San Francisco, Not Just for Tourists

I live in a small town 40 miles south of San Francisco. When I have the urge for culture and action, the city is a quick drive and I come home feeling exhilarated.

I do have my favorites that I highly recommend. Many are off the beaten path — a rewarding way of experiencing any city.

Restaurants

Nob Hill Cafe — not in Little Italy. On Taylor Street, steps away from Grace Cathedral. No reservations taken, so best to get there early. Otherwise, enjoy a glass of wine outside while you wait. This small restaurant has all your favorite pasta dishes; casual, cozy environment perfect with kids. It definitely is a favorite amongst the local residents.

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Cafe de la Presse — just off Union Square. On the corner, across the street from the Chinatown gate on Grant Avenue. This restaurant is perfect for any meal of the day. With it’s French flair, you can pretend you’re in Paris as you watch the shoppers go by. I went with my daughter on a night when it seemed all the big name restaurants around Union Square (e.g. Cheesecake Factory, E&O) were completely full — 45-minute waits! I have no patience for that.

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Grand Cafe — near the Theater District. It truly is grand! Reminds me of the grand cafes in Paris and Vienna. Perfect place to have an early dinner before your 8:00 show. Make sure you sit in the main dining room to experience the elegance and refinement of this restaurant.

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Mocca — A lunch cafe off Union Square. Located on the quaint Maiden Lane. Beautifully presented salads, quick, and delicious. Go when the weather is warm, so you can sit outside.

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La Boulange — Neighborhood breakfast hang out on Polk Street. Perfect for a big bowl of coffee or mocha and scrumptious breakfast.

Park

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Huntington Park — top of Nob Hill. Great, small park for taking in the Nob Hill scene — famous hotels, Grace Cathedral, ringing bells from cable cars. A nice respite for the kids where they can ride on the swings, go down the slide, watch dogs being walked, eat a necessary snack.

Activities

Gourmet food trucks — How about a quick lunch or dinner from a gourmet food truck? Not only will you get a tasty and affordable meal, you will also have a chance to enjoy the great San Francisco weather and hang out with the locals. Click here to find the schedule and locations around San Francisco.  My favorite location is the United Nation Plaza. On a warm day, you might be entertained by a rock band.

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Land’s End Trail

Combine exercise with amazing views of the San Francisco coast, the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Spa

Huntington Hotel — for the urban spa experience. Nob Hill at its best, this hotel and spa are an example of classic hospitality and modern luxury. Massage therapies, body treatments, nail care, hot tub and pool are part of the spa services. You can also order food (and champagne!) and have it rolled to you on a cart and served at the tables around the pool. Continue luxuriating in your white robe. Ahhh. The spa is closed for an upgrade from March 18 – 29.

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Sample Itineraries

I’ve taken many trips over the years (U.S. and overseas), quite a few with my family. Each trip has had its own unique experiences, like riding an elephant or renting an RV. Here is a sampling of itineraries including the U.S., Europe, and Asia, from as few as 5 days to as long as 4 weeks. If you are inspired to take any of them, or have other destinations in mind, please contact me and I can plan an itinerary to suit your preferences.

EUROPE

Spain, Italy, Croatia (4 weeks), Madrid, Santa Margherita Ligure, Cinque Terre, Florence, Siena, Verona, Lake Garda, Venice, Rovinj, Opatija, Plitvice Lakes, Zagreb

Italy (10 days), Milan, Venice, Florence, Siena, Rome

Switzerland (1 week), Zurich, Andermatt, Bellinzona, Ascona, Lake Lugano

Tenerife, Canary Islands (1 – 2 weeks), Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz, La Laguna, Los Gigantes, Icod, Garachico, Costa Adeje

Barcelona (9 days), Barri Gotic, Tibidabo, Las Ramblas, Sagrada Familia and other Gaudi buidlings, Parc Guell, Montjuic, seafront, Picasso museum,

London and Paris (via Chunnel) (7 days), London Eye, Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries, Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, Musee D’Orsay

ASIA

Thailand and Cambodia (4 weeks), Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Ko Samui, Ko Tao, Siem Reap

Bali, Lombok, Gili Air (2 weeks)

U.S.A.

U.S. History, plus outdoor adventures (2 weeks), Washington D.C., Virginia (Charlottesville, Shenandoah Valley, Winchester), Pennsylvania (Hershey, Philadelphia), New Jersey Shore

Glacier National Park with an RV (2 weeks), Washington (Spokane, Seattle, Anacortes Island), Montana (Glacier National Park), Idaho (Coeur d’Alene, Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail)

Anza-Borrego Desert with an RV (5 days), San Diego, Anza-Borrego, La Jolla

California Coast (5 days), Monterey, San Simeon, Cambria, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach

Kauai (1 to 4 weeks), Hanalei, Haena, Poipu Beach, Waimea Canyon, Princeville, Kapaa, Kilauea, Hanapepe

San Francisco and the Bay Area (5 to 10 days), Nob Hill, Golden Gate Park, Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Angel Island, Tiburon, Marin Headlands, Point Bonita Lighthouse, Golden Gate Bridge, Point Reyes National Seashore, Palo Alto, Apple headquarters, Napa Valley

Favorite Vacation Spots in Hawaii and California

You don’t have to travel overseas for a memorable vacation. Especially when air fares are expensive (imagine for a family of 5!) and time is limited, you can find special spots in Hawaii and California. Here are a few. For more details, or help with planning your trip to any of these locations, contact me.

Kauai, Hawaii. My favorite of the Hawaiian Islands. Quiet, lush, and relaxing.

 Anza-Borrego Desert, San Diego, California. Try this place with an RV.

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California. Eclectic collection of art by wealthy publisher, William Randolph Hearst, with outstanding views of the valley and ocean.

Safari West, Santa Rosa, California. You don’t have to go to Africa to experience giraffes so close to you. Sleep overnight in a luxury tent.

Point Bonita Lighthouse, Marin, California.  An awesome walk with gorgeous views of San Francisco on a clear day. The suspension bridge to the lighthouse will open spring 2012.

City Hall, San Francisco, California. Take one of the free guided tours for an interesting history of city hall. Learn about Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.