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Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

Tempe, Arizona
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Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

OK- I'm jumping ahead of the trip, but that's how excited I am....here's the intro below, and this little blip is here just so you don't have to scroll down a mile before getting to the content with each update on each page.

FYI- I cannot tell you all how much we are looking forward to seeing the west coast again. We desert rats have missed you :)

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52 replies to this topic
Tempe, Arizona
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1. Re: Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

Pre TR -Day -Zero

have you had a pre-TR on this forum? They are going on all the time in the HI forums…. well maybe not ALL the time, but for those of us that are spending weeks/months planning a trip, I don’t want to mess with the background while on our trip so here goes that part of it :)

First- thank you TA folks for your patience and responses to so many of our questions along the way. I wouldn’t dream of taking a trip without your “locally flavored” input and have thoroughly enjoyed tapping into your forum over the past few months. I’ve especially enjoyed your friendly banter between the DEs and frequent posters on this forum in particular. You are a lively bunch!

I like to do my TR’s “on the go” so I don’t forget things and I love to look back and re-live my experiences in detail after real-life hits me in the face/gut upon my return home. It’s a way to share my travels with my family that like to follow us on our trips this way as well, and lastly, I’m an early riser and this gives me something relaxing to do while hubby enjoys his well earned sleep-ins. If I am delayed on a catch-up it will be due to bad wi0fi connections or I have finally decided to sleep-in for once on a trip. I am a bit wordy on these things (with details, reviews and hopefully some tips) so bear with me if you prefer the reports short and sweet. That’s not what you’re getting here ;)

about us:

We are an active couple (52 and 63) who like to explore new things on vacation. We like a combination of indoor/outdoor spaces and activities, trying new foods and experiences, staying busy but slowing down as well, balancing touristy things with recreation enjoyed by locals, and most of all, we like to immerse ourselves in a city rather than do a “drive by” when we have the chance. I would describe our interests and tastes as “eclectic,” and we are really looking forward to our time in a city that seems to have an endless list of diverse things to explore.

We also travel on a budget (albeit a bit spongy at times on my end- but in my defense, I make up for any surprise spurges in the end within a month or three after the trip as needed- and that’s all I’m going to say about that!) We enjoy an afternoon picnic in a park every bit as much as a fancy restaurant- just for different reasons. We like to see gorgeous architecture inside and out every bit as much as an art gallery- again for different reasons. One of my biggest challenges in this trip planning has been an attempt to offset the food budget- a week of eating out is a lot longer than a weekend here…. but I think I’m up to the task :)

I am the planner and when we travel, we arrive with a list of thoughts rather than an itinerary- much easier to do when visiting a city for a week than a weekend. We have a couple of ticketed things which I’ve already purchased, and some reservations that we can change/cancel, but for the most part, we plan to go with the flow based on the weather and what interests us that day. I do have a few surprise things up my sleeve for hubby along the way. I’ve also had to keep some things more flexible due to the question mark of his choices (see next paragraph) but I think overall we’re really good to go.

The only thing hubby usually asks about a trip other than the dates and flight info is whether he should bring his clubs. Our last 2 vacations were in Chicago and DC- so my answer was “sorry honey, but no…..” But this time I am happy to say he got a resounding “YES!” and has enjoyed doing his own bit of research about that. His only Christmas present from me was $$$$$$$$$$$ for a round of golf at Pebble Beach (looking back I should have put “and birthday, and Father’s Day, (and so on) but we don’t really do gifts for those so not sure that would have meant anything towards this gift!) Anyway, he got that, and a “waiver” that he could golf as many times as he wanted on the trip. He usually goes out a couple of times, but I wanted him to know that I can find a TON of things to do on my own, so if he chose to spread that cash out instead that was fine as well. Travel planning and doting on my pups are my passions- golf is his. I think I know which direction he is leaning, but curious to see what he does in the end.

This is our second trip to SF- last time we had a very short 2 half-days with an overnight before heading to Sonoma for a week. It was our first vacation without our kiddos, nearly 10 years ago. We quite enjoyed that and have been doing that sort of trip ever since (family trips are still being taken as well, but just sayin’ these “adults only” trips are a different kind of thing)

On that past trip, we explored Chinatown, Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf on our first day, then in the morning, rented a car, headed over the GGB and stopped to walk back across the bridge from the north side to the middle and then back up to the vista points on our way out of town. We both felt like we left something magical behind as we drove up to the wine country. Don’t get me wrong- we had the time of our lives up there, but we’ve been pining for San Francisco ever since.

Our trip begins with a week in SF based out of Union Square ($1100/timeshare exchange- includes our yearly maintenance from our TS, exchange and hotel fees) followed by 3 nights in Monterey ($440/VRBO), and a last night in Half Moon Bay ($130/B&B) We’ve never gone south, so to speak, so we are very excited to see what that area has to offer as well.

We are looking forward to a well deserved and needed vacation- see you soon!

Santa Clara...
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2. Re: Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

Welcome! Many of us regulars on TA are planners so totally understand. I have done live TR as well. In fact in the middle of one. : )

>>The only thing hubby usually asks about a trip other than the dates and flight info is whether he should bring his clubs<<

Lol... mine is... "what clothes am I bringing?" as he packs a few hours before leaving.

Looking forward to more.

Tempe, Arizona
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3. Re: Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

Chinita- forgot to add that part as well- the clothes he takes are always a question as well :)

One additional part of this pre-TR- I had 2 travelzoo things go to the wayside for different reasons.

The first one was for a whale watching tour (I know- this is not supposed to be the best place for that but I wanted to see the north end of your seashore more than the whales and I don't get seasick... and I just LOVE the water!) Anyway- they canceled all of the M-F tours with exception of the weekend which we were not interested in doing- so I got a full refund, initiated by the whale watching company

The other was for Bistro Boudain $60 for dinner for 2 with $10 off bottle of wine which was good anytime with exception of Restaurant Week. Well.... this goes on the entire time we are there... I was not given a refund, but a credit for future purchases after calling Travelzoo

I really had just given up on all of that ($150) but now that is back in my pocket

Also- I checked last week on our rental and while initially the rate was $100 more to rent in the city and return at SFO, last week it was cheaper, so we are now getting our car a block from the hotel on our last morning in SF and returning it to SFO for $200 for 5 days- MUCH more convenient! So my tip here- It really pays to keep checking back, and don't go for the "pay now" option. Those few bucks of savings are nothing compared to what you may get with checking back.

Edited: 23 January 2018, 22:44
San Francisco...
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4. Re: Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

we are excited as well and looking forward to your hourly... daily..updates

NO pressure . LOL

Tempe, Arizona
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5. Re: Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

HaHa Belo....

And BTW- I was waiting to check on your weather until now. I'm superstitious this way. I keep attempting to go places that will likely have rain (hubby is not in my camp on this one, but as I'm the planner and all....I keep hoping to use my parched, dried out raincoat)

So in the years we have visited everywhere likely to rain, we've gotten it ONCE, and just for a spell at night. Apparently we bring the sun everywhere we go.

Check your 10 day forecast

You're welcome.

Auckland Central...
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6. Re: Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

Looking forward to following along. I am sure you will have a fantastic time.

Tempe, Arizona
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7. Re: Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

Thurs Day 1:

This morning, we forfeited a half day of vacation to wake up without an alarm, calmly finish packing, take our Goldens for a nice long walk before heading out to the airport. Work has been crazy, and those last minute, stressful work/life events ALWAYS seem to happen as we are ready to head out of town. We can go for weeks of “normal crazy” and then there is the “unusual crazy” burst that always seems to occur- what is that all about?!?! Anyway, this week was no different. BUT we have learned that a bit of extra padding before the rush to the airport allows us to enjoy our vacation from the beginning, rather than having to “recover” to decompress before taking that first long, deep, vacation breath. That’s my first tip, if you can afford a half day for a deep breath, take it.

Ours is only a 2 hour flight from PHX-SFO and this was a very enjoyable one at that. No glitches at any time, we had an empty seat between us and I got a free glass of wine along the way. I’m a fan of the window seat and was also treated to a perfect view of the coastline all the way up from what I believe was Morrow Bay to past Monterey before heading inland over some giant redwoods poking high up into the sky. I don’t recall that flight pattern before- but then again I may not have had a left sided window seat either. Our bags arrived in timely fashion, we found the signage for the train station with BART easy to follow, and then we had a nice man assist in getting our tickets. We are staying in Union Square area and discovered quickly that it is uphill from the Powell Station… and I am fully aware that this is not probably even considered “a hill” by most here, but it was to us while dragging around golf clubs and a couple of large, heavy bags. Something confusing at SFO was the map does not list the Powell station as a stop. It jumps from Civic Center to Monterey. I thought that extremely odd as Powell has to be one of the most popular stops for visitors. Once we were on the BART, that map lists the stop, just not on the one in the terminal itself.

After a brief settling in we set out for Trader Joes for some breakfast items, fruit, beer and wine, -and one of my favorite cheap souvenirs- a TJ’s reusable bag from the area for 99 cents. Holy Moly was the line to check out long! Like DisneyLand long. I know why- the prices are always fair, they have tons of unique things along every aisle and the food is always fresh. This is a very convenient grocery store in this area. They were very efficient at moving folks along so the line wasn’t as painful as I thought it was going to be after all.

Next we got our MUNI 7 day passes at Walgreens around the corner, dropped all that off, and headed over to Farralon for their happy hour in their JellyFish Lounge. We didn’t have time to make it down to Waterbar (first choice) so we’lll save that for another day :)

The bar is small but we were able to snag a seat and shared a half dozen oysters for $7 to go with our spicy pear cocktails, also $7 ea. The oysters were from Tomales Bay (they select a different type each night for happy hour) and were small, delicious, briney globs of yumminess. I could have had the whole thing myself along with some sort of avocado mousse dish that everyone else seemed to be enjoying, but didn’t want to get too full as we were heading directly to dinner from there. I’ve been craving fresh oysters for a long time and this did the trick to satisfy that! The drinks were terrific as well- we are not cocktail drinkers (well hubby likes a gin here and there, but me- almost never) but are trying to venture out from our wine and food standby’s a bit on this trip.

We gave ourselves plenty of time to try out the MUNI system to get to dinner, and once we found the signs and knew where to catch the streetcars (platform in the middle of the street) we did just fine. We caught the F-Line (originally from Milan- they are renovated street cars from all over the world) on Market St up to Zuni Cafe to find out what all the fuss is about with their shoestring potatoes and roasted chicken for two.

We were early so explored an interesting bookstore (Green Arcade) before enjoying another cocktail (After Hours gin drink for him and a yummy balsamic bloody mary with quite a punch of horseradish for me) while we waited nearly an hour for the chicken to arrive- they tell you this on the menu so that was not a surprise. We added a Caesar salad to split while waiting- delicious with a light lemony flavor, huge crunchy croutons made from their rustic bread. It was a perfect size for splitting as we watched everyone around us getting deliveries a mountainous pile of those shoestring potatoes. Then our arrived and we both discovered what the fuss is about. First the presentation is beautiful- it is served with a mound of lemony greens atop the bread salad mixture, with the golden chicken sliced and served in a ring around the large plate. It was moist and tender with out a hint of being greasy and had the most delicious smokey flavor that seeped well beyond the outer shell- this is no rotisserie chicken! The “bread salad” was a very nice compliment in both texture and taste as well- more like a savory stuffing below the greens than what I think of as a bread salad, but it was perfect. We numnumnum-ed our way through what we could and decided this was more of a dinner to split between 3-4, so before stuffing ourselves to death, we stopped and got the rest to go. The service was perfect- attentive without being intrusive and professional without being stuffy- just what we like. I can highly recommend!

I chose this restaurant based on reviews and its proximity to our first evening event. City Arts and Lectures has lectures and “conversations” with various people throughout the year. They are presented live at The Norse Theater (newly renovated, intimate and gorgeous inside!!!) and then replayed on public radio all over. We’d never been to anything like that but it sounded interesting- and it really was. I had never heard of the speakers nor the book they were conversing about before getting our tickets- Dave Eggers (author) Mokhtar Alkhanshali (subject of the book) and Jeff Chang (assuming a local public personality) nor had I read the book they were discussing (I believe it just came out last night) but since getting our tickets, I’ve read two of Eggers other books and love the way he weaves the thread of someone’s real life through historical events into a narrative that captivates you from the beginning. Briefly, Mokhtar is a San Franciscan of Yemeni descent who grew up in the Tenderloin and decided to reach back to his roots to cultivate small blend coffee in hopes of becoming an entrepreneur that in turn is able to foster progress of the Yemeni farmer. We learned tons about coffee (from the terrain to the berry to the processing and finally the barista’s role) as well as the ongoing war and struggles of the people of Yemen. Hubby, who had no idea what were going to see or expect here also enjoyed this without reading the book or knowing anything about author or venue. I would love to have something like this in Phoenix!

https://www.cityarts.net

Our trip home was pretty straight forward… until it wasn’t. We caught another F-Line Streetcar (thins time, a vintage one from San Francisco in the 1960’s and in honor of Harvey Milk) and while we were heading home there was a bit of a scuffle on the car, which was a bit unnerving. After that, we proceeded to get a bit lost after we got off at Powell. Market street is on an angle and is a bit confusing when 2 other streets meet at their corners. We went along Turk instead of Mason and walked right into the middle of the Tenderloin… something I was specifically trying to avoid at night. Good job miss navigator…. fortunately we found a very helpful woman who guided us back in the right direction after initially scolding us for being there ("what are you doing walking this way?!” I believe were her exact words) We didn’t feel afraid- we just knew we were definitely not going in the right direction and knew we needed to get back on track quickly. Things were a bit more sketchy, it was less lit and less populated with tourists for sure. We won’t be making that mistake again!

Tomorrow hubby will be putting those clubs to use while I do something fabulous on my own to replace the whale watching trip I had planned.

UK
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8. Re: Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

loving this trip report! Thank you so much for sharing - I love hearing other peoples adventures and you write really well with lots of lovely detail

You refer to "have you had a pre-TR on this forum? They are going on all the time in the HI forums" - what are HI forums? If there is somewhere else I can feed my trip report addiction please point me at it!!

I hope you continue to enjoy your trip and I look forward to reading more.

San Francisco...
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9. Re: Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

HI is the State Abbreviation for Hawaii -- so the forums on those islands

In any case, the Roast Chicken at Zuni is exactly as we had it -- you describe it soooooo well. Thanks

Tempe, Arizona
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10. Re: Retriver's Live TR 1/25-2/5- to SF-Big Sur and back

Thanks- I'm glad you're enjoying! DU- Belo is correct- and all of the Hawaii forums have trip reports going on literally all of the time. If you need a fix, go to the search button for any given area (Hawaii or any big city for that matter) and type in "trip report" or "TR" and you will find them. I have most recently done them for Chicago and DC and I believe both had ways to easily research TR's. This SF forum has one of the best ways of grouping them though and that is with a pin at the top, but some others have a sticky off to the right side that asks folks to tag theirs there (you can only see those when on a laptop/PC- not on a phone) I love reading them as well and started with the last one first and went backwards so the information was the most timely. Have fun exploring those!

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