A Couple in the City by the Bay

San Francisco is the perfect place to discover without a lot of planning. My husband and I had a great time just walking the streets, holding hands, and doing things that seemed interesting on the spur of the moment.

A Couple in the City by the Bay

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

The Costonoa Lodge and Camp in nearby Pescadero (55 miles south of the city) is a resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean that is well worth a weekend get away. Start a vacation here to experience the California Coastline, then work your way north, stopping in the Muir Woods for a hike before driving into San Francisco. Climb the Coit Tower to get the lay of the land. Ride a trolley. Go to Dalla Torre to find an intimate setting for romance and Italian food. If you visit the Cliff House, have lunch at Narai, an authentic Thai restaurant on the West Side where I tried an exotic Thai dessert found in few American restaurants. Go to Fisherman's Wharf and play air hockey in an arcade on Pier 39. Take a tour of Alcatraz. Walk through the Golden Gate Park. Get a book at City Lights. Seek out funky shops and art museums. Soon you will understand why real estate in San Francisco is more expensive than in New York City. Enjoy! ${QuickSuggestions} I am a Georgia girl used to 90+ heat in the summer. Fifty degree winds were a big shock to my system! You'll get away with shorts and a sweater in the daytime, but bring a jacket for night. The best months to visit are not in the height of the tourist season (summer) when it is often cold and foggy but in the fall months (Sept.-November) when the weather is often more warm.${BestWay} Walk! Use BART, buses or cable cars when walking is impractical. Take the occassional cab if the crowding bothers you. Rent a car for trips outside of the city. See journal entry on getting around in San Fran for more detail.

Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

The Sheraton at Fisherman's Wharf was located in a great spot. It was nice to be able to walk to a lot of the different tourist attractions such as Fisherman's Wharf that I had not been to since I was a little girl. Bus stops for different bus lines were nearby as well. The hotel looked a little run down from the outside but was very well-maintained within. Everything was decorated in a tasteful nautical theme, a giant model sailboat near the concierge's desk. The service we got was always first-rate. I would expect this, however, because the room rate was astronomical. After room taxes, parking garage fees, etc..., our bill was pushing $340/night. For that money I would have expected the room we stayed in to be a little larger or our view to be a little more inspiring than the one we had of a parking lot of buses. The restaurant in the hotel was only mediocre though room service was quick and polite. I would say that I enjoyed my overall stay at the Sheraton, but I had to keep in mind that the primary thing I was paying for was the hotel's location.
Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf Hotel
2500 Mason Street
San Francisco, California, 94133
(415) 362-5500

Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on February 20, 2002

The Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp is actually 55 miles south of San Francisco off Highway 1. It is well worth the drive.

Located on the coastal lands of the old Cascade Ranch, the Costanoa is private property nestled among some of the most pristine public parks the Golden State has to offer. With everything from camping facilities to luxury rooms available, travelers of ALL budgets may take advantage of this beautiful retreat’s superb setting by the sea. Whether you pitch a tent on the beach ($30) or get a room over the spa (Premium King $240), this is the perfect place to forget about cell phones and become reacquainted with Mother Nature.

Costanoa’s main facilities are a small collection of rustic buildings that tastefully blend into the grounds. When I first reached them, the sun was dipping low on the horizon, blazing fire across the ocean, and I was completely enchanted by my surroundings.

My spacious room was in the lodge with the spa and outdoor hot tub. I had my own fireplace. When I opened the doors to my balcony, I could immediately see myself writing, looking up at the hills tinged gold in the fading light.

The large armoire in my bedroom held a small refrigerator and spa robes, but no television. Movies are shown in a common room most evenings, but the Costanoa Lodge is a place to forget about the outside world, lose yourself---or find yourself---without the distraction of sitcoms.

Beside a softly playing Bose radio, the staff had left a note of welcome. It directed me to an Adventure Guide with enough acitivity suggestions to fulfill any outdoor enthusiast’s fondest desires.

You may hike directly from the Costanoa to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California’s oldest state park. Naturalists lead hiking tours in the afternoons. With advanced reservations, the Costanoa staff can bring horses from off-site stables for your use, or rent a mountain bike for an easy ride to Butano State Park for whale watching. Visit the Ano Nuevo State Reserve where the Northern Elephant Seals mate from December to March. Tickets for such tours can be acquired (and are required) from the state parks department by calling 800-444-4445. Or do as I did, and greet the daybreak with a run on the beach and a search of tidal pools. The trails are easy to follow! Or go windsurfing in Half Moon Bay or lie on the beach or visit a lighthouse or ....

In addition, the General Store offers hot meals and bottles of wine to buy for your room, cabin or tent. Canvas Cabins line a field in the back of the Costanoa, a happy compromise between staying in the lodge or on the beach. RV hookups are available, too.

If you enjoy the outdoors, I could not recommend the Costanoa more highly. I left this wonderful place feeling revived and peaceful. And I didn''t even have time to get a massage in the spa!

Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp
2001 Rossi Road At Hwy 1
Pescadero, California, 94060
(650) 879-1100

Savoy Hotel

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on March 29, 2002

The Savoy Hotel is located in the theater district of the city. Built in 1913, it is a charming, intimate retreat from home. After a ride up the old-fashioned elevator to the seventh floor, I stepped into my small but provincially decorated room. I sat on the red and gold comforter. The bed was filled with goose down pillows; the mattress was made softer by a plush, goose down cover under the fitted sheet. Two fluffy, white robes hung on the bathroom door. The armoire revealed a mini-bar and television.

I noted that all of the regular amenities such as laundry services were provided for in the hotel along with a few extra luxuries such as a complimentary wine and cheese hour daily. A key can also be requested to enter the 24-hour business center: a small room with a computer and printer and fax machine.

I looked through a slat in the window blinds of my room to the twinkling streets below. I knew I was a short walk away from Union Square, an upscale shopping area. The SFMOMA is also in walking distance of the Savoy, along with shops, galleries, restaurants, cable cars and cafes.

One afternoon I got a good hair cut across the street from the hotel at Addy for Hair (531 Geary Street/415-441-4731) where I listened with rapt attention to the constant stream of good-natured banter between the two sisters who own the place. Apparently celebrities often walk on Geary in the mornings on their way to early rehearsals in the nearby playhouses; their most recent spotting was Olympia Dukakis.

I had a very comfortable stay in the Savoy Hotel. The staff was helpful and courteous. They arranged for a shuttle to pick me up on the morning of my departure to the airport (Shuttle=$12, Cab=$30). They were happy to offer suggestions about the city.

I would say if you stay at the Savoy that the continental breakfast served at the bar in the mornings is not worth the extra money if it’s not already included in your room rate. $8 is steep for dry cereal and orange juice. Just walk down Geary towards Powell Street, and you’ll quickly find places to buy bagels or pastries you’ll probably enjoy more. With that said, the rates for this Boutique Hotel itself are a good value. The location is near enough to area attractions to suit any needs. Nightlife can be found at a variety of bars such as the Red Room just a couple blocks away.

Bottom Line: The Savoy has personality, and I would happily stay there again.

Visit their website at www.TheSavoyHotel.com to check for rate specials and more information.

Savoy Hotel
580 Geary Street.
San Francisco, California, 94102

Narai Restaurant (Thai Food)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on February 4, 2002

If you like authentic Thai this is a great restaurant. My cousin has lived in San Francisco for over twenty years, and this place is at the top of her list when dining in the West end of town. So, after a pleasant visit to the arcade at the Cliff House, we made our way to Narai for lunch.

At a table within the simply decorated dining room, we ordered a variety of different Thai dishes to share including noodles with shrimp, salmon in a coconut milk sauce, curry, Papaya salad, cold Thai tea, bbq chicken for the kids and more.

To be honest, I am typically not a huge fan of this type of cuisine, so I had low expectations. Yet I really enjoyed everything I tried.

Well, almost everything.

For dessert, my dining companions all eagerly ordered Dorian. This is a special type of spiky, yellow fruit that you will only find served at hardcore Thai restaurants in the States. In fact, Narai is one of the few places in San Francisco where this is available on the menu. It is served as a sort of pasty mush with rice soaked in coconut milk. It is the type of dish that you either love or hate.

As for my tastes? I fall on the hate side of this atrocity masquerading as food. I cannot possibly describe the taste (or smell), but it is distinct and unforgettable.

However, when I left my Dorian practically untouched, my family quickly descended upon my dish, eagerly dividing the dessert among themselves as if it were a divine confection. For them Dorian is a delicacy worth a trip to Narai for its sake alone. Go figure. I guess you'll have to make up your own mind about this "fruit."


2229 Clement St
San Francisco, California, 94121
+1 415 751 6363

Akikios Restaurant and Sushi Bar

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by barbara on March 28, 2002

If you’re in the mood for Japanese, Akikos offers reasonable and fresh sushi in a casual atmosphere. The service is quick and friendly. The seaweed salad is especially delicious, and the hand rolls are also good. A great place to grab lunch near the theater district, Akikos is a short walk from Union Square and Japantown.
Akikios Restaurant and Sushi Bar
431 Bush Street
San Francisco, California


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on March 29, 2002

You push through curtains at the front door to enter a chic restaurant with low lighting and a young, trendy feel. Like the cuisine, the décor at Azie could be described as Asian fusion. A broad cedar staircase is the centerpiece of the first floor. Long branches of pussy willows are tastefully arranged in a vase behind the hostess station. The curving bar to the left has modern silver accents, square mirrors—one colored red--covering the wall behind it; rectangular Japanese lanterns hang from the ceiling.

To the right, seating is available in comfortable booths with high backs that ensure the privacy of diners. Food is served family style, in the center of the table, so that everyone may try the delectable dishes on the menu.

Our meal began with a "Chef’s nine" appetizer, small bites of the restaurant’s culinary offerings such as the miniature cups of creamy mushroom soup, fried potatoes and pink salmon.

A bottle of Pinot Noir from Azie's quality selection was chosen to accompany entrée choices such as monkfish and an excellent tofu in mushroom sauce plate that was light yet filling.

Cheesecake, Crème Brule, and other desserts to die for topped off the meal.

In every way the service at Azie was outstanding.

While the restaurant would easily suit a couple out for a night on the town, I would highly suggest dining with a small group of friends. That way more dishes can be sampled from the menu!

In either case, Executive Chef Jody Denton has another winner in this recent addition to fine dining in the City by the Bay.

To check out other restaurants run by Chef Denton, visit www.restaurantlulu.com.

826 Folsom St
San Francisco, California, 94107
+1 415 538 0918

Dalla Torre

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

I loved this restaurant. It was located on Telegraph Hill, and there are two floors on which you can eat. While you make reservations for dinner, they do not take reservations for the second floor. It fills up on a first-come, first-serve basis. Make sure you come first. You will be rewarded with a beautful view of the Bay Bridge in a small, and intimate room where the atmosphere could only be called romantic. Plan on buying a nice bottle of wine and enjoying a wonderful Italian/American meal. I had a delectable crab and pasta dish, and my husband enjoyed giant stuffed prawns. The service was first rate, and I could not recommend this place any higher if you are looking for a place to enjoy a significant other's conversation.
CyBelle's Pizza
719 14th St
San Francisco, California, 94114
(415) 431-1722

Cafe Marimba

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

We walked into Cafe Marimba off the sidewalk. We chose to eat there because of its brightly colored decor and festive looking dining area. We were not disappointed. We came to learn that Cafe Marimba is rated as one of the Bay Area's top 100 restaurants. The food is authentic Mexican with a wide variety of choices. Everything looked so good on the menu that I chose a Marimba Sampler Platter which included a Huilaoche Enchilada, a Mole Rojo Chicken Enchilada, a Spicy Chorizo Empnanda, and a Mole Amarillo Chicken Tamale. The meal and service were excellent and very reasonably priced. Best of all, Cafe Marimba uses pre-Hispanic cooking methods which tend to be much healthier than those traditionally associated with Mexican cooking in the US. There is not nearly as much lard and starch used in flavoring, and most of the sauces at Marimba are fat free. This is a great restaurant if you like both Mexican and healthy cuisine!
Cafe Marimba
2317 Chestnut St (between Scott And Divisadero Streets)
San Francisco, California, 94123
+1 415 776 1506

Pier 39

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

Pier 39 is full of arcades, stores, a carousel and fun activity. It was my favorite part of Fisherman's Wharf. There are sea lions hanging out on the docks, and these are fun (and free) to see. My husband and I also stopped in an arcade to play a couple games of air hockey. The atmosphere definitely brought the kid out in both of us, and I would suggest you at least walk-through to see if anything is of interest to you.
Pier 39
Beach Street & The Embarcadero
San Francisco, California, 94133
(415) 981 7437

Underwater World/Pier 39

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

Underwater World is an Aquarium that is set up to look like dive tunnels. You walk through tunnels as sea life swims all around you. My husband and I saw great schools of silver anchovies teaming above our heads, and we marveled at the size of a giant red octopus in the tanks. There were many sharks swimming about as well, though I understand they are well fed and rarely prey upon their aquarium mates. Admission into the aquarium was $12.95/person. Kids under 3 were free. There was also a family package available that gave a little price break for those traveling with children. The admission was a little pricey for the length of time one could spend in the aquarium, but I would still recommend Underwater World. My husband and I had a great time touching the leopard sharks in the petting pools. Any child would have loved that experience. I greatly enjoyed looking at all of the different fish in the tanks, and I appreciated a reprieve from the cold wind that was blowing off the bay the day we ducked into the aquarium. I also did not mind my ticket cost too much as I read that proceeds help allow thousands of school children living in San Francisco to participate in Marine Parks in the Bay Area for free.
Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39
The Embarcadero at Beach Street
San Francisco, California, 94133
(415) 623-5300

Coit Tower

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

Coit Tower is a 210 foot high tower built with money contributed to the city of San Francisco by Lillie Hitchcock Coit in the early 1900s. Lillie was rescued as a young child from one of the fires that plagued San Francisco in the 1800s, and came to be a self-appointed mascot of the fire department. The tower itself actually looks like the nozzle of a fire hose. This tower is a must-see for any San Francisco visitor. It opens everyday at 10 AM. If you drive your car up Telegraph hill, there is limited parking available. Get there early before the tower opens to assure you will get a spot, and hike around the grounds to amuse yourself before Coit Tower opens. People often just walk up Telegraph Hill to avoid the hassle of parking all together. Be warned, however, that it is steep and quite a little hike! Once inside the attraction, take a moment to look at the murals painted in the bottom section of the tower. Then spend $3.75/person to ride an elevator to the top of the tower (The stairs were closed during our visit.). The view of the city from the top of the tower is quite marvelous and affords a wonderful opportunity to orient one's self with the lay of the land. You may spend as much time as you'd like looking across the city, but it does get a little chilly as the top of Coit Tower has no ceiling but is open to the air.
Coit Tower
1 Telegraph Hill Blvd
San Francisco, California, 94133
(415) 362-0808

Ghiradelli Square

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

Ghiradelli Square is full of 19th century red brick and used to be the location of a famous chocolate factory until the 1960's. If you are taking a self-guided walking tour throughout San Francisco, you will find many historical placards displayed in the Square explaining the contributions of the Ghiraradelli Family to the Bay Area economy.

There are several interesting and nice shops in Ghirardelli Square that suited my tastes more than the cheaper souvenier shops found on Fisherman's Wharf, but I would still suggest checking out the stores on Union Street before doing any major shopping. There are funky boutiques and more reasonably priced goods outside of the major tourist spots. Union Square has the most upscale stores like Sax Fifth Avenue. Where ever you shop, make sure you buy some of the Ghiraradelli Chocolate. It is very scrumptious and a big part of San Francisco lore.

Notice the mermaid fountain in the center of Ghiradelli Square, designed by Ruth Asawa as you sip a Mocha Coffee and ponder which stores you'd like to explore.

Ghirardelli Square
900 North Point St
San Francisco, California, 94109
(415) 775-5500

The Cannery

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

The Cannery on Leavenworth is an interesting building to walk by. It used to be a Del Monte Fruit canning factory and is now a collection of shops and eateries. A Comedy Club is located in the Cannery, and I understand a lot of up-and-coming comics perform there nightly. This is a nice place to do a little souvenier shopping or grab a snack to eat.
The Cannery at Del Monte Square
2801 Leavenworth St (at The Corner Of Jefferson Street)
San Francisco, California, 94133
(415) 771-3112

de Young Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

The de Young Museum is in the Golden Gate Park. It had an entrance fee to its main halls for $6/person. There was a surcharge to see another exhibit that was being temporarily housed at the museum. We opted to stick with the permanent collection of American Art. When we entered the museum, there was a guided tour available for free. A very lovely lady named Gerda took us from room to room to see some of the old American furniture in the de Young art exhibit. She gave us a wonderful historical overview of several pieces, and she was very charming in every way. I would not, however, suggest a tour that concentrates on something as specific as the furniture in the museum unless you have a real interest in that kind of thing. I found it fascinating to learn which European countries influenced American interior design and why, but my husband did not care quite as much about the neoclassic origins of the carvings on some of the dressers as I did. Still, Gerda showed us a Tankard made by Paul Revere and gave us background that we could not have gotten about the American Revolutionary as a craftsman from the signs posted beside the various exhibitions. When we noticed time was running short, we left the tour and wandered through the various rooms of American Paintings on our own. We enjoyed the time we spent in the de Young and wish we'd had time to look in some of the other attractions like the Asian Art Museum at Golden Gate Park as well.
De Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park.
San Francisco, California, 94102
(415) 750-3600

Golden Gate Park

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

When we went to Golden Gate Park, we at first could not figure out how to get in! We soon discovered, however, that most of the access roads were closed off because the annual Aids Walk 2000 was going on the day we chose to visit the park. Thousands of people pledged their time to walk a course to raise money for Aids research, and we ended up walking with them for a while after we finally found a parking space on the street outside of the park and used footpaths to get inside. This park is an ideal place to take children visiting San Francisco to run out some energy. I would love to run there on my next visit. It is a huge area with lots of interesting flora and fauna decorating the landscape. The small rose garden was beautiful. Outdoor activities can be enjoyed for free but several attractions such as the de Young Museum require an entry fee (see de Young entry in journal).
Golden Gate Park
501 Stanyan Street
San Francisco, California, 94118
(415) 831-2700


Member Rating 2 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

We stopped in Saulsalito on our way to Muir Woods. Apparently it is a popular city for tourists to go get tours of the bay, rent sailboats, or shop. We did none of these things. We walked down Bridgeway, the main drag on the water, and ate at a Chinese restaurant. I had actually heard that the food was better in the restaurants one street over on Caldonia, but we did not have the chance to find out. We were hungry at 3 in the afternoon, and most of the restaurants on Caledonia were closed until 5. Our meal was okay, and we had a nice view of the sailboats in the water. It was interesting to see the homes in Sausalito as compared to those in San Francisco though. They were much larger (some had YARDS!), and the town was very picturesque.
San Francisco, California

Muir Woods

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

Muir Woods is beautiful. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to get there, and were so happy that we did not let the opportunity to see this national monument go by. Established as a nature preserve in 1908, Muir Woods was a gift to the US government. It was named after John Muir, a famous conservationist who increased US awareness of the importance of preserving nature. A Redwood can live for 3,000 years, and many of the towering giants have been in place in Muir woods for centuries. There are a variety of hiking trails available to use depending on how much time and effort you want to expend in the woods. The main loop is a very leisurely hike that takes about a half an hour. There are other hikes, however, that would take most of the day. Admission to the woods is only $2/adult. Buy a trail guide as well so that you can map out where you are going. Wear good shoes.
Muir Woods
Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, CA , 94941-2696
(415) 561-4700

Fisherman's Wharf

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

Our hotel was right by Fisherman's Wharf, and I had planned this because I remember the wharf as being magical for me as a kid. I had lived in Monterey when I was in elementary school, and I remember going to San Fran was a huge family treat. Fisherman's Wharf was always THE place to visit, and I had loved everything about it. Now-a-days, I'm not so sure. The Wharf is crowded with a lot of tourists (this is the number 1 San Francisco tourist destination) bustling past chintzy souvenier shops and stands on the busy sidewalks. There are, however, many street entertainers that are fun to watch, and many of the tours including the boat tours that go out to Alcatraz are booked at various places along Fisherman's Wharf. I would suggest going to see it---to watch the intersting people---but I would not allow this to be my main experience of San Francisco.
Fisherman's Wharf
The Embarcadero
San Francisco, California

Edinburgh Castle

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by barbara on May 3, 2002

The Edinburgh is a dimly lit pub on Geary Street. The bartender looks like he never smiles, but he's fast and efficient. There are small tables on the first floor at which to sit and nurse a beer. Stairs lead up to a pool table and darts. The night I visited the Edinburgh with a group of friends, we had a good time challenging each other to games, having a few drinks and just hanging out in the relaxed, casual atmosphere. One of the girls in the group mentioned that the Edinburgh used to serve fabulous fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, but as I did not order any, I don't know if this is still true. The place didn't get too crowded though the tables did fill up as the night wore on. Tabs were reasonable, and everyone we saw at the full-service bar seemed to be having a good time.

Not to scare you off but one strike against the Edinburgh is it near a less-than-nice section of town. Getting a cab won't be a problem, but make sure you lock your car when you park. Also, don't walk the neighborhood alone late at night. Instead move around with a group. Have fun!

Edinburgh Castle
950 Geary St
San Francisco, California, 94109
+1 415 885 4074

Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by barbara on March 29, 2002

The Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise is a nice way to learn a little history about the area. On a nice day, what could be nicer than time spent on the water?

However, be warned. The piped-in tour narrator's voice is not always easy to hear, and the wind can get a little chilly in San Francisco.

The day of my tour, I at first tried sitting inside downstairs near the snack bar. There are windows through which to view the sites, and it was much warmer away from the wind. However, I could not hear the tour narration, so I moved outside to the deck. Eventually I found a seat on the top level near the speaker where the sound came in the best, and I leaned back for a pleasant ride.

During the one hour tour, the boat makes a large circle of the bay past Angel Island and Alcatraz. Once I could hear the tape, I really enjoyed listening to the history of the area. I wished I had had more time so that I could have taken a ride over to Angel Island to enjoy the hiking available there. As I had not taken an Alcatraz tour, it was nice to cruise close by in the Blue and Gold boat. There is only so much of the infamous prison that you can see from the shoreline. I especially enjoyed going underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and hearing about its amazing history. It truly is a feat of engineering!

The cruise was a nice way to see part of the city. Boats are fun for kids, too, so I would suggest adding a cruise to a visit of Fisherman's Wharf.

Blue & Gold Fleet
Pier 41 Marine Terminal
San Francisco, California, 94133
(415) 705-5555

Victorian Home Walk

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on March 28, 2002

On a lovely day in March I met our guide, Jay, underneath the grandfather clock in the St. Francis hotel lobby with a group of 15 other tourists. While I am a complete design novice, architecture intrigues me, so I was quite excited by the prospect of learning the differences between Italianate, Stick, and Queen Anne Victorian homes.

During his brief introduction, Jay touched upon the history of San Francisco relevant to the tour: the economy that once allowed more than 80% of the population to own single family homes (Times have certainly changed!), the abundance of redwood building materials that influenced the city’s early design, and the 1906 earthquake that sparked the fires that burned most of the 50,000+ Victorians that once stood in San Francisco to the ground.

We hopped a bus to Union Street where we would begin the bulk of our walking.

Jay proved to be an energetic and engaging guide. In addition to Victorians, he pointed out other buildings of architectural or historical interest. He added even more color to the "Painted Ladies"--lovingly restored and brightly painted Victorians—we viewed along the way by interjecting engaging tidbits that explained historical circumstances that affected style.

For instance, many of the row houses during WWII were painted navy ship gray because of the color surplus at the time. Other homes were painted white because white paint does not fade or need as many touch-ups. Therefore, while this period in American history was conservative by nature, the color schemes of homes were purely a matter of economics. I found it interesting to learn, too, that much of the wrought iron that adorned front lawn gardens during the Victorian period disappeared after the Depression, all donated to the war effort.

In addition to walking through quiet residential sections in Pacific Heights where several celebrity homes were pointed out, the walking tour explored the interior of the Queen Anne Hotel (www.queenanne.com). This classic Queen Anne Victorian was built as a finishing school in 1890. Today it is filled with heirloom antiques typical of the Victorian period.

While San Francisco can be challenging to navigate on foot, the tour proved to move at a leisurely pace. Jay did an excellent job of circumventing many hills while still leading the group to fantastic views of the Bay.

The tour ended in a shopping and café district where many of the people in my group opted to stay and spend more time.

The tour begins at 11 a.m. daily, rain or shine. If weather is truly not cooperating, Jay told me that the tour might be cut short (with refunds or no money collected) or stalled for a respite in a coffee shop along the route! Remember tour buses cannot go down many of the residential streets this tour covers, so even San Francisco locals might see something new.

Victorian Home Walk
335 Powell St
San Francisco, California
(415) 397-7000

Marina Green/Fort Mason

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on March 29, 2002

Anyone in San Francisco will be able to direct you to the Marina Green. This is a wonderful public area near the water. On a beautiful day it is filled with city locals out to exercise and enjoy views of the water.

You can actually start running closer to Fisherman's Wharf, if you'd like, but the cab dropped us off at Fort Mason, and we began our jog to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Look for paths that cut off the street and to the water once you pass the boats in the marina. Trails run parallel to the beach where you will see kayakers in their wet suits, Labradors chasing sticks thrown into the water, sailboats farther out in the Bay.

Continue down the flat path and the beach will drop away to rocks lapped by the blue-green waves of the Pacific Ocean. I actually forgot that I was running as I watched sea foam shooting into the sky, the Golden Gate Bridge looming up above me.

At this point, if you would like to make your run into a real challenge, take the various step trails you'll see in the lush greenery to your left.

Or continue to the Golden Gate Bridge to run across for distance.

When you run back in the direction of Fort Mason and Alcatraz, take a cool down walk up the hill to get another great view of the Bay. (Or run this section, too, down to Fisherman's Wharf.)

Of course, if you don't want to run this course, a long walk in this area would be a wonderful experience, too!

Fort Mason
At the corner of Laguna and Beach streets
San Francisco, California, 94123
+1 415 441 3400

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by barbara on March 29, 2002

The SFMOMA is located in a reviving arts district in San Francisco. Works by such masters as Picasso and Henri Matisse can be viewed as well as a number of rotating exhibits.

I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan of all that is called modern art. In fact, several pieces on display at SFMOMA that were supposed to represent profound displays of abstract thinking---a rope hanging from the ceiling, for example---made little impact on me at all. However, other pieces let me see the world in a different light, notice a subtle nuance of beauty I might have missed without the aid of the artist.

A photography exhibit by Edward Weston, a deceased Carmel native, was my favorite in March 2002. In addition to picture studies of Point Lobos, I found his portrayals of his family fascinating: the nudes of his wife, Charis, that helped me see her as he must have seen her, a son in his sailor's uniform overlooking a cliff with his windswept wife. Most interesting to me, however, were a series of still-lifes in which Weston brought out the beauty of form in the most mundane of objects. I stared at a black and white cabbage leaf for some time. A picture of a curving toilet was done in such a way that this porcelin pot was as lovely as any curvacious woman.

Visit the museum with an open mind and open heart. Perhaps you will find a piece to remember. Even if it's the giant self portrait by Ron Mueck: a very life-like, synthetic head, mouth slightly parted, eyes closed in snoring slumber, ear as big as Prince Charles's ear--a mixed media work that stirs a strange fascination. I had to stop myself from reaching out like a child and touching the inch long whiskers on the pale cheek....

Admission: Adults/$10 Seniors/$7
Hours: M,T,F,S,Sn 11-5:45 p.m. Thu 11-8:45 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays
Check website at www.sfmoma.org for upcoming events.
TIP: Admission after 6 p.m. on Thursday nights is half price. Admission on the first Tuesday of every month is free.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
151 Third St
San Francisco, California, 94103
+1 415 357 4000

The Cliff House

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by barbara on February 14, 2002

The Cliff House is a historical building located at the West end of San Francisco on a bluff hanging over the ocean. The Cliff House that is currently standing was built in 1907. Two former Cliff Houses have been destroyed. The current Cliff House was acquired in 1977 by the National Parks and Recreation Service, which now maintains it.

The Cliff House is a popular tourist destination--especially in the summer. It is often foggy over the water, but on days when the weather cooperates, the views are quite lovely. Walks along the beach are pleasant, and most of the visitors on sunny days in the winter are San Fran locals, but be warned. Conditions can be cold and windy.

If you walk down a path on the highest point of the hill, you will find a collection of plain gray concrete foundations. Once upon a time, these were the wonderful Sutro Baths that held a giant indoor swimming pool for visitors' enjoyment. While gone now, these are California's idea of "Roman ruins." The Baths were destroyed by fire in 1966. You may learn more about these and the history of the all the Cliff Houses in a small, public museum next to the Mechanical Museum.

The Mechanical Museum is the most fun for children. When I visited the Cliff House I was in the company of a young cousin about three. Her mother got a roll of quarters and we walked through the museum, plunking them into all the displays that looked interesting. Model farms came to life as little figures begin to move to the sounds of music. Ballerinas danced in front of mirrors. For the more morbid, there was even a mechanical toy that showed an English execution--a hooded man falling from the gallows inside an English house. For children raised on Play Station, this old-timey arcade is a hoot. My little cousin clapped her hands in delight as the machines came to life.

Least crowded in the winter, the advantage of tons of people in the summer is you don't have to plunk in as many coins to watch the clowns laugh or the horses ride around and around on the minature carosel.

Dining facilities are available in the Cliff House as well, though I cannot advise you on their quality. The Cliff House is a nice place to spend a couple of hours near the ocean.

Tip: If you like Thai food, the Narai Restaurant is not far away (see separate entry).

Cliff House
1090 Point Lobos Ave
San Francisco, California, 94121
+1 415 386 3330

Getting around the city

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by barbara on July 18, 2000

Walking is by far your best option when exploring San Francisco's different sections. Parking is an absolute nightmare in the city. You might find the perfect cafe, but if no valet is available, you'll spend an hour circling the block looking for a parking space! Walk when you can. Use BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), buses, and cable cars when you can't. Bart only has 4 lines so it is not complicated at all, and buses are part of everyday life for the San Francisco local. Make sure you take exact change if you do use the bus. You can get a transfer good for two vehicle changes within a 90 minute period for $1.00 (A BART fare starts at $1.10 and will not exceed $4.70). People at the stops are friendly and will help you if you ask them. Taxis are also available but MUCH more expensive. I took a bus from my hotel to Market Street for $1.00. I took a cab back to my hotel for $11.00 (with tip) from Market because I was in a bigger hurry. To be honest, I'm not sure the cab was any faster though it was a lot more expensive (and less crowded!). You must rent a car for trips outside of San Francisco. Keep in mind when you leave the city that there are tolls on the bridges coming back ($3--Golden Gate; $2---Bay Bridge).


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