It takes nothing short of a huge miracle to get a severe introvert like myself out of the house (my friends are amazing for putting up with me… Thanks I and K). Severe introverts take so much comfort in silence and routines that the idea of spending the holidays in a place we’ve never been is petrifying.
This is exactly what I was thinking, as I struggled with a massive panic attack in the last couple of days leading up to our trip in San Francisco.
Normally, Chad and I have a tradition of counting down to Christmas by watching old holiday films (“It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Eloise at Christmastime” are some of our favorites). We would wait for midnight to open presents, eat a snack, drink some wine, and marvel at how I’ve transitioned from horror movies with my brother to proper Christmas flicks (Chad hates horror movies, but my brother and I shared a strange sense of macabre during Christmas).
This is followed by yet another countdown for the New Year in front of our window. Our high-rise faces the fancy subdivisions a few blocks away (they try to outdo one another with fancy fireworks on new year’s eve). We would toast at midnight, eat 12 grapes (a tradition from Chad’s family), laugh at the thought of people inhaling firework residue in some crowded place (we’re quite antisocial that way), then brave the streets (which by 1 am would resemble a warzone) to meet up with friends in Chihuahua Makati Avenue (now Woody’s).
I was comfortable with the routine. I loved it.
Fast forward to Christmas of 2015. I was mentally kicking and screaming in NAIA as I waited to board the plane (then again, maybe the fact that NAIA is consistently one of the worst airports on the planet had something to do with my anxieties). I proceeded to do what any wino would do: knock myself out with the free wine on board Philippine Airlines (not the best stuff, but it had to do) and hoped my apprehensions would not transform into some form of rebellious angst.
Luckily, things totally turned around when we touched down in chilly San Francisco.
Maybe the efficient airport did it? The lack of traffic or pollution? The fact that my in laws were feeling the festivities and the massive post-holiday sales? Whatever it was, the festive mood was both intoxicating and infectious, like a delicious virus spread through lethal cocktails (I had to relate it to something intoxicating and infectious, so humor me).
When we got to my in laws’ house, we were greeted by some of the best things in the planet: a wonderful cold that a person who grew up in the tropics (me!!!) needed to get accustomed to (yay for fashionable layering!), an 80-something pound Golden Retriever (who needed to reconcile his actual size with how small he thought he was), and… Wine.
Our (adoptive) BFAM (Brother From Another Mother) gifted us with two bottles of wine: a Duckhorn Chardonnay from Napa and a Decoy Pinot Noir from Sonoma. Equally sublime, the wines represented some of the best in California winemaking… I particularly adored the Pinot Noir for its elegance and complexity.
From this point, we basically ate, drank, and shopped our way through San Francisco.
Must Drink: Hot Chocolate from Ghirardelli (richest, creamiest, thickest hot chocolate ever!), and Irish Coffee from Buena Vista (where the first Irish Coffee in America was made… Guests can buy ingredients from their gift shop, too). There’s a Peet’s Coffee wherever we looked… It’s heavenly (especially during chilly days), and my brother in law swears it’s best when it’s freshly ground (totally agree).
Foodie/Wino Restaurants to Visit: Have brunch in Fairmont and The Palace Hotel (brunch is apparently a big deal in San Francisco… Expect free flowing Champagne or Mimosas!), then have a gastronomic feast in Michael Mina (seems pricey, but the food is absolutely worth it and the wine pairings were on point… Look for Claude for the most concise food and wine pairing explanation). Go to The Slanted Door for a delicious modern take on Vietnamese food, then go around the Ferry Building for foodie finds (Blue Bottle Coffee is a must try!).
Must Buy: Chic insulated wine shoulder bag from Bed Bath & Beyond (for your fasyon BYOB needs), huge frou-frou coffee cups (Anthropologie), manual ceramic coffee drip (Sur la Table), spices (I loved the Pumpkin Pie Spice from Trader Joe’s, which is now a necessary addition to my morning coffee), and metal ice that wouldn’t water down a glass of whiskey (Brookstone). Look for funky-girly bar stuff (from sparkling wine inspired wallets to cute mugs) in Kate Spade.
Since San Francisco is a hop skip and a jump away from Napa, our BFAM one-upped his presents by taking us to Napa for a wine tour…
…which I will save for another article. 😉
So. Did I leave my heart in San Francisco? Surprisingly, I did.
Being the introvert that I am, however, I need to recharge (and get over my jetlag) for a week.
Coming up: Adventures in Napa.
Special shoutout to our family in San Francisco, thank you so much for having us in your home and showing us around your side of the world. You are infinitely amazing. Thank you to our BFAM for everything. To the P family, you were so wonderful to host us for a dinner; You are also welcome in our home whenever you’re in town. My home office smells divine, thanks to your Christmas present. 🙂
*Thanks S for the Kate Spade Stuff! You’re right, it’s totally us! Missing you from across the ocean!