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Trip Report Fun 8-Day Round Trip Seattle - San Francisco

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My sis and I try to take one "girls only" trip each year. This year she flew from her home in Boise to mine near Seattle, and we started from there in my car.

The first day was mostly just driving down I-5 from Seatac to Grants Pass. Lots of catching up to do as we traveled!

On Day 2 we drove down Highway 199 from Grants Pass to Crescent City. Just before Crescent City, there is a park visitor's center and a wonderfully scenic gravel road called Howland Hill Road. We were in the redwoods all day, but the Stout Grove off this gravel road had some of the most awe-inspiring redwoods we saw. We took about an hour's walk here (and lots of pictures). We then traveled down Hwy 101 and stopped for lunch near the "Trees of Mystery", a hokey roadside tourist attraction featuring huge statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. As native Californians, we've driven past this many times, but have never stopped there. We didn't this time either, but we did have lunch across the street at the Forest Cafe, which had good diner food. The interior decor here is quirky to say the least...I'll just say duck feet and grizzly bears and leave the rest to your imagination.

Today's journey ended in Garberville, just south of the redwood "Avenue of the Giants". We stayed at a very nice Best Western here, but I have to say that if I planned a similar trip I would try to avoid Garberville. It is a sad, dusty little town that is one of the country's biggest marijuana growing centers, and there are so many transients and panhandlers on the streets that it truly feels a bit unsafe.

On Day 3 we made the short drive to San Francisco. Travelers should note that there are no longer any fare collection booths on the southbound Golden Gate bridge; they will photograph your license plate and bill you later, or you can (as I did) pay online before your trip.

Our San Francisco hotel was on (US 101) Lombard Street, and had free parking. From this location, you have no need of a car in San Francisco. Muni buses (notably #28 and #30) will take you almost anywhere you want to go in town. Our first afternoon we walked west on Chestnut Street (one block north of Lombard with many restaurant and shopping choices) to the Presidio, where we visited the relatively new Walt Disney Family Museum. This was filled with history and memorabilia relating to the life and times of Walt Disney; we absolutely loved it but I think children might be bored. Next we walked to the Palace of Fine Arts to take a lot of pictures on this lovely evening.

Day 4 began with breakfast at Noah's New York Bagels on Chestnut -- extremely yummy and recommended. We then walked to Ghirardelli Square, which has sadly become mostly a condominium complex now, though the chocolate shop and a few other businesses are still there. We joined the free San Francisco City Guides walking tour of Fisherman's Wharf. San Francisco City Guides is a non-profit sponsored by the San Francisco library system; the guides are very knowledgeable and we learned a lot about the history of the wharf area, as well as the discovery and settling of San Francisco Bay.

After chowder-filled sourdough bread bowls at Boudin's and a quick circuit through the Musee Mechanique (once at Cliff House, now on the Wharf and featuring hundreds of coin operated antique arcade machines), we walked a couple of blocks to catch the Powell-Mason cable car. I was lucky enough to get to ride all the way up to Union Square on the back of the car. In speaking with the brakeman, I learned that several of the cable cars, including this one, are newly manufactured and made to look like the old ones. The particular car I was on hosted President Obama and family on its inaugural run.

At Union Square we walked into Neiman-Marcus to see the beautiful stained glass dome from the old City of Paris department store, which was sadly demolished some years ago. Then we walked through Chinatown, finally taking a $6 cab ride up to the top of Nob Hill since we'd done quite a bit of walking already!

On Nob Hill we visited the famous Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel. The appetizers were delicious and the drinks still come with paper umbrellas in them. Thunderstorms and rain showers occur occasionally on the "lagoon" while you dine. From there we headed across the street to experience sunset at the Top of the Mark. Our parents used to do this back in the 50's and 60's, so we drank a toast to them.

After this we headed down to Stockton Street and took the extremely convenient Bus #30 back to our hotel. A very full day!

On Day 5, we went back to Noah's Bagels -- could get to be a habit. We then took Bus 30 to Fisherman's Wharf, and transferred to the "F" line trolley for a ride along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Marketplace. It was a Saturday so the big Farmer's Market was happening, and the place was packed. We took another very informative San Francisco City Guides tour and learned the history of this iconic building. Then we took a short break for ourselves in the vast, cool lobby of the Hyatt Regency. After waiting a very long time for the trolley to come by, we finally took a taxi to Pier 39, where we had lunch and then took Muni Bus #39 to North Beach for a gelato at Naia, followed by a hilarious evening at "Beach Blanket Babylon" at Club Fugazi. #30 bus took us home again. Another great day!

On Day 6 we broke the Noah's habit and breakfasted at Mel's Drive In, of "American Graffiti" fame, which was two blocks from our hotel on Lombard. Then we drove north across the Golden Gate and made the short journey to Sonoma. We stayed at a very nice place (El Pueblo Inn) not far from Sonoma Plaza, and we visited a winery recommended by my neighbor who formerly lived here, Bartholemew Park. I had never been to Sonoma before, and especially enjoyed the historical sites which surround the lush green Plaza. Dinner at another recommended place, the Breakaway Cafe.

On Day 7 we let smartphone navigation guide us from Sonoma back to Interstate 5, and began the long drive back north. Much of this route is fairly uninteresting, but we enjoyed the Siskiyous and views of Mount Shasta. We were shocked, however, by the extreme low levels of water in Lake Shasta. California's drought seems to be of historic proportions. Overnighted in Ashland, Oregon -- since it was Monday there were no performances at the Elizabethan theatre, but we enjoyed roaming the pretty and quaint downtown.

Our trip ended on Day 8 as it had begun, with a lengthy (approximately 7 hour) drive back to Seatac. Along the way we started planning next year's venture. So far we've done a cross-country USA trip, the Oregon coast, British Columbia, Italy and Paris, and a Hawaii cruise. What's next? I'll keep you posted!

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