A June 2002 trip
to San Francisco by Muchmor
Quote: One of my favourite cities, San Francisco has lots to do, lots to see, and is a great place to stay.
We also visited during Gay Pride week and watched the parade -- what a sight, a real eye-opener. If you're visiting during this time (end of June) then this is a must-see.
Alcatraz Island is also an absolute mus -- if you visit San Francisco without visiting Alcatraz then you are really missing out.
If you stay in a hotel on the wharf, it may be noisy as the area bustles with people, even during the night. Traffic is also heavy 24hrs.
Of course there are the famous trams, but be prepared to queue and note that they only go to certain areas.
We took a fantastic jeep tour with Golden Gate Jeep Tours; it took us to all the local and tourist areas, as well as across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. It's very highly recommended.
The hotel is on a corner and has a car park opposite which costs a few dollars a day. From the outside, the building is quite petty, with canopies over the doorways and old-fashioned brickwork. The corner of the building is of a circular design. Apparently this building has survived a few big earthquakes, including the big one of 1906. It used to be a girls' boarding school and rumour has it that it's haunted -– but we never saw any evidence of this.
When you enter the lobby, you will be welcomed by a concierge (there's always one on duty). There is a large reception area with very friendly staff to help you out, including getting your bags from the car. Alongside the reception area is a large lounge decorated with ornate fixtures and antique furniture. There is a huge flower arrangement on display and lots of comfortable seating. Newspapers and a visitor's book are also here.
There are several room grades available. We stayed in a standard room which, although clean, tidy, and functional, was a little disappointing compared to the ornate furnishings of the lobby etc. The room was of reasonable size with a queen-size bed, dresser, wardrobe, and a rather ancient looking TV -– possibly in keeping with the antique look of the place. The en-suite had both a bath and shower and was clean.
There are other types of room available. If you are planning on staying here it might be worth an upgrade to a deluxe room which is bigger, comes with a fridge, and a bay window. They also have suites.
The concierge is always on hand (24 hr service) to order taxis, give directions, or plan sightseeing trips. We found them most helpful. The hotel also offers room service, dry cleaning, and use of the nearby athletic club's gym facilities. In the afternoon they serve tea, sherry, and cookies in the lounge.
A continental breakfast is included in your room charge and served in the dining room. There is a selection of cereals, muffins, bagels, tea, coffee, orange juice, etc. You also get a free copy of the local newspaper. You can have dinner at the hotel is you wish, but they like you to book ahead.
We found the hotel staff to be very friendly and helpful, the hotel itself clean and tidy, and the food good. Although the location is not central to San Francisco, we found it easy enough to walk to all the local areas of interest, including Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Golden Gate Bridge. Taxis are available and, once you get to the tourist areas, cable cars are readily available.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 14, 2003
Queen Anne Hotel
1590 SUTTER ST
San Francisco, California 94109
Hotel | "Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf"
Location: This hotel is situated on Fisherman’s Wharf, which is one of the main tourist areas in SF. It's a two-minute walk to many of the local attractions such as Pier 39 where you can find the sealions and get Alcatraz and Bay tours. Pop across the road to the Cannary and then up the road to Ghiradelli Square for shops, restaurants, etc. It is a stone's throw from the cable-car turnaround, so you can get to pretty much anywhere from here. All in all, the location could not be much better.
The rooms are large and you either get a king or two double beds with the usual dresser, drawers, TV, coffee maker, and large bathroom. We also had an iron and ironing board.
There are several options for eating -- one of the hotel buildings has a Denny’s which serve breakfasts, dinners, etc., 24-hours a day. We chose to have breakfast at the main hotel restaurant, the Bristol Bar & Grill, which serves a buffet. Here you can get fruit, cereal, yoghurt, eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausages, potatoes, toast, bagels, pastries . . . the list goes on. We paid approx $30 for two breakfasts and tea/coffee/juice which I didn’t think was too bad considering you can easily fill yourself up and not eat again until evening. There are also lots of bars and restaurants within walking distance.
The hotel also has an outside pool, concierge service, gift shop, coffee bar, and guest laundry facilities.
Now for the downside –- we found the hotel to be exceptionally noisy. The room windows weren't double-glazed so all the street noise came straight into the room –- all through the night, both traffic and people. It is definitely the noisiest hotel we have ever stayed in. We were in a room on the opposite side from the Wharf and asked if we could move to a quieter room. We were told we were already in one of the quietest rooms!
Also the room, although large, had wallpaper peeling off the wall, which didn’t look very nice, and curtains that didn’t meet in the middle, so shafts of light came into the room at dawn -- we had to prop lamps and cases around the curtains to combat this. Another problem we encountered was that the vending machines were often empty, forcing you to go to the hotel coffee shop to buy coke, water, etc., at a higher cost.
If you plan to go to SF, I would not recommend this hotel. I would recommend the breakfast at the Bristol Bar & Grill, however.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on February 14, 2003
Holiday Inn Fishermans Wharf
1300 Columbus Ave.
San Francisco, California 94133
On the morning of our tour we stood outside the hotel and, sure enough, exactly at the arranged time (9.30am), a racing-green jeep pulled up. Our tour guide/driver was Hank Davis; he also owned the company.
We booked our tour for our second day, so that if we went anywhere that we wanted to return to, we still had a few days left to do so. Hank said he would take us to all the tourist areas as well as the historical and landmark areas. The virtues of a jeep tour soon became apparent as many of the streets we went down bore signs stating that tour buses and the like were banned. Being in the jeep, we were able to visit many places we would not have been able to see on a "normal" guided tour.
We visited many areas including Nob Hill, Coit Memorial Tower, The Palace of Fine Arts, the Presidio, Fort Point, Telegraph Hill, Chinatown, and Lombard Street -– the crookedest street in the world. We were able to stop at many of the locations for photo opportunities, too. The trip across the Golden Gate Bridge was great (if a little windy) and, on the other side, we entered the town of Sausalito, where the temperature was about ten-degrees higher than San Francisco. Sausalito was very different to SF, with very expensive houses set into the cliff and overlooking the bay. We passed a derelict house resembling nothing more than a pile of wood and Hank told us that it recently sold for nearly $1 million.
After the return trip across the bridge we travelled along the coast, viewed Ocean Beach, then went through Golden Gate Park, back into the city through Pacific Heights, and eventually back to our hotel.
Hank was a brilliant host, explaining areas that needed explaining, but keeping quiet when nothing needed to be said. When we got back to the hotel, three-hours later, he helped us plan our last couple of days in SF by suggesting we include a trip to Muir Woods (which we did) and even helping with directions for our trip down the coast and suggesting places to visit en-route including Monterey Bay and Hearst Castle.
We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and found many interesting places that we later returned to, such as Chinatown. The tour was relaxed, we never felt rushed, and if we wanted to stop anywhere for whatever reason, Hank was ever obliging.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 17, 2003
Jeep Tour of San Francisco
Throughout San Francisco
San Francisco, California
Attraction | "Alcatraz - a must see"
We started off by going into the "theatre" to watch a film about the history of the Rock which was very interesting. It outlined the various uses the place has had over the years -- by the Army and, of course, the prison to the Indian occupation in the late 1960s -- and how the place has been turned into the tourist attraction it now is.
Your ticket includes a self-guided tour with a tape recorder and headphones. The tape is extremely impressive, with superb stereo sound that makes you feel like you are experiencing all the things you hear on the tape.
You are told of the conditions the prisoners were kept in and hear the echoes of the doors banging shut and the screaming of the inmates etc. You are told to go to different cells and hear stories of how the marks on the door relate to a failed escape attempt or that Al Capone was thought to have been in this particular cell, etc. The voices change on the tape to people who actually experienced Alcatraz, either as a prison guard or an actual prisoner. There are stories of riots and escapes, and you see cell mock-ups of how some of the prisoners tried to escape by digging out of the back of their cells and leaving hand-made heads in the beds to fools the guards. You'll also learn that Robert Stroud was famous as being the Birdman of Alcatraz but never kept birds on the island -- he earned his nickname as a result of keeping canaries at his previous prison, Leavenworth. Al Capone was also kept here, but no one seems to know exactly in which cell.
Apparently the inmates were given good food in order to keep them from rioting, and given hot rather than cold showers to stop them from becoming acclimatised to cold water in case they were tempted to take a swim. There were a few attempts at escape, none of which were said to be successful, although three men are unaccounted for during the escape depicted in the film The Great Escape. There was no evidence of their survival but, no bodies were found either!
When the tour ends you are free to wander the island. Boats leave every half an hour so you can stay for as long as you want. The tour itself takes about one hour, so you really need to allow yourself a minimum of two, so that you can wander at leisure and visit the shops, etc.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 14, 2003
Alcatraz Island/The Rock
San Francisco Bay
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco 94133
If you are in the area, it is well worth the short trip, but get here early as the car parks are small and fill very quickly. Overflow car parks are available but are 1 to 2 miles from the woods.
There is a small fee to enter the woods; I think it was about $3 each. You then get a guide leaflet with details of the different walks available within the park, with their distances and exertion levels, etc. There are several walks on the main track that won’t get you too exhausted, but if you want to test your agility, there are longer and more strenuous walks. We started off by taking one of the more taxing walks, but after a couple of miles we came across a lot of workers trimming back the trees and were advised not to continue as they couldn’t guarantee we would get back later. We then turned around and made our way back, and once into the main area took one of the easier walks. There were quite a lot of people along this walk--we hadn’t encountered anyone on the first walk. But it was very relaxed and peaceful with the sun streaming through the treetops.
There are lots of information points along the route, so you'll know which trees and plants are what. Guides are also on hand should you want a guided tour.
A rest area in the park has toilet facilities and a restaurant, which sells snack-type things such as rolls, hot dogs, ice creams, and drinks. There is also a souvenir shop selling the usual things--ashtrays made out of redwood trees, books, etc.
You probably will not need to spend a whole day here, unless you want to take advantage of the hiking walks available. You can therefore do Muir Woods in the morning and go somewhere else in the afternoon. Due to the parking situation, I would not recommend doing it the other way round.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 11, 2003
Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, CA 94941-2696
The parade was on the Sunday, so we decided to go along, as we would probably never see the like again. True to British form, we got there a few hours before it was due to start to make sure we got a good spot--we did, since we were the only ones there! Apparently Americans do not queue and stand around for hours before an event like us Brits.
The first thing to happen when the parade started was that hundreds of women on motorbikes went noisily down the road. These were the Dykes on Bikes. Some were solo, others in pairs, and their clothing ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Many had leather on, but not the normal biker leather--more like thongs, straps, etc. There were also a lot of chains and quite a few didn’t have anything on at all.
Then followed the floats and walkers. Again, many of the people had very strange attire on. One chap ran down the road with nothing on but a restraining contraption on his privates (to put it politely). Many of the marchers were protesting for certain rights, such as for gays and lesbians to marry. Others were there simply as an excuse to dress up and have a good time. There were many transgender people who were proudly showing off their surgery, such as women who had had their breasts removed to become men. A woman standing next to us found this very distasteful and hurled abuse at them.
A lot of effort had gone into all the costumes and trucks; it was an extremely colourful event. I can honestly say, I have never seen so many strange sights, but it was great fun. After 3 hours of watching the parade, we decided to leave as it was getting extremely hot--we Brits don’t do hot too well. It is a day we will never forget, and we have loads of photos to bring back the memories--some of which you could not show your parents!
If you happen to be in San Francisco during Gay Pride, do go to the parade. Even if you are straight like us, you will thoroughly enjoy yourself and perhaps be made more aware of the bigotry and prejudice against such people.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 11, 2003
Gay Pride Parade
San Francisco City Centre
San Francisco, California