19 December 2016

Travelogue: San Francisco, Oct. 2016 - Rain can't drown this city's charms

My wife and I just can't stay away from San Francisco. We first visited 40+ years ago for our honeymoon. We liked it so much, we moved there for a year. Though we didn't stay, we have made many return visits over the years. It's the city we travel to most often for leisure. So we know it pretty well.

Our October trip was technically a business trip. We did have a meeting on one day. But we extended our stay so that we'd have time to take in our favorite activities and visit some favorite restaurants. One little glitch - it rained. Quite a lot, actually. But we still made our way around the city and visited familiar locales. Some of the others who were involved in the meeting used the opportunity to go to museums. The city has great museums. But on this trip, we didn't join them. Another couple had a break of good luck and went on a harbor cruise - no rain, lucky them. We've been on the harbor cruise before. It's fun.

Lodging: The meeting planner made arrangements for us to stay at the University Club on Nob Hill. It wasn't really the kind of hotel that we would normally consider, and we had some problems there. When we checked into our room, there was a very strong odor that made us think of some kind of cleaning product or solvent. It was not at all tolerable. The management was prompt in addressing the problem. But the scent still lingered, and we left the window open and the ceiling fan running the whole time we were there. Also, this is a private club, and club members are their priority. So one night during our stay, we had planned to go to the bar for a drink before dinner. But the bar was reserved for a members-only event. I must say that we found the staff to be very friendly and helpful. But I wouldn't really recommend the University Club for a SF stay, unless you're really into that kind of experience.
Day or night, a walk along the Embarcadero is fun

Of the many times we've stayed in San Francisco, we've never stayed on Nob Hill. Besides the University Club, which I don't recommend, there are other very nice hotels on the Hill. It's actually a pretty good location. Two blocks down the hill one direction is Chinatown. Three or four blocks down the hill in another direction is Union Square. North Beach is an easy walk as is the Embarcadero and even Fisherman's Wharf ... all down the hill. The trouble is, eventually you have to go back up the hill. And it's steep. By the end of our 3-day stay, we all were tired and sore from hiking up the hill. I decided that if I ever stay on Nob Hill in the future, I'll by a cable car pass for as many days as I'm staying. Then I'll walk down, and just ride the cable car up when I return to the hotel.

Music: SF has a good music scene, and my wife and I have found good live music on each of our visits in the past. This time, we only had one free evening. We went to the Top of the Mark (located on the top floor of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel). It's a pretty glitzy place with a breathtaking price tag that goes along with the view. On the night we went there (with a group of people) we heard a very entertaining, high energy R&B band. They were great. The drinks were great. The view would have been great, but it was rainy and foggy, so we couldn't see much.
Dinner at Kokkari

Restaurants: Whenever we go to San Francisco, we always have a dilemma about where to eat. Over the years, we enjoyed many really great restaurants, and we're always tempted to go back again. But on the other hand, there are so many good places to eat in the City that we want to try new places. One of our return visits on this trip was an elegant Greek restaurant - Kokkari Estiatorio. I've written about it on this blog; click here to read my past review. Another return visit was at Rose's Cafe for lunch while shopping on Union Street. Click here for my previous post.
The Bay Bridge, after dinner at Waterbar

  • Waterbar - This actually was a return visit for my wife and me. But for some reason, I never wrote a blog post about it. This time, we went with a group of 8. That can be pretty challenging for a restaurant, especially when it's as busy as Waterbar was the night we were there. They did pretty well under the circumstances. We did have to wait a while for our table, even though we had a reservation for 8:30. But once we got seated, everything went quite smoothly. Our server was very patient, accommodating, and professional. It takes a while for 8 people to decide what to eat. Our server hung back, let us take our time, and then swooped in to take our orders when we were ready. The food was excellent, just as it was the other time we ate there. I started with a seafood chowder and for my meal, I ordered scallops served with sweet potato gnocchi. The scallops actually were an appetizer portion, and there were only two of them. It might not have been enough, but my wife share some of her ample portion of tuna. The ambiance is very chic and attractive. The restaurant is located in the shadow of the Bay Bridge. Our table was near a window and we had a gorgeous view of the bridge and the light sculpture by Leo Villareal. As you would expect, the meal was not inexpensive. But it was worthwhile considering the stylish venue and delicious food.
  • The Slanted Door - A friend of mine recommended this Vietnamese restaurant a few years ago. I never seriously considered it. It's located in the Ferry Building, and I expected that it just catered to tourists and passengers arriving on the ferries from around the Bay. Boy was I wrong. We met some relatives there on a rainy Saturday afternoon, their choice. For a table of 6, we ordered several items from the menu and shared all around. It was excellent. Our server was pretty laid back and not particularly attentive. But his recommendations on what to order were great. I would definitely consider a return visit. 
Lunch at the Slanted Door

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