San Francisco Travel Review

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Did you know:  San Francisco Sourdough is unique, and can't be made elsewhere because the yeast that gives it that unique San Francisco flavor won't grow anywhere else.

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The "city by the bay"....the place where the wide open expanse of the West ends at a shimmering jewel of ocean which opens the next door to the Asia Pacific ...a spot where raw natural beauty meets urban sophistication....San Francisco is the city for travelers from both the East and West to enjoy breathtaking views, wonderful food and a mix of Zen, fine wines, cutting edge technology and many of the trends which later took the country by storm.

San Francisco History

The region stretching from northern California to Baja (Mexico) was once inhabited by nomadic peoples who crossed the land bridge from Siberia to the Aleutian chain (Alaska) thousands of years ago near the end of the last Ice Age. After crossing over into what is now Western Canada, they followed the coast South and many eventually made their home along the Pacific Coast in northern California. Native Indians lived there for centuries before Lewis and Clarke arrived at the end of their famous expedition to find the Northwest Passage. Father Junipera Serra started his chain of missions in California, with the nearby Carmel Mission perhaps the most celebrated. Ever since the turn of the 19th century, travelers, businessmen and tourists have been drawn to northern California due to its spectacular coastline (perhaps the most scenic in the entire United States), abundant natural resources and mild climate.

The Gold Rush of 1848 started by the discovery at nearby Sutter's Mill brought thousands of treasure seekers, rogues, swindlers and get-rich-quick hucksters hoping to either earn a fortune- or steal one. The linking of the East with the West in 1869 via the final hook-up of the Transcontinental Railroad brought the Union Pacific Railroad eastward to Omaha, Nebraska. Soon businessmen and merchants hawking everything from picks, shovels, overalls, boots, saddles, horses and dynamite flocked to the region in hopes of making a fortune. An icon in American clothing history- Levi Strauss- got his start by supplying blue jeans with their famous metal studded connectors to miners. The 1906 earthquake devastated a large portion of the city, but hearty folks rebuilt and vowed to stay despite the ongoing threat from the Earth's shifting plates, which cause frequent temblors in the area.

The Embarcadero and waterfront with the famous piers where the fishing boats once thrived is now a vibrant hub of activity including restaurants, shops, art galleries and numerous fresh seafood stands which offer the latest catch right off the boat. The world famous sourdough bread and Ghirardelli chocolate are too delicious for most visitors to resist. Coit Tower on Telegraph hill in San Francisco has provided visitors and locals with impressive views of the city since its completion in 1933. Lillie Hitchcock Coit, philanthropist and admirer of the fire fighters at the 1906 earthquake fire, left funds to The City for beautification of San Francisco. Those funds were used for the construction of the 210-foot tall art deco Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph Hill. The tower’s design is reminiscent of a fire hose nozzle and was quite controversial. The Golden Gate Bridge is another San Francisco landmark with an art deco design. Works Progress Administration murals, now protected as a historical treasure, can be viewed inside the first floor of the Coit Tower. These Diego Rivera-inspired murals were completed in 1933. Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay held many famous mobsters from the 1930's- 1960's before it finally closed- but tour guides can walk you past the cellblock where the "Birdman of Alcatraz" took care of his migratory pals. The Golden Gate Bridge has been the backdrop for numerous movies and inspired dozens of songs, including the Tony Bennett classic "I Left My Heart in San Francisco". More San Francisco history...

San Francisco Restaurants

San Francisco has one of the best selections of restaurants of any city in the United States. Three main fares predominate- seafood, Chinese/Oriental and Italian- but numerous offshoots over the years, including nouveau California cuisine, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican and European flavors now abound. North Beach is home to Little Italy where dozens of both casual and upscale restaurants offer fresh made pastas intertwined with both light and rich sauces and a wide variety of cheeses, spices and seafood specialties. The entire city has figuratively exploded with superb food from a variety of sources and tastes, including the world famous Chinatown. City Tavern, Alfred's Steakhouse, John's Grill (one of the favorite places of author Dashiell Hammett, author of "The Maltese Falcon" and other detective novels), Kelly's Mission Rock, Postrio (Wolfgang Puck's Northern California restaurant) and so many more it would take a lifetime to enjoy them all! More San Francisco restaurants...

San Francisco Clubs and Music

This city has leading edge music of both local and national caliber, in addition to a wide range of nightspots to enjoy a glass of wine from one of the nearby award-winning wineries, a pint of world famous Anchor Steam Ale or a classic martini. Pres Avi, Martuni's, Mecca, Top of the Mark, Orbit Room, Mars Bar, E&O Trading Company, Harry's Bar, Nova, The Cosmopolitan, The Conga Lounge and Lone Palm are but a few places to relax and unwind with a cocktail after the frantic 9-to-5 pace...add in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the San Francisco Opera House, the Orpheum, the Great American Music Hall, Masonic Auditorium, the Clarion Music Center, Slim's, the Fillmore, the Independent and the Avalon Ballroom and you've got a huge variety of places to enjoy live music, from jazz, blues, pop, classical and opera. More San Francisco clubs and music...

San Francisco Area Attractions

Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, the San Francisco Zoo, Golden Gate Park, Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, Napa and Sonoma wine country are just a few of the almost endless number of places to enjoy when you're visiting San Francisco. Muir Woods, Sequoia and Redwoods National Parks, Yosemite, Monterey, Big Sur and Carmel are all within a 2-4 hour drive from downtown and offer both spectacular scenery and local flavors to enjoy. One of our all-time favorite spots to dine on fresh seafood, pasta and other house specialties is Ondine's, on the water in Sausalito, which has great views of the San Francisco skyline day and night. A 2-hour drive down the coast brings you to Monterey (home to world class golf resorts Pebble Beach, Spanish Moss and Spyglass Hill). A bit further down scenic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) (Route 1) brings you to Carmel, where actor, director and jazz fan Clint Eastwood was once mayor and who regularly shows up on stage at the nearby Monterey Jazz Festival, held every year at the Monterey Fairgrounds. This festival attracts world-class names in jazz, blues and pop.

If you venture further down the coast, you see absolutely stunning views of the Pacific and come to the Tickle Pink Inn in Carmel Highlands, a hotel built originally as home to State Senator Pickle in the 1940's, now turned into a rustic hotel on the cliffs overhanging the ocean which offers incredible views of the coastline. Driving further South another 45 minutes down the PCH brings you even better views of the coastline and into the "town" of Big Sur- home to nature lovers, artists, musicians, "hippies" in the 1960's (and through to today). Some of the best inns and restaurants on the West Coast are nearby, including world-famous Nepenthe (our all-time favorite spot, highlighted in the Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor movie "The Sandpipers", with a wonderful outdoor terrace overlooking both the Pacific and the mountainside, indoor and outdoor fireplaces blazing all year long and a fine restaurant), Ventana and the Post Ranch Inn. Yoga, meditation and "back to our essential nature" enthusiasts may want to make reservations to stop in for a stay at Esalen up the road, which offers a variety of soul re-charging activities amidst incredible views of the ocean. The best sunsets in the U.S. are available each night on this stretch of coastline- along with the beautiful and unspoiled Big Sur Beach (at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park), which will thrill you with its raw elegance and crashing waves. Fans of beatnik/avant garde writer Henry Miller can stop in at the Henry Miller Home and Museum, just down the road from Nepenthe.

The region was the playground of many famous and controversial authors, including Ken Kesey ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Sometimes A Great Notion"), Jack Kerouac ("On the Road", "The Dharma Bums") and Allen Ginsberg, along with several famous musical groups of the 1960's (The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and Country Joe McDonald in rock, Harold Lloyd and Tony Bennett in jazz) in addition to being a favorite place to frolic for the super wealthy going back generations. More San Francisco attractions...