that Walt’s life and creations are the focal point of the museum. I got to learn SO much about the man who has cast such an influential light on my life as an entertainer. The Diana Disney Miller Exhibition Hall was even showing the original artwork for my favorite Disney film/princess/Tchaikovsky ballet Sleeping Beauty. I got to see the original drawings of the film and witness glory and yeah I did cry and that is okay.
Shopaholics should absolutely head to Union Square. I have a very special place for it in my heart, because thats where I basic-white-girled and got my Tiffany & Co heart necklace. But, there are so many shops around, you can easily shop til you drop. If the insanely steep streets aren’t thrilling enough for you, head on down to Lombard Street, where you can experience what feels like a million turns in one tiny block. In Chinatown, you can take a trip to Benkyodo, aka the inventors of the fortune cookie. Also, make sure to see the Palace of Fine Arts, whose Greco-Roman styled dome was the influence for the one and only BB-8.
Into The Woods
Complete switch. Let’s talk about some wine and woods.
Ames and I decided to spend a day away from San Francisco and took a day tour of Muir Woods and Napa Valley. It did not disappoint. Muir Woods National Monument is part of the National Park Service in the Golden Gate National Recreation area. It’s a great place to spot some redwood trees. Don’t plan on getting chased by a murderer through these woods, though: there is no cell reception. No one will come help you. You will be…on your own. But seriously, this place is breathtaking. We spent two hours going through the park, which has walking trails and literally amazing foliage. Uh, but watch out for bears – we all know that California is *kinda* known for them. I didn’t see any, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Quit your W(h)ining
After wandering through the woods, we hopped back in our gorgeous little bus and drove to the place I plan to retire, drink wine all day, and play my grand piano: Napa, CA.
Here’s a pro-tip if you decide to take the day tour we did: Muir Woods is higher in elevation and insanely shady – it is cold. Napa Valley is not in the Bay Area, it is lower elevation and not shady – it can be very hot. Do NOT go to Napa Valley in thick socks and Bean Boots like I did. You might be miserable (until you start drinking.)
We got to go to three different vineyards: a small, family based winery named Mayo Family Winery, a medium-sized winery named Kieu Hoang Winery, and a large distributor winery named Cline Cellars. Hey, MarMar, what’s the difference between a vineyard and a winery? GIRL LEMME TELL YA. A winery is a licensed property that makes wine; a vineyard is any plantation that grows grapes meant for wine. Easy peasy. Needless to say, after a *few* wine samples of like everyone’s entire collections, it was a super fun ride back to the city. A huge plus was that the bus actually stopped by the Golden Gate Bridge for us, giving us the *ahem* perfect IG-worthy pics.
Needless to say, I could wake up in San Francisco every day of my life and be incredibly happy. But, it’s currently the most expensive real estate market in the US, so, for now… I’ll choose just to have sweet dreams of it instead.
all my love,