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San Fran/Monterey trip report

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My husband and I just returned from San Francisco and Monterey. These boards were so helpful we'd like to return the favor. Here goes....
We flew into SF last Tuesday and chose a door to door van for the trip to the hotel. It was $16pp, much cheaper than a taxi and well worth it. There were others in the van with us but we didn't mind. It really was like a little tour of the city before we got there. We stayed at the Argonaut hotel down in Fisherman's wharf. It was fantastic! We got the hotel on Priceline for $100/night. The hotel's normal rate was around $250. The Argonaut is nautically themed, clean, crisp and friendly. It is part of the cannery. Lots of exposed brick, wooden beams and charm. There is a nice lobby with a fireplace, free wireless in the rooms, bathrobes and a super location. Next door is a charming brick area with restaurants, ice cream and a stage with live music during the day. A few blocks down is the heart of the Wharf: all the seafood stands, ferries to alcatraz and sausalito etc. Pier 39 is also right there. The pier is filled with restaurants an shops, touristy but worth the trip. On the side of Pier 39 are floating docks with sunbathing sea lions. On the other side of the hotel is the turnaround for the Hyde Street Trolley. Beyond that is Ghiradelli Square which we did not visit. I think a lot of it is under construction.
The first night we walked up to Northbeach for dinner. An easy walk from the hotel to many restaurants. We ate at Trattoria Volare. Nothing fancy but really terrific homemade pasta. Walking home at night was a fabulous view.
Next day we took the Hyde Street Trolley up to Union Square. It takes about 10-15 minutes in between trolleys so be prepared for a wait. There are weight requirements so they have to space them out. We walked around Union Square area. Very pretty, big hotels and major department stores. Sort of like midtown manhattan. We then walked through Chinatown and caught the California St. Trolley down to the Embarcadero area. We walked around the Ferry building which is a very pretty spot. It is a great place for a meal, we timed it wrong so we were disappointed. Many people raved about the Slanted Door which is right there as well as nice bread and cheese markets for a picnic on the docks. We then took the trolley back to the top of Lombard Street. We walked down Lombard st all the way to Coit Tower to see the view. It was long but worth it. Then back to the Wharf. The second night we went to Russian Hill (up the Hyde St trolley) to a restaurant called Little Thai. There were people waiting outside to get in to this tiny little place. It was well worth the wait. Inventive, inexpensive and delicious! We had a duck salad appetizer that was fantastic!
Next day we picked up our rental car and headed over the GG bridge to sausalito. We weren't sure what to expect but it is jaw-droppingly beautiful! Time it so you can have breakfast or lunch there. It is small so you can easily see the town in an hour or two but you won't want to leave right away.
Next it was off to the Muir Woods. A nice easy drive on fun curvy roads. We took an hour and a half hike around the redwoods and enjoyed every minute of it. We had a picnic in a scenic area and than headed back to the GG bridge to head south to Monterey. It was very easy to find, signs are very clear. We took route 1 South and drove along the coast. Wow! Just when you think it can't get any more beautiful, it does! We drove through mountains, beaches, strawberry fields and farms. It took about two hours to get to Monterey. We were staying at the Monterey Hyatt Regency. We got it on Priceline the night before and we DO NOT recommend it! At one time it was probably very nice but those days have come and gone. The stairs and elevator smell of mold and mildew and the rooms also smelled. We had to change once and finally got a room with a terrace and an overhead fan. That didn't cure the problem but helped a lot. Okay, on to Monterey restaurants. The first night the concierge sent us to Blue Moon. It is on Cannery Row in the Spindrift Hotel (which looks really nice) The view was great, food very mediocre. The next day we were off to Pacific Grove. Breakfast at a place called Aliota's, I think? Right on the main street of PG. Very nice family place. We drove Sunset drive out on the beach. We stopped and climbed some huge rocks right on the Pacific, really fun. We Drove the 17 mile drive and stopped at Pebble beach. Really worth a stop. My husband, a golfer, was blown away but it is pretty amazing even for non-golfers! There is a fee of $8.75 to get on the 17 mile drive but, it's worth it. Dinner was back in PG at Passionfish. We had heard about it on this sight and it was fantastic. Very inventive and delicious. Very reasonable too.
The next night was also from this site: Fishwives. Great pick, reasonably priced.
We spent a day in Carmel. Really pretty town, sort of like Bridgehampton, NY. There is a beautiful beach right at the end of main street where we spent a few hours.
Final day: We drove Route 1 South to San Simeon for a tour of Hearst Castle. The drive is amazing! It's really a two hour drive but we took more like three b/c there was so much to see! There are several places where you can see sea lions. The drive goes right through Big Sur which is beautiful. We stopped for lunch at the Ragged Point Inn. It was a great spot. Nice motel. Good burgers. Awesome views.
Hearst Castle is well worth it. We didn't expect it to live up to the hype but, it did. Very nice tour.
That was pretty much our trip. I hope I wasn't too wordy!

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