one woman's quest to see all the neighborhoods
This past week, Ava and I had our very first trip outside of our comfy little neighborhood. Jordan and I decided to take only one car up here -- our street is very narrow, parking can be a pain and we both have fairly large cars -- so everywhere we had ventured thus far was by way of walking. Which is no big deal when you live two blocks from Cortland Avenue, the main drag that runs through Bernal Heights. Coffee shops, bakeries, overpriced grocery stores, all at our fingertips... but it was time to see MORE!
Initially I was pretty hesitant to stray too far from the house because up until this point, I have lived and died by Ava's nap schedule. Our little girl goes down for a nap every 90 minutes of being awake (about three naps a day), so if you factor in a 20 minute feeding in there, it leaves me with a little over an hour to run an errand and get her back for nap time.
But this week I threw her nap schedule out the window (she'll sleep in the stroller and she WILL get her sleep time in one way or another -- this baby loves her sleep) and my sister-in-law Patty (who lives on the peninsula a mere 15 minutes away), joined me to venture out into a new neighborhood!
I am equal parts overly excited and slightly terrified of public transportation. I love that you really can get anywhere in the city by way of bus (Muni), train (Muni/BART) or (for those willing to sit in traffic with a stranger for 4x the cost) Uber, but I feel so overwhelmed when trying to figure out the criss-crossing bus routes, transfers, and daily schedules.
For example... this helpful (not at all helpful) map below is on the Muni website. Maybe it's the millennial in me, but this should be interactive.. I mean heck, it doesn't even have a zoom function... how am I supposed to look at this, as a public transportation newbie, and figure out how to get around? I can hardly pin-point my starting location let alone the tiny cafe I'm trying to navigate to! I digress.
Lucky for me, the 511 Trip Planner exists, and it quickly identified our closest bus stop and quickest route to get to where we were going. Yes, we may have initially gotten on the wrong bus going the wrong direction -- but we quickly corrected and were on our way.
*Side note -- Ava was moderately impressed with her first bus ride. I kept the swaddle blanket over her carrier for most of the trip, going against the recommendation of the intoxicated man across the aisle with a full facial tattoo, urging me to remove it.
First stop... Noe Valley
Noe Valley is our neighboring hood -- to the left of Bernal Heights. I had been tipped off that this area was super family friendly and endearingly called 'stroller valley' because of all of the moms out and about with their babes. And wow did this hold true. We were literally amazed by how many strollers we saw. Every fourth person who passed had a kid in a stroller. And it wasn't just moms... the dads were out in full force too! We went on a Thursday and kept asking each other -- where are these people coming from? Don't they have jobs??? (yes I do see the irony in this question -- coming from the stay at home mom and French teacher with an awesome schedule, both out eating ice cream cones at 3pm on a Thursday).
We got some great tips from a local Noe Valley gal I met on social media (@swissandhoney), and her recommendations did NOT disappoint!
We started our day at Chloe's Cafe -- a cozy little spot with small side-by-side tables, country patterned tablecloths, and very friendly servers. Even on a Thursday at 1pm, this popular eatery had a wait, but it was worth every minute. The Grilled Ham, Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Jarlsberg Croissant Sandwich was warm, melty and amazing. Served with blue corn tortilla chips and sliced cucumbers -- unexpected sides that just added to the charm of this neighborhood gem.
Next we made our way to 24th street -- home to cute shops, restaurants and even a little Whole Foods grocery store (that if you didn't know any better you would think was a quaint neighborhood market, slightly set-back from the bustling street). We also stumbled into the Town Square. It felt very European -- this large open space with grey pavers under foot. Bistro tables scattered about with moms sitting and reading (okay probably texting -- the reading a book version only exists in my rose-colored recollection of the day), and kid sized teepees and climbing walls off to one side.
We were on a mission to make it to Noe Valley Bakery -- a famous local spot that has been around since 1995. Known for delicious cupcakes and fresh loaves of bread, all baked on site in their adorably tiny bake shop. I got four mini cupcakes and a large loaf of sour dough, because... when in Rome, eat all the carbs you can get your hands on.
During the day we visited a dark and narrow specialty chocolate store called Chocolate Dipped, where one old man sat behind the counter shootin' the shit with two of his old man buddies -- so into their discussion about baseball and the good ol' days in New York that they hardly noticed we were there. We also stumbled into an olive oil shop staffed by a charismatic shop owner, who - when asked for her name at the same time she asked me, exclaimed 'JINX YOU OWE ME A JOINT!'. We had a good laugh.
In the midst of enjoying the heck out of our day trying new things, eating ice cream and talking with the locals, I decided I want to see as many of the San Francisco neighborhoods as I can during our time here. And Patty my sweet sister-in-law is going to join me! Excited to meet more people, look at all the pretty architecture and of course... eat all the yummy food (good thing we have to walk so many hills to get around this town ;)).