Gold Gate Bridge
Just over a month ago (before we went into deadline with our newest issue), I had the luxury of sneaking away from the office and headed to San Francisco to meet my niece for the very first time. Like any good tourist venturing to a new destination, I talked to friends and colleagues about all of the “musts” in this incredible city by the bay. While it’s in my nature to channel Frommer’s and always have a plan, my husband, Scott, and I brought a list of everyone’s suggestions and then chose what we could fit in around family time. It was a trip to remember!
After a full day of traveling (with a migraine no less) we landed at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) just before 8 p.m., grabbed our rental car and headed to The St. Regis San Francisco. What was the plan of attack you ask? With a full-on jackhammer going off in my head, I knew there was only one thing to do: draw a bath in the deep soaker tub and then get a good night’s rest enveloped in the luxurious Pratesi bedding.
The St. Regis San Francisco
The St. Regis San Francisco's Accommodations
The next day, rested and with my vision restored, I was able to take in the amazing views from our 10th-floor room, as well as observe the beautiful appointments from the Bella Crema marble to the Mozambique wood, 42-inch plasma, window seat, chaise lounge and so forth. It was like a little (well maybe not so little at 450-square feet) oasis in the city.
The St. Regis San Francisco's Lobby
The St. Regis San Francisco's Level Two Art
The St. Regis San Francisco's Yerba Buena Terrace
With a date set to see our family over dinner that Friday night, off we went on our journey. When we walked out the front door of the St. Regis, with a map in hand, I could instantly see how centrally located the hotel was to everything on our to-do list and understood how it got its alias as “the best address in San Francisco.” After a quick stop at Peet’s Coffee & Tea to grab a latte, we headed to Union Square and then to catch the Cable Car down to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Cable Car at Fisherman's Wharf
On a jaunt to Ghirardelli Square we stopped in Yap bet boutique (where everything is made in the USA) to buy a souvenir for our puppy and then walked over to Pier 39 where, I confess, I dragged Scott in almost every store. Empty-handed, but content, we grabbed a bite to eat and then checked out the famous sea lions. Fulfilled by our waterfront experience, we then decided to walk several blocks uphill to the top of Lombard Street to see cars navigate the most crooked street in the world and then walked back down breathing in the perfume of its lovely gardens.
Feet exhausted, we flagged down a cab and headed back to The St. Regis to freshen up for the evening. With Scott’s family in San Jose, rush hour prompted them to suggest that we take scenic I-280 to their California bungalow. After plenty of oohing and ahing over our niece we took a leisurely stroll through the area’s Japanese Friendship Garden working up an appetite for dinner.
Set to meet back up the following afternoon, we gave our feet another workout Saturday morning and walked to the Civic Center. After nearly a decade of working at Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, and quite possibly viewing hundreds of weddings at the stunning San Francisco City Hall, I was eager to see its stately facade and share the experience with my architecture-loving husband. Take notice: tours are only held during the week and the building is locked on weekends so if you want to see the renowned rotunda, plan accordingly. A quick peek at San Francisco Opera, San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center, Davies Symphony Hall, and the Museum of Performance & Design on the opposite side of Van Ness Avenue and we headed back toward The St. Regis to visit the neighboring Museum of Modern Art.
Knowing we only had a couple of hours before we were due to see Scott’s family again, we knew we would never be able to see all of the SFMoMA’s galleries, so we set an agenda: “Photography in Mexico” exhibit, “Jim Campbell: Exploded Views” installation and Buckminster Fuller’s “The Utopian Impulse.” Surprisingly, we completed those and were able to check out a few other wings before it was time to go.
After two days of hitting the pavement, I quickly understood San Francisco’s casually-chic footwear fashion comprised of vibrant sneakers, a plethora of ballet flats and boots when all six pairs of my shoes failed me and I got a blister. But like other warriors, I squeezed my feet into the most comfortable pair of high heels I own and prepared for a night of dancing at a gala that Scott’s brother and wife were hosting. Around 11 p.m., we made an early exit and planned to reconvene for dim sum the next morning.
Packed in a hall-style restaurant with a couple hundred other ravenous people, my brother-in-law grabbed what he deemed quintessential dishes from the passing carts and ensured us that “it’s good; just try it.” It was absolutely delicious and incredibly filling. Afterwards, we packed up and headed to a nearby Alameda beach to work off brunch and kill some time before we deemed it was an acceptable time to drop in at the award-winning Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge. Pay close attention: all of their drinks have ratings for how strong they are. I had two rum runners and probably should have stuck to one. We ended the night at a friend’s home for a communal pasta dinner and then said our goodbyes to our family allocating all of Monday to being tourists.
Officially addicted to Peet’s lattes, we grabbed a cup to go and headed to Pier 33 to await our much-anticipated departure to Alcatraz. Loaded up on Dramamine, we took the 1.5-mile cruise offshore to visit the once federal penitentiary. What I was most surprised to learn is that the island is also a protected state park known for its incredible gardens, which began more than a half century ago when select prisoners were allowed to tend to them. I have never seen such enormous succulents and gorgeous calla lilies. The juxtaposition against the abandoned cells and shelled out buildings was unsettling, but intriguing nevertheless. After the guided audio tour and some time spent exploring, we grabbed the ferry back to the mainland and walked back over to Pier 39 to catch the Gray Line Sky View Tour.
The Painted Ladies
Corny I know, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around leaving San Francisco without seeing the Painted Ladies, Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park. An added bonus, was seeing Chinatown, The Presidio, and other nooks and crannies of the city. What I liked best about this tour was that it was two hours and $20, as opposed to the hop-on/hop-off tours, which were pricier and took up more time. The guide was informative and charismatic, but take warning that if you sit on the top of this double-decker trolley, be sure to wear a hat or apply ample sunscreen.
Content, we caught a cab back to The St. Regis and made reservations for dinner. Lovers of Italian food, Scott and I headed to Trattoria Contadina in North Beach where we enjoyed a romantic dinner. The restaurant had a great, intimate vibe and our waitress provided flawless service. I recommend the barbabietola as a starter, then the gnocchi followed by the torta di cioccolato; they have half portion entrées and the dessert is best when shared!
The St. Regis San Francisco's Remède - Pool
Back at the St. Regis, and an early flight scheduled for the next day, we decided to take a late-night swim in the indoor infinity pool before retiring for the night. Finally packed, and 10 pounds heavier with San Francisco paraphernalia, it was time to leave. As we boarded the plane I thought about Tony Bennett’s song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and started planning the next trip in my head: reserve another room at The St. Regis, spend a day in wine country, go see the redwoods, head to Golden Gate Park and see what events are going on at the Academy of Sciences and deYoung Museum, have dinner at The Slanted Door and check out the Cartoon Art Museum, to name a few.
After reflecting on our trip with family and friends, Scott and I both agree that San Francisco is a fabulous city and, having worked in the wedding industry for so long, my mind immediately went to what an amazing place it would be to have a destination wedding. Just think about everything the city has to offer guests as they make a mini vacation out of one of the most important weekends in a couple’s lives. Oh, and I might just know the perfect place to get married: The St. Regis’s second and fourth floors house their ballroom and terrace and they are tres chic!
[Written by Jessica Latimer; All images courtesy The St. Regis San Francisco]