Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Home is where the Heart is: San Francisco

My first entry - I have oodles of stuff from all over the globe, but my first entry has to be about San Francisco! Stealing an idea from United Airlines in flight magazine, I give you:
One Perfect Day in San Francisco

If you are an early bird and like to run, head out to the Embarcadero. This is one of the few flat areas of the city and on the "warmer" side of town.

If you still have energy, climb the Filbert Street stairs. These are pretty famous, but hard to find. You'll find the entrance on Sansome, between Greenwich and Union St. The famous wild parrots of Telegraph Hill can be found along these stairs and you will see one of the few remaining wooden roads along the climb (can you imagine LIVING there? How do you get the groceries in?). Keep climbing and you'll reach Coit Tower at the top and 360 views of SF.

Once you've burned a few calories, it is time to earn them. The Park Chalet opens at 8am for brunch on the weekends and has some great bloody mary's to help start your day off right. (UPDATE: Recently visited Park Chalet and the Sunday Brunch SUCKS! Visit Absinthe in Hayes Valley instead and ask for Josef. You won't regret it!) Once you have stumbled out of the Park Chalet, head up the Great Highway to the ruins of Sutro Baths. I've been here a dozen times and still love it. There is a cliff to climb, a tunnel, big waves, ruins and bird-watching. How can you go wrong? Of course, this is probably a good time to warn you that at all times you must be ready for huge temperature changes in SF. Sutro gets strong breezes off the ocean and lots of fog. You've been warned.

From Sutro, work your way across Golden Gate Bridge. Seriously, drive slowly across the bridge - locals LOVE it. Well, it isn't too bad if you stay in the right lane. Once you cross the bridge, skip the Vista exit (too crowded) and go to the next exit: Alexander. As you exit, cross back under the highway, follow the road as it starts to go up the hill. Stay to the left if you are presented with a fork in the road. At some point, you will be above the towers of Golden Gate Bridge. I refer to this area as the Marin Headlands - not sure if that is the official name or not. At the top are old tunnels from a military fort and a hill to climb to reach "Hawk Hill". The random ruins are cool to see and the tunnels are fun. (Bring a flashlight - one tunnel has cave paintings in it!). On a foggy day, you may not be able to see the city but standing up there in the mist and hearing the fog horns is just amazing. As you drive back down the hill, take advantage of the turn-offs on this side of the road for different views of the city and the Bridge.

Head back across GG Bridge (don't forget to drive super-slow) and be sure to have your cash ready for the toll booth. Back in the city, head to the parking garage at Sutter and Stockton, near Union Square. You are going to be parked for awhile and this is the largest and best-value garage in the area.

Head out to the Chinatown gate on Grant Ave and just enjoy yourself. There are plenty of places to eat in Chinatown and I would encourage you to just pick one and try it (maybe check first). Two things you really want to see in Chinatown: the Tien Hau Temple (unmarked on the outside, trust the address you have, climb the stairs and have your fortune told) and the Golden Gate Cookie Factory. Chinatown might be a bit overwhelming and I've sent you down some dark alleys for cookies and up scary stairs in a tiny building...but I have always felt perfectly safe in Chinatown day or night.

You are in the area, so it is time to visit Union Square. If you love to shop, this is the place. Of course, our sales tax is almost 10% now, so watch out. The green center in Union Square is a great place to people watch and if you decide to ride the cable cars, stand in line at the cablecar turnaround at Powell and Market. If you are still hungry and the weather is good, Belden Place has tons of cafes, all with outdoor seating. Warning: Sunday until about 5pm is deader than a doornail around here. Forget about Sunday brunch in Belden Place.

Now that you've spent all your money at Prada, Tiffany's and William-Sonoma, time to think about your evening plans. Hopefully you are staying in or near Union Square and have time to change out the hiking clothes for something snazzier. SF isn't a formal-wear kind of city, but people do display a bewildering mix of fashion around here.

Since you are smart and read this blog, you already have reservations and the password for your pre-dinner cocktails at the secret speakeasy Bourbon and Branch. By this time you probably think I'm crazy as you walk along (in your fun night-on-the-town dress-up clothes) a seedier area of San Francisco. Trust me, you are going to be fine. Just don't make eye-contact.

Once you've enjoyed a few cocktails at B&B, catch a cab and head out to Ana Mandara. This place has been around for a while and I recommend going earlier in the evening - they have an odd tendency to break out the disco balls and rave music on the weekends. No idea what that is all about. After you have stuffed yourself on the wokked tournedos of beef and the garlic noodles, cross the street and walk into Aquatic Park. I adore this area at night - the view is great and the tourists leave this place alone at night so it is relatively quiet and peaceful. Oops. You are a tourist aren't you? Well, don't let any other tourists know the secret!

Time to catch a cab and head back to your hotel. Unless. . . you feel like doing something totally childish, foolish and drunk: Seward Street Slides. I cannot be held responsible if you end up touring our city hospital (as a patient) afterwards.


  1. Agh!! Just visited Park Chalet and the Sunday brunch thing totally sucks now. Skip it - go to Hayes Valley instead and visit Absinthe. Ask for Josef and have the best brunch ever!

  2. In the Hyatt Hotel in Singapore lies just about my favorite restaurant in the world. The Meza 9 has nine different Asian kitchens all of which you can choose to sit around to observe the chef's skills. along with the best and award winning martini bar in Singapore this place has Shakour written all over it!