Early December finally gave us a little bit of downtime to relax and explore more of our own town. We are both big fans of brunch – brunch is my favorite meal of all the meals – so we’d been on the hunt for a brunch place that we could call “our regular brunch place.”
Enter Crema. Crema is in Pacific Grove, just on the other side of Monterey. It reminds me of a bed and breakfast like you would find in coastal New England – it looks like an old house that’s been converted into a restaurant, and reminds me a lot of Two Cats in Bar Harbor, Maine. There’s an espresso bar downstairs, a garden seating area outside, and three rooms upstairs/inside for dining. They serve brunch all day every day which speaks to my soul on an emotional level. They serve bottomless mimosas every day. How could I not fall in love with the place? And that’s before I even looked at a menu. We’ve since been back a handful of times, and everything has been incredible every single time. Pictured here: chicken & waffles, papas poblanos, spiced apple and pecan waffles and the chili verde breakfast.
The weekend of December 8/9 we drove up to Oakland to see Live 105’s Not So Silent Night concert. We arrived a little early and went to 21st Amendment Brewery in San Leandro (us?! at a brewery!? Shocking, right?).
Night One of the concert featured Welshly Arms, Manchester Orchestra, Vance Joy, Portugal. The Man., and The Lumineers. I love [live] music more than life itself; this lineup was entirely too good to pass up. I saw The Lumineers at VH1’s You Oughta Know concert back in the fall of 2013, so I was excited to see them again (and to see them perform more than four or five songs). Welshly Arms was fantastic and I cannot wait to see where their career goes from here. Manchester Orchestra is a band I’ve been listening to for five or so years, and I’ve always managed to miss them whenever they played somewhere near me. I’m so glad I finally got to see them, and I hope I get the chance to see them again. Vance Joy…oh, Vance Joy. I was expecting to cry when he played “Fire and the Flood” since that was our second choice song for the first dance at our wedding (more on that later) but he played “Wasting Time” and I absolutely lost it. That song came out right around the time I was moving up to Connecticut to move in with Max, realizing that my whole life plan had been altered and it didn’t bother me one bit. The line “and I don’t think she knows/how she changed all my plans” hit me right in the heart the first time I heard that song, and hit me even harder now that we’re married and we live in California and my life is nothing like I imagined it to be back in college. It’s amazing how that happens.
But I digress. I only know a couple of Portugal. The Man.’s songs, and I really enjoy those songs, but overall they’re just not my jam. I’m not really into jam bands or psychedelic rock, and that seemed to be a lot of Portugal. The Man.’s thing, so while they were good they just aren’t for me. The Lumineers closed out the show, and they were just as incredible as they were the first time I saw them. I hope to get to see them again soon, too; plus you just have to love a band that gets up there with an upright bass.
Saturday morning we got up and did some research about “what is there to do in Oakland” – bizarrely enough, most of the travel sites recommended “take the ferry to San Francisco” so we were constantly joking that “the fourth best thing to do in Oakland is to leave Oakland”
…which we did.
San Francisco has always been a city I’ve wanted to visit, even before moving to California was a blip on the radar. For everyone who loves New York and Los Angeles, there’s a Boston and San Francisco lover. And while I love NY and I like LA, I am definitely a Boston-and-SF girl. So we took the opportunity to hop over and spend a little more time exploring than we got when we came up for the Giants game in September.
First off, the Ferry Building Marketplace is 100% my type of place. Farmers’ market, food stands, hipster bullshit – sign me up. We got a couple coffees and walked around for a bit, and I got an empanada stuffed with lamb that had been braised in malbec. Be still, my tastebuds. (And yes, it tasted exactly as wonderful as it sounds and looks.)
After breakfast and a brief stop into Book Passage in the marketplace, we wandered over to Union Square, which was packed with drunk Santa’s and elves and reindeer and all kinds of holiday spectacle – turns out we were in town for SantaCon! We did not hang around too long as we were 1) not festive and 2) not nearly inebriated enough for that crowd. Instead, we headed over to the Presidio to do some sight-seeing. Just look at that view – that’s JUST from the visitor center. If we had unlimited time, I would have walked much closer to the Golden Gate, but as it was – we took the lovely, easy path from the Presidio visitor center down to Crissy Field. Let me tell you, if I lived in San Francisco I would be at Crissy Field all day, every day.
This view. I could have sat here all day. I can’t even come up with the words to describe what sitting here felt like – all I can say is that if you are a fan of monuments or important buildings, seeing the Golden Gate is even more incredible than you think it will be.
I just…how even. From here, you get an amazing view of the Golden Gate, the Bay, the city…like I said earlier, if I lived in San Francisco, this is where you’d find me.
Although I could have stayed there all day and night and into the next days and nights, we were in town for a concert, and so we headed back over to Oakland for Night Two of Not So Silent Night. This night had Alice Merton, Walk the Moon, Foster the People, Weezer, and the Killers. What a friggin’ lineup, right? We missed the beginning of Alice Merton’s set, but got in in time to hear her play “No Roots,” a song I fell in love with on our cross-country road trip that came out in a perfect, timely, relevant-to-my-life manner.
The second band up was Walk the Moon. Oh, Walk the Moon. I’ve been a fan of theirs since their first studio album came out in 2012, thanks to someone’s 8tracks playlist including “Next In Line” (thank you, random internet radio curator!). They have been one of, if not number one, my favorite bands ever since. I saw them in January of 2013, right around the time that “Anna Sun” was becoming popular. And it was love. I said then that they were one of the best bands I’ve ever seen perform live, and that holds true today. So I’ve been following them for years, and just like everyone else, I loved “Shut Up and Dance” to the core of my being. Remember how I said earlier that Vance Joy’s “Fire and the Flood” was our second choice for the first dance at our wedding? It’s because “Shut Up and Dance” was the first choice, and that’s what we danced to. So, it has a very special place in my heart. Seeing a band play your first dance song live is pretty wonderful.
So, naturally, this was the point in the evening that I stopped taking pictures and just started dancing my face off. After Walk the Moon came Foster the People, who were not that great which was pretty disappointing. I really enjoyed Foster the People’s first album – “Helena Beat” is my jam – but haven’t really loved what they’ve put out since. I’m sure the die-hard fans enjoyed their show, but it was pretty “meh” for myself and the people we were with. That said, if you’re a fan, don’t let me dissuade you from seeing them live!
Weezer was the fourth band to perform, and that was a bucket list item that I didn’t realize was a bucket list item until I was checking it off the list. They played a surprisingly large mix of music – I was expecting mostly new-ish Weezer, but they played many of their classics along with a handful of new music. My favorite Weezer song is “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” which they unfortunately did not play, but otherwise it was pretty much the perfect Weezer set.
Finally, we got to The Killers. I have a bit of a contentious relationship with their music. I’ve been a longtime fan, ever since the Hot Fuss days, and while I have some really incredible memories of their music I also have some things associated with them that I’d prefer not to relive. I saw them in January 2009 in Toronto, and long story short, felt for a long time that I would never be emotionally able to love The Killers again. Nearly nine years later, I was finally ready to put all of that behind me and see them live again, and god I am so glad I did. The lyrics to “Human” – “Wave goodbye / wish me well / you gotta let me go” were my battle cry in the days of spring 2009 where I was trying to leave a relationship and dealing with a lot of personal issues that left me struggling heavily. I was expecting that to be the song that got me, but no. No, it was “Dustland Fairytale,” one of my favorite songs of all time, a song I was most certainly not expecting to hear, that hit me right in the feels and left me a sobbing mess. A good sobbing mess, though – catharsis through music has always been my favorite kind. It was one of those moments where a song took me back and made me so, so incredibly grateful for where I am now and that I made it through those days and that I’m still standing here in 2017 singing along when there were plenty of times I never dreamed I would get this far or end up where I am in life. Music is so important, guys. It made and still makes up a huge part of my life, and I fully believe that music and arts and poetry and other forms of artistic expression are vital and integral to life. I can’t imagine a world without them. So if you’re hearing that being artistic is a waste of time – just know that I, and millions of others, don’t believe that, and we are all here cheering you on. And probably crying to your songs.
The Killers played an absolutely incredible set and closed, as expected, with “Mr. Brightside.” Man, there is just nothing like an entire arena on its’ feet, singing along to a song, thousands of strangers in one room experiencing a moment like that together.
Live music is just the best thing.