A City to Enjoy Over and Over Again

The City by the Bay never disappoints. San Francisco has a plethora of sites and sounds to enjoy, not to mention outstanding restaurants and neighborhoods.

Union Square across from the Westin St. Francis

We spent January 20-23, 2011  back in the city we’ve visited at least four times before including out honeymoon 20 years ago. For this trip we stayed at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square. Usually, we choose bed and breakfasts, enjoying the unique accommodations and the morning meal. My husband, who travels on business often, used his Starwood points to book three nights for $60 per night. You can’t go wrong with that. This Westin property was perfect for a long weekend. We purchased two Muni passes for $20 each and traveled all over town throughout the weekend saving a fortune on a rental car and hotel parking which runs about $50 per night.

The weather was outstanding. I should have brought a few short-sleeved shirts and even shorts. Never having been to SF in January, I knew the temperatures could fluctuate between 50 and 60 but each day, temperatures were at least 65.

Hyde-Powell Cable line heading to Hyde Pier on left

Our first day included a Hyde-Powell cable car ride to Hyde Pier which is a federal site. Several tall ships and schooners are docked there. We strolled the dock in warm sunshine and admired all of the history. There were only a handful of people at the pier mid-afternoon on a Thursday. It was wonderful to see people actually swimming in the bay.

For dinner, we took a trolley on Market Street to the Ferry Building which is now home to gourmet shops, restaurants and ferry docks to Sausalito and Tiburon. We enjoyed the happy hour

Yummy clam chowder

prices on oysters, outstanding clam chowder and beer at Hog Island Oyster Company.

We hopped another trolley (Route 45) and headed to Union Street where we got off at Hyde for some tapas at a Spanish restaurant, Zarzuela. We ordered three small plates and some sangria. Directly opposite Zarzuela is an ice cream shop, Swenson’s. We enjoyed a cone while standing outside across the street from a laundromat with one of the coolest names I’ve ever seen, “The Missing Sock.” (San Francisco seems to have dozens of laundromats – many with unique names.) With the weather so

 

A sign showing you can't forget you are in earthquake country.

marvelous, we decided to take a ferry to Sausalito Friday morning. We skipped the pricier options for traveling to the island (ferries along Fisherman’s Wharf) and took the $8.25 one-way ferry to Sausalito. We walked and walked; admiring the marina, the shops and enjoyed the warm, pleasant weather. While most of the attractions

A perfect day for a ferry ride to Sausalito - just $8.25 one way.

are on the north side, we walked south and mingled with the residents. We enjoyed lunch at Sausalito Taco Shop on Bridgeway. Since it’s five o’clock somewhere, I had a margarita with lunch; my husband enjoyed a Mexican brew.

After walking to the north end of Bridgeway and checking out the many shops along with enjoying the street musicians, we took the ferry back at 3:30 p.m.

Houseboats, sailboats, even a floating home that looks like the Taj Mahal - all in Sausalito.

Dinner Friday took us to North Beach via bus from the hotel. We ate at Sindoni’s where we had eaten in 2007. The family-run restaurant is outstanding with homemade sauce and pasta, wonderful fish and veal selections and great local customers.

We were also in North Beach since we had tickets to see Beach Blanket Babylon. The comedy-musical satire show has been running for more than 30 years. It’s a difficult show to describe. The outlandish costumes and headdresses worn by the performers accentuate the amazing music and comedy that satirizes today’s politics, pop culture, religion and more. The show has a San Francisco flavor so it’s unlike anything you might see elsewhere.

Lombard entrance to the massive Presidio - a military site turned commercial, park & residential in 1994.

Saturday after I headed to the hotel gym for a morning workout, we decided to explore the vast area known as the Presidio. We again took the 45 bus to the end which let us off at the Presidio’s Lombard gate. we walked for several miles through lush grounds and streets lined with homes and buildings renovated after the military turned over the base for civilian use in 1994. Had we been better prepared, we would have sought out bicycles to rent since everything we wanted to see was so far away. We should have hopped the free shuttle bus that circles the Presidio, but it only runs once an hour on weekends.

We decided to take the 45 back along Union Street. We explored the shops for a few blocks. My husband had a real longing for sushi, so we hopped the 22 trolley to Japantown. You can get your fill of sushi at the restaurant that created the sushi

Sushi via conveyor boat in Japantown

boat that floats on a conveyor as you sit at the counter. Not being a tremendous sushi fan, I did truly enjoy the pieces I ate in this unique setting. After resting at the hotel, it was time for another meal. Saturday night can be hellish in San Francisco if you don’t have a reservation – and we did not.

But we headed to Fillmore to a Peruvian restaurant – Fresca. The 30-seat restaurant was not too crowded at 6 p.m. We were offered a table or seats at the bar. Since Fresca does not serve hard liquor – only beer and wine, you can watch the chefs cook in the open kitchen. What a treat. Many locals eat at Fresca often as we found out. A nice couple chatted with us as we waited for our delectable dishes. I enjoyed the sea bass and risotto – my husband had a chicken stew. The best was last as we shared a dessert – the beignets. The fried dough was rolled in cinnamon-sugar and placed on a pool of a caramel-apple syrup and sprinkled with powdered sugar. New Orleans has nothing on this Peruvian version of lusciousness.

View of the Palace of the Fine Arts form the Presidio.

While I had originally planned to spend out time in San Francisco exploring some museums we have not visited yet, the weather was so outstanding, we couldn’t resist spending as much time as possible outdoors. We sat for about an hour in Union Square; we walked everywhere we didn’t take the bus to and enjoyed two breakfasts at Roxanne’s at Powell and Bush where we had eaten a few years back.

I certainly did leave my heart in San Francisco, returning to the east coast and another snow storm. As the former California governor says, “I’ll be back.”

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