Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

The Inn at The Presidio is different. Set outside San Francisco’s city bustle, it’s not only a pleasurable place to stay, it holds a significant piece of the region’s history. The stately red brick building used to be headquarters for U.S. Army officers fortunate enough to be stationed at this military outpost. Now the entire 1,491-acre Presidio is a National Historic Landmark District, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  Pershing Hall, the single officers’ quarters, was remodeled and opened as a hotel in 2012. And here I am, admiring the view over the Presidio’s red-roofed buildings and green fields to the bay beyond and, of course, the always compelling Golden Gate Bridge.

I’m in one of 22 rooms on three floors that have been painstakingly restored to preserve the old Georgian Revival style and military memorabilia while providing modern comforts—downy duvets on firm beds, sizable bathrooms, flat screen TVs, internet access, mini-bars. (The best views are from the third floor.)  The service is top-notch. There’s no elevator, in keeping with the historic status, but guests who can’t climb stairs can book a room on the ground floor. Some SF visitors want to be closer to the action of downtown, but I don’t mind being this far away because it’s quiet–no sirens, traffic, or late-night party crowds. That doesn’t mean I’m alone. Five million people a year visit the Presidio, but I’m  happy to share this huge park of rolling green hills, wooded trails,  a beach, picnic areas, and a couple of restaurants (the Presidio Social Club is a good choice, though so popular it’s wise to book a table early).  The Walt Disney Museum is here, along with a number of commercial sites in former military buildings. If I want to go to the heart of the city, Inn at the Presidio offers free shuttle service on weekdays, as well as a shuttle around the Presidio itself. The Visitor Center tells of the site’s long, richly dramatic history,  It’s a pleasure just to wander among spicy-scented eucalyptus trees and over grassy slopes.

At the hotel, a feature I particularly like is its commitment to the environment. LEED-certified, it uses organic-based paints, insulation from recycled cotton denim (who knew?), USA-made wool rugs, water conservation, and no mini-soaps or shampoo bottles. Room and suite rates are $195 to $350 per night, which includes an excellent buffet breakfast, taken indoors or out, and afternoon wine and cheese. Parking is $6 a day. Inn at The Presidio is a fine addition to the San Francisco lodging scene.



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capellini at kuletos san franciscoMy other two favorite SF restaurants have been around awhile, and they never fail to please. Even ordinary dishes like pasta with marinara sauce are served with flair and a twist. It’s lunchtime again, and we’re munching excellent Italian food in Kuleto’s, in the Villa Florence Hotel near Union Square.  A simple plate of capellini, crammed with tomatoes and garlic, is perfect. More unusual is the grilled radicchio with pancetta,radicchio kuletos san francisco which looks like a burnt hedgehog but is delicious.

Kuleto’s light, pretty room has a casual but sophisticated atmosphere, a nice spot to meet friends over a meal and whatever wine the waiter recommends. The service is excellent; our waiter is happy to oblige all requests, friends at kuletos sfincluding taking our picture.  Fun facts: 1) Kuleto’s was once a go-go bar, and the dancing girls’ pedestals still stand in the front window. 2) Outside the entrance is a time capsule that was filled when the Villa Florence was built in 1986, the year Halley’s comet last appeared. The capsule will be opened when the comet comes around again–in 2061. I will likely miss that event.

Here’s my fourth choice (I don’t mean by preference, just one more great spot) for special dining during a long weekend by the Bay: Cafe de la Presse, downtown on Grant Avenue.  Under new management since 2005, it’s a French-style bistro serving French food and wines from Europe and California. It would feel right at home in Paris.  I’m nibbling sea bass, tasting the duck confit with mushrooms, and chevre salad cafe de la pressesavoring a green salad with chevre cheese on toast. The final touch is melt-in-the-mouth creme brulee.  The Cafe is said to serve terrific breakfasts; next time I’m in The City, I’ll try one.  Unique to Cafe de la Presse is its collection of international literature. The racks hold 200-plus foreign magazines and newspapers. international magazines, cafe de la presse

All four of the restaurants I’ve mentioned are expensive, and the credit card is taking a beating. “But this is San Francisco,” the taste buds whine, and they win. I can go back to rice and beans when I’m home.  I’m already looking forward to the next SF visit and checking on more places that please the senses.

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I never get bored with cable cars, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park, and the buzz around bernal heights sf viewUnion Square.  And of course great restaurants. But there’s a lot more to see and do in the City by the Bay. I make new discoveries every time. Bernal Heights, for example, not exactly unknown, but south of Mission and seldom visited by tourists. A steep climb takes you up the hill to a park with a million-dollar view. You’re  overlooking all of San Francisco, the bridges and bays, Marin County, and East Bay. Fabulous. bernal heights view to east bayThe park has scrubby grass, a few trees, and paths winding around the hillside. Also lots of dogs, because it’s an off-leash area. The “Illegal Soapbox Derby” soapbox derby bernal heightstakes place here in the fall, when riders in makeshift vehicles race wildly down the hill.

The Bernal Heights neighborhood is fun to wander, with its cafes, quiet streets, small houses, and gardens. Trendy shops, too, and quite a few artists. It was considered dangerous and crime-ridden in the 1980s, but that’s past and it’s cleaned up now. And that view alone makes it worth the drive or bus ride.

Here’s another bit of SF that’s new to me: the Marrakesh Magic Theater on O’Farrell, a few blocks from Union Square. Peter Morrison is amazing, a magician extraordinaire.   In top hat and tux, he stands in a tiny theater that holds only 30 or magician san franciscoso people and performs feats of prestidigitation and mentalism that are baffling. His show is hugely entertaining as he pulls in members of the audience and keeps up a running patter of humor that’s clean enough for all ages. How did he know that lady was thinking of an Ace of Hearts? Or make a coin appear in a man’s closed fist? (Yeah, I read that Scientific American article about how illusion works on the brain, but I’m sticking with magic.)

Peter sets the mood before the show by having everyone gather in the Sultan’s Oasis for drinks. He does card and coin tricks at each table. Then he ushers us into the theater and seats us according to height and whatever agenda he has in mind. He’s a peter morrison magician sfmaster at this, having done more than 3000 performances at various places, including the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, during the past 15 years. Now it’s a San Francisco treat. I’ll be back and watch his dexterous hands more closely next time. Or not.  Maybe I’d rather just be dazzled.

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