Wednesday, February 19, 2014

San Francisco Weekend Getaway Februay 2014

Saturday ~ Upon arrival at the SFO airport we retrieved our luggage and headed to the air train to the BART Station. Buying tickets is via vending machine and was a little confusing but I figured it out.  There are no humans who work for BART to help you.  The fare was 8.65 each way per person ($17.30 each round trip) = $34.60.  You can’t enter the exact amount you need, you have to start off with $40 and subtract dollars and then nickels until you get to the amount you need.  Easy enough once I deciphered that concept.

Trying to decide which platform to wait at was a little confusing and again, no humans who work for BART to help, but we finally figured it out.  They have a big map posted as to where each line goes and some of the other travelers were really helpful.  We didn’t have to wait very long for the next bus/train/rail/whatever-they-call-it.  Once we were on board I asked Paul how we knew we were going the right way.  The guy in front of me asked where we were going.  I told him Union Square, Powell Street exit.  He said we on the right track and it was about 6 or 7 stops ahead.  Thank you very much. 
The stop was literally at the corner of the hotel where we were staying. Total time from getting luggage to arriving at hotel was about an hour.  It was only 11:30 and check in is at 3 so we had planned on dropping off our luggage with the bell man and venturing out. 
The Palomar Hotel, which is a Kimpton property, does not get rave reviews from these travelers.
Upon arrival the door man told us the lobby was closed for renovation and check in was on the 9th floor.  They had converted a guest room into a make-shift registration room.  Not a great start.  Our room wasn’t ready as expected but the guest servcies lady said as soon as someone checked out of our room type she’d put a rush on it and call me when it was ready.  Fair enough. The bell guy took our bags and we hit the streets. 
 What does the fox say? "How'd this baby get on my back?!"
 We walked around a while and then went to Johnny Foley’s Irish House.  I had an Irish Coffee (mandatory vacation beverage) and Paul had a brewski. 
 Pretty good but not the Buena Vista!  We decided to have lunch so we split a steak sandwich. 
It was huge so we were glad we decided to split it.  It was really good. The bread was a the perfect texture of crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  The steak was melt-in-your-mouth tender.  Like buttta.  We walked around exploring a little more around Union Square.

I bought a pair of pants which were on sale for about 70% off the original price.  I liked them and they fit nice (which is rare for me and pants).  I think the price was right and wouldn’t have paid any more for them had they not been on sale.  They will be easy travel garments for my next trip :wink: and very versatile.  I can wear them with a long sleeve shirt and flats or with a short sleeve top and sandals.  They go both ways. :hi: Jay.
As we were exploring Union Square they were setting up for the Chinese New Year Parade. Who knew?  I asked one of the crew what time it started and he said it should pass thru the Square around 6 p.m. on the way to the Financial District. 
I called the hotel at 2 to see when they thought the room would be ready.  The lady said it wasn’t ready yet and she would call me if it was ready before 3.
We went to Lefty O’Doul’s and I had another Irish Coffee while Paul had a beer.  I was on a mission of comparison! It wasn’t very good. Scratch that place off the list.
We went to the hotel at 3 and low-and-behold our room was ready.  Hmmm, why no call?  I’m sure it hadn’t just become available the minute we walked in.  Anyhow the room was nice but not as nice as I was expecting from the pictures and the reviews.  The bathroom was huge and had a nice Jacuzzi tub. Notice the animal print robes they provided.  The sign on them said "release your wild side"! 
We weren’t in the room 10 minutes when there was a knock on the door and before I could get to it the housekeeping lady was coming in.  WTH?  She said “I come back later”.  I said “we just checked in, why do you need to come back later?” She said “I come back later” and walked away. Whatever.  They have a hosted wine hour that is usually in the hotel restaurant/lounge but that was closed for remodeling too.  The wine hour was in the make-shift registration room.  Kind of tacky.  We stopped in and got a glass of wine and then ventured out to catch the parade.  One of the hotel employees was leaving when we were and he said he watches the parade on TV rather than deal with the crowds.  He said it’s ranked in the top six parades in the nation, right up there with the Rose Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (I imagine the Marde Gras Fat Tuesday Parade is right up there too).  OMG the streets were packed and the crowds were crazy.  We couldn’t even get close.  We walked down to the Financial District hoping it would be less crowded than the Square but it wasn’t.  We could catch part of the taller floats but that was about it.  Not close enough for taking pictures, although I tried. 

We tried to just go with the flow and soak in the festive atmosphere.  The parade seemed to go on forever so after about an hour we walked back to Union Square and waited to have dinner at John’s Grill, Home of the Maltese Falcon, which was about an hour wait. 
I had the Roquefort Salad (seasonal greens, shrimp, crumbled Roquefort cheese and blue cheese vinaigrette).  It was really good.  Then I had the Maine Lobster Ravioli appetizer as my entrée which was okay.  Paul had the New England Clam Chowder which was delicious and had the Filet which was just okay.  Moral of that story is to go there for soup and salad.  Oh, and the San Francisco Sour Dough bread basket with butter was pretty amazing too.  Over all it was good but not worthy of the wait or going back on our next trip.

Sunday morning we used the Jacuzzi which was really nice.  I discovered the fan in the bathroom didn’t work nor did the light on the light-up makeup mirror.  On our way out we stopped in the registration room and told them about it so they could notify maintenance.  
We had breakfast at “world famous” Sears Fine Foods, known for their Swedish Pancakes. 
They were okay but they just seemed like regular pancakes, not the light and lacy Swedish I was expecting.  The bacon was perfectly cooked, just the way I like it.  We hopped a cable car and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for the day.
The weather was beautiful.  Sunny and in the low 60’s.  Apparently a good day to be hanging laundry outside.
We walked from Hyde Pier on one end of the Wharf and down to Pier 39 at the other end. 
 Gotta love San Francisco Sour Dough.
Fresh steamed crabs

We had a cocktail at Neptune’s.  We walked back and went to the Buena Vista for the Irish Coffee I’ve been looking forward to since we decided to take this trip back in December.  It’s the best.  The same bar tender has been there for 40 years.  

He’s pretty funny and does a little magic when he’s caught up on concocting their famous beverage.  We left there and Paul sat in the park and smoked a cigar while I browsed through Ghirardelli Square.  Not much there anymore.  They have a big Ghirardelli store and a few restaurants but most of the little boutique stores have gone out of business or moved out.  On the way back to the park there were a lot of street vendors.  I bought two rings from an adorable little old Asian lady.  The first one I put on has a green stone.  She said “that jade, it bring you good luck”.  Then she said they are stackable so I put on another one with a pink stone.  I asked what the pink was.  She said “that pink jade, it bring you more luck”.  Far be it from me to pass up on double good luck so I bought both of them.  They were only $6.00 each so nothing that would break the bank. They are probably plastic beads. ;) Then I was looking at her earrings and she said “those two dollar”.  I said $2.00?  She said “yes, two dollar, that one crystal”.  I said “how can you make those for $2.00?  She said “I crazy lady”.  Okey dokey then. 
I met Paul in the park. He was enjoying this view of the bay.  
He wanted to check the rooms at another Kimpton property on the Wharf called the Argonaut Hotel.  What a difference.  The lobby was beautiful and buzzing with activity.  We asked guest services if we could see a comparable room to what we had at the Palomar (Luxury King).  They were so nice.  She apologized that would be about five minutes until a bell man was available.  No problem.  He was super nice and showed us the room which was completely different but very nice.  No Jacuzzi though.  Then he showed us around a little and took us back to the guest services lady.  I looked at the time and said to Paul “I have to check in for our flight in like two minutes, I had almost completely forgotten”.  The guest services lady asked me what airline and punched in our confirmation number and printed our boarding passes.  I didn't even ask her to. Awesome.  Thank you very much.  We will never stay at the Palomar again but the Argonaut would be a good choice if we wanted to stay at the Wharf.  We left there and mowsied up the back streets.  I went into a shop and found a top I liked.  It was too expensive.  That store owner (I assume) said “it look pretty on you”.  I asked him if he could do better on the price.  He said “yes, it you lucky day”.  See, already the rings brought me luck!  He sold it to me for half price!  He said I was lucky because they had a show earlier in the day and he could sell it to me for the show price.  I imagine that’s his usual line to make people feel good about his prices.
We wondered over to our favorite restaurant in San Francisco, Scoma’s on the Wharf.  It was only 4:11 when we arrived and it was still an hour wait!  The food and service were both impeccable, as always.  I started with a cup of Lobster Bisque which was amAZing.  Paul had a Caesar Salad. De-lish.  I had the Mixed Shellfish which had shrimp, lobster, crab and scallops sautéed in garlic butter with mushrooms and severed over rice with pasta and veggies on the side.  Yes, rice AND pasta.  Paul had the Mixed Seafood which had shrimp, lobster, scallops and Skookum clams over linguini in a cream sauce.  Their sauces are understated so the seafood is really the center of attention, not drowning is sauce.  Perfect.  It was a lot of food and neither of us finished our entrees. Best meal of the trip by far.  Well worth the hour wait for a table.
We walked over to the cable car turn-around and stood in line. I checked the time (6:14 p.m.).   Nice view.

It ended up taking an hour until we got seated.  7: 15 p.m. exactly.  About half way down the route the cable car operator stopped and told us it was the last stop and the shuttle would take us the rest of the way.  WHAT??? Someone asked him why and he said the cable was down.  We were waiting for the shuttle and Paul looked into the track and the cable was running just fine.  Weird.  The shuttle pulled up and took us the rest of the way (about 10 blocks) and dropped us off at an alternate location, not the end of the line.  It was no big deal since it was about the same distance from where the end of the line was.  We went to Mel’s Drive In and shared a banana split.  Yummmm. 
When we got back to the room they had fixed the makeup mirror but the bathroom fan still wasn’t working.  Not a big deal, but the bathroom got steamy when either of us used the Jacuzzi/shower due to lack of ventilation.  Just another mark against the place.

Monday morning I got the paper and Paul was reading while I was downloading my pictures and he came across an article “Shots on busy Market Street injure man, frighten crowds”.  There was shooting and that is why the cable car couldn’t take us to the end of the line.  The article said “the shooting happened at about 7:15 p.m. on the Market Street sidewalk in front of one of the main entrances to the Westfield mall.  The scene is across the street from the busy Powell Street cable car turnaround and just steps from the entrance to Powell Street Station.”  Holy cow.  The shooting happened just as we sat down for our ride at the other end of the line, right at the location of our destination.  Creepy.
At 8:00 a.m. there was a knock on the door.  I open the door and it’s the same housekeeping lady. Seriously dude, why do you keep showing up?  She said “oh, I come back later”.  I told her we would be checking out at noon so she could come back then.  We used the Jacuzzi again (the saving grace of this damn place) and got mostly packed and ready to go to breakfast.  I called guest services and told them we were going to breakfast and to please notify housekeeping that we’d be checking out at noon so not to come in while we were gone since I had already sent them away at 8. There was no “do not disturb” sign to put on the door.  He said he’d let them know.  We were going to go to Dottie’s for breakfast but the line was wrapped around the building.  Crazy.  We guessed it would be a minimum hour wait for a table so we ventured back to Union Square and ended up eating at Puccini & Pinetti.  Paul had Eggs Benedict and I had an English muffin with a side of bacon.  Not bad.  We went back to the hotel to relax about an hour before heading back to the BART.  At 11:11 exactly there is a knock on the door.  The friggin same housekeeping lady with her “I come back later”. Seriously?  WHY ARE YOU HERE?  I told her AGAIN that we’d be leaving at noon.  When we left she had put a do not disturb sign on our door.  A little too late for that don’tchathink?

We took the BART back to the airport and only waited about two minutes for the air train to the terminal.  All in all BART is the way to go.  It was way faster and substantially less expensive than a taxi or a shuttle. 

Over all it was a good weekend. 
Expect an hour wait for meals if it's a decent restaurant. 
The homeless population is out of control.  Oy!

First thing Tuesday morning Kimpton sent me an evaluation form and I filled out every detail.  I’m looking forward to their response. 
ETA: I received a big apology letter from the Hotel saying they were crediting back one night of our stay. Nice.

Thank you for traveling with me. 
Next stop – Rome, Italy.  Somebody pinch me.

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