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Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

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Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
239 posts
33 reviews
Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

First up I want to thank everyone here for advice they provide - I spent ages trawling through threads etc getting ideas for my trip.

I headed to SF after a week in New York and arrived at midnight feeling like death after a flight from hell from NY because of a bad cold - Duane Reade got good business out of me in SF!! I had booked the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins car service and it was so nice to be greeted and whisked into a nice car for the ride to the hotel.

Overall - really enjoyed the stay at Mark Hopkins. I am an Ambassador member and had also booked a Club Room - highly recommend this for the value to get.

Had a high level room - double as a friend joined me there which was part of a suite when required. It was also disabled access so we had heaps and heaps of room and a massive bathroom with a large walk in shower and a separate bath.

We got good use from the Club Lounge. A large breakfast held us through most of the day so only required a snack when out unless we got back early enough and had high tea or cocktails, cheeses, savouries, canapés etc early evening.

Couple of gripes - Internet charges (not that we paid it due to being an Ambassador or room type) but high. Also lack of power points in the room!

Service there was great. Loved the views we had and found it pretty quiet generally.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
239 posts
33 reviews
1. Re: Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

Day 1

We had set aside day 1 for a hop on hop off tour to get our bearings so we walked down the hill to Fishermans Wharf to the departure point. Was pleased we had not chosen to stay in that area - had eyed up the Argonaut.

Can't recall the tour operator now but they have the blue fronted buses.

Bus took us from there around Ghirardeli Square and then to the Palace of Fine Arts where we hopped off and had a look. From there it was to the Golden Gate Bridge and to Golden Gate Park, enjoyed the trip through Haight Ashbury and looking at all the Victorian architecture. From memory we then went around the Civic Centre area, around Union Square then to Pier 39 and back to the start.

From there we decided to bypass Fishermans Wharf itself and headed up to Ghirardeli Square for a chocolate fix. Was a tad surprised to see a huge queue out the door but released the lead singer from Train was signing autographs! My friend and I then shared a sundae from the cafe before heading over to take the cable car back to the hotel.

We were out of luck as it was out of operation but they put us on a bus and lucky for us, dropped us right at the top of Lomard St so we walked down that and caught a taxi back LOL!

Many months before I'd made a reservation at Gary Danko so we headed there for dinner. Seriously impressed by this place and highly recommend it! We opted for the 4 course meal - add to that an amuse bouche and bread! By course 2 we had to slow the pace.

I had the lobster risotto - it is the must try dish in my opinion. Then had a pork tenderloin then beef and then the famous crepes flambed table side.

Excellent service and they give you a gift to take home - ours was a pumpkin spiced breakfast bun. I ate it 2 days later and it was still fresh.

Definitely a food coma sleep that night!

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
239 posts
33 reviews
2. Re: Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

Day 2

We had booked tickets for the first Alactraz Cruise of the day. Unfortunately it was a rainy day but we got a break in the weather while we were on Alcatraz itself.

Highly recommend the first tour. It started to get busy once the 2nd tour arrived.

Enjoyed the tour and being self guided. I think it is one of those things worth doing because of its historical basis and they have re created some exhibits well.

After the tour we headed to Pier 39 and checked out the Elephant Seals - only a handful were there though. Checked out Candy Baron and the Pet Shop too.

Friend chose Hard Rock Cafe for lunch and it did the job but nothing special. The weather absolutely packed it in while we were there and it bucketted down. That combined with my bad cold meant we headed back to the hotel by mid afternoon and hung out in the club lounge watching TV, drinking hot chocolate and staying dry.

By this stage of the trip my cold was getting worse and I was running out of energy by mid afternoon and was dosed up on cold medication so down time was good!

That night (was a Friday) we headed to Beach Blanket Babylon. If you only do one night based activity in SF - make this it!! Were seated just back from the stage and in the centre- great seats. Cast was very talented and very funny and we laughed a lot and hard!

Wanted the famous pizza afterwards but the wait was too long so we found a great Italian place and ate pasta and drank wine! Had a good walk around the North Beach area before heading back to the MH.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
239 posts
33 reviews
3. Re: Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

Day 3

It was still raining :(

Had to indulge my friend today and we headed back to Golden Gate Park to the Academie of Sciences and the de Young. Caught the bus from Market St Cable Car turnaround - first time on the cable car too! Was surprised at the level of homelessness/ street dwelling as we headed down Market St.

Perfect rainy day activities (I would have preferred to be walking the pavements in th Haight as I like getting into neighbourhoods when travelling and not spending time inside).

Had a good wander around de Young first then to AoS which was busy. Interesting but could very easily give it a miss - nothing I have not seen before elsewhere but would be great with young kids. The food area was a feral nightmare!!

Once again, illness got the better of me and we headed back to the hotel. Left my friend to sleep and I hung out in the club lounge again and uploaded photos etc etc

Dinner this night was Slanted Door at the Ferry Building. Another really enjoyable meal and I'd recommend it. We had an Aussie waiter which amused me. We tried the recommended stuffed chicken wings. First ones were not hot through so they were replaced, then once we tried them - found them bland and blergh! Shaking beef on the other hand was great as where the rolls.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
239 posts
33 reviews
4. Re: Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

Day 4

Last day in SF. We headed to Chinatown for a look. I had my heart set on dim sum/ yum cha at Yank Sings but didn't work out that way! Did the obligatory souvenir buying for friends/ family and enjoyed looking at the architecture (a favourite hobby when travelling) including Waverley Place. Missed the fortune cookie shop too!!

Went to Union Square from here and checked out some shopping before walking down to City Hall and through the farmers market down that way. Caught the trolley car back before taking the cable car back up the hill - and by pure luck got to ride on the outside holding on. Yes it was cliched but now I can say I did it!!

Somewhere along the way we stopped at that Mexican chain for lunch and that was the undoing of my friend!! By that evening she was not well at all with food poisoning. I was also feeling pretty rotten as I now had a roaring sinus infection that drugs were not touching.

Spent that evening doing some adjustments to our itinery for the next few days.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
239 posts
33 reviews
5. Re: Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

Day 5

Now the plan had been to leave SF around 10am for the trip south.

Instead I was going to Duane Reade (again!) and loading up on Pepto, Imodium and electrolytes for my friend and organising to see a doctor (thanks to the hotel this was a lot easier than I thought!) myself and speaking to insurance company. I was ready to curl up in a ball and cry by this morning and was worried about a long haul flight in several days.

I had managed to accumulate a wicked sinus infection, bacterial conjunctivitis, strep throat and a cough so got loaded up with meds which thankfully kicked in quickly.

I left SF disappointed to have missed checking out th Ferry Building, Coit Tower, Sausilto, the Mission, Castro and Haight areas as well as a few other shops etc I had noted down. Ah well - reason to return!!

So - we picked up the beautiful Ford Mustang convertible from Alamo around 2pm instead and headed out.

Was absolutely blown away by the scenery (and I am from NZ originally so stunning scenery is the norm for me!).

Quickly adjusted to driving on the right hand side of the road - had an OMG let me off this ride moment when we hit peak hour traffic on the road at Santa Cruz! A combination of feeling sick, driving right hand in a strange car with big blindspots, in the dark and on roads I didn't know was not fun!

Anyway - due to our late departure meant we missed stopping and checking out Santa Cruz and the boardwalk which I was disappointed about.

We were also planning on checking out the Aquarium this day.

Got into Monterey around 6pm and stayed at the Intercontinental at Cannery Row. Another hotel I highly recommend. We had a walk around the Cannery Row area and had room service for dinner.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
239 posts
33 reviews
6. Re: Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

Day 6

Was lovely waking up to the sounds of the sea and the call of the sea lions. We were lucky enough to have an ocean view room and looked over to Santa Cruz.

After breakfast we headed over to the Aquarium (best part was buying tickets from the hotel and saved the queues!) and spent a couple of hours there. Really enjoyed it - certainly is a top class facility. Was disappointed though that the otters were off display :(

Hit the road after that (missed seeing Monterey proper) and went out via Pacific Grove and then did 17 Mile Drive. Missed the walk out to the green at Pebble Beach and checking out Carmel due to time pressure but loved the drive around and the contrasts in the landscape.

Did not find the Highway 1 drive too bad - reminded me of some of the roads down the east coast of NZ which I have driven a lot and the Manawatu Gorge. Took advantage of the turn out areas for photo opportunities.

What quickly became the story of the trip - also had to miss a stop at Point Lobos in here too.

We came off the hills of Highway 1 to Piedro Blanchas right on sunset and saw the elephant seals with this backdrop.

We stopped for the night at San Luis Obispo at the Madonna Inn. Had the Fabulous Fifties room in all its pinkness! We ate at the in house restaurant - in even more pinkness! Food was good but very expensive. I loved the stay here though - I knew what to expect and did it for the novelty factor. My friend was a little surprised!

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
239 posts
33 reviews
7. Re: Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

Day 7

This day was a reshuffled day. We had tickets for Hearst Castle for the previous afternoon which we changed to today. This meant though that we had to double back an hour to San Simeon.

Really enjoyed the visit to Hearst Castle and hearing the history. We did the downstairs and upstairs tours. Unfortunately we did not see the place in all its glory as there was thick fog and then light drizzle the whole time. Still - it did not take away from the splendour - especially of the 2 pools!

We then hit the road again (retracing the same piece of road for the 3rd time!) and headed to Santa Barbara where we arrived at the Hyatt, checked in, walked across to the beach and watched a spectacular sunset.

Once again - timing meant we did not get to see any of Santa Barbara itself either!

Had a really good meal in the in house restaurant - great quality and value. Was a little quiet as it was Thanksgiving eve by this stage.

The Hyatt itself was an okay hotel. Downside was old noisy air conditioning.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
239 posts
33 reviews
8. Re: Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

Day 8

Left SB around 7am in thick thick fog which stayed with us a lot of the way down the coast.

We kept a watchful eye on our windscreen as it developed a small crack at the side overnight at SLO - wondering if the change in temps affected a stone chip. Alamo were really good about it and it was never an issue for them on return of the car.

Found finding Hghway 1 a little confusing after SB and thought we had got lost but eventually we picked up the road. Checked out Pismo Beach and saw the phenomena of driving with your RV on the sand!

Loved the trip down through Malibu etc - had the top down for this as it was warm and sunny. Came down to Santa Monica and had to reluctantly leave the coast and hit the Freeway - 7 lanes of traffic doing 130km/h on Thanksgiving! Thankfully the exits are so well marked that it was a breeze.

Returning the rental car was easy, jumped on the bus to LAX and then jumped on the Hilton shuttle where we had a day room organised.

Spent some time repacking bags etc before we headed off to the Beverly Hills Hotel for a end of trip celebratory lunch and to celebrate Thanksgiving (given we don't celebrate it in Aus).

Another really enjoyable but massive meal! Was a fixed price 4 course menu - from memory I had a tortilla soup, Caesar salad, turkey and trimmings and then a cobbler! Excellent service, trio of musicians and just soaked up the style of the place.

Time to refresh and have a quick nap before it was time to hit the airport.

It is so easy flying Virgin Australia to the States. On the way back this time I flew premium economy so I had priority check in and boarding.

Once boarded there was only 5 of us in the 40 PE seats so we were all spread out, got personal dinner service and clearing straight away. I was in the right hand side. Only me and one other on this side so had my own personal bathroom too (didn't see the other person move once!) - that was a nice privilege! Also realised the benefits of noise cancelling headphones.

So all in all a good trip - one I will do again to catch the things I missed!

Level Contributor
32,314 posts
848 reviews
9. Re: Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

Thank you so much for the great report back. It sounds like you had a fun trip. :)

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
5,218 posts
123 reviews
10. Re: Trip Report SF then SF to LA road trip - November 2012

Great report - and imagine you'll enjoy us all the more when you return to us healthy.

Just have to point out that Duane Reade is the drugstore chain in NYC, there are none in San Francisco - they're equivalent to our Walgreens.

So happy you had a good flight home. There are few things worse than having sinus issues with an upcoming flight.