We set off for San Francisco mid-morning so as to avoid the rush hour traffic. This plan worked well, until we got to the toll booth before the Bay Bridge.
The empty lanes were either closed, or for cars that had an electronic tag. We had to pay cash so were stuck in our lane for quite a while. Making matters worse (or longer) was that the lane to the right had to merge with our lane as that booth was closed.
We eventually made it, paid our way and headed over the bridge and into downtown San Fran. We were staying at the Hotel Nikko and J had rang them before we left Napa to let them know roughly what time we would be arriving, in the hope that our room was ready. This tactic worked and we were able to check-in straight away.
We had booked a Nikko king room park and stay with free internet package. This included valet parking each night, free internet and breakfast each morning. The Nikko rooms are “guaranteed on the 20-21st floors with spectacular city and bay views, featuring one King bed with pillow top mattresses and down comforters, complimentary high speed Internet, plasma television, nightly turndown service & oversized bathrooms with a separate Subarashee Ame shower & tub”.
The room was nice, but nothing special as far as I could see. J has stayed at the Nikko before and he couldn’t see any difference to other rooms he has stayed in.
And I thought the house keeping was sloppy. The first night we received no turn-down. The second night one side of the bed was turned down, not the other (I checked our booking and it was definitely for two people). And there was only one bathrobe, which was not hung up after I deliberately left it lying atop the safe.
See the black screen in the mirror in the below photo? That is the TV. How anyone could watch it from the shower or tub is beyond me seeing the tap is in front of it.
We had a city view.
The pool was also a tad average but it should have sufficed for a few laps. It didn’t. The shallow end was 2.5 feet deep so you couldn’t actually swim at that end, you were basically sitting on the bottom of the pool.
Despite the negatives, the Hotel Nikko was fine as a place to sleep for two nights, but I doubt I would stay there again.
As soon as we checked in and dumped our bags, we were back out again and off to get lunch. J knew exactly where he was going, and that was to one of the Boudin Bakery outlets.
We ordered at the counter, took a number and found seats. Our soup was quickly in front of us. I had a vegetarian chilli and it was amazing.
After lunch we did some shopping and wandered around the Union Square area. I went into Sephora to buy stuff for friends and ended up having my make-up done!
It was around 4pm and we thought we would find a bar and have a snack and a beverage before heading to the baseball. We couldn’t find anywhere open that looked clean and respectable.
We ended up going to the hotel bar at Adagio. We stayed at Hotel Adagio on our first trip to San Fran together, but they did not have a bar then.
We ordered drinks, I had a margarita (I couldn’t believe I had been in America for seven days and had not had one yet!).
And we ordered some food as well. There was an initial mix up when the barman said the kitchen was still doing food, then five minutes later he said they weren’t. I asked if he had any chips or nuts and he managed to find some trail mix. Blah. Ten minutes later he said the kitchen was preparing our food if we still wanted it. Yes please!
We had the Mediterranean sampler (grilled pita served with roasted garlic hummus, uhammara and roasted eggplant dip with our house olive mix) and a bowl of fries.
Content for the time being we caught a taxi to AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. The Giants were playing an exhibition game against the Oakland A’s and it was a packed house.
The variety of food and beverages at AT&T Park is mind boggling. It puts any sports arena in Australia to shame.
We stuck to Margaritas though!
It is said to be one of the best baseball parks in America and it seemed pretty impressive.
It is built right on the water so if a home run is hit, there is a good chance one of these guys might get a keepsake.
Any ball hit into the crowd, whether it is a foul or a home run, is kept by the person who catches it. You don’t need to throw it back like you would at a cricket, tennis or AFL game.
Even the napkins had logos on them!
Climbing up the ramps to our seats, we had a great view of the Bay Bridge.
We were up in the nosebleed section.
Despite there being plenty of food options down on the ground level, there wasn’t as much choice up where we were. And as I had been challenged by The Mole to have my photo taken wearing a Giants cap, with a hotdog in one hand and a beer in the other, hotdogs were purchased for our dinner.
It was extremely average and the bread went soggy from the mustard and ketchup, so I couldn’t pick it up and eat it properly. Apparently the garlic fries are the most popular food item at the park (and they smelt great) so I would recommend getting a serve or two of those if you get the chance.
I had to get a photo of the massive bags of fairy floss (or cotton candy as the Americans call it).
I actually enjoyed the game itself, it was face paced and interesting.
There was a lot to keep the crowd amused between innings, including kiss cam.
At the seventh innings stretch, everyone gets up, has a stretch and a sing along.
The Giants had a win and we filed out with everyone else and walked back to the hotel.
The next morning we left it too late to get to the diner J wanted to go (the queue was out the door) so ended up getting breakfast at the hotel (which was included in our room rate anyway). It was a decent spread of Western and Japanese options but I did not take any photos.
We then walked to the Asia Art museum which was hosting an exhibition of some of the terracotta warriors from China. There were six warriors and two horses. I was surprised at how good of a condition they were in.
The room they were housed in was hot and overcrowded, and there was no logical traffic flow happening, everyone was going wherever, which made it a bit unpleasant. We got in, had a look and got back out again.
It is definitely worth checking out the rest of the museum as well, not just for the other collections but also for its architecture.
We walked back to the hotel and I headed back over to Union Square for some more shopping while J did some food related research.
Once I was done we jumped in a taxi and told the driver to take us to Valencia Street in the mission district.
J had a Mexican restaurant in mind for lunch but it was a 45 minute wait so we decided to try somewhere else.
Valencia Street has a real Fitzroy vibe to it, with lots of cool restaurants and cafes, and funky shops. We ended up at Mission Cheese, which celebrates American artisan cheese. They offer cheese flights, nibbles and sandwiches.
The menu is on the left as you enter and ordering is done at the counter.
We both had the pork and cheese sandwich (Gruyere Surchoix, Framani salami, cornichon, mustard).
J had a local beer and I had a lemonade.
We spent the next hour or so wandering up and down Valencia Street…
…and also down 22nd street where we stopped for a beverage at Revolution café. This café doesn’t look like much but seemed very popular and we scored the last table. I ordered a sparkling wine and watched as the barman went over to the bench seats on the wall opposite to where I was seated and lift them looking for the wine (after getting the patrons on them to move). They store their wine under the seats? J was still standing at the bar and could see that the space was refrigerated. The barman couldn’t find the sparking so I said I would have a chardonnay. This conversation was held across the small space. The bartender went back behind the bar I heard him say ‘well, this is embarrassing’ and he started pulling out bottles of white wine, and then he looked at me and said ‘step right up’. There was no chardonnay left so he poured a sample of each of the three white wines he did have into glasses so I could have a taste and see what I liked best. That sorted, I got a full glass of something (can’t remember what) and sat back at the table.
We went back onto Valencia Street and I spotted this cute sign.
We then had a look at Bar Tartine to see if they had a menu up for that evening’s dinner. They didn’t, but in the end J made a call on the taxi back to the hotel and we made a book to dine there.
I did another dash to Union Square to go to Macy’s and also picked up a loaf of sourdough bread at Boudin.
At the appropriate time we again jumped in a taxi over to the Mission district. We had time for a quick drink ($7 for a pint glass sized margarita) before heading to Bar Tartine.
J put me in charge of the wine list and I ordered champagne.
Bar Tartine’s menu changes regularly (daily?) and while on the small side we struggled to decide as there were so many great sounding dishes.
We started with the pickled vegetables.
We also tried the goat cheese dip with peas, sesame crackers and laver.
As you can it was quite dark and the photos did not really work, so I have only included a couple.
We also had the steak tartare, which had avocado in it, which added a nice fresh flavour, and it also had a halved boiled egg on top. J rarely eats tartare but he loved this version.
We also had the smoked potatoes. You HAVE to order these. Absolutely incredible. They were black, which was weird at first, but the flavour was soooo good, and I don’t normally like smoked stuff. I would say they were better than Attica’s potato dish.
We also had a sausage dish, which was also excellent.
We were too full for dessert so had the sweet bites instead. They consisted of chocolate covered walnuts, caramel paprika truffle, grapefruit jelly, almond nougat, sunflower-butter ginger and elderflower tea cookie.
The perfect size for a sugar hit after dinner.
After dinner we caught a taxi to the Rickhouse bar on Kearny Street. We perched ourselves on stools at the back bar and proceeded to enjoy quite a few delicious cocktails. I did not take any photos here, but it is a good bar and has live music twice a week. It had been raining most of the evening so it was a wet walk back to the hotel (which was further than J had led me to believe!).
To soak up some of the alcohol we stopped in at Lori’s Diner (which is where J had wanted to have breakfast).
Lori’s has five locations and is what you picture an old school American diner to be.
We went for the basics, fries and the Love Me Tenders (deep fried chicken strips served with honey mustard or BBQ Sauce).
Despite the late night we had an early start the next morning, but not so early as to miss the Easter Bunny!
We checked out and drove through the city, doing a bit of landmark spotting on the way.
(on a side note, I have done the tour of Alcatraz twice before and still think it is one of the best tours out there. Book yourself on the early boat to avoid the crowds.)
After we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, we pulled into the vista point, got out of the car, and ran back across the bridge! I was pretty slow, but it was a great run. J waited for me on the other side and then we ran back to the car, I think it was about 5-6kms. I had to keep slowing down to look at the views, which were stunning.
We were there early enougg so it wasn’t crowded, and I think on weekends, cyclists are supposed to use one side and walkers and runners the other, though I am not sure how policed that is.
We hopped back in the car and headed back to Napa. Second week highlights to come!