Centralparkgirl's First Trip to California

Oct 29th, 2008, 05:59 AM
  #41  
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Day 5 Wed Oct 15th

This is the day we head to SF with a stop at Chez Panisse for lunch. The original plan was to stay in Napa for the morning, but since Copia is closed and we don't want to do another winery, we go to Plan B. We really want to see those redwoods. So, in not the most efficient planning of a trip, we head to Muir Woods. Even if it's a short visit, we really want to do it. And boy, was it worthwhile! The parking lot was very full, but a ranger told us a spot opened in the first lot and moved a barrier to let us in. We were amazed and in awe of such giant beauty. There aren't really words to describe the serenity of a cool, dark forest; you just feel at peace while you're surrounded. Photos don't capture the proportion of it all. We walked through until dh said it was time to go. It was hard to leave. Next time, we will definitely get to Armstrong.

We give up our great parking spot and make another person happy. On to Chez Panisse. I've been reading about Alice Waters for thirty years or more and this is a dream come true. Since I love good food and cooking, she has been an inspiration - and so ahead of her time. We go over the bridge towards Berkely and something's not right. We don't know where we are, but we know we're headed wrong. We get off the highway and can't find a soul to ask except a truck driver who doesn't speak English.

Gotta help dh - be back shortly.
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 09:39 AM
  #42  
 
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Hi CPG,
Hope your husband is doing better.
Enjoying your trip report, brings back fond memories of our trips to CA and the wine country. Our favorite is the Mendocino area...something for next time!
But again, my thoughts are with you during these trying times and sending you my prayers for your husband's successful surgery
owlwoman is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 05:07 PM
  #43  
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Hi owlwoman! Thanks for the kind words - it's slow going, but today was better than yesterday!
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 05:27 PM
  #44  
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Day 5 continued

We are in some kind of industrial area. After consulting the map which unfortunately doesn't have enough detail, we decide to get back on the road going in the direction we came from. We call the restaurant and explain the situation and what exits we are passing and the woman tells us we should turn around. We don't know where we are, but we just know that that can't be. After awhile, we see signs for Berkeley and she gives us directions. We finally find the restaurant, but of course, there's no parking spots anywhere. We leave the car in a supermarket lot. We are less than a half hour late and the restaurant is very welcoming and sympathetic. We decide this ordeal calls for wine and we order a half bottle of sancerre - a very good move. Actually, we are in the cafe (the restaurant is open for dinner only). We order a plate of olives and then I start with the Wild Boar Farm tomato and herb salad and dh starts with roasted tomato and carrot soup. All is delicious and tastes fresh from the garden as one would expect from Alice Waters. We then share a pizza and the hand-cut rosemary pasta with Laughing Stock Farm pork ragu - the pizza is very good and the pasta sensational. We share a chocolate - hazelnut ice cream with bittersweet chocolate sauce and candied hazelnuts (not as rich as it sounds) - sublime!

This lunch was truly memorable and lives up to the restaurant's reputation.

We get incorrect directions again from the same woman and then she explains that she's dyslexic!

We drive over the Bay Bridge and easily get to our hotel, Campton Place. We drop off the luggage and park in the Sutton - Stockton garage - very simple. We check in, get an upgrade and it is on a low floor. It's interesting when you look at a hotel on it's website and see a picture as if the hotel is the only building in the vicinity. In reality, the hotel faces the Grand Hyatt and every room facing the front is facing a room at the Hyatt. The hotel is extremely accommodating and allows us to view two different rooms and choose. We pick a room on a high floor facing the back. It is very nice and immaculate, but geared for business travelers with little storage space for clothing.

We walk to Saks (I have a cosmetic emergency) and pass the Nike store where mostly young women are lined up to register for Sunday's marathon. There's a great energy in the Union Square area and the square is filled with tents for the race. The saleswoman in Saks is my new best friend because she tells me about a Friends and Family event starting on Friday. We walk around USq and stop into Cole Haan and I buy a pair of shoes - everything is on sale in connection with a charity event.

We later walk to our first dinner in SF at Boulevard. It's a very pleasant walk through the financial district - the streets seem pretty clean and some of the buildings are quite striking. We love the restaurant - it's attractive and has a great vibe - our waiter is a former NYer (upstate) and we talk about the positive aspects of living in the SF area. We learn that he was at Cyrus the same night as us (does he have a trust fund?). He makes some recommendations and I have the lamb t-bone and dh has striped bass. The entire meal - each course - was excellent. We have the exact same wine as we did with lunch. We take a taxi back (my ankle has been holding up well, but I'm not pushing it in heels). We are welcomed back by name at the hotel.

I just know that I'm going to love this city.

End of Day 5

Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 06:19 PM
  #45  
 
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Thanks for the reminder of Chez Panisse. I can still see in my mind's eye our last meal there and that was 4 or 5 years ago! Can't wait to hear about it.
iamq is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 07:03 PM
  #46  
 
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CP,
I'm glad you enjoyed the Campton Place as I enjoyed my stay there ages ago back in 94.
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Oct 29th, 2008, 07:05 PM
  #47  
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Day 6 – Thursday Oct 16th – a very long day that starts with very bad news.

We have a full day planned including driving through Golden Gate Park and we talk to the concierge about logistics. We have a lunch reservation at Cliff House and not sure how it will fit in. Her recommendation is to skip the lunch, stay and eat in the park and visit Cliff house for the view later – makes perfect sense.

We have breakfast in a lovely room off the lobby with service to match. While there, DH gets a call from the bank that he deals with at work and learns that one of the bank’s officers (who he has dealt with for more than 20 years) is the mother of one of the young men who plunged off Highway 1 last Friday night. In the almost 30 years that I know him, I have never seen him that shaken. I heard about the accident on the news last Saturday, but never mentioned it to him because we were driving on Highway 1 and he has a bit of a fear of heights. He goes over to the concierge to ask if they know any details and in that day’s Chronicle, there is an article and they give it to us. We read it and feel sick. DH tells me that he has probably met the banker three or four times, but they speak at least once a month concerning investments. In more than twenty years, there is a relationship and he has learned about her children. This son went to Harvard, worked awhile and then decided to go to graduate school. Last year, just she and her son drove cross country together to Stanford. He was to graduate with an MBA this May. He and the two other young men were on their way to a Stanford business school retreat. The article said that he was the driver. I don’t believe that there were any witnesses.

This is a good place to take a break.

How can anyone comprehend a tragedy such as this? My heart breaks for this woman.
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 07:17 PM
  #48  
 
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Oh Centralparkgirl, I and I am sure most of us here in the SF/BayArea are so aware of that terrible accident. Tragic!

Faina just posted in the Lounge about a coworker who was rearended by a felon trying to escape the PD. Her mother who was in the car was killed and Faina's coworker and her husband are in the ICU with serious injuries. This couple have a little child.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
LoveItaly is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 07:30 PM
  #49  
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>> Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. <<

Exactly!

LoveItaly - I saw Faina's post earlier today - it's tragic that things like this happen to the nicest people - and all too frequently.
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Oct 29th, 2008, 07:37 PM
  #50  
 
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I remember hearing about it on the news, such a tragic loss.
andrew8 is offline  
Oct 30th, 2008, 06:23 PM
  #51  
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Our start is a delayed with the bad news and eventually, we walk one block to get the car from the garage (it only costs $24.50). We cancel lunch at Cliff House.

We drive over to Coit Tower and park easily. We walk around checking out the view from different spots and take pictures. Then we enter and view the murals. I love them!!! I especially love examining the ones that have lots of details – they are a treasure! I wish the little gift shop had a book on the murals (I should check Barnes and Noble) because I would love to read more about them. We take the elevator up and the operator is friendly and humorous.
This view is amazing! We walk around – more photos. I would love to look at the murals again, but it’s getting late.

We drive over to GGPark and park in the garage under the Academy of Science. We take one look at the long line waiting to go in the museum and we make a decision. We will do other things today and come back to the museum tomorrow when they first open. So we head over to the Japanese Tea Garden and the serenity there does us good after the morning’s dismal news. I really like those stone blocks that make a walkway across some of the water (I love that you can see the moss growing between these stones). We walk all over. It is a gorgeous day, very sunny and we finally come to the drum bridge. I don’t know what possessed us, but we both climb over it (my orthopedist would kill me!). We become hungry and unfortunately the tea house doesn’t serve lunch.

We decide to eat in the De Young café and it is a good choice. It’s so well organized. We order salad and pasta and Thomas Kemper drinks (who is he?). It is brought by a waiter to our table.
The huge glass water dispensers are impressive – two with lemon slices, one with cucumber and the other I forget – so California.

We then walk over to the Victorian Conservatory of Flowers – the sun is very strong. We walk through the conservatory – very few flowers – and extremely hot and humid. From here we retrieve the car and drive around the park stopping at several places to look and take photos – the lake, the buffalo paddock, etc.

We leave the park and head to Cliff House. We’re able to park and walk around. The view is stunning. South of Cliff House, we can see many surfers in the ocean. It is a very beautiful setting and we drive a bit south. There are tents set up for the participants of a walk in GGPark on Saturday.

While we drive back toward downtown, dh calls the banker at her home. They talk about her son, not the accident. She tells dh that she is grateful for the time she had with him. The call leaves him very shaken again.

We drive over to Nob Hill and park in front of the entrance to Grace Cathedral (I wish I was this lucky with parking spots in NYC). We are not Christian, but we always visit churches when we travel to see the art and architecture. There are three other people in the cathedral and the choir is practicing. We feel like they are putting on a concert for us – a nice background while we walk around and browse; also another serene place at a sad moment. We look for some of the contemporary stained glass windows and can’t find them. The lady at the information desk is kind enough to help us. The small chapel with Keith Haring’s work is quite interesting – with an AID’s quilt too – and this seems so forward thinking for a church –and it exudes compassion.

I call Hertz about keeping the car another day (our quote was for a week and we were returning it early). We can keep the car another day without additional cost. Our original plan was to get a Muni pass, but driving around has been quite simple (up until now).

We drive back to Union Square and park the car. It’s been a long day and we need some sustenance – and then we see Teuscher’s – how convenient – we buy a few treats and head back to Campton Place. The hotel mentioned that they have a car and driver available sometimes and it is when we’re ready to leave for dinner. A very nice gentleman drives us to Kokkari – in a Jaguar!!!

Dinner – Kokkari is very lively and the meal is good. We share some appetizers and I have a whole grilled fish whose name I never heard of – very good. We end with a kokkari sundae which neither of us needed, but we finished it all.

End of Day
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 30th, 2008, 06:43 PM
  #52  
 
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Centralparkgirl - (((Hugs))) to you and your dh. I am so sorry to read of the latest news but glad that the last report has him at least feeling a little better. Bless you both.

Your trip, outside of the tragic news of dh's co-workers son. So sad.

Your trip report is fabulous. While you were on "my" coast - I was on "your" coast. NY was very kind to dd and I - and even Carmel's car service was okay in picking us up from JFK
MomDDTravel is offline  
Oct 30th, 2008, 08:36 PM
  #53  
 
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Hello Centralparkgirl, I just finished reading your last post. Your style of writing is charming and I felt like I was back in SF enjoying the time with you.

Again I am so sorry about your DH's friend's son..I can't even imagine the heartbreak that family is going through.

And Centralparkgirl, I hope your husband is doing better, he has been on my mind. My prayers and good wishes are again with you and him.

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Oct 31st, 2008, 02:37 PM
  #54  
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Day 7 – Friday October 17th

We start our day with another nice breakfast at Campton Place. We get the car from the garage and today’s cost is $14.50 – don’t know how they calculated it, but it’s okay with us.
We drive back to Golden Gate Park, now a little familiar with the streets, and park on the road behind the Academy of Science. Once again there is a line, but not too bad. My advice for those planning to visit, is that you should buy tickets online, print them and then just walk in at 9:30 or if you’re a local, consider becoming a member.

When we enter, we head straight to the planetarium and get tickets for the 11:30 show. We check out the albino alligator (pretty cool) and then head to the aquarium. There is plenty to see and the exhibits are wonderful. In a short time, it is mobbed with visitors (why aren’t all the kids in school?). It is so crowded and I’m glad we started early. We head back to the main floor and visit the African Hall – animals diorama style like the MoNH in NY but smaller. I’m told the animals are from the original museum and quite old. I always like these exhibits – pleasant memories of going to NH as a child and later with my own kids.

It’s now time for the planetarium show (I think it’s about 30 minutes in length). A gentleman tells the audience about the old planetarium and how technology has changed – interesting. The all digital show is enjoyable and comfortable (nice to be sitting for a bit, but I think dh is starting to doze).

We exit and we’re beginning to get hungry. The line into the café makes the line at Taylor’s Refresher look short. Neither of us want to get on that line. We notice a sign for a restaurant called the Moss Room and ask the hostess if there are openings. She can seat us at 1:30 and we take it.

We decide to go up to the Living Roof. There is a docent up there (they’re all over actually wearing a bit of orange) and we talk to her. She explains what we are looking at, how it was built, what’s under the plants, what the glass openings do, etc. Without that explanation, I know I would not have appreciated the design.

When we leave the roof, there is an employee giving out tickets for a 3D film called ‘Bugs.’ It is not listed in the brochure yet and we get tix for a performance prior to lunch. This is a 26 minute film that was delightful. It is not a children’s film although they will like it too. The film is narrated by the unforgettable voice of Judi Dench.

We go back to the Moss Room hostess and someone escorts us downstairs in a huge freight-type elevator. Three people in a huge elevator seems to contradict the museum’s message to conserve energy. The restaurant is attractive, with nice service and more than decent food. This option is way too expensive for families, imo, and I wonder if you can byo lunch and eat it in the café and avoid the long lines.

When we finish, we go back to the main level and at this point, there is a long line to enter the rain forest exhibit. The staff is very good at crowd control, not letting people in until people exit certain exhibits. On the other hand, waiting for many exhibits is not fun. My advice is to head to a popular exhibit that you’re interested in when you first enter. Leave the African Hall for later as well as the small open exhibits on the main level. They are the least crowded as compared to the aquarium, the roof and the rain forest. Also, pick up your tix for shows when you arrive. You can ask for a later performance and plan your time.

We browse some exhibits on the main floor – the carbon one is very interesting (you will forever feel guilty about buying water in a plastic bottle); we go through the gift shop and walk outside to see the Maya Linn sculpture. We can’t find it and the reason is that it is not on the ground. We have to look up to see it!

We don’t want to wait on any more lines and we head back to the car where we find a parking ticket!!! Being a NYer, I am ready to take a photo of the parking sign (that we read 12 times) and fight the ticket. But then I read it and realize we were parked longer than the allowed 4 hours. My argument with SF is that you create a world class museum that one could easily spend 6 or more hours in, but the parking is only for 4 hours – lol! It’s all part of the vacation.

We drive over to the Legion of Honor and park. There’s a sign, ‘Holocaust Memorial’ and we want to see what it is. It is a sculpture by George Segal that is very dramatic and moving. Our visit to the museum is not too long, but we view the Rodins, some European paintings and furniture. It is an exquisite building and we’re glad we got here. The views outside are very nice too.

Next stop – Alamo Square – we park and walk around and take lots of pictures of the Painted Ladies (I can’t imagine living there and having your house constantly photographed).

One last stop to make before returning the car and having what I will always refer to as my mini breakdown in SF.
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 31st, 2008, 02:51 PM
  #55  
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MomDDtravel - I can feel those hugs all the way here!! Thank you so much. I'm glad you and dd had a good visit. I have to laugh about Carmel. When I called and complained from JFK, I left them a msg on their VM. I didn't expect to hear from them, but they called when we were in Napa and were very apologetic. They said they would send us a $10 coupon. We did use them to get home (a very nice driver this time) and I actually went through my mail and used it on the spot!

LoveItaly - Keep the good wishes coming! Today hasn't been great for him. On a lighter note, a friend of ours donated blood today for the upcoming surgery. Since it's Halloween, he told the blood bank that dh is a vampire! I don't know if they found it funny or not, but I laughed.
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Oct 31st, 2008, 05:40 PM
  #56  
 
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CP,
Have a good weekend and hope DH is doing better. Don't forget the Giants/Cowboys on Sunday at 4pm.
andrew8 is offline  
Oct 31st, 2008, 06:13 PM
  #57  
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hey andrew! Excellent suggestion. I'm thinking if he's up to it, we'll go downstairs and watch the first runners go by (we live near the 18 mile mark) in the Marathon. You and steelygirl have a great weekend!
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Nov 1st, 2008, 08:05 AM
  #58  
 
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LoveItaly said it well. I feel like I'm on the trip with you. Thank you for the great trip report. I hope things progress well with your husband and that the upcoming surgery is successful so you can get to planning the next great getaway together.
Toucan2 is offline  
Nov 1st, 2008, 12:25 PM
  #59  
 
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Andrew - how could any of us forget that game?? sigh.... I know you are going to KILL my cowboys!!
MomDDTravel is offline  
Nov 1st, 2008, 12:27 PM
  #60  
 
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I've been enjoying your report too, centralparkgirl and am sorry to hear about your husband's health.

You also could buy a membership to the Natural History museum in NYC and then use your membership card from there to get into the Academy of Science.

The only exclusion is that you cannot use your membership for another museum within 90 miles of your "home" museum. So if you bought a membership for Natural History you could not then use it for the science museum in Queens.

http://www.astc.org/sciencecenters/find_scicenter.htm
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