My husband and I recently had the chance to take a vacation without the kids... the first time in years. In the past we get lazy and end up in Vegas because it is easy and we love it. However, this time I was bound and determined to go to San Francisco. I lived in California so I've been there a lot . However, my husband had never been there so it was an added bonus for me to show him around. You know when I find a good thing, I have to share.
I love San Francisco, it is exciting, romantic and high energy. I never tire of riding the cable cars and the food is amazing!
We stayed right on the cable car line near Union Square at the famous Westin- St. Francis. The location is great and the hotel is nice. We enjoyed a nice Easter Brunch at the hotel's Oak Room. I say nice not fabulous. The food was good but the price was a bit outrageous at over 60 dollars per person and that did not include coffee. The selections were not immense considering the price.
Our first dinner in the city was at Farallon just steps from our hotel. It was fabulous.
The decor makes you feel like you are under the sea and in fact I believe the bar area is called the Jelly bar lounge. The menu is mainly seafood and it was delicious. The service was top notch and the wine list was extensive. Like most dining in San Francisco it is pricey. For dessert I was in the mood for a cheese course and it did not disappoint.
The biggest and best splurge of our trip was a private driver and tour guide to wine country. I found Tom Delaney by accident when another tour guide was not available and recommended Tom. His website is www.vinovantours.com. It turned out to be the best accident ever. He has been doing tours for years and he knows how to set up a day in Napa but can also give you three days. His knowledge and relationships with wineries makes the day enjoyable and you could not set this type of tour up without his help
He arranged a private tasting at three unique wineries. We started the day at Bell Wine Cellars
It is a small winery where we were allowed to taste wine right from a steel tank. They are known for their (clone 6) Cabernet Sauvignon. One taste and you will understand why.
Next, Tom arranged for us to head to Inglenook. I know what you wine snobs are thinking: "the huge glass jugs at the bottom of the grocery shelf." However, Francis Ford Coppola has spent years reuniting the property, vineyards and wine making. The grounds are beautiful and the wine was fantastic. Tom arranged everything for us and we were able to set at a nice table and enjoy the wines and hear a little history from the servers.
Our next stop was Bottega for lunch. If you are a Food Network junkie like I am you know this is Michael Chiarello's restaurant in Yountville. The food was fabulous,
The service a bit disappointing. Michael was not there, but I was told by several people that he is frequently working in the kitchen.
Our final stop was Spring Mountain Vineyard. It is not open to the public but you can schedule a tour and tasting in advance as Tom did for us. This is a boutique winery that is more concerned with quality than quantity. They only produce about 1500 cases a year. The Elivette wines are incredible. The tasting room was undergoing some renovations during our visit so we were able to do our private tasting in the mansion. It was worth the trip.
After a long day in Napa, we really wanted a simple and quick dinner once we were back in the city. The concierge recommended a place two blocks from the hotel called Uncle Vito's. It is very small but the pizza is very good and I'm happy to report it was our only meal that was under 20 bucks!
Every tourist must visit the famous San Francisco Wharf. However, I must say that this is NOT my favorite part of San Francisco. It is great if you are looking to do a boat tour and we took a great one around Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Big Hint: Get your Alcatraz tickets at least two weeks prior to your trip/arrival as they sell out fast. I'm obsessed with cheap sunglasses and the wharf is a great place for that kind of shopping. Also, I love having lunch at Boudin. A trip to San Francisco would not be complete without a bread bowl of clam chowder from Boudin. They also have a great grilled cheese sandwich which has a Parmesan crust. Delicious.
Some of my old stomping grounds have been altered a bit. My friend Dave and I used to frequent a place called "Coffee Ron's" for an Irish coffee. Coffee Ron's is no longer around, but fortunately my friend Dave is and we managed to find an establishment near the Wharf where we able to enjoy an Irish Coffee and some memories.
So we are back home now still enjoying our Ghirardelli chocolate and looking for the right moment/meal to open a bottle of our Napa Valley wine ( which by the way we had shipped)
It could be another 6-8 years before we get to do another trip without kids but this one was well worth the wait. I still love San Francisco and as much as I wanted to live there in the 90's, I would probably not have the blessings in my life that I do today had I moved to my favorite city. I also believe that the charm of San Francisco would have tarnished a bit for me had I moved there to live permanently. It is so much more fun to dream about visiting again.