San Francisco/Oakland…A Nice Break from the Winter Plaguing the Rest of the Country

This week I was blessed with break from winter and a trip to California!  Not that it’s been cold in Dallas (it’s be beautiful out actually), but boy has it been cold everywhere else.  Last week I got stuck going to Iowa and I was too cold to even focus on anything but getting sh** done and getting outta there.  The weather when I landed there…-4…GROSS!

Anywho, the San Francisco area is much like home…60’s, sunny, and just the way I’d prefer to spend my January.

The Hotels:

Hilton Oakland AirportDefinitely a little different from your normal Hilton hotel.  Instead of being one big high rise, it is spread out over several different buildings.  I’m staying the main building where the gym and the front desk is.  Annoyingly, you have to go across the street to get breakfast in the morning.  Honestly, it reminds me more of a Hampton Inn than a Hilton.

The Room: Nothing too impressive.  Bathrooms on the small side and the rooms are a little old.  Oh, and the AC is a little slow making the rooms kind of stuffy.  On the positive they do let you crack the window open…only a few inches, but hey it’s fresh air!

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The staff:  I’ve had a mix of personalities so far.  The check in staff was great, but the guy at today seemed pretty irritated/flustered.  They’re having issues with the parking gate not reading people’s hotel cards and when I asked about it he made sure to let me know I was one of a million people to ask about it.  Sorry dude…

Parking: 12.75$ a night, issues with the gate, but there’s a 24/7 gate attendant that can let you in and out.

The Gym: Heck of a lot more equipment than most gyms.  THUMBS UP!

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Embassy Suites San Francisco Airport:  Nice and close to the airport just the way I like it when I have a 630am flight…grosss!   Oh and of course they have a free cocktail hour…winning!

The Room: Nice and roomie!  I love when I get a suite and not just a plain old hotel room.

The staff:  Everyone has been great from the front desk to the bartender at the cocktail hour.  I was unsure weather I was going to return my car early to take the shuttle or keep it so they comped my parking just in case.  Later I wanted to go shopping but not name brand shopping…more boutiques, cute little stores type shopping and the girl at the front desk quickly gave me a couple options and recommend her favorite.  Just the way service should be:)

Parking: Pay per night…not sure of the exact cost.

Food:

Nopa:

To be honest, I ended up at Nopa by accident.  Originally, I was hoping to grab some food at Bar Cruda across the street, but quickly found them to be closed on Mondays…annoying. Quickly busting out my Around Me app I found Nopa, another restaurant I had been considering, only to be a block away.

Environment: When I walked in the place was jam packed!  If you want to go here definitely consider making a reservation.  For those like myself who were clueless to how crowded the place would be on a Monday night, they offer community style sitting…first come, first serve….at the bar and at a large table next to the entrance.

While I didn’t try any of their cocktails….I knew if I did I might fall asleep before I even ordered my food….they did like pretty delicious.  I saw a variety of things being prepared while I sat at the bar and all of them hand crafted down to the smallest detail.  Not to mention they have a large variety of things to choose from.  Check out all variety:

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I also like how the kitchen was open.  It’s kind fun to see everyone bustle around the kitchen in madness.

Food:  I ordered the Moroccan vegetable tangine, with toasted almonds and lemon yogurt.

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While I loved the texture the almonds brought, the tartness of the yogurt and the random green olives thrown in there, there was a little too much potato action (sweet and regular) going on for my taste.  The majority of my “vegetables” were potatoes with only a few random carrots, onions, etc. in there.  Based on what I observed everyone else eating, the burger or the flatbread is the way to go next time.

Service: All staff was friendly and attentive from the second I walked in until I closed my check.

Barlata Tapas

After a long day of site seeing and working I was exhausted and didn’t want to venture of the bridge back into San Fran so I opted for a tapas place in Oakland.  A small, cozy little the restaurant this place definitely had some great food.  To start I want to mention their bread and olive oil…I never could quite figure out what was different about their olive oil, but its delicious!

My favorite thing:  Piquillo Peppers stuffed with shrimp and white asparagus. This dish was so good I almost ordered a second one, but I had more food coming!  The shrimp was extremely fresh and I love that the “cream sauce” is really just pureed white asparagus. So. Freaking. Good.

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Setas Latas: a mixed mushroom a la plancha with pine nuts.  The mushrooms could have used some more flavor but if you were able to get a mouthful with the pine nuts in the bit, yum!IMG_4677

Yellow Squash Soup: A typical squash soup, but without the cream.  If you’re in the mood for soup this isn’t bad, but nothing extraordinary.IMG_4678

Sotto Mare

No pictures tonight, but I wanted to make mention of this place.  When traveling so much a lot of times you want a delicious meal with out the pretentious atmosphere that comes with a high end restaurant.  If you are looking for good seafood in the area with a casual atmosphere this is the place for you.  It’s a casual diner where you can sit at the counter and watch the cooks, but the food is not to be missed.  I ordered the cracked crab…yum!!  I also tried the wedge salad, but I wouldn’t waste your time…nothing spectacular.  If you like clam chowder looking and listening to the people around me this is a must try.  Def going to be hitting this place up again when i come back to the area!

Site Seeing: 

Redwood Regional Park: Absolutely gorgeous! Only a 15-20 minute drive from Oakland airport and several different spots to stop with a  variety of trails.  I parked at the main entrance and took all these beautiful pictures!  Parking was free this time of year, but if you come during peak season there could be some parking fees.

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The view from one of the hills coming down from the park:

IMG_4669Shopping on Valencia: I wanted to go shopping but wasn’t interested in your typical mall/mainstream crap.  One of my fav parts about new cities is going to unique stores or one of kind stores.  This area is full of vintage stores and some boutiques with a hipsteresque style.  I found one store that sold clothes by the pound.  I fell in love with this sweet 80’s prom dress but it was too small…tears!  I have always wanted to have a 80’s prom 30th birthday party and this dress would’ve been clutch.

I also stopped in a store called NO and bought this cute sweater for 10 bucks.  A little overpriced for second hand stuff (most things were in the 20$ range), but the staff was super friendly and it was nice to be able to get out and about in the fresh weather!

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