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San Francisco from the backseat of a Mini-Cooper

San Francisco from the backseat of a Mini-Cooper

Old Aug 21st, 2007, 04:10 PM
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San Francisco from the backseat of a Mini-Cooper

Just returned from a brief trip to SF (August 14-17) and thought I would offer a mini-Trip Report.

Day 1 - We flew Alaska Airlines from Seatac to Oakland, arriving about 2 PM. Oakland's airport is currently doing some extensive renovation; it is NOT a pretty place to fly in to. Needed exact change ($3 each) to ride the bus from the airport to the Oakland Coliseum BART station, about a 20 minute ride. At the station, a very helpful young man assisted us with figuring out which train we needed into SF (something I'm sure we could have figured out if he had left us alone for a couple of minutes), fed our $10 into a machine to pay the $6.70 (for 2) fare, then asked to keep the change. We shrugged and gave it to him, then noticed the many signs posted around the station warning against such scams. Oh well!

The BART train was fast, on-time and relatively clean, and we rode to the SF Civic Center station in order to catch a Muni bus to our hotel, at Lombard and Van Ness. We had been advised to take Bus 19 north on Polk Street, one block over from Van Ness, but weren't warned that Route 19 travels up Larkin (two blocks over) at that point and doesn't merge onto Polk Street for about 8 blocks. We found Polk Street and walked for those 8 blocks looking for a bus stop -- don't do this, this is not a neighborhood I would recommend walking through with backpacks and cameras! We encountered one big fistfight and a number of folks talking to themselves before we finally got on the bus. Next time, I think I would try bus 47, which runs along Van Ness itself; or just take a cab. Whew!

We got to our hotel and met our friends, who had already arrived from visiting relatives in Tiburon. We are pretty much budget travelers and thought that the Comfort Inn by the Bay sounded OK by its TripAdvisor ratings. We did splurge for a top floor room, with a nice view of the bay and Golden Gate bridge, and enjoyed the free breakfast provided by the hotel. Not sure if it was a "good deal" or not by San Francisco standards!

Walked down Lombard for a comfort-food dinner at Mel's Drive In, then back to Fisherman's Wharf to do the tourist thing and look at all the tacky souvenir shops. Ghirardelli Square is going condo -- what a shame! Just a couple of shops left, though the big chocolate/ice cream emporium is still there.
Then home and to bed!

Day 2 - We had tried to get a 3-day MuniPass the previous evening at the cable car turnaround near the wharf, but the kiosk was closed. So the four of us (two 6'2" guys and two 5'8" girls) piled into our friends' MiniCooper...we were comfortable once seated, but entrances and exits were pretty comical! The car has a huge sunroof and big windows all around, can be parked just about anywhere and has a turning radius of about four feet , which came in very handy. An automatic transmission probably would have been nice, though.

We drove the MiniCoop down the twisty part of Lombard Street, wheeee! Then up to Coit Tower. Weather was spectacular and the views were superb. From there we drove down to North Beach; parked at Washington Square and walked around to visit City Lights Bookstore and a great gelato place whose name I didn't get. Lots of good gelato in North Beach, apparently!

From there we drove through Chinatown and then to the financial district; my friend's sister works in Tower 3. We went to the Ferry Building for lunch and were very impressed with the renovations there; it is a great public space. Had yummy lunch at the San Francisco Meat Market, then played in the fountains and visited the Hyatt Regency lobby; seems like one used to be able to ride the elevators there but you can't any more. This is still one of the grandest hotel lobbies I've ever seen.

Then back to the Mini and home along the Embarcadero. We were all pretty pooped by this time but managed dinner at Cafe Lombard, a good Italian place across from our hotel, and then a twilight walk among the shops and pubs of Union Avenue.

More to come!!!!
azzure is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2007, 04:38 PM
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Thanks for posting. Your trip brought back many memories of our trip to SF four months ago.
nelsonian is online now  
Old Aug 21st, 2007, 05:00 PM
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thanks for sharing. i love reading about the bay area. also happen to be a loyal 49er fan...
kauai_aka is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2007, 06:44 PM
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Finishing up the trip report...

Day 3 - Drove the Mini to Alamo Square and wandered around photographing the "Painted Ladies" and many other grand Victorians in the area. We realized, though, that sunset is the ideal time to take photos in this area, as the classic row of Victorian houses faces west, and the city behind them would look best at dusk when its lights begin to twinkle.

Next this bunch of aging hippies drove to Haight-Ashbury. Wandered up and down while watching the parking meter; lots of "Summer of Love" memorabilia was on display.

Then on to Golden Gate Park. The two girls took in the Conservatory of Flowers while the guys lounged outside in the gorgeous sunshine. We lunched at the Beach Chalet, which is also the park's visitor center. There is a spendy restaurant with an ocean view, but we opted for the greenhouse out back. Food and service were both excellent; particularly the dessert (cupcakes with frozen hot chocolate.)

Following the 49-Mile scenic route, we next took in Cliff House and the Palace of the Legion of Honor...at the latter we took goofy pictures around the Rodin "Thinker" statue. Would have loved to spend some time at this museum, but the day was growing short as we had booked the evening tour at Alcatraz. So after a brief photo stop at Fort Point, we headed back to the hotel to get warm clothing. Just as we came out of the elevator, the kindly clerk at the hotel offered us four partly-used MuniPasses, so we left the trusty MiniCoop in the garage and took bus 47 to Fisherman's Wharf, then walked the remaining distance to Pier 33 for the boat to Alcatraz.

Of necessity we had booked the Alcatraz tour weeks earlier, and expected it to be one of the highlights of our trip. And it was very interesting and enjoyable. This claustrophobe opted NOT to be shut into a solitary confinement cell, but the others in our party did...I doubt that too many prisoners spent their time "in the hole" giggling.
If I had one objection to the Alcatraz trip, it was that the "audio tour" for which we were all issued headphones pretty much forced one to follow the rigidly timed route (with a hundred or so other visitors)...I would have preferred more docents, or maybe just a written guide, so that one could spend more or less time at the various sites depending on one's interest level. The long audio re-enactment of an attempted prison breakout seemed a bit tedious to me (just my opinion of course.)

We were hungry when we finally got off "The Rock", so headed to Bubba Gump's at Pier 39 (just about the only thing left open) for chowder and key lime pie before heading back to the hotel on Bus 47.

Day 4 - A late start, hotel checkout, and then a drive across the Golden Gate to Sausalito. We enjoyed browsing the shops there, and our friends insisted that we try the burgers at a take-out place on Bridgeway called "Hamburger". Yes, that was the name! We waited in line for 40 minutes, but the burgers turned out to be worth it...yummy Angus burgers with thick European cheese.

One last ride in the back seat of the MiniCooper back to the airport in Oakland, then home to drizzly Seattle! It was a good trip. Next time, more museums!
azzure is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2007, 06:52 PM
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This claustrophobe opted NOT to be shut into a solitary confinement cell

Just letting you know you're not alone -- No way would I go in; what if they didn't let me out?
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