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Last summer, while planning my now-annual visit to California to visit my dad, I added in a new stop that I hope becomes a regular one — San Francisco. One of my hometown best friends had recently moved cross-country to settle in Lower Pacific Heights, and I couldn’t wait to explore the amazing life she’d created for herself out west.

Presidio San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

After a long flight from Albany, where I’d barely caught my breath after my Boston and Martha’s Vineyard trip, I couldn’t wait to give Michelle a squeeze — and enjoy four days in a city I hadn’t properly explored since a school trip when I was thirteen.

San Francisco Nightlife

After losing my mind at the amazing-ness of Michelle’s brownstone apartment (she lucked into the third bedroom of a rent-controlled apartment her two sweet roommates have rented for more than eight years), we headed out for drinks. San Francisco, I’d learned, isn’t huge on rooftop bars — so the heated “roof-ish” patio at Jones was a pretty big deal.

I was immediately glad Michelle had insisted I bring a sweater. You know that famous Mark Twain quote, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco?” THAT DUDE KNEW WHAT WAS UP.

We continued our reunion celebration with dinner at Hops and Hominy and bar hopping what felt like all over the Bay Area. As someone who is often in serious trip planning and logistics coordinating mode, there’s nothing I love more than visiting my friends and just blindly following them around for a few days with little to no awareness of where I actually am. Makes blog writing difficult in retrospect (ha!) but it’s such a treat at the time.

San Francisco Nightlife

The next day, Michelle had an amazingly fun itinerary planned with hiking and brunch and so many of my favorite things. Unfortunately, I was feeling sicker than I have in ages and so was basically a useless blob the entire day — more on that later. But leave it to this super host to find the perfect activity even for an invalid houseguest: a feel-good movie at the fancy Kabuki 8 theater.

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego
Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

The following morning, though still feeling pretty weak, I couldn’t stand the thought of wasting another day on Michelle’s lovely itinerary, and so we set off for a gentle walk through Crissy Field. It was a chilly and windy morning, and fog dramatically clung to the bright red Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

At the base, we climbed up the Fort Point tower for better views, and could only take our hands out of our pockets long enough to snap quick selfies before they felt like they were freezing again! I could not believe that it was June in California and I was so cold (and yes, in fact, I am writing about this trip nearly a full year later — whoops.)

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

Thankfully, things started to warm up by the time we got back to the car. The walk had wiped me out but also worked up the first bit of appetite I’d had in over 36 hours, so I was pumped for our next stop — Chestnut Street in Pac Heights.

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

We could have spent all day strolling this too-cute neighborhood. After evaluating several options, we settled on lunch at Tacolicious, where I nodded in agreement to their signature tagline, “fingers over forks.”

Tacolicious San Francisco

Presidio San Francisco

When we emerged from the restaurant, I was shocked by what awaited us outside — bright blue skies! I never would have guessed based on the morning that our day would turn out this way. Michelle was kind enough to drive me back to see the bridge from another vantage point so I could obsessively take photos with this beautiful gift of sun. Ah, tourists.

But seriously… how beautiful is this?!

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

We ended up going for another wander, this time down to the harbor. The views looked familiar — they were the same I’d seen from my Alcatraz Cruise, my one little pop-in to San Fran since my last proper visit almost fifteen years prior.

Harbor San Diego

Harbor San Diego

But sometimes, when you’re catching up with an old friend, it doesn’t really matter so much where you are or what you’re doing… it’s all just background to a great conversation, anyway.

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

The morning’s activities left my still-rough-self pretty wiped, but Michelle knew just what to do: a driving tour! I did get out of the car at our two main destinations, but mostly I was quite happy to watch the city go by from the car window, listening to my friend’s narration about her new home.

Perhaps my favorite stop was the Painted Ladies. This famous row of Victorian Houses got its big break in the opening credits of Full House, but fame hasn’t gone to its head.

Painted Ladies San Francisco

Painted Ladies San Francisco

A little less overwhelming was Lombard Street. In theory, the world’s second windiest road sounds very cool, but in reality it’s actually pretty hard to appreciate (or photograph) unless you’re taking in an aerial view. Still, we drove down it, which was cool, and it was fun to see the huge tour group all angling for the best photo.

Lombard Street San Francisco

Lombard Street San Francisco

Lombard Street San Francisco

That night, we went to Tony’s for pizza and the Warrios game. While the waits are notoriously crazy at this popular eatery, we beat the system by sitting at the bar — a trade off I’m almost always happy to make when dining as a pair.

The next day was the first that I truly had my appetitive back, a terrible thing to lose in a city so famous for its cuisine. Michelle was working from home this day and it was so nice to just have side-by-side laptop time. As someone who often works alone, it really makes you appreciate the silent company of someone else doing the same. Other than a quick lunch outside on the street at The Grove, we chilled from our office on the couch all day.

And suddenly, it was my last night in San Francisco. We ran around town meeting up with various friends — dinner with Michelle’s roommate, drinks with my childhood neighbor and friend — and discovered two gems in the process. The first was Smuggler’s Cove, an intensely-themed pirate bar that would put most tikis to shame. While the night we visited was a little weird (there was no music playing, which I hate in a bar), I’ve had enough personal recommendations for this place to conclude that we just had an off night. I’d love to give it another chance and really work my way through the rum menu someday!

San Fran Girls Weekend
Smuggler's Cove San Francisco

And our next stop was Chambers Bar, which looked like it was made for Instagram. Though we arrived not long before closing, this was one of my favorite finds from the whole trip, and also left me itching for a return.

We turned in after, as the next morning Michelle was back to the office, and I was on to San Jose for a night with my friend Abby before flying to Los Angeles. I always love visiting Abby — when travel bloggers get together they do boring stuff like go to the gym and go to nondescript restaurants and sit on the couch and watch TV and basically do nothing but catch up and gossip about our weird and wonderful industry. Well, at least these travel bloggers do. (And clearly, based on the zero evidence I have of these 24 hours with Abby, we don’t take many photos either.)

Five days in Northern California flew by.

Chambers Bar San Francisco

Chambers Bar San Francisco

Chambers Bar San Francisco

They did so in large part due to the illness I mentioned before… which wasn’t just a bug.

I really hesitated on if I wanted to write about this or not, but I am pretty sure that I was drugged on our first night out. I have many reasons for thinking so, the primary one being that at our last stop for the night, Michelle and I were approached by a sketchy guy who tried to sell us drugs. We laughed off his dancefloor sales pitch (um yeah NO THANKS) but he wouldn’t quite leave us alone. Michelle says she noticed I started acting funny and the guy started speaking to me in Spanish, and I replying in it, so she couldn’t follow what was going on. I don’t remember any of this — because him buzzing around us like a fly you just can’t swat was my last memory of the entire night.

And so I also don’t remember that shortly after, as Michelle was putting us in an Uber, that same man muscled open the door or our car and forced himself into the vehicle just as we were pulling away. Michelle screamed that he wasn’t with us, and our driver screeched to the side of the road, yanked the guy out of the car and onto the curb, and hightailed us home to safely.

I was violently ill for two days; nauseous, weak, and unable to keep food or even water down. While I definitely considered the possibility that I was having a very weird hangover (for better or for worse, at this point I know my body’s reaction to excessive partying pretty well, and vomiting just isn’t party of the equation) but a call to my doctor back east confirmed that my symptoms were in line with those of date rape drugs. He encouraged me to go to a hospital for testing and treatment and  to file a police report, which in retrospect I wish I had done. But I didn’t have health insurance at the time and was worried what it all would cost, and I was also fearful of the reaction of whoever I might report what happened to, considering nothing really happened.

It was a reminder that with all the far flung, exotic destinations I travel to, terrible things can happen anywhere and women especially must always, always be vigilant when it comes to their personal safety. While it was a very unsettling experience and I can’t remember the last time I felt so physically terrible, I am so grateful to have escaped the situation relatively unscathed and to have had Michelle take such good care of me while I recovered.

Golden Gate Bridge San Diego

As for all the things I missed while I was healing… I’ll just have to go back. I’ve got the perfect host to crash with, after all.

Till next time, San Francisco…

3-devide-lines
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53 Comments...
  • Maddy
    May 18 2017

    OH NO. I am SO sorry you went through that sketchy experience, it sounds really frightening. Thank goodness you were with someone and the Uber driver reacted quickly.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the rest of your time here, hopefully the next trip will be full of more food/fun/less scary city life! If you want 85 degree days you have to come in October. It makes no sense but it’s true. 🙂

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      Thanks Maddy. Super grateful for how everything turned out. And yes! Everyone tells me that about the weather in San Francisco — I’d be thrilled to come back in the fall.

  • Cate
    May 18 2017

    Oh my gosh that drug thing sounds so scary! I am so relieved that you are okay, and that you had Michelle to look out for you. Definitely a lesson in being aware of surroundings. I have always wanted to visit San Franscisco, it looks so cool!
    Cate recently posted..A Love Letter to the Sea

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      I’m thrilled to have a good friend there — I’m sure there are many more visits back in my future.

  • Katie
    May 18 2017

    What. The F**k. I am outraged beyond reason that you had to go through something like that. Kudos to Michelle for being vigilant about what happened, and kudos to the Uber driver for doing the right thing. I really hate that we’re in a day and age where I feel the need to give props to people doing the right thing. Nothing against the Uber driver of course, just the state that our society is in.

    I think this gives you a really interesting story to tell. I’ve had people warn me about all sorts of “scary places” in the world, just because it is an unknown to them, and I have gone there and felt safe and secure. Meanwhile, people think that the US means security, and this terrible and dangerous situation happens to you. I’ve found that good and bad has a bit more of a binary line in my travels, while good and bad have merged into a gray area in the US, particularly with sexual assault on college campuses.

    Props to you for staying on the road, and I’m happy to continue being part of your community.
    Katie recently posted..Travel Costs in Nicaragua

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      Man, I know Katie. People are always warning me about the dangers of traveling abroad, but I would say some of my closest calls have actually been in the US. I really appreciate your support <3

  • Rachel
    May 18 2017

    After paying these crazy rent prices in NYC, I cannot imagine moving there and paying the same! However, I have visited twice and it’s definitely a fun place to vacation. And, the seafood is fabulous!

    -Rachel
    Rachel recently posted..9 Petite Struggles vs Empowerment

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      I am definitely shocked by the cost of living in some of the major US cities. Michelle actually fell into a fabulous apartment deal, but yeah, it’s a pricey city!

  • Laura
    May 18 2017

    Yikes, that is awful! It’s so fortunate that nothing worse happened (thank goodness for friends), but it still sucks that this criminal risked your health and wreaked havoc on your trip.

    That awfulness aside, as a “local,” I really enjoy Bay Area posts. Are you headed back this summer? Happy to give Berkeley rec’s, if ever needed. 🙂

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      Thank you Laura, that’s so sweet! I’m not sure if I will be back this summer… but perhaps in August when I go to LA to see my dad!

  • Ahhhh, you were in my old hood! Also, I don’t remember you ever being in SF it was so long ago, ha!
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Masters & Makers Trail: Whiskey, Wine + Beer in Franklin

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      It was right after our Vineyard trip last year — it’s what I was so stressed out about when we were in Albany, ha ha. Always on the go!

  • Velysia Zhang
    May 19 2017

    Such a lovely weather, and beautiful shots of the bridge too!
    Velysia Zhang recently posted..Top 10 Things to Do in Togean Islands

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      Thanks! Yes, we did luck out with some beautiful blue skies.

  • Justine Lopez
    May 19 2017

    I was about to write all about how I love San Francisco (which I do!), but then I got to the end of your post. That’s super scary but I’m glad you were in good company and got home safely. Travel safe!
    Justine Lopez recently posted..Which Part of Bali is Right For You?

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      Thanks Justine. Yeah, I know — I wasn’t sure when or even if to write about this, didn’t want it to overshadow the trip in my preserved memories the way it did in reality with my illness. But, well, life is messy and I guess sometimes the blog reflects that.

  • Ijana Loss
    May 19 2017

    I still haven’t made it to San Francisco! The thing is that it’s slightly out of the way if one plans a visit to SoCal, so I’ve never managed to fit it in. I have a friend who just visited and has been raving about it though, so I know I’ll have to make it there someday!

    Geez, I’m glad you’re ok! Good thing Michelle was there with you. I personally feel much safer in most every single foreign country I’ve been to than in the States. In fact I can remember only two times where I’ve ever so much as felt uncomfortable abroad, vs an infinite amount of times at home. But I’m glad that it’s not gonna stop you from heading back to San Fran!

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      Nope, nothing can stop me from visiting when I have so many great friends there. I know there are people with bad intentions everywhere.

  • Marni
    May 19 2017

    I can’t even begin to imagine how you must have felt, and I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I’m glad Michelle and the Uber driver were both there to give you help and make sure you were safe. It’s horrific that incidents like this are so prevalent and what should just be a fun night out can turn into beyond a nightmare. In terms of someone judging you because ‘nothing really happened’ – just because his full plan didn’t succeed doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be heard. I’m glad you shared with us.
    On a lighter note, San Fran has been on my bucket list for years now, and my mom, sister, and I are trying to plan a trip out there next October! I’m keeping my fingers crossed it all works out because it’s a city I’m eager to see.
    Marni recently posted..2017: What’s Next

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      Oh, I hope you make it Marni! I can’t wait to go back and enjoy when I’m feeling a little closer to 100%. Very much appreciate your words of support <3

  • Mao
    May 19 2017

    Sorry you had to deal with that. It’s just crazy even hearing about it. I am glad that at least you were with your friend and got home safely.

    I know you were hesitating about writing this about I am glad you did as this raises awareness and encourage everyone to speak up and look out for one another.

    Be safe out there!
    Mao recently posted..Top Questions I get when Traveling as an American

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      Thanks Mao. That’s a good point. I was nervous of the type of reaction I would get but everyone’s support has truly been heartwarming. Thank you!

  • Sandy
    May 19 2017

    Oh wow I’m so glad your friend Michelle was with you Alex and looked out for you as well as the uber driver. That is scary but I’m glad the rest of your San Francisco trip (minus the being sick part) was a good one :).

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      Indeed it was — can’t wait to go back someday and explore the bits I missed.

  • Eugenia Parrish
    May 19 2017

    OMG, girl, how on earth did Michelle escape the same treatment? Not to echo everyone else, but thank every benevolent being that she was there. My mind screams to think what would have happened if both of you had been hit with it. I understand why you didn’t make a report, but I’m fiercely meditating (spell-casting?) for the guy’s dick to rot off. Anyway, San Francisco has always been my favorite place and I always wanted to live there, but it would have to be IN the City, and good luck affording that. Being on the opposite coast now, not so many visits, but thanks for the vicarious pleasure.

    • Eugenia Parrish
      May 19 2017

      And thanks for sharing the evil story. I’ve walked around Mexico City late at night and felt safer than in any city in the USA. Can I share this post on FB? I’d like for other beautiful young women to read it and realize that blind-drunk partying can lose its fun real fast if you’re not vigilant like Michelle obviously was.

      • Alex
        May 31 2017

        Hey Eugenia, thank you for your words of support and you are always welcome to share anything I post here. However I’ve read your comment over and over again and I’m not sure how I feel about the last thing you said. I’m not really sure what lesson is to be taken away from incidents like this. I had a friend drugged in college (who, incidentally, also got home safe by the grace of a kind and compassionate cab driver) and its been a decade since and all of us who were there still have big nights out. And I haven’t stopped doing so either as a result of this. Of course we should be vigilant, but there is always a limit to what we can prevent and control in life (and on this particular night, I think it was just luck that Michelle had her wits about her and I was completely out of it, rather than a result of one of us behaving differently than the other.)

        • Eugenia Parrish
          May 31 2017

          Hi Alex, I guess I just meant that I’ve listened to too many young girls (I mean naive teenagers) laugh about the whole “date rape” thing, as if they think it’s funny and could never happen to them because they’re just having fun with “people they know”. And your perp was a stranger! You can party and still be aware and ‘have your wits about you’. I don’t believe women should have to live in fear, and it makes me angry that they still do, but you can’t always depend on “luck”. It only takes one really bad experience to ruin your pleasure in parties or places, and make you forever uncomfortable with “people you know”. Or cost you your life.

          • Alex
            June 1 2017

            Very true. The possibility of something like this should never be laughed off — it’s an all too real threat.

  • Chadwick
    May 19 2017

    I disagree that “nothing really happened”. That was attempted something. Rape? Abduction? Who knows.

    It is terrible that you felt unable to report it because it might cost too much and you might not be taken seriously. That is almost as bad as it happening in the first place.

    Glad you were with Michelle and a decent/normal Uber driver.

    Other than that, it was great to read about San Francisco. I spent a similar amount of time there in 2013 and loved the city. Sure, we stayed central and did the tourist thing, but you know… the bridge! The views! The cable cars! Next time, I do recommend doing what us tourists do – hire a bike and ride over the bridge to Sausalito.

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      Hey Chadwick, I appreciate everything you’ve said so much. Honestly, I think a lot of my hesitation came from self-doubt. Was it my fault? Was I imagining the whole thing? I wish I had gone to the hospital for that reason as much as any other. If I was doubting myself, how could I expect someone else not to. But all the comments here have really been comforting. When I look at things objectively, the facts seem pretty clear.

      And to your other point, I agree that all the touristy stuff is pretty darn fun in San Fran!

  • Britt
    May 19 2017

    As a NorCal resident, I can totally echo that as beautiful and wonderful as SF is…the sketch level is HIGH over there. Shame.

    But man did you enhance my list of eatings/outings to hit next time I go over to the Bay Area!

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      And she had an even more robust list, some of which I couldn’t enjoy due to my condition… but I shall be back to tackle in the future!

  • chichi
    May 19 2017

    gorgeous pictures so want to see the golden gate!

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Thanks Chi Chi… it’s a very photogenic place!

  • Erika
    May 19 2017

    Wow, that sounds so scary Alex! I’m so glad you’re okay! And still had a good time after all that. Wow.

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Thanks Erika. I’m very grateful for how things turned out (minus spending three days more nauseous than I’ve ever been in my life. That wasn’t nice.)

  • Joanne the crazy lady
    May 19 2017

    Oh my bloody hell that was terrible and scary and you are so lucky as it could have been so worse……….
    Joanne the crazy lady recently posted..Last day of cruise

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Indeed it really could have. I do feel lucky.

  • Dominique
    May 20 2017

    I’m so happy to hear the events turned out OK because you had your friend with you. I shudder to think what would’ve happened otherwise….

    SF looks like a beautiful city, one I must certainly visit one day! I hope the days I do visit it’s as sunny as when you were there 🙂
    Dominique recently posted..Cliffs of Moher – A Day Trip

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Yes! We really lucked out with the weather.

  • Kristen
    May 20 2017

    San Francisco is one of my favorite cities and I love all the pictures you took. Smuggler’s Cove looks AMAZING and I’ll definitely have to check it out the next time I’m there.

    I’m SO sorry you think you were drugged. I’ve had similar experiences in the past we’re I’ve looked back and gone hmm but never filed a police report. I’m so glad you had a friend with you.
    Kristen recently posted..Travel Roundup 5.19.17

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Yeah, the uncertainty is the worst. In a weird way I am almost glad the creepy guy got in our cab (and was thrown out, of course) because it makes me much more confident that I understand what happened than if I had just blacked out and been sick for three days after.

  • Julia Nix
    May 21 2017

    Stay strong girl. Long time ago, I was drugged by a male who was too keen to take me out for dinner. A person I had seen a few times at work. A visitor. One day, he came in with a takeaway drink which I thought a friendly gesture but it turned into a trap. I was numb, weak, sweating, I felt so out of it….. I managed to avoid going out with him after and told my ex boss about that incident. I left that place. It was terrible, horrifying to say the least. It still left a “scar” memory.

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      So sorry to hear that, Julia. It reminds me of this story, which went viral on Facebook last year. So glad you’re okay.

  • Allison
    May 21 2017

    I am so sorry to hear you may have been drugged 🙁 It’s scary how these things can happen anywhere but I am so glad you are okay!

    I had a sort of similar experience several years but also did not go to the hospital out of fear for how much it would cost and how long the wait would be. It’s shameful that we even have to take cost into consideration in these kinds of scenarios.
    Allison recently posted..Gap Year Series: Volunteering in Mexico

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Yeah, it really is. If I had been home in Albany with my doctor I would have gone in a heartbeat but the medical system is such a gamble I was afraid of what I would get and what the bill would be anywhere else. You’re right, it is shameful.

  • Joella
    May 21 2017

    Oh my goodness.So sorry about your experience but I’m so glad you had your friend and a good Uber driver. I also couldn’t help but think how awful it is that one of the things that stopped you going to get checked out was the lack of insurance and fear of cost. I hate that so much. I wish there was universal healthcare like the NHS here:( So glad you’re ok though.
    Joella recently posted..Traveling West Africa: Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      Yeah, healthcare is definitely a mess. It’s crazy what a different experience it is my half of the year when I’m in Thailand and I just go see a specialist when I’m in Bangkok for anything and never worry about the hassle or cost. But when I’m in the US I’m like, ugh, can’t be bothered with whatever disaster that’s going to be. It is sad.

  • grace
    May 22 2017

    Dang, that sucks Alex! I met my husband in Berkeley and we worked together in San Francisco. I’m pretty sure he was given something or had something put in his drink when we celebrated Halloween that year (in the Castro) – he was violently ill and nauseous and blacked out. It was scary but he did recover. All of this to say, I’m kind of not surprised it happened in San Francisco unfortunately. Glad you were with friends and taken care of, all things considered.

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      We were in the Castro too. Sorry to hear about your husband :-/ It really is terrifying. I mean that night I don’t remember so I wasn’t aware enough to be afraid, but the twenty-four hours after I was so ill I really got spooked. I’ve never felt nausea like that before… I was almost slipping in and out of consciousness the next day. Awful.

  • Maria del mar
    May 24 2017

    Thisis a city I’ve yet to visit. YOu are lucky to have a friend there. It sucks that you got sick but as you said, you can always go back after all!

    • Alex
      May 31 2017

      I am indeed! Most of my USA visits revolve around visiting a friend. It’s a good way to see the country.

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