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San Francisco - City of Romance PDF Print E-mail
Written by Debra C. Argen   

San Francisco - Golden Gate BridgeWhat could be more romantic than visiting San Francisco, California with your special someone? Toney Bennett definitely struck the right chord when he sang, "I left my heart in San Francisco." 

 

 

Founded by the Spaniards in 1776, San Francisco, population of around 750,000, has been a city of excitement ever since the California gold rush days in 1848. The "City by the Bay" with its distinctive Golden Gate Bridge landmark has been wooing visitors with the promise of romance with its historic cable cars, stunning views, culture, gastronomy, and architecture, most notably San Francisco's "painted ladies," which are the colorful Victorian mansions.

Winter temperatures on the east coast were a rollercoaster ride rocketing from lows in the single digits to highs in the teens, Fahrenheit not Celsius, the sky was bleak and gray, and Edward and I were ready for a warm weather respite. Sunny San Francisco with temperatures at 58°F and warmer (+14°C) was the perfect weekend getaway.

Campton PlaceWe stayed at the 110-room (9 are suites) luxury boutique hotel, Campton Place - A Taj Hotel, a glistening historic gem located in the heart of Union Square, which should come with the warning, Shoppers' Paradise, as the streets are lined with famous designer boutiques and well-known department stores including Nordstrom, Saks, and Macy's.

From our opulent corner room, we had a perfect birds' eye view of Union Square, which was a surreal setting with its annual holiday ice-skating rink where skaters glided over the ice, while palm trees gently swayed in the park.

The hotel may be small in stature, but it is large on amenities, including its elegant fine dining restaurant, the Campton Place Restaurant, where Executive Chef Srijith Gopinathan creates culinary masterpieces to pair with Master Sommelier Richard Dean's wine selections from a wine cellar boasting 20,000 wines; Campton Place Bar and Bistro, an intimate space for casual dining as well as inspired cocktails; a well-equipped Fitness Center; a Business Center; and even a special complimentary car service in the early morning and afternoon that is perfect for business travelers.

Campton Place Bar and Bistro
Campton Place Bar and Bistro

Read other articles on Campton Place - A Taj Hotel in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, and Chefs' Recipes sections.

Taj Hotels Resorts and PalacesCampton Place San Francisco, A Taj Hotel
Campton Place - A Taj Hotel
340 Stockton Street
San Francisco, California 94108, United States
Telephone:     +1-415-781-5555
Email:             
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Email:             
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
www.TajHotels.com

San Francisco has so much to offer visitors, and from the hotel's convenient location, and using the CityPass (valid for 7-days includes Muni and Cable Car transportation, and admission to 5 attractions) and the Go San Francisco Card (includes admission to dozens of attractions as well as discounts on shopping and dining) we were able to explore a great deal of the city. These days when time, as well as value, are more important than ever for travelers, the passes offer not only excellent value, but also include entrance admissions or discount admission, and not having to wait in long entrance lines.

China Town The neighborhoods of San Francisco are culturally diverse, and we enjoyed strolling through Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in the United States, and the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. We entered through the landmark "Dragon's Gate" on Grant Avenue and absorbed the culture and the architecture as we browsed in the shops.

Using our CityPass, we rode the famous historic cable cars, which have been operating since the late 19th century, daily during our stay to not only see the city, but also as a way to avoid walking up and down the steep hills. We rode the Powell-Mason line, which took us down to Fisherman's Wharf; and the Powell-Hyde line to Ghirardelli Square where one of the stops is Lombard Street. Historic Cable Car Fare for Adults is $5.00 one-way. The CityPass provides visitors with unlimited rides on the Historic Cable Cars.

Historic Cable Car - Debra riding the car
Historic Cable Car

Riding the cable cars also gave us an opportunity to see the varying architecture of the city, including San Francisco's famous Victorian houses, colorfully referenced as "Painted Ladies" which are Victorian houses painted three or more colors to highlight their ornate embellishments. There are three distinct Victorian styles in San Francisco: Queen Anne, popular from 1885 - 1905, the most ornate, with steeply pitched roofs, stained glass windows, turrets, gingerbread, and asymmetric design; Italianate, popular between 1845-1860, distinguished by rectangular, symmetrical designs, and elaborate details; and Stick-Style, popular from 1905-1920, which are the plainest of the Victorians.

Victorian Houses in San Francisco
Victorian Houses - "Painted Ladies"

Sea Lions at Pier 39, San FranciscoIt was beautifully warm and sunny during our trip, and we took a 1-hour Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, which provided us with the opportunity to see the famous Pier 39 sea lions basking in the sun on floating docks, the infamous Alcatraz Prison, nicknamed "The Rock," set on a 22-acre island, which during its 29-years of operation as a federal prison held such infamous notables as Al "Scarface" Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Robert Franklin Stroud - the Birdman of Alcatraz.

Alcatraz
Alcatraz

Coit Tower, San FranciscoWe passed Coit Tower, the 48-story Transamerica Pyramid, which is the tallest structure in San Francisco, and of course, San Francisco's most iconic landmark, the 1.2 mile Golden Gate Bridge, which took 4 years to build and opened in May 1937. Contrary to its name, the suspension bridge is actually painted "international orange."

The Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise is offered  daily with a fare of $10 for adults, which is included with the purchase of a CityPass.

 

Debra and Edward with Golden Gate Bridge
Debra and Edward Cruise By Golden Gate Bridge

Blue & Gold Fleet
Pier 39
The Embarcadero at Beach Street
San Francisco, California 94133, United States
Telephone:     +1-415-705-8200
Fax:                +1-415-705-5429
Email:             
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www.BlueandGoldFleet.com

The Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 was also of great interest, where one of the highlights was walking through 300 feet of acrylic tunnels under San Francisco Bay where we were fascinated as we watched the leopard sharks, big skates, bat rays, and sevengill sharks, swimming over and around us. For non-divers, the tunnel provides visitors with the opportunity to see what scuba divers experience, without ever getting wet.

Aquarium Sharks - Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco
Aquarium of the Bay Sharks

The Aquarium of the Bay is open 364-days, and is closed on December 25th. Summer hours are 9:00 am - 8:00 pm daily; Fall through winter hours are Monday through Thursday from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm, and extended hours until 7:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is charged; Adults: $14.95, Seniors age 65+: $8.00, Children ages 3-11: $8.00, Children under 3 are free, Family Rate: $37.95 (2 adults and 2 children. Admission is included with the CityPass and also with the Go San Francisco Card.

The Aquarium of the Bay
Pier 39
The Embarcadero at Beach Street
San Francisco, California 94133, United States
Telephone:       +1-415-623-5300
Toll-Free:         1-888-SEA-DIVE
www.AquariumOfTheBay.com

We also visited the Hyde Street Pier, where the historic steam and sailing vessels are part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is open daily. Although entrance to the park is free, there is a small admission fee to tour the ships.

Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco
Hyde Street Pier

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Building E, Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, California 94123, United States
Telephone:       +1-415-447-5000
www.NPS.gov/safr

Always looking for exciting new adventures, we drove the GoCar, which are bright yellow, three-wheel open cars that are GPS Guided Storytelling cars that have been entertaining visitors since 2004. With Edward behind the wheel, and me strapped in beside him with my camera in hand, we drove through the streets of San Francisco, guided by GPS and our recorded tour guide that is available in 5 languages, passing San Francisco's most famous highlights including Lombard Street, known as the crooked street.

Debra, Edward, Nathan Withrington - GoCar
Debra, Edward, and Nathan Withington - GoCar

What we liked about the GoCar is that we could stop whenever we wanted to take photographs, and the guided tour would pick back up when we put the car in gear. Discounted rental fees are available with the CityPass and the Go San Francisco card.

GoCar on Lombard Street, San Francisco
Driving the GoCar on Lombard Street

GoCar
2715 Hyde Street
San Francisco, California, United States

GoCar The GoCar
GoCar

GoCar
321 Mason Street at O'Farrell (just off Union Square)
San Francisco, California, United States
Telephone:       +1-415-441-5695
Toll-Free:         1-800-91-GoCar
www.GoCarSF.com

We also took a narrated tour of San Francisco onboard the Gray Line Trolley, a 1-hour 15-minute tour, which provided us with the opportunity to get on and off to experience different sights of the city. Riding in a motorized trolley, our driver provided us with an interesting view of the city, where a few of the many highlights of the tour included Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, North Beach, Union Square, and seeing the mansions in prestigious Nob Hill.

Gray Line Trolley - Ed Hanging On
Gray Line Trolley

The Gray Line Trolley runs daily from 10:00 am - 3:00 pm. Check their website for holiday schedules. Adult Fare is $19, but is included with the Go San Francisco.

Gray Line Trolley
Pier 41 at Fisherman's Wharf
San Francisco, California, United States
Telephone:       +1-415-434-6867
Toll-Free:         1-888-428-6937
www.GrayLineSanFrancisco.com

Culture Bus, San FranciscoSan Francisco is a city committed to the arts, and boarding the 74X CultureBus that makes stops at the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) was a great way to make the most of our time. Fare for Adults is $7 per day, Seniors $5 per day, and $3 per day for CityPass holders, is good for unlimited travel in any direction between 8:40 am - 5:50 pm, with the ability to hop on and off throughout the day. Busses run every 20 minutes.

San Francisco Museum of Modern ArtWe visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), which is an architectural stunner focused on modern and contemporary art. During our visit we saw the exhibition Matisse and Beyond - The Photography Collection.

The museum is open Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11:00 am - 5:45 pm; Thursday from 11:00 am - 8:45 pm; and is closed on Wednesday. Admission is charged, Adults $12, Seniors (62+ years) $8.00, Students with current ID $7.00, Children under 12 free; Thursday evenings half-price admission from 6:00 pm - 8:45 pm; and First Tuesday of the month free admission. Admission is included with the CityPass and Go San Francisco Card.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
151 Third Street (between Mission and Howard Streets)
San Francisco, California, 94103 United States
Telephone:     +1-415-357-4000
Fax:                +1-415-357-4037
www.SFMOMA.com

The Rainforest at California Academy of Sciences, San FranciscoAnother interesting museum that we visited was the California Academy of Sciences, which opened in September 2008, and was designed by the internationally acclaimed architect, Renzo Piano, and houses the Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium, Kimball Natural History Museum, and research facility. Especially interesting was touring the 2.5-acre "living roof" which utilizes innovative energy-saving materials and technology.

 

The Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
The Living Roof

California Academy of Sciences, San FranciscoThe California Academy of Sciences is open Monday - Saturday from 9:30 am - 5:00 pm, and Sunday from 11:00 am - 5:00 pm. Admission is charged, however is included with the CityPass.

California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, California, 94118, United States
Telephone:       +1-415-379-8000
www.CalAcademy.org

 

San Francisco offers visitors many cultural experiences including ballet, opera, Rich and Famous - photo courtesy of Kevin Berne and Alessdra Mellosymphony, and theatre, and during our visit, we had the opportunity to see John Guare's play, Rich and Famous, directed by John Rando and starring Brooks Ashmanskas, Mary Birdsong, Gregory Wallace, and Stephen DeRosa at the American Conservatory Theatre. The play runs until February 8, 2009.

Read about Rich and Famous in the Arts section.

American Conservatory Theatre
415 Geary Street
San Francisco, California, 94102, United States
Telephone:       +1-415-749-2ACT
www.ACT-SF.com

The culinary scene is richly diverse from casual restaurants to elegant fine dining experiences, however, sourdough bread, Dungeness crab, and Ghirardelli Chocolate are three of San Francisco's famous culinary signatures. When it comes to sourdough bread, that tangy, flavorful, crisp crust bread, one should go directly to the source, Boudin Bakery, which began making its famous French sourdough bread back in 1849. Whenever we travel to San Francisco, Edward and I always make a special trip to the bakery located at Fisherman's Wharf to indulge in loaves of sourdough bread, crab cake sandwiches on sourdough bread, and even chowder served in sourdough bread bowls.

Boudin Bakery Sourdough Bread - Debra Enjoying the Bread
Boudin Bakery - Love That Soughdough

Boudin Sourdough BakeryBoudin Bakery
160 Jefferson Street (between Mason and Tyler Streets)
San Francisco, California, 94133, United States
Telephone:       +1-415-928-1849
www.BoudinBakery.com

Ghirardelli, the landmark on the hill, has making chocolate in San Francisco since 1852. We took a break from sightseeing to enjoy a chocolate ice cream cone at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Caffé.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Caffé
Clock Tower Building
Ghirardelli Square
900 North Point Street at the corner of Beach and Larkin Streets
San Francisco, California, 94109, United States
Telephone:       +1-415-474-3938
www.Ghirardelli.com

When it comes to elegant dining, we had a wonderful dinner at Chef Traci Des Jardins' award-winning restaurant Jardinière, located in the Hayes Valley section of the city, and features French-California cuisine with talented Executive Chef Craig Patzer in the kitchen, complemented by Sommelier Eugenio Jardim.

Jardiniere Restaurant and Bar
Jardinière Restaurant and Bar

The attractive restaurant is located near Davies Symphony Hall and the Opera House, and features two styles of dining, the more casual Lounge featuring a comfortable, and well-stocked bar with innovative cocktail menu; and upstairs, for a fine dining experience. A few of the many highlights of our dinner included St. Simone and Chelsea Gem Oysters on the Half Shell with Champagne Mignonette and Fresh Horseradish; Seared Bigeye Tuna, Tapioca, Apple and Jalapeño, Tsar Nicoulai Caviar; Housemade Potato Gnocchi, Braised Octopus, Niçoise Olives, and Calabrian Chilies paired with paired Inama Soave Classico, "Vigneti di Foscarino" Veneto, Italy, 2006; and Prather Ranch Lamb, Crispy Artichokes, Bulgar, and Lucques Olives with Beetroot Purée paired with a Catena Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2006.

Jardiniere Lamb
Jardinière Lamb

Jardinière is open for dinner daily. Read about Jardinière in the Restaurants and Chefs' Recipes sections where Executive Chef Craig Patzer and Sommelier Eugenio Jardim provide recipes for a delectable three-course wine-pairing menu.

Jardiniere San Francisco
Jardinière
300 Grove Street
San Francisco, California, United States 94102
Telephone:    +1-415-861-5555
Email:           
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www.Jardiniere.com

Campton Place Restaurant, located in Union Square is an elegant fine dining restaurant featuring the artistry of Executive Chef Srijith Gopinathan with perfect pairings by Master Sommelier Richard Dean.

Campton Place Restaurant , San Francisco
Campton Place Restaurant

We had a culinary odyssey with a nine-course tasting menu dinner, where a few of the many highlights of included a Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Slow Cooked Hen Egg, Truffled Tapioca Pearls and Dry Ginger Dust paired with a Grüner Veltliner Laurenz V Kamptal 2006 from Austria; Ahi Tuna with Degghi Mirch, Vanilla Cucumber, Candied Kumquat, Olive Oil Powder, and Squid Ink Powder paired with an Albariño Licia Rias Baixas 2007; and Braised Beef Short Ribs, Truffled Potatoes, Wild Mushroom, Salsify, and Braising Juice paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Salvestrin Estate, Napa Valley 2004.

Campton Place Restaurant , San Francisco - Beef Short Ribs
Campton Place Restaurant - Beef Short Ribs

Campton Place Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Read about Campton Place - A Taj Hotel and Campton Place Restaurant in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, and Chefs' Recipes sections where Executive Chef Srijith Gopinathan and Master Sommelier Richard Dean provide a taste of Campton Place Restaurant with a delicious recipe and wine pairing.

Campton Place San Francisco - A Taj Hotel
Campton Place Restaurant
Campton Place - A Taj Hotel
340 Stockton Street
San Francisco, California, United States 94108
Telephone:    +1-415-781-5555
Email:            
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Email:           
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
www.TajHotels.com

California wines have earned international recognition, and with Napa Valley and Sonoma located just over an hour's drive from San Francisco, we decided to rent a car and take a day trip to the Wine Country. It was a beautiful day, and we paused for a moment to admire the view of the Golden Gate Bridge and take a few photos, before continuing our drive over the iconic bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge to Wine Country
Golden Gate Bridge

Out on the highway, the city gently gave way to the countryside, where the landscape was dotted with vineyards where the vines were still "sleeping." Our travels took us to Napa, where we began in the quaint and historic downtown, where we visited the Rocca Wine Salon featuring wines from Rocca Vineyards.

Main Street Napa
Main Street Napa

Meeting and tasting wines with Mary Rocca, the energetic and passionate owner, was indeed a pleasure. Mary and her husband, Eric Grigsby, purchased their first vineyard in 1999 and a second vineyard in 2000. Today, Rocca Vineyards has clearly established their reputation as creating award-winning wines, including their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon which was awarded 92-points by Wine Spectator. During our visit, we had the opportunity to sample the limited production, Rocca Merlot 2005, which is only available for sale at the Tasting Room and to Wine Club Members, and also tasted the Rocca Syrah 2005, two gorgeous wines that clearly exhibit the style that Rocca Vineyards has become known. Rocca Vineyards produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Bad Boy Red, made from a blend of 54% Cabernet, 34% Cabernet Franc, and 12% Petit Verdot.

Edward Nesta and Mary Rocca at Rocca Wine Salon, Napa
Edward and Mary Rocca at Rocca Wine Salon

Rocca VineyardsAlthough not open to the public, we did visit one of the Rocca Vineyards, to have a true Napa Wine Country experience where the vines were still dormant on the slopes, a stone chimney from the ruins of an old farmhouse added charm, and draught horses added to the overall  ambience. Mary told us that the vines usually start awakening around April and begin to bud, however each year can be different depending on the weather. We thanked Mary and wished the vines sweet dreams and a fruitful year as we drove away from the vineyard.

Rocca Wine Salon is open Monday through Saturday from 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm. Check the website for holiday or seasonal hours, as well as the location, which may be changing since the time of our visit in January 2009. Read about Rocca Vineyards in the Wine Cellar.

Mary Rocca and Debra Argen - Horses on Rocca Vineyards
Visiting the Horses at Rocca Vineyards 

Rocca Vineyards
Rocca Wine Salon
1130 Main Street
Napa, California, 94559, United States
Telephone:     +1-707-257-8467
Fax:                +1-707-255-2269
www.RoccaWines.com

Marko and Miles Karakasevic of CHARBAY Winery & DistilleryWe continued our drive north to St. Helena, driving through a redwood forest as the road twisted and turned on the way to Charbay Winery & Distillery, where Miles Karakasevic, a 13th generation Master Distiller, and his son, Marko, create handcrafted artisan wines, aperitifs, ports, liqueurs, vodka, rum, whiskey, and brandy.

Warmly greeted by Miles' wife, Susan, as well as the family dogs, Sunny and Snifter, we admired the Alambic Pot Stills in the courtyard before entering the Charbay Tasting Room where the sign, Member of Wine Institute, hangs prominently over the door. The Tasting Room, which Marko, Snifter, and Susan Karakasevic of CHARBAY Winery & DistillerySusan likes to refer to as, "The Still House," was abuzz with visitors tasting Charbay products. The family has definitely created a name for themselves as the only distillery in Napa Valley, and has developed a loyal following over the past 25 years, which I discovered while speaking to an enthusiastic visitor who had first met Marko 10 years ago in Aspen at a Food and Wine show.

Speaking with Marko and the family, we definitely felt their passion and their pride, as Marko described growing up a 12th generation master distiller and learning the business from his father, and also discussing their latest projects that they are working on. We did, of course, also manage to find time for tasting. Alas, with the winding roads, and darkness approaching, it was time for us to return to the San Francisco airport and take a late night flight back to the east coast.

Charbay Winery & Distillery is open Tuesday through Saturday by appointment. Read about Charbay Winery & Distillery in the Liquor Cabinet.

CHARBAY Winery & Distillery
Charbay Winery & Distillery
4001 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena, Napa, California 94574, United States
Telephone:    +1-707-963-9327
Email:           
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
www.Charbay.com

San Francisco is truly a city that offers something for every visitor whether you are interested in outdoor adventures, museums, cultural venues, shopping, or gastronomy. Like the Tony Bennett song, "I left my heart in San Francisco," and you will, too.  

Pier 39, San Francisco - Debra Argen and Edward F. Nesta
Pier 39 - San Francisco and Crab

Read other articles on San Francisco in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs' Recipes, Arts, Wine Cellar, and Liquor Cabinet sections.

For information and upcoming events in San Francisco, please visit the Only in San Francisco website: www.OnlyinSanFrancisco.com.

© February 2009. Luxury Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com All rights reserved.

 
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