Subject: Back from San Francisco
Hi Ziners,

We just got back from San Francisco and had a wonderful time, even though it rained almost every day. We had an easy flight from Chicago to San Francisco, and after picking up our bags, we walked straight out to the taxi rank. It was about a half an hour ride to our hotel, the Hotel Chancellor, located at 433 Powell St. As our room wasn't ready, we dropped off our luggage and headed to the Visitor's Center to purchase a transportation map. We'd already purchased CityPass online, and the CityPass included a 7 day Muni pass. We thought the CityPass a great bargain, as besides the Muni pass, it included several museums -- the de Young, Legion of Honor, SFMOMA, and the Asian Art Museum -- and a bay cruise. As I mentioned, it rained almost every day, but thankfully, on the day we took the bay cruise it was sunny and beautiful. The rain on the other days didn't stop us, as we had our umbrellas with us, tucked into the outside pockets of Bob's backpack. We made good use of them on this trip.

After we picked up transportation passes, we headed for Molinari's Deli and Café Trieste in North Beach. We had a sandwich at Molinari's, which was wonderful! I had Genoa Salami, fresh mozzarella, ham, and sweet peppers on an Italian bun, with a drizzle of oil and vinegar. Bob had the same, except that he had prosciutto instead of the ordinary ham. After lunch, we headed for Café Trieste to listen to the music that takes place from 1:00 to 5:00 PM, every Saturday afternoon. However, it was so popular that there wasn't a seat to be had, so we went to Café Greco instead, which ended up being one of our favorite places in North Beach. Dinner that night was at Kuleto's, in Union Square. We enjoyed it, and talking to our friendly waitress. The calamari we had for an appetizer is the best we've ever had -- crispy and light, with a delicious sauce.

The next day, we got up early and headed for Fisherman's Wharf, where we took the bay cruise, which was absolutely wonderful! After the bay cruise, we had lunch at Scoma's, which turned out to be one of our favorite meals. We had the prix fixe menu, which was a real bargain, considering what we got. We had clam chowder, which was full of clams and delicious, great sourdough bread, and a Crab Louie salad, with a huge amount of crab on top of the salad. I couldn't finish it all, but I tried. Dessert was a wonderful chocolate torte.

We left Scoma's exactly at 1:00 PM and had to be in the Mission District by 1:30 PM, for a tour. Our waiter rushed our dessert and bill to us, and gave us a short-cut to get to the taxis. We took the taxi, as we didn't think we'd make it on public transportation. As it turned out, the taxi didn't make it either. We had planned on taking the Precita Eyes tour, but since the tour had already left, we explored Balmy Alley on our own.

We had a great time viewing and photographing the Balmy Alley murals and then walked along Mission Street, stopping in a little Mexican jewelry shop, where Bob bought me some turquoise earrings. People were wonderful about giving us directions and suggested places they thought we'd like to see. We made our way to Tartine, located at 600 Guerrero Street at 18th. There was a long line, but eventually we got in and had a wonderful banana cream tart, with Scharffenberger dark chocolate shavings on top. We had a lovely conversation there with a young man from Spain and his American girlfriend. I asked him what a good Spanish wine was, and he suggested one that he liked -- Rioja --and gave us directions to a nearby grocery store that carried it.

We walked to Dolores Park and took the J Church back to Market Street. We had plans to go back later in the week to see Mission Dolores, which we did. Mission Dolores may be familiar to you if you've seen the movie Vertigo. It was beautiful, with a pretty cemetery and garden in the back. We also went into the Basilica. I believe it cost $5.00 to get in, but it was well worth the cost. When we were down in the Mission district, later in the week, we went to Ti-Couz, located at 3108 16th Street at Mission, for crepes and a bottle of French Cider. The crepes and the cider were very good, and tasted much like the ones we had in Paris in Montparnasse.

One day, we took the #38 bus out towards the Cliff House. When we were almost there, the bus driver told us to take another bus -- I believe it was the #18 -- as it would drop us right by the Cliff House. We didn't order food there, but just had coffee and tea and carried it to the lounge, where there were windows to look out at the ocean. Gorgeous views!

Then we went to the Legion of Honor to see the Rodin collection, and we also viewed the Earthquake photo exhibition. Next, we headed to the de Young Museum, and we got a very helpful bus driver who asked what we hadn't seen, gave us suggestions, and told us how to get to Alamo Square to view the Painted Ladies:

One of our favorite restaurants was L'Osteria del Forno, a tiny restaurant, located at 519 Columbus Ave. in North Beach. We enjoyed it so much that we ate there twice. The first night, I had the ravioli, and my husband had the pork roast, which was so tender you could cut it with a fork. The second time we went there, we had pizza, and we enjoyed that too. The restaurant takes no reservations and is cash only. After dinner, we went to Gelato Classico, right by Washington Square Park, at 576 Union St., for sorbetto del limone. It was just right after a full meal.

Another meal that we enjoyed was lunch at the Tadich Grill, located at 240 California Street. Bob had sand dabs, which he'd been wanting to try, and I had the Cioppino, which was very good, full of shrimp, mussels, and pieces of white fish, and accompanied by their garlic bread.

We found we really didn't want a big breakfast, as we often ate a big meal for lunch, so we usually had croissants or pain chocolat at one of a chain of boulangeries. Some of them had tables, and some were just bakeries. The croissants were excellent!

We took the F trolley over to the Embarcadero from Market Street and spent a couple of hours walking around the Ferry Building. We ate lunch at Mijita and browsed the many shops. I was happy to finally find the Scharffenberger Chocolate shop, and I bought several bars to take home.

We didn't spend much time on Fisherman's Wharf, other than to take the Bay Cruise. However, we did go back to the Boudin Bakery to order Boudin Bread samplers to be sent to the kids. It was $27.00 for a rather large sample of the breads, and that included shipping. While we were there, we had a bread bowl with clam chowder for lunch. It was good, but nothing to compare to Scoma's clam chowder.

Another seafood place we enjoyed was Swan Oyster Depot, basically a fish market that serves food. It's located at 1517 Polk St. I'm told there's a line there, but we arrived early -- 11:00 AM -- and walked right in. The service was very friendly and casual. I believe brothers own the place, and they keep up a constant stream of banter with the customers and each other. Seating is just stools at the lunch counter. We had cups of clam chowder and a generous sized shrimp cocktail. The clam chowder was tasty, but somewhat lacking in clams, but the shrimp was wonderful and fresh! Little pots of horseradish are on the counter to stir into the dish of cocktail sauce.

One day, we rented a car from Avis, located at 675 Post St, near Union Square, to drive up to the Napa Valley. I had rented the least expensive car, but they gave us a free up-grade to a silver PT Cruiser, so that was really nice. The Napa Valley was beautiful, with the rolling hills, and we stopped at the Sterling Vineyard where we rode gondolas up the side of the mountain. Georgeous views, though I didn't look down until we got to the top :-)

We got back from Napa in time to go to the Muir Woods, and afterwards stopped at the Pelican Inn at Muir Beach. It was a fun stop, and looked like something you'd find in England. The waitress told us that the wood was hundreds of years old and came from England. We had thought about driving to Point Reyes, but it was pouring down rain by then, so headed back to San Francisco. Dinner that night was at Café Claude, a short walk from Union Square, at 7 Claude Lane. I had Coq au Vin, and Bob had the trout. Both were good, but the best thing we had there was the onion soup, with Gruyere melted on top.

We rode the cable cars several times, and especially enjoyed riding them at night. The cable car stopped at Lombard, so we got out and looked at the view, and took the cable car back down Powell, where we got off right by our hotel. Another good stop was the corner of Hyde & Union, where Swensen's Ice Cream is located. We made that stop a few times. Great ice cream!

We got to the Asian Art Museum, but didn't have nearly enough time there. I had no idea how extensive it is. I would encourage anyone to go there, but leave plenty of time. It's one of the museums included on the CityPass. It's $5.00 -- half price -- on Thursday after 5:00 PM, so if one doesn't have the CityPass, it's still very affordable. We also went to the Japanese Tea Garden, in Golden Gate Park, which was lovely.

We took a free library sponsored tour of China Town, which was excellent, but the guide had to shorten it by a bit, as it was raining so hard. We got to go into a temple on a little side street. I believe it was near the Fortune Cookie Factory.

The tour met in Portsmouth Square, which appeared to be the social center of China Town. We saw mostly older men playing card games and people sitting on the benches, chatting. We went through China Town often on bus #30 from Stockton, on our way to North Beach. We stopped and walked around, and I found a little pair of the embroidered slippers for our granddaughter.

One night, we went up to the Coit Tower as it was closing. It was a beautiful view at night. We went up the next day to see it during the day. Another great view was from the Top of the Mark. We went there for a drink before going to dinner a couple of times.

Our last night, we went to Allegro Romano, a charming Italian restaurant in Russian Hill.

We found it a little difficult to get to. We'd done a trial run during the day and found there was no way to avoid walking up a few steep hills, so we took the street car up to Nob Hill, got off and had a drink at the Top of the Mark, and took the taxi from there. It was well worth the $6.00 we paid to avoid those hills :-) Allegro Romano was just lovely. The food was good, and the service was very attentive. The moment we sat down, baskets of bread and a small dish of bean spread were put in front of us. We started with a salad Caprese, which was beautifully presented, and truffle oil drizzled over it. Bob had the chicken breast with a mustard sauce, accompanied by gorgonzola mashed potatoes and spinach, and I had the spinach ravioli, in a pink sauce. We were served a glass of port wine after dinner, and we ordered a piece of chocolate cappuccino cheesecake to split. The owners made a point of stopping at each table to talk to the guests. It was a memorable evening and a good place for our last meal in San Francisco.

Best regards, Sandy in Illinois