Good Life: Postcard: Greetings From San Francisco
As Philly weather makes its yearly transition from warm and breezy to hot and swampy, we remember why San Francisco is such a dream of a vacation. Here, the air is crisp, the streets are scrubbed, and the skyline gleams in the sun. You may well see Clint Eastwood or Francis Ford Coppola on your way to the market, and the Beautiful People who live in the City by the Bay seem to stay magically fit despite the fact that the place is home to some of the most opulent eating in the U.S. The one glaring flaw — ungodly expensive real estate — just makes the city that much better suited for a little summer getaway.
The ultra-modern and super-luxe Hyatt Regency hotel features cushy rooms, a prime location right on the water, a rooftop breakfast in a VIP lounge with a spectacular view of the city, and a sky-high lobby with a soaring metallic sculpture worthy of a Guggenheim show. Summer rates from $259 to $429. (Upgrade to a bay-view balcony room for $35.)
5 Embarcadero Center, 415-788-1234, sanfrancisco-regency.hyatt.com.
See the Sights
Take a tour of infamous — and fascinating — Alcatraz Island (nps.gov/alca). See Pier 39’s sunbathing and sparring sea lions. Ride a cable car. Trek up (or try, anyway) the winding path of Lombard Street. Roam the Ferry Building’s farmers’ market for fresh fruit on Saturday morning. Some of the most “touristy” things to do in this city are truly some of the best — and also, happily, the cheapest.
You shouldn’t miss a meal at Slanted Door (1 Ferry Building #3, 415-861-8032), with memorable dishes like Vietnamese shaking beef and grapefruit-and-jicama salad that alone are worth the trip (below). For seafood, locals like the bayside Scoma’s (Pier 47 on Al Scoma Way, 415-771-4383). (Two words: Dungeness crab.) And before you drink too much wine at cozy, candlelit First Crush (101 Cyril Magnin Street, 415-982-7874), which features the largest list of California wines in the Bay Area, note that nightlife here wraps up early — around midnight, even on weekends.
A scenic 45-mile drive on Route 29 (starting at the Golden Gate Bridge) lands you in Napa. En route, grab a bite at the charming roadside Oakville Grocery (7856 St. Helena Highway, Oakville, 707-944-8802), and then stop for an alfresco glass of sauv blanc at the intimate Elizabeth Spencer Winery (1165 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, 707-963-6067). (The “2,860 miles to Philadelphia” sign here pays tribute to Blue Bell, hometown of one of the owners.) Throw in stops at the area’s hot-spring spas and Barneys New York outlet (821 Factory Stores Drive, 707-224-0200), for one last bit of luxury.
Weather-wise: The San Fran climate is generally sunny, but not hot. Pack lots of layers, as the Bay breezes often turn the temp chilly in just seconds, even in summer.
Embrace public transportation: Don’t battle those hellacious hills on foot. San Fran’s buses, metro and cable cars are frequent, cheap, and — best yet — actually clean. Bus and metro (“The Muni”): $1.50 per ride. Cable car: $5 per ride, or a more cost-efficient $11 day pass.