San Fran and ? for 6 nights - Ideas welcome!

Jun 8th, 2004, 10:50 AM
  #1  
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San Fran and ? for 6 nights - Ideas welcome!

Hi All,
Husband and I are planning trip for late September to SF for 6 nights. We will have about 5 full days to travel and enjoy. I am thinking 2-3 nights in San Fran and then maybe Yosemite or Marin or something along these lines. I want him to experience the sheer beauty of the area. Ideas and suggestions are welcome. Napa and Sonoma are out since he likes beer, not wine (unless we are in Italy). We love to hike, kayak, the outdoors and such. We also love big city, too. I think Monterey/Carmel and Big Sur would be too much for this trip, but would love to go. Do you? Thank you!
zacky is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 10:57 AM
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We just returned from a busy busy 6-night trip. Scroll down for my trip report (SF/Napa/Fort Bragg)
We wanted to see the natural beauty as well and decided to head north to Ft. Bragg/Mendocino instead of south to Monterey/Carmel.
I would spend 2 nights in SF and then pick one to two other regions.
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 11:35 AM
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Hi Zacky,

I agree with the other poster who felt Yosemite is too much for this trip. I adore Mendocino, and in September you won't have teh whale-watching crowds to contend with. Weather will be a bit dodgy, but if you're the outdoors type then you must be able to cope with a bit of wet and fog, yes? You can go horse-back riding on the beach just south of Mendocino, kayaking (river, not ocean - the tides can be dangerous), and of course romantic walks along the cliffs and terrific meals. If you're vegetarian, and even if you're not, I can look up the name of a fantastic restaurant right outside town, attached to a funky inn with its own organic gardens. Mendocinoans are unfailingly friendly to those who respect their town, but if you enter with an attitude and use your car horn and shoo the local geese, etc., they'll put you in your place but quick. And rightly so. Note: If you're taking the coastal route from San Fran instead of the freeway, DON'T DO THIS AT NIGHT. You won't see the scenery and you will see a lot of hazards. We set out just before sunset from San Fran and while we saw a gorgeous sunset from some lookouts, once the sun went down things got hairy. Road hazards included a cow in the middle of the road, which we couldn't see as the cow wasn't wearing a fluorescent halter and we were coming around a blind curve. Yikes.

From Mendocino you could drive into the Anderson Valley and/or Russian River for some wine-tasting that is far from the overly-commericalized Napa scene. Some damn good wines, too! Or, if that's too rushed, return to San Fran via Sonoma and do the wine thing there.

OR:
Monterey/Carmel is a nice drive from San Fran. Odds are you'll get sunnier weather than in Mendocino. Count on 3 hours. Stop in Pescadero for a casual meal (with extensive wine list) at the James Beard Award winning Duarte's. Or take a little stroll in Half Moon Bay and have lunch at Pasta Moon or Cetrella's (but check their hours). The Ritz in Half Moon Bay has a great restaurant too, reservations are usually required. Skip Santa Cruz (unless you need a potty break) and keep going to the 17 Mile Drive, which starts at Pacific Grove (also worth a walk around!) and ends in Carmel. This is where the famous Pebble Beach golf course is located. There are chances to see otters and seals at some of the pull-overs, if you like critters. And there is a "singing" beach (the water makes the tiny, round rocks vibrate and "sing" as the waves retreat) about halfway along the 17 Mile Drive. Some people would poo-poo that as a waste of time, but I always stop for a little rock symphony when passing through.

I don't like Carmel (SO cutesy-poo and touristy) and would keep going down to Big Sur or head east into the Carmel Valley for a taste of what the people USED to be like. Quite a few gallery-owners are moving out there to get away from the philistines. But that's just my personal bias, if you want to see Carmel then do it. Also, if you like hiking, just south of Carmel is a gorgeous state reserve, Point Lobos (?), with good trails and some very helpful rangers, who are quite happy to tell you about the harbour's history as a whaling centre.

The mission in Carmel is worth a visit, if you are into history. Or if you're very Catholic.

Coming back to San Fran, you might want to check out Monterey, which has an award-winning aquarium (I'm a member, have to give it a plug) and some fun little places to get souvenirs, in case you need to do that.

Note: This all depends on how much driving you want to do, and how much time you want to cut out of San Fran. I've been very brief here, but if you want more info on any of these places let me know and I'll dig up my notes.

Also, if you want a scenic hike and don't have time to get that far out of San Fran, I'd be happy to email you a couple of local options, each about 20-30 minutes out of the city. But you have to promise to keep quiet about them, as they aren't designed for massive use and can't take the wear and tear. Deal?
JetLag is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 11:43 AM
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JetLag -
You rock! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your advice is priceless. I think Mont/Carmel is what he will want for a firsttimer. I realize all of the area is glorious, and it is hard to choose, but I think for his first time, Big Sur is a MUST - don't you? I agree - I love Mendocino, too. Been there once...

Thoughts on where to stay in Big Sur area that is central to sights? We love small, quaint, fun towns. Anything too touristy is not for us. Just returned from Springdale/Zion and want to move there. We can do the tourist thing when we hit SF after Big Sur.
Thanks!
zacky is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 12:05 PM
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Hi Zacky,

I do know of a romantic place on the Big Sur coast, highly recommended to me, very private, which is on my list of places to stay when I pass through there again (drawing a blank on the name - will look it up). But I HAVEN"T stayed there yet, so we'll need some input from the others here re: whether it's worth it or not. But there are other options. We have friends who go to a rustic lodge-style inn, and I'd behappy to get the info from them. May I enquire as to your price range?

However, if you want to stay in an actual town, with town-ish amenities and easy strolls, you may be better off in Carmel or (my personal fave) Pacific Grove. Both have good selections of B&Bs and smaller inn-type accomodations. You can drive to Big Sur from either, but obviously Carmel is closer.

For golfing, if I'm not mistaken you need to be staying at the Pebble Beach resort in order to golf there. But my husband golfs at Spanish Bay and the other (private) course within the same area as Pebble Beach and he loves it. There is a public course (not as pricey as Spanish Bay) right outside Pacific Grove if you want to spend less and still feel like you had a golf experience. (Weren't you the one who wanted to know about golf in another thread? Or am I having a mental-pause moment?)
JetLag is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 05:29 PM
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Zacky, if you and your husband want something central to the sites in Big Sur and truly prefer quaintness and local atmosphere to the standard tourist amenities, consider Deetjen's Big Sur Inn. (This may turn out to be the "rustic lodge-style inn" JetLag says his friends go to.) Definitely an only-in-Big-Sur experience; it's actually a non-profit foundation preserving a unique, historic collection of structures and a taste of old Big Sur literary/bohemian culture. I and many others love it, some do not. Check out its beautifully done web site at www.deetjens.com (have the sound on for the intro.) If you think you might be interested after that, type its name in the search box in this forum and check the reviews in Tripadvisor.com to decide if it might be for you.

I suspect the secluded, romantic place JetLag refers to is the Post Ranch Inn, which last year was voted best hotel in the U.S. and one of the two best in the world by the readers of Conde Nast Travel magazine. As you might expect, very expensive. I have not stayed there yet, but see www.postranchinn.com and if your interest survives the prices, again I'd type it its name in the search box here and also check out the Tripadvisor.com reviews.
johncharles is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 06:29 PM
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Hi Johncharles,

No, I don't think it's the Deetjen they stay at, although that's certainly a funky alternative! I think they stay at something like the Redwood Big Sur Lodge. It's rustic and they get a fireplace in their room, and there's a restaurant on-site. Inland, not the coast. I'll ask.

While we're on the "unique" side of things, there is the Esalen Institute, which I heard about on NPR. It's a retreat, not a resort, and very much about personal growth and kinda new age-y. Zacky may not like that kind of thing (I don't), but hey it's worth a mention.

I refrained from mentioning the Post Ranch because a) it's pricey and b) I figured everyone else would mention it. The place I was recommended to try is the Ventana, but I see on their site they have conference facilities so... PRIVATE? I dunno.

Also, re: golfing, I asked my golf-addict husband and he said that if Spanish Bay's $280 greens fee (excluding caddy) seems a bit much, the Del Monte outside Monterey is the original property of the Pebble Beach company and is much cheaper. It's the one I was thinking of as being outside Pacific Grove. Anyway, it's on that end of the 17 Mile Drive and it's historic, for golfers anyway. Or Poppy Hills is another less expensive course owned by Pebble Beach. If you have an NCGA card or similar, you'll get a discount.
JetLag is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 08:01 PM
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Hi Hann,

That's funny, I was about to post a "P.S." to Zacky re: don't bother with San Jose and the Silicon Valley.

To each their own.
JetLag is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 09:41 PM
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Congratulations Zacky. Your post on
SF has been touched by Hann. San Jose awaits you in all its splendor if the rest of us can't convince you to go elsewhere.
PamSF is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 10:26 PM
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Hi Lake,

Well I'M fairly new, etc., but I'm not a "he". I hope being new here isn't a crime...

So what's all this nonsense about the helpful San Jose advice coming from one person???? And infamous anti-San Jose bashers? It's a bit amusing, given my experience with San Hosers, but do let me in on the joke. I'm all ears.

I mentioned the "don't bother" caveat as MY own PERSONAL opinion, and softened it with "to each their own". Having been around the Silicon Valley I simply can't and don't recommend it to people with limited time to spend in the area, especially considering Zacky's messages re: what interested her. Maybe you feel differently, in which case... tell her what's worth seeing!
JetLag is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 09:11 AM
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Zacky and JetLag, the inn JetLag's friends stay at then is almost certainly the Big Sur Lodge at Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park. Yes, JetLag, the Ventana Inn is also beautiful, secluded, romantic, and very expensive, probably just a little less of each than Post Ranch. The outdoor terrace of its restaurant, Cielo, has a fantastic view and is one of my favorite places in the world to have lunch, which is not inexpensive but surprisingly moderate compared to their quite pricey dinners. The entrances to these two great inns are literally across the road from each other.

Since it appears the two of you are new here, let me alert you (as he as already warned you someone will) that in the person who has used the names Hann, TKay and Lake above, you have encountered the most notorious violator of Fodor's rules against impersonation. He has used up to eight different identities on the same string. He's entitled to his lonely opinions (that San Jose is a top priority tourist destination, and downtown San Francisco and everywhere north of San Francisco are to be avoided) which he expresses with utter predictability and in the same writing style whichever one of his identifites he's assuming at the moment. You should, though, understand there's only one of him, trying to appear to be more since virtually no one else agrees with the views I've just described. When identified (as I've just done) he usually starts accusing everyone who has ever disagreed with him of following the same practices he does, often becoming verbally abusive. As he has already done above, sometimes he pre-emptively starts these accusations when he expects he'll be identified (and he will have identified my screen name as someone who's done so before.)

Save any info you want to keep from this thread elsewhere, as his appearance usually means the thread will soon be deleted by Fodor's (depending on the editor--other editors, more wisely I think, just delete the offending posts.)

Should you happen to want more background on this problem, all too familiar to those of us who have been contributing to Northern California threads for awhile, there are some past threads you can read, probably most easily found by clicking on my screen name since I contributed to them, although I started only one of them. They include "Fodors Editors--Abi, Hann, Franklinn, Treck et all are Running Amok" as well as (in the second 50 threads brought up with my screen name) "Why did my post on San Francisco disappear" and "The responsibility to warn the unwary traveller can't be easily dismissed."
johncharles is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 09:41 AM
  #12  
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Hi All,
Back to the point and enough of the nonsense...
We think Post Ranch and Ventanta is too pricey. We like nice places, but quite honestly, I was thinking $150-$200 on the high side. I like Karen Brown books for Europe so thought I'd try those. I look into that funky deetjens place and check it out. But, my hubby is the type that likes the amenities. camping and being rustic is not his good, although he just spent 8 days hiking zion, bryce and cap. reef so he can hang with the best of them. when he goes on vacation, he wants to be on "vacation" for this trip. any other inns you like? b and bs? under $150? off of karen brown's list? golf would be great and your ideas are superb. will check those as well. our trip will be sf and big sur area only. any suggestions about must places to stay and eat are welcome. been to san jose many times. no thanks. just my opinion. we are in our early 30s, like beer, great food, sights, down to earth people, nice places to stay and walking, hiking, etc. to sum us up, umbria is more our speed than tuscany. thank you!!!!
zacky is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 10:11 AM
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If you check the Aquarium site
www.montereybayaquarium.com, you'll see some deals on hotels that include admission into the aquarium. The choices of hotels include really charming places as well as the Big un's. I think these are great deals. The aquarium is a must see if are going to Monterey. It's a world class aquarium. I'm not much of an aquarium person, but this is exceptional.

Also, on your way to Big Sur, don't miss Point Lobos on your right as you head south. (you'll see cars parked outside the park or people who are avoiding the entrance fees ...I think) Anyway, I pay, park and enjoy. It's worth a good 2 hours of your time for one of the prettiest walk/hikes you'll ever take along the ocean.
I would spend one night in Monterey and one night in Big Sur area. Then it's an easy drive back to SF.
Big Sur and Monterey/Carmel are so beautiful in September.
petal is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 10:52 AM
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petal -
why spend one nt. in mont. and one nt. in big sur? can't you just stay in one place and drive around? why not carmel?

john charles - do you like vagabond house? normandy? or cobblestone? trying to narrow it down.
thank you!
driving directions and route stops are greatly appreciated (from sf to big sur area and back again) point lobos is going ot be done! i promise!
thank you
zacky is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 12:34 PM
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jet lag and johncharles - we are leaning toward pac. grove. more quaint and more charming - less commercial. suggestions on place to stay there? thanks!
zacky is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 01:27 PM
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ok. 2-3 nights in Carmel. That would be my vote. It's very close to Hwy 1 but the traffic can become a bit congested...however, your in a charming locale easy access to everything else. I thought you wanted to stay in Big Sur somewhere. (I think I'm mixing my threads). It all sounds like a lot of fun. Enjoy
petal is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 02:43 PM
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Zacky, since you asked for my opinion.....and since I'm trying to believe that your asking for my help means you didn't intend to include my post when you said "enough of the nonsense" right after it....you happened to ask about my favorite place in Carmel, Vagabond's House.

Later, you said that you were leaning towards Pacific Grove (rather than Carmel, I gather)as more "quaint and charming." I think most everyone would agree, even those who find Carmel too "over the top" and prefer Pacific Grove, that Carmel is more "quaint and charming." Carmel pretty much has a corner on the "quaint and charming" market, and Vagabond's House is one of the most "quaint and charming" inns you'll ever see.

To some people Carmel is just over the top cutesy. Carmel tries to be agressively noncommercial and create a sort of fairy tale environment--which in a way makes it very commercial in the way Disneyland is commercial. Somehow, when I'm on vacation, it works for me, though, and I'd rather stay there than Pacific Grove. I loved Vagabond's House. Check the Tripadvisor.com reviews of it.

Pacific Grove is more like a nice, typical older suburb that happens to be on a spectacular spot in the ocean. More commercial than Carmel? In that its business areas look more like those in an everyday American town, yes. In that it hasn't made itself over into an intentionally "quaint and charming" environment to lure visitors like Carmel has, no. It's a matter of taste, and what you want on vacation.

Less "quaint and charming" and more commercial than either Carmel or Pacific Grove by any standard: Monterey. In my opinion (and though I'm in the minority, I do have company in it)a person with limited time to spend in the Monterey Peninsula/Big Sur area should not even take the time to enter the Monterey city limits except to drive through on Highway One on the way south. Sorry--this is heresy to some--that includes the aquarium. It's a wonderful aquarium, and if I were in the area for a whole week, I'd probably spend much of the seventh day there. But there are other great aquariums. There is, for instance, one just as good in Baltimore, near where I live. But there is no physical environment quite like the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur anywhere, and if you have only a couple days to drink it in, I would not spend a big chunk of your waking time in the aquarium, or in any other building.
johncharles is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 03:49 PM
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I am not a golfer, but love the beauty of the Half Moon Bay Ritz-Carlton Golf Links.
bodi is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 05:01 PM
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Johncharles, you're reading my mind on that last post about Carmel/Pacific Grove/Monterey and you said it a lot better than I could. Thanks!
winerycat is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 05:38 PM
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I would definitely stay in Carmel as opposed to Pacific Grove. I wouldn't even visit PG myself, but I do love all of the ocean side drives and you can follow the coast line all the way from first entering Monterey to the whole of the penninsula back on up to Carmel and beyond. (practically).
Alright, maybe the aquarium isn't for everyone. I have been several times usually for relatives with kids. On a romantic weekend, I would skip it. But if you want to see one of the sights this area is best known for, it IS a world class aquarium. It sits on the end of Cannery Row made famous by John Steinbeck.. but there is little left there except the warehouses filled with souvenir shops and really nice ocean views. No Steinbeck left there.. except Doc Ricketts (sp) little bar which may still be there? (I don't get out much)
But again, the real romantic really beautiful sites can be seen while you slip on past the exits for Monterey and Pacific Grove. (Altho I would do the 17 mile drive. I like it alot simply for its stunning views and fabulous estates. )
Do stay in Carmel.. and walk and drive around. It's quaint and charming and is not nearly so crowded as other places of charm. And while you are in Carmel, don't forget to walk over to the white beach and take a peek. Lovely.
petal is offline  

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