Our flight from Los Angeles arrived at SFO on time and we went out to find a van taxi. As we had so many bags, and there were no van taxis in sight, we decided to use Lorrie’s shuttle and requested a private one. This worked out very well, it cost $80.00 in total and we were at the Chancellor in about 30 minutes.
The Chancellor was wonderful, all three of our rooms were ready early and as requested, we were on a high (12th) floor, with a view of Union Square and all the rooms were adjacent to each other. Two of our rooms were interconnecting. The rooms were much larger than we expected from reviews on Trip Advisor and very clean and attractive. We quickly unpacked, and headed to the next corner for a quick lunch at Lori’s Diner, which we all enjoyed. We then wandered around the Union Square area, looking at the shops etc. and purchasing our 7 day Muni pass which was incredibly well used.
That evening was spent having our first cable car ride, which was great fun. We went up the hill to Nob Hill to have sunset cocktails at Top of the Mark. The view was incredible, but unfortunately we didn’t get a window table, so only caught glimpses as the sun set. We then walked back down and went to Fino in the Andrew’s Hotel for dinner. This was by far the best restaurant of our entire holiday. It gets great reviews on Trip Advisor and they were well deserved. Even our children raved about it, which is surprising considering they didn’t serve fries! They did have good pizzas, together with other terrific Italian food though, which the younger teens liked. The service and the ambience were all top notch, but it wasn’t exactly cheap. Well worth the money though.
Thursday 30th April 2009
We had our first breakfast at Luques in the Chancellor. It was so good that we didn’t bother to go anywhere else for breakfast, and ate here every day.
Holger, of Silver Lion service, was to pick us up at 10.00 am for a half day city tour. When he arrived, he suggested that we swap our tours around. We had planned the half day city tour today and a full day wine and Muir Woods tour the next day, but he recommended that due to forecast rain and bad weather we should do the full day today and half day the next. We agreed to this and started out on our tour of the city. He took us around to see lots of the beautiful Victorian homes and through the Marina and Cow Hollow districts. The entire tour was wonderful as he had a very comfortable SUV, full of drinks and snacks and we were able to specify exactly where we wanted to go. He also made suggestions. It was great to be able to stop at whatever interested us, or to stay in the car if we wished.
We had a good look around the Presidio and spent a long time taking pictures at the Palace of Fine Arts, which was my favourite building of all. We stopped at the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge for photos and then went to the gift shop to purchase souvenirs before driving over the bridge. Once on the other side, we drove past all the tour buses taking pictures, and ended up at a viewpoint high above the bay without a tour bus to be seen! The views were spectacular of the ocean, San Francisco bay and the city, and both bridges. At this point, Holger brought out champagne, so we sat down admiring the views while sipping sparkling wine and nibbling on a variety of snacks that he provided. It was wonderful.
We then continued on into the Sonoma Valley. We stopped at Sonoma Plaza and had a barbecue lunch at the cheese factory. We then continued on to three wineries – Ravenswood, Jacuzzi and Cline. We did some wine tasting as well as cheese and olive oil tastings. Only one of these wineries (Ravenswood) charged for tastings. The others were free. We purchased a couple of bottles of wine to enjoy in our room at the Chancellor.
We then returned to the city, stopping at Muir Woods just before dusk. We spent about half an hour wandering amongst the magnificent trees before it was time to head back to town. Holger took us to another wonderful lookout overlooking the Pacific on our way.
We returned home at around 8.00 pm after a very long, but enjoyable, day. We were too tired to wander far for dinner, so went to the Daily Grill around the corner. Again we had a very enjoyable meal before returning for a good nights sleep.
Friday 1st May
We headed out with Holger again after breakfast. We drove past the China Town gate but elected not to stop as we planned on going there later in the weekend. We drove through the North Beach area and stopped at Washington Park and Coit Tower. We didn’t bother going to the top of the tower, but did go in to see the murals. We drove down Lombard Street, then we got out and walked it to take lots of photos. We stopped for a look at the TransAmerica Pyramid, then drove through the Fisherman’s Wharf area, but again chose not to stop at this stage. We stopped at the Ferry Building for a look around and then Holger showed us A T & Park and took us over the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island for more city views. The weather was starting to get quite bad by this stage so we headed back to town. I wanted to see Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies, which we did and he girls wanted to see the Haight area, so we stopped there and spent thirty minutes wandering the shops. This area didn’t impress me very much, if fact it was the only place where we encountered very rude staff in the shops. We moved on to Golden Gate park for a very quick look as it was pouring with rain. We went to the 9th Floor of the de Young Museum to see the views. Golden Gate Park was much larger and more covered with trees than what we had imagined.
Finally we got dropped off, at our request, at Inn and Out Burger in the Wharf. We said goodbye to Holger and went to try the hamburgers that we had heard so much about. They were okay, but not as good as I expected from what I had read. We were pretty tired by then so headed to the cable cars to join a very long, wet and rainy line to return to Union Square. Everyone headed in their own directions to do some shopping and I spent a quiet couple of hours relaxing in our room.
My husband and I decided we deserved a break from the kids, so we took them back to the Daily Grill and had a drink while they ate dinner. We then returned them to the hotel and went wandering looking for Café Claude which I had read about on this forum. We found it down an alleyway, which we probably wouldn’t have been game to venture down if I hadn’t read about it here! We sat outside next to a very warm gas heater and had wonderful French food. There was a band playing inside, but as we were outside the volume level was perfect, we could hear the music, but still talk above it. The inside of the restaurant and bar area was packed, it seems a very popular place. After dinner we wandered around a bit more and had a look at Belden Place, also read about on here, but unfortunately ran out of time to eat there. Something to come back for next time!
Saturday 2nd May
My daughter and I wandered down to Market Street and caught the F line back to the Ferry Building to see the Farmer’s Market. We enjoyed an hour of looking at the wonderful display of food there, and then returned to the Chancellor to meet up with the rest of the family. We had another lunch at Lori’s Diner as it was quick and easy.
We caught the F line once again to Pier 33 for our Alcatraz Night Tour. We took our passports as we were told we would need photo ID, but no-one asked for ID at all. There were very long queues for boarding, slowed up by photographers taking photos of families in front of a large picture of Alcatraz Island. We declined this photo, as I didn’t really want a family shot in front of a picture, when we could easily take one of the real thing!
We bought hot dogs for an afternoon snack on the boat – they were surprisingly good. The entire Alcatraz experience was excellent. It wasn’t as cold as I had expected after all the reports on Trip Advisor. Chilly, but not cold. After doing the audio tour, we waited for the return boat. There were two boats returning after the night tour and we wanted to catch the first one at around 8.30 so that we could get back in time to have dinner together. The next and final boat wasn’t until around 9.20pm which was a bit late for the kids to eat. The unfortunate thing was that you couldn’t partake in any of the other shows and activities as none of them finished in time for the earlier boat.
Upon our return to land, we walked to Pier 39 and pretty much went into the first restaurant that we saw, which I think was called Fog Harbor Fish House Restaurant. We had quite a good meal there, my husband and daughter had whole crabs, and I had some very good fish as I don’t eat shellfish. We then walked right through Fisherman’s Wharf to catch the cable car back to the Chancellor.
Sunday 3rd May
We had a lazy morning shopping and relaxing before heading to Fisherman’s Wharf. We spent the next couple of hours wandering around, stopping at Boudin’s bakery for their famous Crab Chowder in a bread bowl. I had the chilli as I don’t eat seafood – it was actually very good. We bought a few junky souvenirs, such as the classic windcheater with “San Francisco” printed on it! We spent quite a bit of time watching the sea lions on Pier 39. There were many more of them than I expected, and they were fascinating to watch. We ended up in a bar/restaurant place above the pier where we drank wonderful liqueur coffees overlooking the sea lions. It was much warmer inside watching them!
We were pleased to have spent some time at the Wharf, but I have to agree with previous posters. I would not have enjoyed staying there. We had had enough after two or three hours and very glad to go back to the much more civilised Union Square area. Our hotel’s location was one of the best parts of our holiday as it meant it was quick and easy for the girls or my husband to dash out and shop for an hour or two before doing a family activity together.
We caught the F line back up to the Civic Centre to have a look at the City Hall area and then returned to change before going back to Fino for our final dinner. This restaurant was unanimously chosen by all of us as our favourite to return to.
Monday 4th May
We had our final breakfast at Luques before catching up on last minute shopping. We then headed to China Town. We were intending to do the China Town walking tour, but decided just to wander on our own. The main street was very touristy, with lots of junky shops and souvenirs, so we wandered off into some of the side streets. The ones we found had mainly food type shops and it was incredibly crowded, it was difficult just to move along the street!
We headed on to North Beach for a look around at the City Lights bookshop and ended up having pasta and pizza for lunch at Steps of Rome. This restaurant was on our to do list for dinner but we never got there, but it was good for a quick lunch.
We returned to the hotel to check out of our last room. We had checked out of two of our rooms and kept just one to store all our luggage in with a late checkout of 4.00. It cost $49.50 for a late checkout so we obviously didn’t want to keep all the rooms. We then left our luggage at the front desk and caught a maxi cab to Golden Gate park. We spent a bit of time in the Japanese Tea Garden, which was lovely and then planned to go to the Botanical Gardens for our kids to hopefully see some squirrels. Unfortunately the Botanical Gardens had already closed, so we missed out on that. We returned to the Tea Garden for hot chocolates and Japanese tea and fortunately for us, a squirrel appeared while we were having tea!
We had a bit of trouble getting a cab back to the hotel as apparently the museum is closed on a Monday and as the Botanical Gardens were also closed and it was raining there were no cabs around, certainly no van type ones. Fortunately a cab driver with a normal sedan allowed us all to squash in (it was a big squash with 5 adult sized people!) and returned us to the Chancellor.
We spent our last hour in San Fransisco enjoying French Martinis in Luques Bar before catching Lorrie’s Shuttle back to SFO for our flight home to Melbourne.
I far preferred San Francisco over Los Angeles and Anaheim, it was one of the nicest cities I have ever been to. Thanks so much to all the experts on here that helped make our trip so enjoyable, and to Wes Tyler for running such a wonderful hotel. We had a ball and hope we can get back in the not too distant future.