San Francisco Report

Old Sep 20th, 2005, 03:37 PM
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San Francisco Report

OK, this is long. DH is hub and DR is donco. We always use publich trans and we took a cue from DH's aunt and uncle who travelled widely and couldn't remember one bit of it! Regards, Donna

San Francisco
8-12 September 2005
The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Wheezing

Wednesday, September 7

Spent a comfortable night-before at Holiday Inn Express near BWI. They will keep our car for the duration. Kind desk clerk pointed us to local Italian place (spaghetti and fettuccine) for dinner.

Thursday, September 8

Shuttle van to airport left just before 5:30 so we are at the airport well before 6:00 a.m. Our United flight actually left early. One had to buy the boxed meal or snack ($5) but the breakfast box had fresh fruit and cheese, yogurt, crackers and bread so it was ok. Nice crew and very smooth flight. Arrive and have no problem finding Bart station at SFO. Got a little confused about which platform but people helped.

Arrived at Powell Street Station in about 30 minutes and our first view was cute Cable Car Café with bougainvillea behind it. We found the Information center and bought a 3-day Muni pass. Directions (from nice guy in city uniform) for walk to Hotel Rex less than straightforward and DR had to rest in the middle of each block-such hills!

Got to Hotel and it looks like it’s on a great street-art galleries, cute shops! Aaron at front desk says he’ll look at tickets for “Wicked” but doesn’t think we’ll like the price. Our room is very nice. Huge bathroom, robes, mini-fridge and big basket of goodies including wine. Also 2 jazz CD’s for the CD player. Original art on walls everywhere in room and halls. Checking back with Aaron and only $200+ tickets are available! Gulp. He’ll try for “Tribute”. There is a very nice bar beside desk-couches, desks and tables. There is to be a book signing Friday-Peter Mayle here in November.

On the road to the Hyde-Powell Cable car. We learn that fare is now $5! Great to have the pass. The stop is at the end of our block and across the street (down hill!) We got spoiled as it came right away and wasn’t mobbed. Rode to the end of the line and spotted Buena Vista Café. Fodor’s recommend for Irish Coffee and we find food there as well. DR has dungeness crab omelet (like our crabs better) and DH has Reuben (good). We are also served sour dough bread. It is the size of sub rolls, toasted and buttered and good. The Irish coffees are awesome-DH notices that amount of “Irish” bartender puts in may account for the good taste!

We thought we’d take CC back to Lombard Street to walk down crookedest SF street first, but we were waiting a long time despite the good singer entertaining us so we decided to hoof it over to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We passed lots of touristy shops and crabby stalls and restaurants. A cute 3-wheeled car one could hire-it takes you on a computer aided tour of SF. Then we saw the largest sea gulls ever! Seriously-huge. Stroll over to see the Sea Lions on floating docks and we stand for a long time watching these huge animals either pushing each other off the docks or just basking in the sun.

We walk to bus that goes to Coit Tower. Murals around the base inside done during Depression to keep local artists eating and show San. Fran. Life. See story about Lillie Coit. We think she was related to my mother (who always chased the fire truck). We walk down Filbert to Grant and follow along as the red, white and green colors are painted on street lamps. Lots of places to shop and eat. Cute names (OOMA-can’t remember what it stood for). Poet’s Corner at Mason and Post. Crossed Washington Square and took picture of St. Peter and Paul Church. Mass in English and Chinese.

Walked back to Mason to pick up Cable Car. Back to hotel for rest, free glass of wine in hotel bar and discussion with Dan the bartender about where to eat. We end up at hotel’s Café Andre and this is what we have:

We split Brie Fritters with Mango Coulis with sliced avocado and black fig compote. DR had sweet corn and questo fresco (cheese) ravioli in a chile-manchego cream sauce. DH had Niman Ranch Pork tenderloin Milanesa with black beans, saffron rice and sweet fried plantains. Very very good. Sour dough bread is more like a loaf this time. We each tried a red wine but forgot to write down what! Back to room to crash!

Friday, September 9, 2005

DH up at 7 and finds coffee and newspapers in hotel bar. It is a little schizoid to be hearing about Bay Bridge backups since we have a Bay Bridge in Maryland! Road construction causing delays. Forecast is cloudy and cool.

Breakfast is at Lori’s Diner. Although we will find out this is a chain, we are delighted by the décor. Framed movie magazine covers and posters, old radios, 10-cent coke machine and, a 50-something Edsel! Booths and bar stools covered in sparkling red plastic. DH realizes that the description ‘Western’ wouldn’t be used for omelets out west!

We plot our Chinatown and missed from yesterday North Beach routes. DH hopes that DR’s shirt, of Asian design, doesn’t say anything dirty!

We pass more cute shops and a beautiful building at 450 Sutter. Antiques and Asian items begin to be seen as we approach the Chinatown gates. We window shop gazillion jewelry and antique stores. DR notices $30 pearl earrings similar to something she had lost so we go into the shop. Proprietor is offering a discount to a customer “Because you are first today” on coral. We decide to go across the street while guy is busy (telling him we’ll be back) and find the same earrings. And, this place is going out of business (har har) and has the same earrings for $16! We are torn because we told guy across the street that we’d be back. I say sorry and turn to leave, and clerk in this shop says $14! OK, we get ready to buy them and guy across the street materializes! He has two shops! Full price and g.o.b.! Pretty cute.

We stroll several streets admiring interesting buildings and sights. Find out that Moon Festival is on the 11th. Moon cakes are being sold but we can’t locate other than fancy packages. We find Portsmouth Plaza but no one is playing games yet. We spent a while looking at joss papers and trying to figure if we could make note pads out of them for Christmas presents. Gentleman playing a string instrument nods it's OK for pix.

We decide to catch Cable Car for SF’s most crooked Lombard Street. It’s really cool and the homes are beautiful. We pass a school with wonderful playground as we walk to bocce ball court. No one is playing so we decide to go to Nob Hill for a drink then look for lunch. We take one CC to California St. and a second to the Grace Church first. Talk with folks from Houston while waiting. Grace Church “borrowed” architecture from Notre Dame and ornate doors from Florence’s Baptistery.

Mark Hopkins hotel close by so we take elevator to 19th floor “Top of the Mark” and the kind maitre d’ takes us to our “just a drink” table with a view. DR cannot "hear" the ghosts of veterans who stopped here for drinks before shipping out to the Pacific-perhaps they all survived! We each try a different red-and like em both. Again, forgot to write it down! Great views from here.

Walked along California St. looking for lunch and find the Hide Out. We meet patrons John and Patrice who tell us there is no kitchen at this bar but they will be happy to order carry out! The manager (gal from Mongolia who managed to get to US and is learning English from another patron!) gives Patrice the phone and we order wraps from the Red Door deli. They are too busy to deliver so DH walks over (close) then we sit and talk for a long time. Nice nice people.
We figure out how to get to Alamo Square by bus and do so. Very pretty homes and some “iffies” – an area making a come back we read. DH notes that we have seen many German tourists on this trip btw. Book says that Fillmore street is intact since 1905 so we start walking it but it looks like newly-built apartments with a poor air. Anyway, we walk and spy the Japantown tower. Finally get to Sutter and DR starts to give out so we bus back to hotel.

Rochelle at desk gets us tickets to “Tribute”-person she talks with seems to be having 2 conversations-we are nervous! Anyway, we find Sears (which was in our book for breakfast) and decide to try it since it’s close to theatre. We have: Castlerock Pinot Noir to go with DR’s Sand Dabs in a shrimp and caper sauce (very good) and DH’s Yellow Tuna cooked on cedar plank (also very good). Both are served with rice pilaf, green beans and sour dough rolls. So far, each sour dough has been different!

Walked to the Post Street Theatre (on 2nd floor of a hotel-very pretty auditorium). At Will Call, they have no record of us. Grrr. But wait, they sort it out and we have great orchestra seats. The show is very entertaining. Guys impersonating Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and Joey Bishop are really good. They do a show ala Vegas. They did a receiving line after the show but we didn’t go through it. Went to the Sir Francis Drake hotel to see their Starlight Room but it was awfully loud and with a $10/head cover charge so we went back to the Rex’s bar for night cap then beddy bye!

Saturday, September 11, 2005

Today is Moon Festival Day and 4-years since the attack in New York. Breakfast at Sears as that is supposedly its forte. DH has Sydney’s Special (222) and DR has eggs with chicken apple sausage (only ok). Movie pictures around and older appliances. We’ll notice lines to this place later in our visit but we liked Lori’s better for breakfast.

Fortified, we stroll around Union Square. Some nice artwork. We took the #2 bus on Sutter and per driver’s direction, changed to the 28 at edge of Park Presidio. We passed along Clement Street, the “new” Chinatown in SF. Café, WC’s and gift shop precede the Golden Gate. Nice park there also. We go to the half-way point and look at the signs about the building of the bridge. Started in 1933 and finished in 1937. Got nice pix-no fog. Had nice time in gift shop-can of SF fog too large to pack!

Decided to go back to waterfront to find Scoma’s, a restaurant suggested by DH’s client and Fodorites. Took bus to Ft. Mason. We passed the Arts “palace” but didn’t stop this trip. Walked through Ft. Mason park (huge climb-but there were bikers and runners to put us to shame) over to Pier 39.

Lunch at Scoma: DH had pinot, lobster bisque, dungeness crab sandwich (good and big); DR had Merlot, grilled fresh salmon on bed of spinach and potatoes. Dessert was one of the best tiramisus yet-served with 2 chocolate spoons. Good food and we were glad we ate lunch there as it would have been expensive dinner. Could have gotten abalone for $68! Pix of entertainers on walls.

Took F trolley back to Powell St. Info Center where we just made it in time to buy one more day’s muni pass (again, a big savings as CC is $5 a shot!). We stroll back up the hill to drop stuff in room. A SF native sees us looking in the guide book and asks if she can help. She then comes after us to point out the Brown twins. A computer car drives by-guess it can “do” hills. After we pass Union Square, we see a wedding party getting pix by a fire truck! Naturally, the dresses are fire engine red! This is becoming more like Italy all the time.

We take CC to Cable Car museum and then back as DR getting pooped. She rallies as cute shop closed earlier is now open. Has cute papier mache clocks for $250! We decide to chart our next stop at the Rex bar. We meet a couple, Vanessa and Benjamin, who went ahead and took their planned vacation from New Orleans the day the levee broke. They didn’t think their home was flooded but were worried about looting. We sat and talked with them until after 8. Very nice people. DR crashes and DH gets some carryout from Lori’s then does the same!

Sunday, September 12, 2005

Today we have 12:45 tickets for Alcatraz. Decide to try for Haight-Ashbury in the a.m. but DR goofs up bus route so we turn around and stop at the Ferry Building. We take a peek in Hyatt with its several story high atrium and stroll through outdoor markets to Ferry Building. Zydeco band and food stalls outside; lots of permanent stalls inside. We found a schedule for Sausalito but we won’t have time. Had banana and amaretto gelatoes (not like Italy, sorry SF) and strolled. Saw stores for caviar, cheese, meets, wine, olive oil, sweets, etc.

We take the F back to Pier 39 and have enough time to see aquarium. Cool exhibit where people walk through tunnels surrounded by fish from local waters. Hustle over to long line for Ferry and get on easily. DR sits next to gal from France who loves shopping in America (so many choices!) and has been here at least 6 times and happy for Euro exchange. She says she thinks Americans don't like the French-DR says don't worry, we think the French don't like us. She kindly pretends to understand DR's fractured French and we discuss the languages we know enough of to make our "tonque salads"!

We have audio tour of Alcatraz and movie before which is very interesting. DR had forgotten about the Indian “invasion” in the 70s. They really put the finishing “touches” on already neglected staff homes. The cell block area is smaller than what one sees in the movies. Inmates sat at tables with cloths! Good tour.

Walked over to F but trolleys very full so we taxied to nearby Sheraton Palace to get a gander at lobby. A movie is being shot in the financial district so driver (who gave us a little hilly ride just for grins) let us off. We think we saw Will Smith! Nice gal keeping people out of the shoot says she has promised to not say anything about the movie. Anyway, we see the pretty Sheraton café then go back to Market Street to catch the right bus for Haight-Ashbury area.

There are many bars and retro stores. Some funky and some pretty places in this area. Lots of young folks strolling on a Sunday evening. Dan the bartender had told us about a place for breakfast but we went to Cha Cha Cha which was listed in several places as good for tapas. The dining room wasn’t ready so we went to the bar and found we could eat there also. Met Fidel (from San Fran) and Fonda (she from Switzerland-work, save, come to SF for a few months!) and talked and had our best meal so far: DH had Warm spinach salad, then Bistek Encebollado garlic and oregano with Spanish rice, black beans, yucca and caramelized onions-excellent taste. DR had Pargo Rojo-red snapper steamed in banana leaf served with banana dressing, rice black beans and fried plantains-very very good. Red wine-which?? Stayed and talked until we had to get the last bus. Back to room to pack.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Breakfast at Persimmon where DH tries pomegranate juice-it’s really good-and a chicken, gouda caramelize onion omelet. DR has sausage and eggs. Good food. Back to room and front desk to settle up and take our last walk down Powell to the BART station. No problems at all finding correct stuff and with our e-tickets, we avoid the huge United check-in line by using a machine. Flight back not full so we have 3 seats and are comfortable. DR buys chicken Caesar salad and it’s good, DH gets Tuscan wrap and it’s also good. We fly over Lake Tahoe-huge! DR finds SFranciscans somewhat like Italians-a bit standoffish until you say hello nicely and then you learn even more than you wanted to know! 300 photos means a great trip! We will return.
donco is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2005, 04:23 PM
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Hi, donco!

Such a great read!

Thanks so much for sharing!

It's always wonderful to see familiar places through someone else's lens and gain a fresh perspective!

Glad you liked Cha Cha Cha's. It's one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. I love their calamari and their sangria is to die for! We always order a pitcher of sangria and end up weaving out of the restaurant, happy as clams!

Thanks again for sharing!

easytraveler is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2005, 04:49 PM
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Hello donco, I soooo enjoyed your trip report!! Thank you for sharing your beautiful visit in SF. You two really got around, that is great. BTW, I am sorry to say that not every serviceman that had a "goodby" drink at the Mark Hopkins returned from the war. I always consider that lounge a bittersweet place.

Just one small correction (for anyone else visiting SF for the first time). Mason and Post is not in NorthBeach. Mason runs north and south. Post runs east to west on the north side of Union Sq. Mason and Post is just west of Union Sq. Again, just mentioning it for any new visitors to SF.

Donco, again, I really enjoyed your report. Hope you can return again in the future. Take care.
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2005, 05:03 PM
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What a fun trip! We wee just there in March to visit family, but we didn't cover near as much ground as you did. Sounds like you had a wonderful time!
mms is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2005, 11:24 PM
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Wonderful report, Donna! I appreciate all the detail.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2005, 07:23 AM
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Thanks to all for your kind words!

easytraveler, you would have been weaving with quite a few of us at Cha Cha Cha's! There and Hotel Rex dinner were the very best.

Hey, LoveItaly, I don't know why I wrote 'Mason and Post' in our notes about poet's corner. It must have been Grant and something-will figure that out for final album-good catch, and thanks for really reading the report! Regards to all, Donna
donco is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2005, 07:34 AM
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Great report, donco! We love san francisco too, truly one of the greatest cities in America. Thanks for sharing your trip.
ellen_griswold is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2005, 01:44 PM
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Hi donco, thanks for writing the report! I really did enjoy it. Hurry back!
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2005, 05:59 AM
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Thanks LoveItaly. BTW, DH and I love Italy also. Do you have some trip reports? Can/may I click on your name to find them?
donco is offline  
Old Sep 23rd, 2005, 03:30 PM
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I can't figure out the correct cross street for the Poet's Corner sidwalk plaque in North Beach yet. Forgive me for topping again, but if anyone knows, please advise. It was Grant and maybe Green? After we passed it, there was a big red hotel ....something Tivoli? Thanks as always!
donco is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2005, 10:26 AM
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Topping for Sam and for Poet's Corner help from other Fodorites.
donco is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2005, 10:57 AM
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Hi donco, I am sorry I do not know where the Poets Corner Plaque is in North Beach.

I went to Google to see if I could find any information but did not have any success. The mystery deepens, LOL.

Green St. does cross Grant but I can't place the hotel you described and can't find a hotel in North Beach by that name.

Did you by any chance walk on Green St., to or from Grant? If so, do you remember passing the Green St. Mortuary and/or O'Reilly's Irish Restaurant? If so then Grant and Green St. would be correct.
Best wishes..and hopefully someone here will be able to give the correct answer.
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2005, 08:32 PM
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Thanks LoveItaly, We walked from Coit Tower and took a right on Grant. The hotel (and bar) is Savoy Tivoli-big red building. Corner had to be within the few blocks along there. We turned back on Columbus. Don't have the bar or mortuary in our notes. We'll get it solved.
ps, Do you have favorite place(s) in Italy-we got soooo hooked on that country that this was our first trip EVER to u.s. west coast!
donco is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2005, 08:49 PM
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OK donco, the Savoy-Tivoli is on Grant St between Green St and Union St., east of Columbus.

donco, I do love all of Italy and can't really say that I can chose one area over another however I do find the region of Veneto so peaceful and lovely. And I love the Dolomites. But that does not mean I do not enjoy the balance of Italy. I have been meaning to post some "out of the way" places that most travellers don't go to and have never done it. Your question makes me realize I really want to do this. However a car would be needed. What are your favorite areas or regions in Italy? Isn't is a beautiful country. Wish I was there right now to tell you the truth. Best regards.
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2005, 09:17 PM
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Was going to say "glad someone else can't sleep" but I think we are in different time zones! It must have been on Green-I'll keep checking.
Your out of the way report would be wonderful. DH and I often try to figure out our favorite place in Italy. We returned to Venice, Pisa, Florence and Rome for savoring and lingering. Loved Sorrento and that area. Spent time in Bologna last trip and had a wonderful time. A big fave was Sicily-cathedral in Monreale amazing. Also had a great time in Umbria-hotel staff in Spoleto made it special. You're right-it's hard to choose. Please do your report-maybe I can get DH to rent a car!
Thanks again for SF info, DR
donco is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2005, 10:16 PM
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Hi donco, the time posted on Fodors is US eastern time. For example as I type this PDT is 10:13pm. Bologna, I love that city!! Isn't it wonderful.

I have sort of a confusing week coming up but after that I will try to post the "out of the way" places. BTW, I have never been to Sicily, unfortunatly. Best wishes.
LoveItaly is offline  
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