Less Adventure in the City by the Bay

Katie and I are surrounded by different people constantly. The concierge has an eastern European accent. The host of the wine hour is from El Salvador. Some of the other guests are British. Some are from the Midwestern part of America. And as soon as we venture out into the windy city, there are more people of any kind of background or ethnicity. We hear French being spoken as we crossed the street to Union Square. We walk past a German tourist group. We are passed by an Asian woman in heels who speeds up the city’s steep hills. In a city where one third of it’s residents are born outside of the US, is no surprise that we encounter so many different people. San Francisco is a cosmopolitan city, where almost 900,000 people are crowded together in 49 square miles of a peninsula. According to wikipedia, it is the second most densely populated large city in the US. It’s crowded with people from all over the world. It’s noisy and busy and the streets are never empty. For this and many other reasons, I love San Francisco. My kids, however, do not.


(Looking down Mason Street)

Last weekend was the beginning of my youngest daughter’s spring break. She wanted to do a road trip to northern California, to which I immediately agreed. We could visit my oldest in college and swing by my favorite city by the bay. I have professed my love for San Francisco on other occasions, and it remains one of my favorite places. I don’t know exactly what it is about this dense city, filled with a constant movement of people that creates a buzz of energy that is different from LA, but I never get tired of visiting. Maybe it is the fact that despite being so tightly packed, people are still so friendly. LA is more populated, but the city is spread out and people separate into distinct neighborhoods.

(Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel)

We headed out of our hotel after getting directions to the Top of the Mark from Krista, the concierge. I was determined to find a spot to see the whole city as the sun set. My daughter agreed to go with me because she was hungry for food. We hiked the steep streets up Nob Hill to our chosen destination.


(view of the city from the Top of the Mark restaurant)

The Top of the Mark is exactly where it’s name describes, at the top of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins hotel, and serves light fare and drinks. But more importantly, it provides 360 views of the city. They don’t take reservations and it can get pretty crowded. When we arrived there were no window seats, only seats in the middle elevated mezzanine area. I, of course, wanted to sit right next to the west facing window to watch the sun set over the city. My daughter did not want to sit by the window, because of how high up we were. She gets anxious in situations like this. I remember when she was too stressed out to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Sometimes I wonder how I ended up with children so different than me. I am constantly pushing myself to try new things and see new places, where my kids would rather be in the hotel room hanging out with each other. When it gets noisy and crowded, they don’t enjoy a buzz of energy, they want to get away.

We ordered drinks from a very busy waiter, talked, and people watched. As it neared sunset, the waiting area became more and more packed with people waiting for tables. I eyed the room hoping for a chance to change tables, but it did not look promising. I was disappointed but Katie was glad. I looked across the table at her and realized I was focused to much on getting a good view or a good photo. I needed to enjoy travel at her pace, not just mine. So I gave up jockeying for a better table and decided to enjoy where we were. It’s important to remember who your with when you travel. It’s not just about the location, it’s about the people that travel with you.



This year is the 75th anniversary of my favorite novel. A story about family and the enduring human spirit set on a journey to California. The Grapes of Wrath was published on April 14th 1939. The book won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In honor of this anniversary, I am giving away a copy of my favorite book in a giveaway! Enter by leaving a comment with your email below for chance to win. winner will be chosen by using Randomizer.org. Contest closes April 14th at midnight.

6 responses to “Less Adventure in the City by the Bay

  1. Great SF post! I just did a road trip from there to LA last November and had a total blast (ended up getting engaged on the Pacific Coast Highway!) – look like I’ll have to g back and do the Top of the Mark next time though!

  2. My uncle and my best friend both lived up there and I would go frequently. It was and is one of my favorite places on earth. Walking everywhere. Delicious food. Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. What’s not to love?

  3. Learning to enjoy the time is a difficult thing for me, especially when I’m traveling, because I’m always looking to “imprint the memory,” rather than relish it . . . learning the difference is big.

    And I love San Francisco – wonderfully quirky town that never feels as big as it is.

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