That Jazzy City By the Bay
What’s fun about San Francisco? Everything. You can visit again and again and there’s always something new to discover.
Over the decades and numerous visits I’ve slumbered in a variety of lodgings, some more memorable than others, like the lovely, traditional Huntington Hotel (1075 California St., 415/474-5400)—currently renamed the Scarlet and appearing more trendy than staid—to the fun and jazzy Kimpton hotels (The Buchanan, 1800 Sutter St., 415/921-400; and Sir Francis Drake Hotel, 450 Powell St., 415/392-7755) and even a few inns and B&B’s (The Mansion, long gone, that famously served a frog cake).
Most hotels had great distractions right out the front door: shopping, dining, Union Square, the Opera House (301 Van Ness Ave., 415/864-3330), the lovely Inn at the Opera (333 Fulton St., 415, 863-8400) and more. The culinary scene has always been terrific—from classic seafood spots like Tadich Grill (240 California St., 415/391-1849) that’s been around for over 166 years (!) and Swan Oyster Depot (1517 Polk St., 415/673-1101), to new hotspots like the phenomenal Coi (373 Broadway St., 415/393-9000) and other pricey dining establishments that earn stars and kudos.
I love great restaurants, museums, art galleries and other attractions, but I’ve become more enamored of nature of late, so to find country in the city was a win-win. To sleep there, was like winning the jackpot!
Here are some of my newest discoveries in Bagdad by the bay:
None of the places I’ve stayed compare with my delightful weekend getaway at the Inn at the Presidio (42 Moraga Ave., 415/800-7356), a gem of a lodging, with phenomenal history. The 26 spacious rooms include 17 suites with fireplaces and the beautifully re-imagined three-story inn is former bachelor officers’ quarters, Pershing Hall. The moment you enter through one of the national park gated entrances, the park areas and lovely nature settings flush with hiking trails, museums, earth art and restaurants that are all within spitting distance and yet still surrounded by the big city and all of its offerings. Be forewarned: there is only a small elevator—you will have to climb stairs to second and third stories. In the works is another inn on the Presidio grounds: I can’t wait to return and check it out as well.
What a cool destination, even if you don’t slumber here. There are restaurants—I enjoyed Arguello (50 Moraga Ave., 415/561-3650), the Mexican restaurant, and a couple of times for guacamole and great fried fish tacos another day at the tequila bar. Sunday lunch/brunch was boisterous in the atmospheric Presidio Social Club (563 Ruger St., 415/885-1888), also on the Presidio grounds. I’d return in a San Fran second for the amazing brioche beignets with a hot chocolate dipping. A really fun brunch, also in a rural setting, can be found across the Golden Gate Bridge at Cavallo Point (601 Murray Cir., Fort Baker, Sausalito, 415/339-4700). Grab a bench on the porch at Murray Circle Restaurant for a nosh with a view or hunker down at Farley’s bar for a good time. For more information about the Presidio, click here.
Jazz and Japanese
San Francisco has always had a strong Asian influence from Chinatown to Japanese dining. I enjoyed an amazing chef’s dinner with wine pairings at Roka Akor (801 Montgomery St., 415/362-8887) (notice the second name is the first reversed—a palindrome?) in the financial district followed by a jazz concert at SF Jazz Center (201 Franklin St., 866/920-5299), the new concert space that’s sort of a Filmore West of jazz and beyond.
Best of all was the opening exhibition of Masami Teraoka’s work at Catharine Clark Gallery (248 Utah St., 415/399-1439) (Full disclosure, I’ve known Masami for 40 years and went to San Francisco specifically for this exhibition as well as his 80th birthday). Don’t miss his work in this spacious gallery with a phenomenal gallerist and staff.
Gee whiz, I am one of 5,000 other tourists
If you really want to feel like a tourist in your own home state, book a trip to Alcatraz. I am still trying to figure out why this very cool attraction was rated #8 attraction in the world, just after the Taj Mahal, as well as #1 in California. Is it folks’ curiosity about prison? The stories behind it, including who escaped and who didn’t. The views of the Bay? The birds? The great photography possibilities? Maybe a bit of all that and then some. Or maybe it’s just for the tales of Meyer Lansky and Al Capone, Birdman of Alcatraz and explanations of the grounds.
Anyway, I escaped the rock—but it was good while it lasted.
For more information, click here.