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San Francisco, Carmel and Monterey for a week in April

San Francisco, Carmel and Monterey for a week in April

Old Apr 15th, 2011, 02:47 PM
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San Francisco, Carmel and Monterey for a week in April

Who we were: My best friend and I met in San Francisco (despite the efforts of American Airlines to keep us apart.).

Where we stayed:
Our first night was at the Hyatt SFO. The room was very comfortable and well kept. The shuttle was prompt. Great feature was really good breakfast to start us out in the morning.

We stayed at the Pine Inn, Carmel. Our room was unit four on the courtyard. Although there are many fabulous hotels and inns in the area very few of them offered rooms with two beds. We're close, but not that close. I called the Monterey Visitors Center and they referred me to a free booking service, Resort2Me.com which they operate. I got a good rate at the Pine Inn (considerably below website rates), free breakfast, $20 per person dinner vouchers, bottled water, free parking and free wifi. I posted a more complete review on TA, but would highly recommend the hotel for convenience, comfort and cleanliness. It is the oldest hotel in Carmel and the decor reflects that, but I found it a charming and delightful place to stay.

What we did: We took our time. This was a not a rush, gotta see it all vacation, but we managed to do a lot thanks in large part to the fact that we stayed on East Coast time and were up at 0400 every morning! We were blessed with nice weather and able to enjoy the gorgeous outdoors. Beautiful blooming flowers and shrubs, many not found where we live, were everywhere. We drove the Seventeen Mile Drive, stopping at each overlook. We hiked at Point Lobos and Asilomar (glad we opted not to stay here, it was very crowded with large groups and although it is a lovely place it is a bit removed.) We went to the Monterey Aquarium. This is a must do. I think the jellyfish and sea horse displays alone qualify this aquarium as one of the best I have ever toured. They do a first class job with conservation education. I was especially impressed by the live presentations which encouraged the kids to ask questions and the very technologically sophisticated way the films were tied to the subject of the questions. Just terrific. Cannery Row was pretty much what one would expect. Before the trip I reread Steinbeck and was once again captivated by his brilliant, spare use of language. It was fun to walk in his way.

We spent an afternoon strolling around Pacific Grove (there may have been a little shopping and prosecco involved). Such a pretty little place and in my opinion a much more pleasant base than Monterey . We went to the Presidio for a personal journey. My friend and I are Army brats and her dad was stationed at Presidio in one of his last tours of duty. She had very happy memories of coming there for her college breaks and enjoyed a chance to walk around their former quarters.

We spent a good deal of time walking around Carmel and visiting the beach at sunset. It is a romantic and charming little town. We were there for Doris Day's birthday and I hoped to see her, but no such luck. We were told she lives a very reclusive life and has been ill for some time. We also drove out to Mission Ranch (no Clint, but good wine). It is a beautiful property, fabulous views at sunset. Carmel is very dog friendly and I had a great time seeing all of the pups. Helped assuage the pain of being away from my pack.

Where we ate: Our favorite meal was at Casanovas in Carmel. The food and service were outstanding. The housemade raspberry ice cream was exceptional. We had a very good meal at Il Fornio in our hotel. I was expecting a pretty mediocre dinner because it is a chain, but I was pleasantly surprised. In Pacific Grove we ate at the Red House and it was wonderful. Very casual place popular with both tourists and locals, for good reason. The crabcake was outstanding. We stopped for a quick lunch at the Cottage in Carmel, as we both wanted to try artichoke soup. It was great. For a treat we went to Pastries and Petals, a little off the beaten track but worth the walk just up from Ocean Drive, Carmel. I did full reviews on TA if your are interested in more detail.


So what about San Francisco? We drove up from Carmel, dropped our rental car at SFO and took BART into the city. Easy!

Who we were: My friend and I joined ten of our friends from high school for a long weekend. We are graduates of the Golden Class of 1964 from Balboa High School in the old Canal Zone. About fifty years of friendship has made for some extremely close bonds. While our primary goal is to enjoy the company of one another we also managed to fit in some shopping and good dining...even a little serious sightseeing.

Where we stayed: Hyatt Embarcadero. Thank you, imaq. It was not terribly expensive as compared to the Vitale which I also considered. Most of us got the Hyatt credit card (thank you rmk from the Asia board who put me on to this) which gave us two free nights. A very good deal...and they upgraded all of us. All the rooms had at least a partial bay view. The location was fabulous. I was not really happy with the room we were given, but all the others were delighted with theirs. Because of a convention in the hotel we did not have much flexibility to change rooms. I did a review on TA. The primary issue was we had an ADA room which had very limited counter/shelf space in the bathroom. Not a good plan with two women. Just as an aside I traveled with my significantly handicapped mother for many years before her death and found that room to be the worst at accommodating the needs of someone in a wheelchair I have ever seen.

We did find it easy to arrange a meeting point in the hotel and it is very convenient to BART and the trolley lines.

What I liked best about it was the ease of access to the Ferry Terminal Building, which I loved. We went there for breakfast every morning. Frog Hollow Farm is wonderful! We also did a considerable amount of shopping there ....probably the best week ever for the guy with the Argentine empanadas concession...we enjoyed those particularly!

What we did:
Because several of our group had never been to San Francisco we hired a private van operated by Dylan's Tours for our first day. Dylan worked with us in advance and picked us up at our hotel. The tour was an excellent orientation to the city and a chance to see all the different districts (and a few highlights of questionable value...the Mrs Doubtfire house...really?). After touring the city we went to Muir Woods for a little walk among the giants. Highly recommended. Dylan dropped us off in Sausalito where we ate lunch and spent a couple of hours just walking around (again there may have been some shopping involved).

On Saturday morning we headed straight to the Ferry Terminal Building for breakfast and a chance to see the special vendors there. A woman from India with the most gorgeous silk scarves kept us occupied for quite a while. We had arranged a group lunch and most of us walked to Union Square (again it is possible there was some shopping done along the way). After our lunch I insisted we go to Bi Rite Creamery. Turned out to be about a $13 cab ride away, the line was a very long one...and it was windy and cold...but relying on StuDudley not to steer me wrong, I persevered and the others hung with me for the forty five or so minute wait. Yay, Stu. I had a toasted almond sundae and salted carmel ice cream (yes, I realize that was excessive....but who knows when I will be back in San Francisco?) Loved them both. We walked back to Market St and took the trolley to Union Square. Well by now the day was nearly gone so a mad shopping frenzy occurred. We hit every store (Gumps may not be what it used to be but it still has some treasures) we could in the hour or two remaining. Not surprisingly we didn't feel like having dinner so we went to the nearest liquor store, bought a few bottles of wine and went up to one of our rooms to talk. I swear even though we are all sixty five our hearts are still eighteen. It was wonderful.

Where we ate: While I may have left my heart in San Francisco, I am pretty sure my other body parts picked up a few pounds! This city is made for food lovers!

Our first night we booked at Tyler Florence's Wayfare Tavern. They gave us a private room which was great since the noise volume there would have made any conversation impossible. We had an excellent meal, everyone was delighted. A special highlight was Tyler coming up to see us and being a most agreeable host. He chatted with us and posed for photos. That alone made the trip for two of my group who are huge fans.

In Sausalito we had lunch at Horizons. The food was fine, but the view was splendid. Our server was a young man from Ecuador who was most charming and personable.

Our lunch near Union Square was at Kuleto's. Kudos to the poor waiter who managed our table even to the point of splitting checks for us. His name was Trey and I really felt for him. The food was very good, the ambiance was quite nice and the location was an easy walk from our hotel. Unfortunately we took so long at lunch none of us were interested in dinner (well, the Bi Rite ice cream may have played a role in that decision as well). I did reviews of all the restaurants on TA if anyone is interested in more detail.

This trip would have been a special one even if all the food had been terrible, the weather miserable and the hotel a fleabag, because I was with my dearest friends. People who remember my mom and dad. This is truly a journey of the heart. All of my friends praised me for all my good choices...and for that I thank my friends here on Fodors, especially the incredible resource, Stu Dudley, imaq, who answered my every question,every email quickly and thoroughly, and the many contributors to my threads on the US board. I am grateful to you for making it all so perfectly wonderful.
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Old Apr 15th, 2011, 03:15 PM
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What a fabulous trip and a fabulous trip report! I always love to read yours - thanks for taking us along with you. You made me miss Carmel, the beach, the dogs and the Ferry Building. I find it strange that when I'm missing SF, it's the Ferry Building I'm missing most. I just love strolling the shops and the market outside on Saturday. You make me want to go back soon. When I do, I'm going to use your TR as my map and follow in your footsteps.

How lovely the bonds you share so many years later. "People who remember my mom and dad. This is truly a journey of the heart" made me tear up. What special friendships and connection. You are lucky, indeed. Oh, I would have been jealous beyond measure if you had seen Doris Day on her birthday!
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Old Apr 15th, 2011, 04:31 PM
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Well we did see a woman with incredible blue eyes as we were walking in Carmel and both of us instantly decided it was Ms Day. the hotel staff insisted it was more than unlikely it was damned near impossible...but we secretly harbored the belief it was.

Thank you for taking the time to read my trip report. It was a very happy week!
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Old Apr 15th, 2011, 04:56 PM
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I am so glad you had a great time!

I was thinking of you the whole time you were here. "I wonder what they're doing today." "Did she get to walk around Pacific Grove?"

One of my favorite parts of the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the screened in tidal basin/shoreline habitat with the seabirds, shorebirds, and native plants, etc. Did you get to see that? Some of my students have become involved in their educational programs, and have been inspired beyond belief.

On your next visit we will need to GTG.
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Old Apr 15th, 2011, 05:21 PM
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Oh cmc, what a great trip !
I used to go to the Presidio to see movies way back when I lived in SF.. such a beautiful place..
What a treat that would have been, to see Doris Day on her birthday or Clint .. .. but you were there
I promised not to tell so don't let on, but I kept getting emails from "the pack" .. they were not happy about being left behind.
I am so glad that everything went well, I know how much effort you put into this .. I just wish I had been there too
I love the idea of a GTG with iamq .. and me !!
I think this is a trip that your friends will always remember.. ..
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Old Apr 15th, 2011, 06:26 PM
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We did, imaq. It was such a great trip and my friend and I agreed your suggestions really made a difference. One of the highlights was hiking at Point Lobos, at your suggestion. It truly didn't hurt to have such perfect weather, but it would be hard not to fall in love there. A gtg...absolutely!

Scarlett, other than Izzy, they seem to have missed me quite a bit. I am not sure Izzy knew I was away. She is a very selfcentered westie.

One of these days a GTG...yes, sounds good.

We are planning the next chicas trip, but in the meantime we have our Savannah adventure coming up in October. I love it!
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Old Apr 16th, 2011, 06:50 AM
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I swear even though we are all sixty five our hearts are still eighteen.

Here, here! Thanks for a lovely report from another in a HS Class of 1964 in Md. I have a friend from 5th grade-yes, 50+ year friendships are really special.

Have you chosen your Savannah hotel yet?
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Old Apr 16th, 2011, 08:21 AM
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great report! as someone who just reconnected with all my high school buds- we all just turned 50 and it's good to have gal pals to commiserate with- i think that's wonderful.
i say you saw doris day "that's your story and you're sticking to it!!"
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Old Apr 16th, 2011, 10:29 AM
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What a lovely report. I've not yet been to the Ferry Building and hope to breakfast there in May. We will also have a quick overnight in Carmel--haven't been there for 10 years.

My h.s. class of 1963 has reunions every fifth year, and some of us e-mail. I Christmas card with friends from as long ago as 1948 and 1951! My AK compatriots up here are jealous because most people in AK have pretty much lost all ties with former friends.
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Old Apr 16th, 2011, 11:12 AM
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Yes, the friendships maintained from youth are quite special. I am very lucky to have so many opportunities to celebrate those relationships.

tdudette, we are staying at the Inn at Ellis Square. It is going to be a really fun time...costumes will be in order to help us celebrate Halloween!

toncasmo, my friend kept telling me I was a fool to be convinced by anyone it wasn't Doris Day. She said "we know who we saw."
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Old Apr 16th, 2011, 02:22 PM
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Thanks for the trip report. I enjoyed reading it.
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Old Apr 18th, 2011, 09:30 AM
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Oh cmcfong, as usual, your trip reports are such a pleasure to read. Thanks so much for taking the time to post.
It sounds like you had a fantastic trip,and I'm quite sure it must have been Ms Day that you saw. I just 'know' we saw CLint standing at the bar the day we went to Mission Ranch !

It's such a bonus to be with long time friends. It's wonderful that you get together , and still enjoy each other's company. It's an even added bonus that they knew your parents.

I would have been right there with you in the line up at Bi Rite Creamery.. It sounds to die for.

I'm glad you had a good time. And I know you got the royal welcome when you got home.
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Old Apr 18th, 2011, 03:22 PM
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Thanks, Kodi. It was such a great time! Now...where to next year?
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Old Apr 18th, 2011, 03:23 PM
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cmcfong, have you been to Victoria, BC?
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Old Apr 18th, 2011, 04:26 PM
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Last stay at the Empress in Victoria was (I think late April) a few years ago. Yards and yards of tulips in bloom. Always love it.
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Old Apr 18th, 2011, 04:47 PM
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I have and I loved it, starrs. Next year we are planning on the East coast. I am already on the hunt for the perfect spot. My chicas deserve it!
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Old Apr 18th, 2011, 04:54 PM
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I thought you would
Cape Cod? Prince Edward Island? Acadia NP?
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Old Apr 18th, 2011, 06:26 PM
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I love all three places, but when it is the group we try to stay fairly close to a major hotel because we are coming from all over the world and we are only together for three or four nights. I have NOLA, Miami and Charleston in the mix, but expect to add a few more before we settle on something. Personally I would go back to PEI in a second for the COWS alone......
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Old Apr 18th, 2011, 06:27 PM
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that would be major airport, not major hotel
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 08:22 PM
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I really wanted to say Savannah, but that's not near a major airport. Darn.
Chicago?
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