The Insta-Home Challenge: San Francisco

by Angela on November 13, 2012 · 12 comments

We’re in San Francisco, glorious San Francisco. We oughta put some flowers in our hair.

We have been looking forward to this leg of the Lion King tour for months! Not only are we in one of the greenest, most vibrant and most diverse metropolitan areas of the country, we’re close to my sister Eileen and her family who live in Silicon Valley AND we are stationed here for two-and-a-half months AND it happens to be through the holidays! It’s amazing to be “stable” for more than one month, and when it’s stability in a fun city with family close by during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, well let me just say, we are eating it all up.

Take it from a New Yorker — visiting a big city is fairly different than living in one. Staying with my sister was not an option, as Mike would have to commute at least 1 hour with Bay Area traffic into the city from Los Gatos, and her four-bedroom house is busting at the seams already; so eight months ago I started the SF housing search. It is so dang expensive to live here! I once interned in SF during my junior year summer in college, and Mike and I had lived in Sacramento for almost two years… but we’ve not had to consider rent value here. I had forgotten how costly this city can be. It’s even more pricey than New York because of its fast-growth tech industry, with most 1-bedroom vacation rentals starting close to $3k per month! Gag.

Luckily, we found a gem on VRBO.

Located in the sunny, bustling Mission district, our cozy garden flat is not much to look at from the outside — but we get parking, which is such a commodity in San Francisco, where street parking is truly difficult. We share the 2-deep garage with the other vacation rentals upstairs, so when necessary, we have to do some switcheroos with car order. It hasn’t been bad so far, since we’re trying to use our car only for out-of-town excursions (usually once a week). And our car is nestled safely inside, which gives us plenty peace of mind. Here’s the exterior of our entryway, with Jorge the building’s handyman working on some paint projects.

Jorge, with his deep Cuban accent, is mad about Max. “Muchacho lindo!” he exclaims every time they see each other.

Now for the real goods. You walk through the private front door down a long hallway past the garage, and enter the quiet apartment. The first thing you see is our renovated eat-in chef’s kitchen. This room is more tricked out than most places we’ve lived, with gourmet, top-of-the-line appliances including an espresso machine (not that we need it, there are hipster coffee shops on every block!). Seating for six. A high chair for Max was even provided! And there is every kitchen utensil your heart could desire. You can tell the owners Kurt and Simone used to live here — there is minute attention to detail, from the showroom-style lighting to the eclectic art on the walls and the thoughtful room design. (And yes, that is my Fifty Shades of Gray on the table. Don’t judge.)

To the left of the kitchen is an L-shaped renovated bathroom with a jacuzzi tub.  Simone supplied a potty for Max!

Next to the kitchen is an office alcove, with plenty of desk and storage space. In fact, I’m writing this post from there! The wifi is fast and the owners even supplied us with a laptop, which we promptly tucked away.

The living room is open, with a sofa sectional perfect for naps, which also folds out into a queen sized bed. The tempered, high-impact blue glass was procured from the San Francisco Zoo. It used to be part of the gorillas’ preserve, and when they went under renovation, Kurt and Simone grabbed a piece of history for this apartment.

We’ve got a state-of-the-art entertainment system, with a flat-screen LCD TV and surround sound. And we’ve got our very own DVR! For the first time, we’re able to catch up on all our guilty pleasure reality competition shows — Top Chef, Project Runway, Survivor, The Amazing Race. We get the tube all to ourselves, which is a nice little gift after living with others the past few months.

Through the double French doors is our own private oasis — a lush, green garden with a pond, fountain, seating and both electric AND charcoal grills. It’s surrounded by bamboo and plants …

… and this gal lives out here too. OMG.

Here’s the view into the living room from the garden. We need to close that door. Did you see the size of that spider? (Update: Jorge the handyman helped us capture the spider. He laughed at us cowering the whole time.)

The bedroom is cozy and has its own entrance to the garden too, with a dog door to boot. (Can you spot Turkey?)

Where does Max sleep, you ask? Well, I’ll give you one guess. I dread the day that Max outgrows his crib (which we’re not using, since the owners also provided this pack ‘n play!). We can get away with renting one-bedrooms that have walk-in closets right now, since we can tuck him away into his own little cave. I know, I know… soon we will have to lug around an inflatable toddler bed for him. Or we may have to find two-bedrooms. Noooo! Sigh.

And that’s our apartme — wait! That’s not all! If you head up three flights of stairs, you will find a beautiful rooftop solarium.

It’s got a fantastic view of Bernal Hill to the south…

.. and what I think is Twin Peaks to the west. But don’t quote me on it.

There’s even more seating next to the solarium, but the fencing is minimal. Mike said to me omninously, “We can never bring Max to this part of the roof. He will fall right off.”

But wait! There’s more! I am not kidding you, there is a working sauna (left) and shower (right) up here in the solarium. We were told to use it with care, as this is a shared rooftop and someone could catch us nudie up here. But as they say, what’s a rooftop for if not for exhibitionism?

As for storage, we’ve got plenty. Under the stairwell leading up to the rooftop, we’ve got access to a foldaway cot as well as a combo washer/dryer which actually takes over 4 hours to wash and dry one small load (and clothes were still coming out damp and totally wrinkled) … I wasn’t having that, so Simone gave us access to their large, fancy washer and dryer units in the garage.

Last and sort of least, Kurt and Simone provided bikes with helmets, locks and a tire pump. There’s even a kid’s seat with a helmet too. This would be amazing if we were in a remote location and needed to get somewhere without public transport. Or if we were actually good bikers. Or if San Francisco wasn’t crazy hilly or had embedded tram tracks in the pavement that love to catch bike tires. Since we live so close to the 24th Street BART (the Bay Area Rapid Transit, which is the subway), Mike’s commute to the Civic Center and the Orpheum is literally 15 minutes, door-to-door. The BART is precisely scheduled and reliable, unlike the in-city MUNI busses and trains, which are notoriously “whenever”.

This apartment is probably the coziest, most comfortable and well-stocked place so far on tour — which is amazing, since we’re here for 2.5 months. Max welcomes you to come visit anytime, as long as you like playing with Thomas trains!

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Eileen November 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm

San Francisco and I welcome you back! We are thrilled and can’t wait for the holidays with you guys. Glad Frank and Maya got to see Mike in action as Scar. Awesome!

This is where you guys truly belong — need I say more? 😉


Angela November 15, 2012 at 2:53 am

Haha – maybe you should start showing us some real estate listings!


Katie November 14, 2012 at 9:17 am

Wow what a great place! We’re moving in! LOL!


Angela November 15, 2012 at 2:54 am

The couch pulls out and we have a foldaway cot Katie! Or there are two gorgeous vacation rentals right above us …

Just saying… come on over! 🙂


LKF November 14, 2012 at 11:01 am

How wonderful to get to spend a “long” time in one place! Savor it!! I may try to come out to see the show when I visit family in Davis this holiday season. Enjoy your time Hollicks!!!’
Love, LionKingFanatic


Angela November 15, 2012 at 2:54 am

Thanks LKF! Always good hearing from you 🙂


Kayla November 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm

We saw the show last night and Mike was Scar and it was so AWESOME!! My boyfriend was just blown away and he’s not an easy audience! Will try to get tickets again when my family visits for Thanksgiving if it’s not already sold out. I am now fan for life!


Angela November 15, 2012 at 2:55 am

Awww thanks Kayla! Mike IS an awesome Scar (and he’ll be on for Pumbaa at the end of December too)… hope you can come see the show again 🙂


Jana November 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm

What a beautiful, temporary home! I especially love how much the cat pillow fits in on the bed. 🙂 Tell Max I would love to come play with trains (and anyone else, Max isn’t kidding. Like trains, or go home)! Have a great holiday season in San Fran.


Angela November 15, 2012 at 2:57 am

Hi Jana! Isn’t great that the cat pillow travels well everywhere — it’s a constant in our ever changing surroundings! And it’ll always make us think fondly of Albuquerque. We still wish we could have packed you up in our suitcases to travel with us — Max and Hero both enjoyed you so much that last day we were in town! Thanks for checking in and we hope to see more notes like this from you 🙂


Mama Tartler November 15, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Packing up my hot and sexy minivan. Should be there in a few days! Lol. 😉


Ron November 16, 2012 at 7:36 pm

We love Thomas trains…we have one in fact, from someone special, even!


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