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San Francisco and area trip report

Old Sep 25th, 2006, 02:24 PM
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maj
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San Francisco and area trip report

(9/12 - 9/20, 2006)
I’m going to try to make this short since I received most of my information from this forum and it has already been said. We wanted to get an overview of the area and achieved that. Therefore, we were on the go from early morning to night and will save the fine dining, etc. for next time. Our son just moved out there last spring, so we hope to return and hit some of the city walks, Point Reyes etc. It was a fantastic trip. Can’t say enough about the beauty of the area and how friendly everyone was.
Day 1
Flew into SFO on a Tuesday, met DS (he wanted to show us our way around the airport to the skytrain and rental car area, which can be a challenge the first time you do it – we had many people following us. It isn’t well marked and you have to walk a ways to catch the skytrain -- with your luggage. When we came back it was a piece of cake.) Drove down to Carmel 380-280-85-101-156-1 (great route) and checked into a cottage at the Normandy Inn. (very happy with both it and location—although parking in Carmel can be a challenge during the day). We walked around Carmel for a while and then tried to find a restaurant. It was about 6 at this time, the town had emptied out (which is a nice way to see it – I’m really glad we stayed in town), and some of the restaurants had already closed or were going to soon. We ate at Jack London’s Bar & Grill. Then we went to the beach for the sunset.
Day 2
When we woke up the next day, it was foggy and cool. We did the 17 mile drive then went to Pacific Grove and on to Monterey hoping the fog would lift. It did while we were in Cannery Row which allowed us to get some good pictures there. We went back to Carmel by way of Asilomar Beach (saw surfers) and the scenic route. We found a back route out of Carmel after stopping at our cottage (Ocean Ave. was backed up from the city to 1) and headed down to Big Sur. It was foggy, but there were breaks in the fog with beautiful views. We ate at Nepenthene and really enjoyed that. It was like eating in a tree house. We did the McWay Falls trail which was beautiful. (hint: you have to pay $8 – honor donation – to enter the park. If you only want a picture of the falls, there is a very small unmarked pullout on the left side of the road about 200 yards on the left as you are leaving J.P. park on the way back to Carmel where you get an excellent picture of the falls.) We then went to Pt. Lobos (excellent) where we walked the Sea Lion Pt and Cypress Grove trails. Saw (and heard) the sea lions, otters, a white heron and assorted birds. Went to Monterey (since it was 8 and figured there would be more restaurants open there – they also close down early during the week). Ate at Archie’s American Diner.
(to be continued -- this is going to be much longer than I anticipated)
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Old Sep 25th, 2006, 02:28 PM
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maj
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Day 3
Ate breakfast at Em Le’s. Back to SF by way of route 9. We liked taking this route (probably not for everyone, but it worked for us) – mostly a curvy road through the forest. We stopped at the top and took a short walk along a trail to stretch our legs. Back to 85—280—to the (1-19th ave-Park Presidio Blvd). We took the Stu Dudley route from Spreckels lake in Golden Gate Park to the Golden Gate Bridge stopping at the stops he suggests as well as Baker’s Beach and the part of the Presidio where the bunkers, etc. are.

We then found our way back to Lombard St. At this point, I can’t say enough about how much the AAA map of San Francisco helped us. We got lost a couple of times during our trip, but were able to figure out how to get back on track very easily using this map. We checked into the Cow Hollow Motor Inn (very happy again with the choice and location). We then got on a bus (30 Stockton) to Fisherman’s Wharf. We thought it would say Fisherman’s Wharf, but you need to know what street to get off at. LOL We ended up taking it through the whole route which actually was interesting since we had a tour of part of the city. We had to transfer, but made it to Pier 41 in time to have some clam chowder in a sourdough bowl from one of the stands while waiting for our Alcatraz tour to board. And also see the sea lions on Pier 39. We took the 6:20 tour to Alcatraz (had called for and received tickets before our trip). Excellent choice (had been recommended here). We saw both it and San Francisco both in the daylight and night. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and history – much more than we had anticipated. Then we walked through Pier 39 and ate at Bubba Gumps.
Day4
Took the bus to Union Square (to buy a one day passport at the Visitors Center – it wasn’t open yet). So walked to the turnaround and bought one there. There was a pretty long line since something had broken down, but once it started going again they came quickly. Personally, I would take one of the other lines. They had us so packed in that unless you were in the front seat you couldn’t really see anything. And there wasn’t any room for anyone to get in along the line, so that wasn’t an option. We got there before 9. It was interesting to see the turnaround. We rode it down to Fisherman’s Wharf and walked around the area and Ghiardelli Square and enjoyed the scenery. We ate at In N Out. I had wanted to eat at one at some point during our trip, since it was all you heard on the news a few days before we left because of Paris Hilton’s DUI. Actually they do have pretty good food (we were really hungry at this point). We got tickets and then took the Grey Line Deluxe Tour (I was tired of planning at this point and wanted someone else to take me around). It was excellent. It took us some places we had wanted to go (like Twin Peaks) and others which weren’t on our list but we enjoyed (like Japanese Tea Garden and Mission Dolores) as well as the history etc. shared by the guide. He even dropped us off at our hotel on the way back (we needed to get another camera battery). Then back on the 30 to North Beach to catch another bus to Coit Tower. We returned to Ghiardelli Square where we ate at Lori’s Diner followed by a hot fudge sundae at the ice cream shop (to die for). Then caught our last bus back to hotel. (By this time we were getting good at reading the routes, etc.)
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Old Sep 25th, 2006, 02:30 PM
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Day 5
Drove to Alamo Square where we found a parking place (before 9 on a Saturday) and walked around the square. There is a dog park there and beautiful pictures on every side, including the painted ladies. We drove down Lombard Street and headed across the Golden Gate Bridge to pick up our son.

On to Wine Country. We hit Sterling and Buena Vista. We aren’t really wine drinkers, so this was enough for us – to see the scenery, find out about the wine making process, etc. (note: Buena Vista closes early on Saturday sometimes for weddings, so if you are planning on going there, I would go earlier in the day)

We then went to the Marin Headlands – fantastic views. It is also on Stu Dudley’s list. We continued on past the lighthouse and the Nike missile site which was interesting to see.
We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott in Novato.

Day 6
DS took us on a “tour’ across the Richmond bridge, through the East Bay area to Fremont where we went to the Hayward fault exhibit which was very interesting. We then traveled through Silicon Valley and Mountain View (where he had cooped and lived while in college). We went to Santana Row and ate lunch there. After we got back we drove down Lucas Valley Road and made it to Pt. Reyes (the little town – it was 13 miles to the shore and was starting to get dark—save it for another trip).

Day 7
Down to Muir Woods. We took the trail (Hillside I think it is called) which goes above the main trail back to the visitors center. Highly recommend this if you want to get away from the crowds. It is uphill and first, but the rest is level. We came upon deer on the path.

Drove to Stinson Beach – fantastic views along the way. I actually thought they were as good as Big Sur. We were again taking Stu Dudley’s tour directions and continued on up Mt. Tam. It is worth it to take the detour he suggests at the top – San Francisco looks like a fairy town in the middle of the mountains from some of the view points along the way.
From there we went to Sausalito, got hamburgers at Hamburgers and took them to a picnic area across the street on the bay (right before you get to Spinnakers).

Later that afternoon we climbed Mt. Burdell with DS.

Day 8
We rented bikes from Blazing Saddles. Went over the Golden Gate and back, stopping at the Palace of Fine Arts on the way back. Enjoyed it for the most part, but was amazed at how pedestrians walk right in your path.

We left SF for our hotel in Millbrae. Best Western El Rancho Inn.
It was ok for one night, very convenient to the airport.
We went down to San Jose to watch DS’s softball game. Very nice softball complex.

Day 9
Drove rental car to airport and left SF. Can’t wait to go back.

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Old Sep 25th, 2006, 02:53 PM
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Wow, what a trip! Not every local knows all these places!

"our way around the airport to the skytrain and rental car area, which can be a challenge the first time you do it – we had many people following us" LOL this sounds so familiar, reminds me my first attempt to take BART to the airport.
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 07:55 AM
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Dear maj,
What a trip - you really made the circuit! I loved that you drove Highway 9 so early on in your travels. It is indeed a VERY curvy road but a beautiful one - I use it (if I have the time) to drive back from Monterey sometimes.
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Old Sep 26th, 2006, 04:29 PM
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maj
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We did enjoy Highway 9. It was a nice change of pace -- beautiful driving through the redwoods, away from the highways and traffic. I think it was J.Correa who suggested it. Thanks to everyone for your help and suggestions.

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Old Oct 17th, 2006, 01:35 PM
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libbie
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Great report. I live out here and am going to follow some of your sightseeing ideas.
 
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