Boutique California Travel

San Francisco Travel Diary

August 30, 2017

San Francisco Travel Diary | The Beauty Look Book

I’m excited to share Part 1 of my San Francisco trip with you today! Last week I went on a mini girls trip to San Francisco with my bestie Laura. It has been around four years since I last visited the city and was thrilled to have a few days to explore, shop and eat. We made a shared Google map listing all the places we wanted to visit and most of them were either bakeries or breakfast places. In total we had around 3 days to see everything so after we made an enormous travel wish list we narrowed our top picks to pace ourselves and give us enough time to chat and catch up since we now live on opposite coasts. We stayed at the Palace Hotel San Francisco which was the first time either of us had visited this hotel. Both of us had a great experience here and loved the customer service – we both agreed that it’s one we would both most likely return to on future San Francisco trips (more on this in Part 2 coming soon).

We covered quite a bit of ground during our stay. I’ve thought about how to share our trip and decided for this post it would be most helpful to share this in a San Francisco in 3 days kind of format. Our trip was really spread over 4 days including travel time, but our actual time in the city was around 3 so if you’re planning a quick trip or extended weekend kind of vacation this might be helpful. We both would have loved to be able to say the entire trip was a hit filled with all amazing experiences. We actually had a few misses, but we didn’t let it spoil our fun. If anything it made for some good memories we can laugh about in the future.

Day 1: Thursday

I flew into San Francisco in the morning and arrived around noon. The trip from SFO to the city was around 35 minutes. We both arrived at different times so I had a few hours to walk around Union Square and stopped by Barneys and Sephora (bought the Milk Blur Liquid Matte Foundation in Golden Sand). After Laura arrived in the city, we walked to the Nespresso Boutique excited for good coffee and a light sandwich but were both extremely disappointed with the poor service and food quality. Both of us have been to Nespresso cafes before so we were shocked at the rude service, dirty tables, incorrect coffee orders and long wait time we experienced after we were seated. Based on our experience I will never be eating here ever again. However we did not let that spoil our spirits and we decided to walk around Union Square to do some window shopping.

San Francisco Palace Hotel | The Beauty Look Book

San Francisco Travel Diary

San Francisco barneys and sephora | The Beauty Look Book

By the time we checked into our hotel room we completely forgot the sour experience at Nespresso as our hotel room was just so adorable and it had the perfect setup. We had a New Montgomery Street view room (around 300 sq feet) on the 7th floor. It was on the small side but the rooms looked like they had been renovated within at least the last year. The bathrooms were modern and everything was clean and pristine inside. The toilet seats were heated and now I want one of my own. More on this lovely hotel in Part 2!

For dinner we met up with one of Laura’s friends at Nopa. All of us fell in love with this place and thought it was well worth the long wait. The restaurant books up pretty fast and by the time I had tried to make reservations there was nothing left! They do have a bar area and shared table which is unreserved and open on a first come first serve basis. We arrived at around 6:10 and every seat was already filled so we waited 30 minutes at the bar and had some drinks before something opened at the shared table. The food was phenomenal and the drinks were amazing. We did some shared plates which was plenty of food for the three of us and I ate the best tomato salad I’ve ever had in my life. Service was quick and professional – if you’re not a fan of crowded restaurants you definitely should make reservations in advance. After dinner we walked around the corner to a small market and bought some cookies for dessert before heading back to the hotel to wind down. At the hotel we both whipped out some sheet masks I had brought while we watched TV until we passed out granny style lol.

Nopa San Francisco

Day 2: Friday

Our priority on this trip was a visit to Tartine Bakery. We had both been here before on separate occasions and fell in love. Tartine is on my must-do list for every SF trip! This round it was every bit as amazing as we had remembered. I got my usual which is a morning bun, croque monsieur and a latte. Laura got her usual which is the ham and cheese croissant but also tried a few other new pastries including a lemon poppy seed cake. We heard that a restaurant opened called Tartine Manufactory but we didn’t make it this round. After breakfast we headed to Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies – it was such a beautiful area and we were really surprised how many people we already in the park sitting to take in the city views. We spent around 30 minutes sitting and snapping pictures.

Tartine Bakery San Francisco

San Francisco Alamo Square Painted Ladies

San Francisco Alamo Square | The Beauty Look Book

Our next stop was Fillmore Street where we stopped by Space NK and the store is beautiful! If you’re looking for an intimate and quiet place to do some beauty shopping this is it. The staff at the individual stores are always so nice, not pushy and really helpful. I bought a pack of 111SKIN Sheet Masks because I find them life changing. I also picked up a By Terry Glow Expert Duo Stick in Amber Light (excited to try this) along with a Stylo Blackstar in Maroon Glace (also excited to see how this wears!). I convinced Laura to buy a pack of the 111Skin sheet masks as well. She bought the By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra-Primer – I’ll have to ask her what she thinks about it. We wandered around Fillmore a bit more and stumbled across an Atelier Cologne boutique. I had to stop inside as I’ve never seen a full store before. We were helped by an associate named Homer who was one of the most knowledgeable perfume experts I’ve ever met. He was patient, friendly and helped us sample almost everything in the store. I bought Bois Blonde in the travel size. There are also sampler sets you can buy as well in case you can’t smell them all in person. If you can stop by a boutique I highly recommend it, the service is phenomenal and they aren’t pushy at all. These days I find retail shopping can often be an unpleasant experience (outside of Sephora or Nordstrom) with pushy sales reps or reps who don’t know the products well. Both SpaceNK and Atelier Cologne had excellent service with knowledgeable staff that were friendly and fun. Plus the interiors are well maintained and clean!

Space NK Fillmore Street

Space NK Fillmore Street San Francisco

Atelier Cologne San Francisco Store

The day ended with an amazing dinner at Gary Danko. I’ve been here several times with my husband (reservations are highly recommended) and it’s one of the best restaurants I’ve been to with a fancy yet unpretentious atmosphere. The experience is truly special and words cannot explain how lovely this place is.

Day 3: Saturday

We decided this was the day we would do some hiking and get some good photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately it was cloudy everywhere we went! We started the day at Land’s End. It was foggy but still beautiful for a short hike. We started at the Suttro Baths end made it to the half-way point until we reached the steep staircase, took a look at it, decided we didn’t want to go up hill to check out the view on the other side and turned back to look for some food. The total hike was around 2 miles to the half way point and was really easy. Later on the trip my friends told me if I was hiking there to get good views and photos all I had to do was walk to the end and take an Uber to the other side, snap a picture and then fake tell everyone I hiked the whole trail. If it weren’t cloudy and my friend wasn’t expecting I probably would have tried to walk all the way.

Land's End San Francisco

Our food adventures this day were misses. We decided to look for some Bun Mee so Laura googled “best bunmee SF” and we decided to try a place called Saigon Sandwich because it had over 2,800 reviews with a 4.5 star rating. We did not realize this was in the Tenderloin nor did we really know what the Tenderloin was like. We navigated through some pretty rough areas where the streets were filled with drug addicts and twitching people. We both thought there was a chance we’d get stabbed. Still we braved the few blocks to the sandwich shop and both opted for the combination sandwich. This place is a take out kind without seating so we decided to take our sandwiches to Union Square out of the Tenderloin to eat them. Based on the high rave reviews we let down but perhaps we had too high expectations. Neither of us finished our sandwiches – maybe we just got the wrong kind. The meat was flavorless for me and the bread was super crunchy. Laura thought her tooth broke after she took a bite. Since we were in Union Square, we decided our next stop would be Diptyque on Geary Street and it was just so beautiful inside! I had visited the original one on Maiden Lane but they moved locations into a new space. I bought two mini candles to take home as a souvenir in Baies and Verveine.

San Francisco Maiden Lane

Diptyque Geary San Francisco

Diptyque San Francisco Geary

Diptyque San Francisco Geary

By mid-day we decided to search for something sweet and headed to Miette for some pastries. We ended up going to the location with mostly candy and macarons instead of the one with cakes but decided to try the ice cream sandwiches which barely had any taste. We decided after a few bites they weren’t worth the calories and didn’t finish them. As an FYI we went to the Miette on Octavia Street. When we arrived at the store we were told the one at the Ferry Building had a larger selection of cakes and cupcakes so if this is on your list, I’d recommend you go to the one at the Ferry Building instead.

After two semi-fails for food we decided to visit Media Noche which also had high ratings for great Cuban food. I ordered the Lechon Bowl and Laura ordered a Media Noche sandwich with some empanadas. We’re both obsessed with Cuban food and had high hopes. I’d give it a solid B+ rating but the local Cuban sandwich shop in St. Petersburg Florida has pretty much ruined me for life as I now consider this the standard for the best Cuban food I’ve had and to date nothing has come close in comparison. We notices reviews on Yelp complained about the small portions and we found the portions quite generous. The Agua Fresca of the day was quite amazing there, SF has some of the best fresh drinks and juices I’ve ever had.

San Francisco Media Noche and Garden Creamery

We decided to give our food adventures one last try in search for some ice cream. We both had Bi-Rite Creamery on our list (which I’ve already tried and really liked) but there was one right down the street about a block or two away called Garden Creamery which has good reviews and interesting sounding flavors. There was a long line out the door when we arrived but it was probably only a 10 minute wait. They’ll let you sample flavors when you get to the counter and I got two variations of coconut. It was perfectly smooth and creamy without being overly sweet. They also have dairy free vegan options. I liked it enough that I would definitely go back – the flavors are so unique! Little details like that make places special. Just an FYI their “single” option is actually two scoops and you can either get 2 of the same flavor or 2 different ones.

The last part of our day was to try and catch the sunset by the Golden Gate Bridge. We took an Uber directly to the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center and much to our dismay the fog had rolled in. The wind was pretty strong so we waited around 30 minutes hoping it would pass as we walked around but had little luck. It was still fun to see the interesting weather.

San Francisco Fog Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco City View from bridge

Day 4: Sunday

This was our last day together in the city. We started the day off with another visit to Tartine then headed to Golden Gate Park to see the Conservatory of Flowers and California Academy of Sciences which has one of the most impressive aquariums we had ever seen. There’s a fun butterfly exhibit inside their rainforest section with some of the biggest butterflies I’ve ever seen. I didn’t leave until the next day so after saying goodbye to my friend at the hotel I wandered around the city for a few hours to stop by Bloomingdales to pick up the Charlotte Tilbury exclusive lipstick Miss Bloomingdale. I also stopped by Nordstrom and bought one of the Dior Rouge Liquid Lip in Delicate Satin and a MAC Dazzleglass in Sugarrimmed. They had a mini Sugarfina boutique inside so I picked up several cubes of candy as there isn’t one in Tampa. I met up with friends in town that night and we had dinner in the Castro at a cute place called Finn Town which was delicious and I would definitely go back to.

Golden Gate Park San Francisco

San Francisco Conservatory Flowers

California Academy of Sciences

A few other thoughts and notes:

  • Navigating the city: San Francisco is the perfect place you can travel to without a car. It’s actually better not to have one. We got around easily on the Muni, Bart and Uber. Like any major urban city, there are going to be busy times that aren’t ideal for getting around quickly in which case Uber is usually a better option but a lot more expensive. Out of all the big cities I’ve visited, navigating the San Francisco is probably one of the easiest and most straight forward even for a novice traveler.
  • Weather can be unpredictable: Laura flew in from Los Angeles and I flew in from Tampa. Both of us had looked at the weather reports and still under packed by a long shot in terms of warm clothes. We doubled up on our sweaters and long sleeve shirts and even though we had a warm weekend there were times we felt like we were freezing.
  • There’s so much more we wanted to see. There was a lot on our list we didn’t get to but we felt like we accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.
  • Food highlights: Tartine, Nopa and Gary Danko.

I hope you enjoyed this San Francisco roundup! We covered a lot of ground in a few days. Part 2 to follow with a packing list and recap of our stay at the Palace Hotel. Have you done short trips to San Francisco? What are your favorite spots? Any go-to restaurants or bakeries you love?

 

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  • Suzanna

    Before moving to Florida in 2008, I lived in SF for nearly 20 years! Your post makes me nostalgic, and while the cityscape hasn’t changed much, I didn’t recognize any of the places you visited other than Barney’s, Sephora, and Diptyque (a Sephora with Tom Ford–do we have this anywhere in FL?). I managed a store in Union Square that is no longer there. I don’t think I would go back ever–no friends there any longer, people have grown older, moved away. But what a time it was, what an adventure, for a young person! I am delighted to read your reports and your photography is lovely.

    What was that pink-tinged drink at Nopa?

    • Hi Suzanna – oh my! SF for 20 years is amazing! I actually didn’t recognize a lot from just 4 years, things have shifted around. And I’ve only seen Tom Ford Beauty in the NY Sephora and now the SF Sephora.

      The pink tinged drink was some kind of grapefruit seltzer mix. My friend couldn’t drink as she’s due in a few months so I drank the same as her so she wouldn’t feel left out πŸ™‚

      • Suzanna

        Isn’t it funny how things change–it’s been nine years and I immediately felt a pang of homesickness from your Alamo Square picture; there’s a tall apt. building in the background that I always thought was so desirable. But things change, people move away, and I don’t know anyone there any longer. Not sure I want to revisit this; it’s like a dream image to me now. How I loved it when I lived there, though! And then…rural Florida! But, I went from high-end retail management to photography due to this change, so the SF past has blurred.

        I used to love Barneys and Diptyque, and now there is so much more. I am still hoping to find a TF counter somewhere so I can try the traceless stick. My skin is such a weird color this season.

        We used to go to Tommy’s out on Geary for amazing tequila flights and margaritas, the best in town with Julio’s special mix– if so-so Mexican food (although I must say that a ripe avocado with a squeeze of lime and salt is sublime). After drinks, we’d normally go next door to Khan Toke for Thai food. There was an incredible larb there with the toasted rice, red onion, ground chicken, and butter lettuce. Another place we’d frequent was Mandalay for Burmese. In North Beach, Helmand Palace for dwopiaza and aushak. And in the East Bay, Emeryville Public Market. Talk about cheap and fabulous eats! (I just looked it up and things have definitely changed, but we used to get amazing Afghani, Korean, and Szechuan food there.)

  • Alison

    What a great photo essay. I love seeing and hearing about the food!.

    I also am wondering how you will like the BT Blackstar Stylo in Maroon. I’ve put it in my shopping cart half a dozen times and never gotten it. I own several of the regular blackstar shadow sticks and use the dark ones as liners with a skinny brush and they don’t budge. My concern about the Stylo (and Maroon would definitely be my color) is whether you could get the line thin enough.

    • Thanks Alison – I too own the regular ombre blackstars. Based on the testers of the Stylo ones I don’t think you can get a thin line once the tip wears down straight from the tube. They’re more shadow stick material.

  • Heeyoung

    I am looking forward to your second post on SF trip. Very interested in your detailed review about the hotel you stayed

  • PhamLe Vacations

    Great recap! I live about 30 min away from SF and have never been to Tartine, Nopa, or Gary Danko, and your reviews are motivating me to make a trip up there soon. My favorite spots are the Ferry Building (I always get a sandwich from Acme Bread or softshell crab po’boy from the fish market) and Japan Center. Where was the photo of the flamingo art taken?
    http://phamlevacations.wordpress.com

    • The flamingo art is right outside of Media Noche – was a bit sad to see the graffiti but it was still cute!

      • PhamLe Vacations

        Thank you! Also, you need to go to San Jose to get good banh mi.

  • Sayaka Ando

    your photos are beautiful! Please check out my blog page! http://www.glowupyourlife.com/

  • kimair

    glad you had a fun time here in sf…too bad the weather wasn’t very summery! i live a few blocks from fillmore and it’s my favorite shopping area hands down. LOVE the space nk so much. i haven’t gone into the atelier cologne but i have been to le labo further up the street.

    sorry your food experience was hit or miss. nopa is one of my favorites if you don’t mind the wait. i also highly recommend tartine manufactory the next time you’re back…i’ve only been for lunch but make a reservation for dinner. smitten is probably my ice cream faves (right off fillmore) besides bi-rite. can’t wait to hear about your stay at the palace…been wanting to do a staycation there.

    • Hi Kim! Yes the weather was quite nice but I came from 100 degree weather and have become so spoiled! I didn’t realize you live close to Fillmore – we could have met up! Hopefully next time πŸ™‚

    • nic

      I would love to meet up. One day. Wedding plans have been on hold because life is throwing some crazy curve balls, but you won me over

  • Tatiana

    I stayed at The Palace hotel for a wedding so many, many years ago. Looks like it’s been updated and renovated. Unfortunately, it looks like they didn’t do anything about the single pane windows. It was seriously the noisiest and worst two nights sleep ever. And the neighborhood wasn’t so good back then either. Whenever I’m in The City, I’ve always wanted to stop into that Nespresso for a quick coffee and bite to eat, now I’m not so sure. Thanks for saving me the aggravation. Glad you enjoyed your time in SF.

    • Ahhh yes! We were on the 7th floor so we didn’t hear any street noise, thank goodness! I think the Nespresso boutique can be hit or miss. I’ve seriously had so many good experiences, this one was soooo bad that I’ll never go again. Other Yelp reviews were overwhelmingly positive.

  • Happy to see this round up of pictures, looks like an amazing trip! I was there this time last year, and this post definitely is making me feel a little nostalgic, it’s such a beautiful place to visit!

    Rebecca | morerebe.com

  • LS

    Thanks for sharing your SF trip. Tenderloin is a sketchy area, must stay away. What is bun mee? It’s banh mi.

  • Eileen

    As always, your pictures and descriptions are wonderful and capture the spirit of your travels. Although I’m a So Cal gal through and through, SF is one of my favorite places to visit. I manage to make the one hour flight up there several times a year because my youngest son and his incredible lady call SF home.

    • Thank you Eileen! So sweet of you to always be so supportive of my travel explorations πŸ™‚

  • Wow these pictures look incredible! I would love to visit San Francisco one day xx

    http://www.anacelinelabod.com

  • nic

    What about San Francisco for a honeymoon? We are not loaded, but would like something memorable.

    • I’m not sure I’d pick SF for a honeymoon spot, I’d be more inclined to pick something tropical!

  • Sondra

    Ahhhh, I love SF. Your pictures are glorious. I need to go back. My first time there, my sister & I got lost & ended up walking through the tenderloin district at night to find the train station. We were so scared. (and were confronted several times) By the time we got on our train we cried all the way back to our hotel. But we both still love SF. We laugh about it now. Can’t wait to read your next post!!!

  • Sharon Macklin

    Love SF…have to go back!

    Question about the 111SKIN mask. I looked on the site…how many masks come in the box for $160.00? I hope it’s more than one!

    • Hahaha yes of course more than 1 in the box. I would be pretty much insane to buy 1 mask for $160. There are 5 in each box. This week is the Space NK and Barneys Beauty event, it’s a great time to take advantage of the GWPs they have.

  • As a Bay Area native (born in SF, raised in Daly City), I love hearing about the spots visitors love to check out. Please check out B. Patisserie (lower Pac Heights) next time you’re in town. I think I may love this more than Tartine. However, I’ll always love Tartine’s morning buns. Nearby Ocean Beach is Devil’s Teeth for cinnamon rolls big as your head and breakfast sandwiches that will keep you full well past lunch time. About the Tenderloin, like any major city, you’ll have those sketchy neighborhoods. Tenderloin is no different. There are great restaurants/bars tucked in this area. Just do your homework and have your Uber/Lyft nearby. My favorite Bahn Mi is over at a donut shop on my way to work. I guess I need to find my own bahn mi spot. Thanks for sharing info on the Atelier Cologne boutique. I was unaware that exited in lower pac heights (my favorite area for boutique shopping). I’ll have a better list for you next time you come back! Great pics and so glad you guys had fun!

    • Ahhh B Patisserie was on my list!! Thank you so much for the recommendations!

  • lisainsf

    So glad you enjoyed my beautiful city! Thank you for the lovely photos. You captured my favorite spot in San Francisco, the plaza between the Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum. About a dozen years ago they closed that plaza for more than a year for remodeling, and I was so depressed over that! When they reopened it, I was thrilled, and I can never take it for granted again.

    • nic

      You just sealed my decision. High five!

    • Hi Lisa – so sweet of you to say this! xoxo

  • Abbie Stephen

    Would love to see the Miss Bloomingdale’s lipstick. Love all of your posts Sabrina, your photos are wonderful and your writing is great. You’re such a classy lady ! Lots of love from Wales xxx

    • nic

      I want to see ALL the lipsticks! I’m excited! My fiance really enjoyed this. I think taking him here instead of NYC is probably better. Since I lived there, navigation would be easy. Just don’t think my GA/Hawaii man is ready for the Concrete Jungle. I know Hawaii is great, but is it bad I want SF?! Dang it, Sabrina!

    • Thank you so much Abbie you are too sweet! I’m going to try and review Miss Bloomingdale!

  • Yarden Avriel

    Hi Sabrina! Lovely post as always. I am traveling to San Fran next month so this has been super helpful. Also- am going to Tampa! Any recommendations on what to do while there ? how many days would you spend and any place nearby worth visiting ?

  • Mikki

    Thanks for the beautiful post Sabrina. my question is on the food. What made the tomato salad the best you ever had? Can you tell what the ingredients were?

    • Hi Mikki – it was just the quality of the vegetables! Nothing like truly fresh produce and I’m obsessed with heirloom tomatoes.

  • cpbebe

    I am so glad you enjoyed your stay in my hometown of San Francisco! We do have so many sights and sounds to take in, it’s hard to do it all in a short time. But you are right, the beauty of it is that since we are so compact geographically, it makes it easier to cover more ground than a spread out, driving centered city like Los Angeles. If you ever return, there are tons of adorable boutique hotels to choose from, I loved my stay at the Hotel Abri, which is located convenient to parks, shopping, restaurants and public transit hubs. Ice cream places are a popular subject of debate here, with San Franciscans split, vowing loyalty to either Mitchells, Bi Rite or Humphry Slocombe. My personal fave if you are ever in the Dogwatch area(great restaurants here, but further from downtown, so you’ll have to taxi) is Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. Gourmet ice cream heaven!

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