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Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

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Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

We have just returned from the most amazing trip to San Franscisco for two weeks. We absolutely fell in love – what a beautiful city!

The first 5 nights we stayed in Sausalito at the Inn Above Tide. With 8 hours time difference, there was a bit of jet lag to get over and this was the most amazing hotel to do it in. I can’t say enough about this hotel, it really is superb perfect in every way – we had our own big deck, right on the water with the most amazing views of the city. The staff were great, very attentive and every single little detail is thought of, from the DVDs you can borrow at no charge to the bikes you can borrow (also at no charge), Ipod docking station, binoculars, v comfortable robes and slippers, complimentary wine and cheese from 5-7 – you name it, it’s all there.

Sausalito – you can do this in a day, it is a lovely little town (city) and there is some cracking places to eat there. The first day there, we just explored.

The next day, we took bikes from the hotel and cycled over to Fisherman’s Wharf and back. This cycle ride, whichever way you do it, is an absolute must – it’s a beautiful ride. We stopped at the viewing point just before the bridge, then went over to the other viewing point after the bridge, then down to Crissy Field and stopped at the Warming Hut (loved this – thanks so much to Ramblin Sal for the suggestion), spent some time at Crissy Field beach, then the Palace of Fine Arts. We had a great lunch at Lori’s Diner at Ghirardelli Square. The traffic got a bit busy and confusing coming into Fisherman’s Wharf and cycling on the right hand side of the road got a bit too much for us, so we turned back. I am by no means fit, so we stopped a good few times for me to push the bike up some hills!

The next day we had a day trip to Napa and Sonoma, through Extranomical tours. We paid for the Wine Tour and got automatically upgraded to the Wine Lovers Tour as there were only 6 people touring that day. Our guide was great and this day trip is another “must do” – the tastings were quite varied, we visited 6 different wineries – all beautiful – and it was very hot and sunny all day.

On our final full day in Sausalito, we caught the boat over to the ferry building, had a wander around the city, rode the full length of the Powell/Hyde line and caught the ferry back from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Sausalito is a lovely sleepy town and it was just the ticket to get over our jet lag, watching the sun rise on our deck the first couple of mornings was just heaven.

We then swapped hotels, to the St Regis. The St Regis wasn’t quite so nice, but don’t get me wrong, it is a good hotel, we were just spoilt a bit too much at the Inn Above Tide, so didn’t appreciate it quite so much. The staff didn’t seem at all genuine, the “Butler service” was non-existent, the pool area was not kept clean and tidy well enough, and the bath was, I think, too small for a hotel of this quality. (I’m really sorry if that criticism sounds snobby, I clearly have problems, I get so particular about hotels!) Apart from that, there were a few great things about the hotel – e.g. the rain shower and the maid service was outstanding.

For the next 9 days, we then proceeded to discover every area of the city as possible

We did the AT&T park tour – OH is a big sports fan so he loved this, and it was a good tour, even for me, who doesn’t know anything about baseball.

Alcatraz- I booked the night tour originally, then I had a bit of a wobble – what if it was terrible weather? What if it was foggy? What if it was too dark to appreciate? So, as a bit of an insurance policy before we went, I also booked us on a day tour a week later.

We went on the night tour and we absolutely loved it – although I was slightly disappointed to be “herded round” as soon as we got off the boat. Despite dressing in our warmest clothes, it was a really, really cold night, also foggy, and we couldn’t appreciate the outside areas as much as we’d like.

So... you guessed it.... we went back on the day tour. This was absolutely perfect. We got to explore in our own time and we found a load more things that we missed the first time round – we actually missed the whole exercise yard – I was so so pleased we went back and it was a beautiful, clear, sunny day – a real contrast to the night tour. It was great to have both experiences and we were absolutely captivated by it.

Beach Blanket Babylon – we’re not really theatre-type people, and we weren’t sure what to expect at all from this – but we did love it. Being English, we were slightly concerned we wouldn’t get the humour, but there was only one joke we didn’t get (about a politician we weren’t aware of). It was super flamboyant and I’m really glad we did this. We had a few drinks round North Beach that night too and loved the area.

Cable Cars – I would quite happily have spent a whole day riding the cable cars, just hopping on and off – I got so so excited everytime I saw a cable car. Also the F Trains, how great are they? Loved them. I said they were “F for Funny” trains and excitedly pointed and said “There’s a funny one!” each time we saw one!

We didn’t half end up walking loads this holiday – for example one day we walked from Market Street all the way up to Coit Tower, then the length of Lombard Street and down to Fisherman’s Wharf. That was a great day.

We spent a whole day in Golden Gate Park, explored it, went up to the top of De Young (thanks again to Ramblin Sal!), then walked the entire length of it to the beach. We had dinner at the Beach Hut, which was lovely.

My favourite day was the walk from Ocean Beach, on the Lands End Trail, all the way round to Golden Gate Bridge, then we carried on walking to the Palace of Fine Arts. The sun started to set as we got to the bridge, then we saw the sun set and it was fully dark by the time we got to the Palace of Fine Arts. This was the most amazing walk I’ve ever done – I really really recommend this.

Our least favourite part was Fisherman’s Wharf – it was still a great place, but we just didn’t enjoy it as much as the rest of San Francisco – too crowded and a bit too much tackiness in one place. This is with exception of seeing the Sealions and also the Musee Mechanique – that was great fun!

We loved the shopping in the city – Market Street/Union Square area had everything we wanted. We went out to Stonestown Galleria, but that really wasn’t necessary (although the food court was great!), as everything we needed was in the centre of the city.

We explored Mission, Castro and Haight Ashbury. The shopping at Haight Ashbury was great. We spent a bit of time in Dolores Park, what a great atmosphere! Out of these 3 areas, I really enjoyed the Castro.

We did Twin Peaks, but it was a bit too foggy to enjoy it properly – I should imagine this is great on a clear day.

Chinatown was great fun – we went to Golden Gate Cookie factory and loved it there! Cookies were yummy.

Don’t miss the Cable Car museum, it was so great seeing everything in action.

As you can tell, we had the most amazing time. Two weeks was just about right to get around everything we wanted to see.

Tips:

We were going to get Muni passes, but never got round to it. I calculated that we probably wouldn’t have saved much, if any, money but getting one, as we ended up walking a lot. However, the Muni system is very, very easy to understand.

Homeless – I was a bit concerned about this before I got there, especially as our hotel was about 10 mins walk from the action – but this really wasn’t an issue. Yes, there are homeless people there, but they generally just talk to (or shout at) themselves and really aren’t anything to worry about – at no point did we feel unsafe in the city at all.

You may well be tempted to walk everywhere like we did and some of the hills really are steep so take comfortable shoes.

We ate at places like Cheesecake Factory, Max’s, California Pizza Kitchen – as we’re not foodies at all We love comfort food. Our two favourite meals were Biscuits and Blues and the Mac & Cheese at Epic Roasthouse (overlooking the Bay Bridge) – best mac and cheese ever!

Best lunch was at Tartine Bakery.

The weather is crazy, one minute very very hot and the next freezing, so layers were our friend. However, OH still wore shorts every day (not at night)

Hope this helps some people. Thanks so much to everyone on here, I found this forum invaluable when planning the trip.

Feel free to ask any questions!

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1. Re: Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

Wonderful, wonderful trip report!! Loved reading every detail! We get there in 2 days, and I am absolutely giddy in anticipation!!

My daughter and her new husband stayed in the Inn Above Tide during their honeymoon in June. They loved it as much as you did - couldn't say enough good things about it!

Thanks so much for posting!

Edited: 13 September 2010, 13:04
Galveston, Texas
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2. Re: Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

Sounds like a great trip, I can't wait to get back to SF

Buffalo, New York
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3. Re: Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

Thanks for listing your itinerary - Very helpful!!!! - we're leaving tomorrow morning and just can't wait.

We booked the night tour at Alcatraz because I read that the hospital was the creepiest part and you didn't get to see that during the day. It's too late now, to get tix for the day tour - so any tips on what not to miss since you did both? (other than the rec area you already mentioned)

Thanks & welcome home!

London, UK
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4. Re: Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

Thanks Tinalyn - the bits we missed on the night tour were:

The video and the area on the left as you walk away from the dock, but before you get to the archways and the old green car (sorry, I don't know the name of it! But the night tour walked us right by this)

Make sure you explore the outside areas - when you come out of the administration building (where the lighthouse and the warden's house are), go down the steps and around the corner to where the exercise yard is.

And the morgue, by the big water tower - again, the night tour walked us right by this without stopping.

As for the hospital - we missed this! Didn't know it was an option... looks like we'll have to go back again..!!

Have a great time.

Washington State
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5. Re: Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

What an excellent report! Your enthusiasm shines through, and the details make it just fabulous.

tinalyn ~ there are some day-of tickets for Alcatraz sold every morning for the first three tours, but you need to be there really early. Denise (acmarketing) from AlcatrazCruises has some info about this option on Reply 26: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60713-i30-k375319…

San Francisco
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6. Re: Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

WOW! What a super report. The walk from Ocean Beach to the Palace of Fine Arts ... who says you aren't fit!? That is one of my favorite walks, I took some visitors along part of it on Saturday and it was a wonderful clear day with just a few wisps of fog which evaporated before our eyes!

Thanks very much for writing up your trip. I'm sure it will help many future travelers (and I'm bookmarking it so I can point people to it).

Edited: 13 September 2010, 16:10
Northfield...
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7. Re: Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

Great trip report! I admire how adventurous you are. Thanks for sharing so many details with us. I am glad that you had a wonderful time.

Dublin, Ireland
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8. Re: Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

Hello Pretty London,

Can Alcatraz be 'DONE' in 2 hour ? ( I do not mean escape from lol) I have 2 hours & no longer.

If not, what parts of the complex would you go straight for & which can be passed by with a glance. Sounds from your excellent report the outdoor spots are more interesting.

Is the boat trip over to the Rock 10 minutes ?

Regards

John

Down Under
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9. Re: Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

OH wore shorts every day_____I'm impressed.

Inn above tide is such a nice place in a beautiful location and I can understand having a bit of a let down at the next hotel.

What a great trip and a great report____Thanks.

London, UK
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10. Re: Trip Report, September 2010 - Two weeks in San Francisco

Thanks to everyone for their comments!

RamblinSal – I wasn’t feeling too fit when I was huffing and puffing up those steps from Baker Beach! Well worth it though!

John – Yes, boat over is only 10 mins. I think the boats leave the island 30 mins apart from each other though, which will restrict you on time. Also boarding starts for the boat over to Alcatraz half an hour before. The main part of the visit is the Audio Tour, which is 30 mins long. You may want to pause it to have a closer look at things that interest you. I think 2 hours is totally do-able, though. You get a map before you get on the boat, so you can get used to the layout of the island (it is small though). The audio tour takes you outside, but make sure you pause it and have a good old wander around once you get out there.

Have a great time!