Note: This is an ongoing series of my travels through California thanks to the Explore California Passport I won from the Joie de Vivre hotels in May 2009.
It’s been countless years since both my brothers & I have traveled together. Attempts at family ski trips have been stymied by scheduling issues, busted ACLs and back injuries. So we figured a trip to San Francisco might provide less risk of cancellation, and even convinced my father to make the trip up too. Outside of a few hangovers, it turned out quite well, thanks in part to the lodging provided by the Joie de Vivre hotels.
My timing being what it is, Fleet Week meant that my first choices of hotels were not available. So Nils & I ended up at the Phoenix, the rock ‘n roll motor lodge in the Civic Center/Tenderloin area that boasts a terrific pool and free parking, my brothers at the Kabuki & Tomo in Japantown, and my father at the Good Hotel in SOMA. The latter property is no longer part of the JdV dynasty, but thanks to Dino, a fantastic reservations manager, Good generously agreed to honor the 2 night stay.
The hotels were all within walking distance of each other (though the Good hotel was a bit further away), and we discovered a perfect pre-dinner meeting spot in Olive, a bar/lounge on Larkin that included goat cheese stuffed olives in its martinis. This place was firmly in the Tenderloin (none of the ‘Civic Center’ euphemisms here), and the groovy menu & interior were definitely at odds with the street outside. That said, once inside it didn’t impact anyone’s ability to enjoy the ambiance.
Besides enjoying drinks with a side of sibling mockery that my brothers and I have spent years perfecting, we explored a few new-to-us establishments. The first night was spent at an elegant restaurant that had been around awhile, Jardiniere, while the second night was spent quaffing interesting cocktails and not really sharing the small plates that were intended to be shared at Bar Agricole, which had opened very recently. The completely different feel of the two restaurants really illustrated the spectrum of dining available in San Francisco. And that’s without even considering our slow-food/Mexican/Cajun breakfast at Just For You, a very popular eatery in Dogpatch, the best named neighborhood in San Francisco. My boyfriend, father and brother loved the place if only for the Crabby Bennie dish, seemingly named for me. Yes, I did order it, and it was almost tasty enough to dispel my typically crabby demeanor. Almost.
While food tends to be the centerpiece of our trips to the city, we did manage quite a bit of sightseeing, including a forced march along Baker Beach to watch the tall ships and grab photos of the Golden Gate. This hike allowed us to witness a local denizen on the rocks below the trail saluting the US Armed Forces with an American flag, naval cap & not much else. No doubt those military he was saluting were most pleased by that show of patriotism.
Given that sighting, we realized that the air show would be a let-down, but continued on to Fisherman’s Wharf to satisfy my need to visit the Musee Mecanique, a recommendation from a friend in Seattle. This free historical penny arcade features a cacophony of player pianos, pinball machines, dioramas and unsettling shrieking dolls. There’s also a bit of history on the boardwalk amusement parks that proliferated in the first half of the 1900’s, which included penny arcades, rides and dance halls.
Timing was such that we were in the right place at the right time to see the Blue Angels and other daredevil pilots perform. My tip for anyone considering watching the air show next year; the top floor of the parking structures at Fisherman’s Wharf are perfect viewing areas, as you get an unobstructed 360 degree view of the aerial mayhem. And avoid the crush of humanity on the streets below.
Between the food, the fresh air, the history and the catching up, it was quite the full weekend. And since nobody was reduced to tears at any particular point, I’d go so far as to say that the family reunion part was a success.