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I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

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I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

This is a report of our trip July 1-8, 2012.

I love reading and writing trip reports and even though I don’t see many on this forum, I thought I would share ours in the hope that someone will find it helpful. We did just about every touristy thing you can do in SF and then some (with the exception of Alcatraz—for some reason we left that out even though I told my husband that everyone loves it).

This trip consisted of myself, my husband (DH) and DH’s best friend “Ned.” DH had been to SF once about 10 years ago but it was my first time. Ned is a frequent visitor to SF and since he has been so many times, he planned our entire itinerary for the trip. This was hard for me since I love to plan, but I knew that Ned would make sure we saw everything we needed to see.

After much research and debate, we decided to break up our trip into 3 parts: 4 nights at the Le Meridien with the days spent doing all the “touristy” stuff, then a day trip to Sonoma and a night in Napa Valley, then our last two nights would be spent at the W, with our last day sort of open with no set plan, other than dinner at Gary Danko.

We chose the Le Meridien for a few reasons: one, we needed to be close to Ned who was staying at a budget hotel, the Grant Plaza. We were also concerned about noise and we figured being in the Financial District would mean that it would be pretty quiet at night. But the real reason we chose it was because it had the most square footage in our price point.

I know the Financial District is not a popular choice here but we had a pretty aggressive itinerary involving a lot of walking. As in 4-6 miles a day on average. So for the above reasons, we went with this area over some of the more popular ones.

We were very impressed with the Le Meridien—it was our favorite hotel of the 3. The room was indeed spacious for SF standards, the bed was comfortable and we heard no noise other than a siren or two whatsoever. We arrived early and were allowed to check in around 10:30 am and were given a partial bay view room.


We thought the lobby area was nice but we really just walked in and out of this hotel coming and going straight to and from our room. We did not use the restaurant or bar although we did go up and look at the restaurant which has a terrace area. I will write a complete review of the hotel on TA if anyone is interested in more details. But overall, we liked it very much. Our only real complaint was that the internet service in our room was pretty spotty.

We flew Virgin for the first time and loved it. We had an uneventful flight and took a cab from the airport. The fare to the Le Meridien was around $44. Days 1-7 to follow.

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1. Re: I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

Day 1: To the Bay and Back

Since we were given such an early check-in, we spent some time unpacking and getting settled before walking to meet Ned and start our day. We started walking and as we turned on I think Pine, we encountered our first hill. I wasn’t worried about the hills. My husband and I are physically fit and I walk 2-4 miles just on my lunch hour. Hills, schmills.

Well, let’s just say I was woefully unprepared. This hill I was looking at turned out to be nothing compared to what I would see (and walk) in the days to come. As we were walking, I turned and took my first picture, on the outskirts of Chinatown.


I wished I had taken a picture of that hill instead. So on we go with our first stop Union Square. We stopped at the gate to Chinatown for a photo opp.


Along the way we stopped at the Paul Frank store for my husband but he didn’t find anything he wanted. I loved Union Square.


Our first big touristy thing was to ride the Trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf. The line was long but it was a beautiful day so we waited easily.


We were able to score places on the outside where we could literally hang off the trolley. Ned said on his last trip this wasn’t allowed but it is now. DH even high-fived some passengers on an oncoming trolley (although I don’t recommend this). It was hairy to say the least. But it was fun and I’m glad I did it, although I wouldn’t do it again.

We walked around Fisherman’s Wharf to see the Sea Lions of course (there weren’t too many there on our visit). And I got my first pictures of Alcatraz.



It was getting close to lunchtime and I wanted fish and chips so DH said we had to go to The Codmother which he had read about on TA. We found it using our Iphone and had a nice lunch there and it was indeed tasty.

The next thing on the agenda was a boat ride on the bay. Since Ned had done it before, he let us go alone. I was worried that I would freeze to death—being from Texas, anything below 60 to me is cold. But I was fine, even though I was only wearing a light sweatsuit (although it was beginning to get cold on the way back). We saw the Golden Gate bridge for the first time and made a wish as we passed under it. We also got a great closeup view of Alcatraz. Well worth the $15. The boat was rocking and rolling though so if choppy water bothers you, be aware (you might not want to eat a lunch of fish before the boat ride in that case).

First view of the bridge:


After the boat ride we ended up in some museum called the Musee Mecanique which was a museum of old arcade games, some as old as the 1800s. It was really cool and I wish we could have spent more time there. Next we walked to Lombard , the curviest street in the world. It was really fun watching the cars go down.


Back to our hotel, we walked up a street called Hyde and all I remember is that I was going to be sure and tell everyone not to do this. It was a really hard walk and I was cursing Ned every step of the way.

Our days consisted of getting up, going out for the day, then coming back to the hotel for showers and some rest, then going out to a dinner and a bar at night. For our first night, we chose Ryokos, a sushi place on Taylor Street. We had a long wait even with a reservation—this was a Sunday night at 9:00 and the place was packed, something that would repeat itself during the week. But we enjoyed our meal. The bar Ned chose was called the Tonga Bar on Mason—he chose it specifically for me since the drinks are all tropical and fruity, which is what I like. We had a nice time listening to the live entertainment and watching people dance. Day 1 ended around 11:30 (which was 1:30 am our time).

Edited: 09 July 2012, 21:24
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2. Re: I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

Day 2: North Beach

Monday started with breakfast at Bocadillos, a short walk from our hotel. This place is small and first come, first served but luckily, we scored a table and had a nice breakfast with great service. The plan for today was to see North Beach, Washington Square and Coit Tower, all on foot.

We headed first to the City Lights Bookstore—apparently a famous bookstore in SF and it was really cool. It is right next to a bar called Vesuvio which we would frequent a couple of times—both DH and Ned had been there before. We walked through North Beach which is full of lovely cafes and restaurants with outdoor patios. This was my favorite area of the city. We stopped at a place where the guys got some hand painted T-shirts. We saw Café Trieste, which is where Francis Ford Coppola wrote the Godfather. We walked to Washington Square and saw the Saints Peter and Paul Church—sadly a funeral was just letting out.


Then we headed to these steps called the Filbert Steps which lead to Coit Tower. It is a lot of steps. I turned and snapped this pic of the city from the top.


We went up to Coit Tower—although we didn’t go in the tower itself. We saw the views from all sides of the city, the Bay and Alcatraz.


When we walked down, there were these beautiful gardens at the bottom.


On the way to Coit Tower, I got a few pics of it, but what I really wanted was that view you see in all the magazines with the hillside view and the tower at the top.

For lunch we walked through Levi Plaza to a place Ned chose for us called Pier 23 since it was by the water. But the view wasn’t really that great, nor the lunch that good and although it was OK, I wouldn’t recommend it. I might be getting my order mixed up here—I am not sure if lunch was after Coit Tower or before.

We walked to Columbus, to North Beach and stopped for a drink at a place called Café Roma, a nice break. DH wanted a beer but not that many places served it that we found where we could sit outside. Next up was Chinatown where we were going to view the oldest temple in SF and also tour the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie place where they make them fresh.

So the walk began. We ended up going down an alley trying to find the fortune cookie place but missed it. We did find the temple however. I am not going to say the name of it here but it is supposedly the oldest Chinese temple in SF.

It was at the top of what felt like 100 steps. No pictures were allowed in the temple. We lit some incense and walked outside onto the balcony. As I turned to my left, I saw it—the perfect shot of Coit Tower. The one with the hillside and everything, it was breathtaking. I excitedly reached for my camera—until DH reminded me there were no pictures allowed. Whaaat??? I was heartbroken. I couldn’t get over it. We found the fortune cookie place (a tiny place and the people running it are no nonsense—you get your sample, take your picture and move along). We walked around a bit more while I tried to get over losing my picture.

As we crossed back we passed the temple again and I couldn’t stand it. I decided to go up and see if I could offer the woman $5 or something to take just that picture, not of the temple. I went up alone and lo and behold—no one was there. The woman must have been in the restroom or something. I raced outside and snapped the picture with my phone and left. And I don’t regret it one bit.


On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Vesuvio for the guys to have a beer. Dinner that night was at Firenze by Night where they are famous for the gnocchi, which Ned and I had. It was OK, nothing spectacular. Again, we stopped at Vesuvio for our nightcap. Back at the hotel, my legs were so tired, I had to run a hot bath and soak them. I was really wishing I had brought a pedometer so I could know how far we had walked!

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3. Re: I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

SF is a great walking city, that's for sure. I have gone on several guided walking tours of the city and I've always had to rest up the next day.

Thanks for the trip report.

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4. Re: I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

Great details, reviews, highlights and to top it all photos -- what more can a future visitor ask for? Not to worry -- tomorrow we will have folks asking us what to do in SF ? where to stay and what to see ?

Thanks for taking the time, uploading the photos and writing a detailed trip report. And more importantly making it into paras and readable -- we get a lot of folks who write one long report without any breaks and I just gloss over them LOL

Come and see us again and next time perhaps the MUNi will help

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5. Re: I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

Thank you for a nice report. You got a super picture of Coit Tower. The 'no pictures' rule in the temple is to keep people from photographing "in" the building, not to keep them from taking pictures of the city from a balcony, I think.

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6. Re: I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

Ohhh, I'm in heaven. I love trip reports and we've gotten more in the past week than in the past year.

More, more!! Can't wait.

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7. Re: I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

You can map your walk on http://www.mapmyrun.com. You'll probably have fun reviewing it, satellite viewing it, checking out the grades of the hills, etc.. It is a lot more accurate than a pedometer too. It's also free to use.


Edited: 10 July 2012, 02:22
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8. Re: I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

Day 3: Art, parks and Painted Ladies

So on tap for Day 3 was the Golden Gate Bridge and the GG Park and lunch at the Cliff House but we got a little off schedule and had to adjust our plans a bit.

The day was supposed to start with the much anticipated (by me) breakfast at Mama’s. But once we saw the line, we ruled that out.


Instead we grabbed a pastry at Café Boulange and then headed to catch the Muni to the Palace of Fine Arts. This is basically just a really pretty structure that was built for no other purpose but to look nice at the World’s Fair back in 1915 or something. It was really pretty though and a lovely area that made for great picture taking.


Getting there took some doing though as we took the wrong bus initially and got a little off track. After the POFA we were supposed to take another bus to the GG bridge which also didn’t go quite so smoothly. But we made it and of course loved it and all the pictures we took came out great. We walked just a little ways over the bridge but didn’t go across.



Then it was a bus over to the Legion of Honor which is a lovely arts museum. It had everything from Egyptian relics to artwork to old French furniture. You could spend hours here easily. But we were hungry for lunch and I was really looking forward to the Cliff House. Ned’s plan was for us to walk there taking something called the Land’s End Trail—but it was way too cold and the wind was blowing so we took another bus instead. We had to wait a bit for a table and we didn’t get a seat by the window but it didn’t matter because you can just go out and take your pictures on the overlook.


Then we decided that we did not want to rush through GG park so instead decided to take a bus to Alamo Square and see the painted ladies and would do the park the next day. So we started walking toward Ocean Beach next door to the Cliff House and I decided that I just HAD to go put my feet in the Pacific Ocean and have my husband take my picture. So my husband obliged me and we went and did that and surprisingly the water wasn’t even as cold as I thought it would be.


Took the bus to Alamo Square and saw the houses and rested a while before heading back by bus to the hotel.


Dinner that night was at a Spanish restaurant called Gitane which was excellent. The bar that night was supposed to be a place called Rickhouse but it was packed with little seating so instead we went across the street to a place called Murphy’s Pub. This was a true bar with no fruity drinks so I ordered a White Russian and my husband thought that sounded good so he ordered it too which the bartender found oh-so-amusing. It became a joke with him every time my husband went up to order. We ended up staying out pretty late, getting to bed around 1:00 am.

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9. Re: I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

Day 4: Parks, pizza and fireworks

July Fourth was supposed to start with breakfast at Dottie's but it was closed. Mama's was open but DH would not entertain the idea so I proceeded to pout all morning. We ended up getting a late breakfast at some Chinese place where we were the only Americans in attendance. I had a hangover from too many White Russians the night before so I was eager to eat anything at this point.

So we decided today would be the day for Golden Gate park. We took the Muni subway to the park and made it there without issue (yay!). The park was lovely and we walked through seeing the Chinese Pavillion, Stowe Lake the Japanese Rose Garden and the Botanical Garden (which we had to pay $7 admission for).



After the park, we went down to the Haight-Asbury section so I could get my picture taken at the famous corner.


This was not my favorite area of town. We stopped at a place called the Magnolia Pub and Brewery for some lunch then took the bus back to the hotel.

We planned to brave the masses and see the fireworks at the ampitheater in Ghiradelli Square. I tried to tell Ned that the locals on TA did not recommend this but he would not be deterred. Before walking there, we had a pizza crawl of North Beach eating slices of pizza at Pizzelle di North Beach, North Beach Pizza and Tony's Pizza Napoletana (our favorite). We went by Golden Boy Pizza but the line was too long.

Then we walked all.the.way.to.the.marina. DH looked it up and I think it was 1.5 miles each way, so 3 miles total. When we got there, it was a veritable sea of humanity. We waltzed in at 9:15 for the 9:30 fireworks like we were just expecting to find a seat waiting for us. But surprisingly, we found a spot of concrete just big enough for all 3 of us, and when the fireworks started, it ended up being the perfect seat in the house.


When the show was over, I was really worried we'd never get out of there but it was actually all very organized and peaceful and we had no problems. I did feel very sorry for the poor people who thought driving anywhere in the vicinity of the fireworks was a good idea though.

I did wake up in the middle of the night with my legs aching. By this point, I am dreaming of a massage and wondering if my legs will ever recover. Thank goodness the next two days will be spent mostly in the car driving to and through Napa.

Edited: 10 July 2012, 03:07
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10. Re: I left my feet in San Francisco-A Trip Report

Days 5 and 6: Wine and dine.

I will be brief with days 5-6 and instead post more detail on the Napa forum at some point. We ate breakfast at the hotel before checking out, then met up with Ned to go pick up the rent car to drive out of SF to Sonoma. We drove over the GG bridge and stopped and got a view of the city from the other side.


We then went and saw Muir Woods. I did not expect this to be such a long hike and wasn't really dressed for it, but it was beautiful.


We drove through Sonoma stopping at the Oakville Grocery for lunch and doing a couple of tastings before heading to the River Terrace Inn in Napa. Dinner that night was at Iron Chef Morimoto's restaurant in Napa and we were all very excited.

Unfortunately it was a total bust. I've had better sushi in my office building in Dallas. This guy is totally riding on his name. The fish wasn't even that fresh. The highlight of the whole meal was my cocktail. I was so disgusted I posted my review on TA right there at the table.

Day 6 was spent doing tastings in Napa starting with breakfast at the Bouchon bakery and then heading to Domain Chandon for champagne (yummy). We did a couple of wine tastings but the highlight was the Sterlings Vineyard (a surprise from Ned) where you got to take a ski lift type thing up to the vineyard getting a beautiful aerial view. Then we got to self-tour the winery with five tastings along the way. We didn't care for the wine really but it was definitely a fun tour.


We drove back to SF, checked in at the W, and had dinner at the Slanted Door, another great meal. We had the Imperial Rolls appetizer which was one of the best appetizers I've ever had anywhere. We decided to check out the W hotel bar, the Living Room (which is the same one we have here in Dallas) and after two $12 (each) Jack and Cokes for the boys, called it a night.