Monday, October 1, 2012

San Francisco highlights and tips

Lombard. - Crookedest St. in the World
I have visited San Francisco twice now, once over the Christmas holidays and then again last week. Even if the weather doesn't drop so much in the Winter, September is definitely a favorite. Offering cool morning and evening but really decent days (usually around 20-25 degrees Celsius or 68-77 Fahrenheit), this makes it great to walk around and enjoy the city without getting too hot or too cold.

San Francisco's Highlights 


Lombard St. is all floral in September and very typical (steep) San Francisco St. make sure you make it to the 0.5 mile stretch that curl as a snake (between Hyde & Leaveworth).

The mythic prison of Alcatraz offers audioguides with your ferry transfer. If you get on the island before 3 pm, there is a free guided walking tour of about 45 minutes given by the National Park Services (NPS). It is well worth it if you want to know more about Alcatraz's history before it was turned into a federal prison. Make sure you leave yourself enough time, ferries are every 35 minutes and I would suggest allow yourself 3 hours on the island to make the most of it. Although Alcatraz is a National Heritage Site, the ferry to it is managed by a private company. Therefore, if you have an Annual NPS Pass, it won't be of any use for your visit to Alcatraz. Cruises depart at Pier 33 and fill up quickly, book yours before you visit the Bay to make sure you don't miss out.

View of Union Square (Macy's store) from the Grand Hyatt
Union Square is must when you visit San Fran. If you enjoy shopping, you'll enjoy the area with Macy's, Neiman Marcus and all other brand names you would expect to see in a major city. If you are not into shopping or if you need some fuel, The Cheesecake Factory on the Macy's last floor or the Grandviews Lounge at the Grand Hyatt are both really interesting option to dine or just to enjoy drinks with a view. There is almost a 100% of the time a line-up at the Cheesecake , so if you can, make a reservation ahead. The Grandviews Lounge is on the 36th floor of the newly renovated Grand Hyatt and offers breathtaking views of the Bay. Live music in the evening and drinks and snacks are surprisingly not overpriced for a hotel.

The Golden Gate Bridge is the iconic figure of the city. A great way to enjoy it is through a bike ride across the bridge to Sausalito. The bike path runs along the Bay and on the other side, you can have a nice lunch in Sausalito. Sausalito is a little refined town that offers local shops, great restaurants and caf├ęs.To complete your loop, take the ferry back (bikes are allowed on the ferry). The bike and roll shops are a great easy option (many location in the North Beach).

Katana-Ya on Urbanspoon
Katana-Ya Ramen is a local favorite when it comes to Japanese comfort food. Arrive early, because this gem doesn't accept reservation and can only sit about twenty-five at once. The line can deter a few but their warm soups are so yummy that I would suggest it anyway. Located at the corner of Geary & Mason, the portions are very generous and the price more than fair.

Fang on Urbanspoon
Fang is a nice Chinese restaurant next to Moscone Center and the SFMOMA. If you are in town for a conference, this is a great place to end the day or take guests if you enjoy Chinese cuisine. The Fang's have been running restaurants in San Francisco since 1988 (their original and still open venture being The House of Nanking), now Peter joins with his daughter for this most refined experience that Fang offers loyal customers. Located on Howard near 3rd St.

Cafe de la Presse on UrbanspoonWhen it comes to breakfast, Cafe de la Presse knows how to make great eggs benedict. Offering the traditional ham option, they also offer the norvegian (replacing ham by salmon). Their hollandaise sauce, the make or break of that dish, is well-done. If you understand French, they have a large selection of French magazines and newspapers for you to read. Located at Grant & Bush St.

The cable car on Mason & Powell
Other things most tourists do in San Francisco include a trip to Fisherman's Wharf. Although it's a pleasant walk along the water, it is the place where most tourists traps are located (think restaurants, souvenirs shops, etc.). The cable car is also a tourist favorite but at $7 per person per trip, it becomes expensive quickly. If you happen to be on Mason and you get a chance to get on it (there is usually a line), I would say go for it. It's fun but it gets old quickly...

There is way more this city has to offer, think biggest Chinatown outside Asia, the Golden Gate Park or the  great Modern Art Museum (SFMOMA), designed by Mario Botta (truly a signature building in the area), you won't get bored quickly in this west coast's favorite.

Enjoy California and make sure your trip to San Fran is one to remember!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Vanessa,

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