Dream Destination: San Francisco

I’m lucky enough to have already visited today’s dream destination, however, I’ll shortly be returning there and thought I’d share a couple of hotels, whilst asking you guys for your trip tips!

Last time Pete and I went we were on honeymoon, and spent 4 nights at The Clift, a Phillipe Stark design hotel in the Morgans Hotel group, which we loved. The rooms are super glamorous while also still being cosy, which was perfect as the windy city can be quite temperamental with its pacific coast and bay climate.

If you’re a foodie, then the hotel restaurant was immense. Previously Asia de Cuba, it’s now The Velvet Room. Next door is the equally famous Redwood Room, where the long bar is supposedly carved from a single giant redwood tree and backed by antique mirrors, along with literally EVERY cocktail ingredient known to man. The asian style fusion food was amongst the best I’ve had – Pete and I ate there one night and not only felt like minor celebs, as the clientele were clearly movers and shakers, but completely pigged out on the tasting menu with course after course of sample dishes.

The other fun thing about The Clift is the quirky decor. Blending industrial edge with glamourous touches like the aforementioned bar, there are pieces scattered throughout the hotel that give a slightly alice in wonderland feel and make the place feel unique.

This time around we’ll be staying at the Hotel Vitale, a Joie de Vivre hotel in the newly regenerated Embarcadero area of the city. I love being by the sea and as the rest of our trip would be thoroughly landlocked, I wanted to get some bay area air and view before heading inland. Odds are, the weather won’t be great but if it is there’s a gorgeous deck area to enjoy drinks on and the rooms look exactly up my street, quietly luxurious.

The Embarcadero area is right next the the ferry building and hosts the city’s food market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, making it a mecca for foodies and packed full of gourmet destinations. As Californian cuisine is amongst my favourite I can’t wait to try a few of them out. We’re going to try and find the sea lions on the pier head and have a bowl of the amazing chowder in sour dough bread bowls.

So, tell me, have you been to San Francisco and did you stay anywhere worthy of a mention? We did a lot of the major tourist things to do last time around (Union Square, the SF MoMA, a theatre trip to see Wicked, Alcatraz and cycling the Golden Gate bridge to Sausolito,) so this time we’re looking to get off the beaten track a little and see the real San Francisco. I’d love to hear your tips and insider recommendations or if we missed anything last time.


28 thoughts on “Dream Destination: San Francisco

  1. Aarrrrrgh!!! I was staying at The Clift only two nights ago!! :-) Staying at a JdV hotel in Santa Monica in two days… Literally can’t wait after reading the write up!

    Recommendation for breakfast/brunch in SF from friends: Sears Fine Foods and Fog City Diner. Queued for the former. On a Sunday morning. Was YUM. Attempted the latter but we were an hour too early and didn’t have time to go back :-(

    Spoke to a local who recommended a tiny little alley that contained (in her opinion) some of the best restaurants in SF. We did a bit of searching and found it behind a place called Sam’s Diner (ha, as if there’s only one of them in the city!), just down the road from China Town…

    Have fun! :-)

  2. This post is firmly being saved in my favourites… Me and him are currently planning out Cali honeymoon starting and probably finishing in San Francisico. I’m devouring info and tips like it’s going out of fashion, so keep it coming ladies! Xx

    • I’m going to do a top 5 things to see do etc soon Sama, look out for it – so excited for you – we looked at our honeymoon snaps last night and remebered what an AWESOME trip it was. You’re going to have a ball!


      • Brilliant – yes please Rebecca. Mr D and I are also planning our Californian honeymoon at the moment. I am SO SO excited! x

  3. San Francisco is one of those places that properly gets under your skin. If you’ve been once, there’s no way your’re not going back again!

    Top of the touristy list has to be Alcatraz. Even if you’ve been before, the atmospheric night-time tour is well worth it. But aside from that, we found our most lasting memories were where we abandoned the guide book and just went wandering.

    We took advantage of the shift in timezone on the first couple of days and got up early. Pier 39 hadn’t quite become the bustling tourist trap it usually is by that time, and we headed into The Eagle Cafe at the entrance to the pier for the most AMAZING breakfast. I seem to recall it opens around 7.30, and its great watching the area come to life while you tuck into a giant plate of bacon, fruit and pancakes :)

    Fully fuelled up, we set of on foot to walk the water’s edge, heading past the Maritime Museum, up towards Fort Mason and Presido. There are great views of the bridge, the quirky architectural folly of the Exploratorium is good for a nosey, and then you’ve got the Cow Hollow region just south of this.

    Cow Hollow is one of the more affluent residential enclaves of SF, and while not exactly a tourist trap, we were quite happy ambling down the likes of Chestnut Street taking in the boutiques, cafes, nipping into Pottery Barn, and generally pretending to be locals.

    Main tip really I guess is don’t be afraid to just go for a wander. Its a place that has LOTS to give, but the best way to find it is by accident!

    • Awesome tips Ian thanks!

      Last time we were there I was ill (stinking cold post wedding stress!) and it was cold and I really dont feel like we got the best from it, despite doing the big stuff. We’re just going to soak it up this time, less schedule, more wandering. I’m really excited!

    • Ditto Ian, I agree wandering around on foot is one of the most fun things about SF. If you like wandering around residential neighbourhoods checking out the posh houses and wondering how many millions they must have cost (or is that just me?), Pacific Heights is good for that. The one and only Vote for Bush sign that we saw in the whole of San Francisco was here, which I think tells you a lot.

      One word of caution though – it’s easy to look at a map and think oh, we’ll just walk, it’s only a few streets away, and not realise that there is a GIANT F*ING HILL in between you and your destination. I’ve done that way too many times. Sweaty and exhausted is not a great look for the holiday snaps…

  4. Ooooh I LOVE SanFran. I’d been as a teenager but didn’t really discover it properly until a few years ago when I was there as a backpacker and got to properly explore!

    Have you been to many of the well-known neighbourhoods? Have to say, my fav was Castro. It’s just got so much life, as well as some amazing restaurants/bars and great shops. Lots of little quirky boutiques and charity shops where I picked up a few bargins. Great if you like digging around for cool retro items at bargin prices :)

    Also, the sea lions are pretty easy to find on the pier, I found them almost by accident!

  5. The only thing I seem to plan in advance when I go to the States is where I’m going to eat, with brunch my highest priority! We LOVED Dotties True Blue Cafe in San Fran – not exactly in your obvious tourist area, but well worth a trip (and waiting in the queue).

    If anyone has any New York or Chicago tips for a second/third visit, that would be great too!

  6. Well jealous!! I was in San Francisco last Sept (did a trip with a friend travelling LA – Vegas – Death Valley – Yosemite and finishing up in SF -was an amazing trip). I guess you’ve probably been to Chinatown (if not you should!) and agree with comment above about all the neighbourhoods, my fave was Little Italy. I also recommend the cocktail bar at Ghirardelli Square for watching the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Jealous that you’re staying around Embarcadero, it’s such a cool area!

  7. First of all I am a regular reader but this is my first post so hello! I too spent my honeymoon in San Francisco so a couple of our recommendations… As you are staying near the Ferry Building you have to go to Slanted Door, this is a vietnamese restaurant with fabulous views of the Bay Bridge but the food is sensational. You have to book but you can do so online. The Shaking Beef is awesome and you have to try the avocado ice cream – possibly the food highlight of our whole trip! Also Cliff House is a San Francisco institution, it is over by Ocean Beach so a bit of a trek but the views are fab (apparently whales have been sighted by diners over lunch!)as is the food and the whole place has a lot of history, well worth a visit. And finally if you like a good brunch go to the Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins Hotel atop Nob Hill. Again great views over the bay but ever better a fantastic all you can eat brunch with champagne!

    Enjoy x

  8. Oh, one last tip.. if you can find it, try to get a copy of Mike Myers’ 1993 film “So I Married An Axe Murderer” to watch on the plane (http://bit.ly/IVDZff). Aside from being one his most underrated films (ignore the reviews) and having the most amazing early 90s UK indie soundtrack, the film is a real love-letter to San Francisco, with filming locations all over the city.

    • I was just saying to someone the other day what a good film that is!! Need to go and watch it again now!

  9. If you want cultural things, the De Young and Legion of Honor museums are good art museums and have great views over the city. The De Young from an observation tower and the LoH because it’s on a hill with lovely park around it. The De Young is right in Golden Gate park and has a lovely Japanese tea garden next to it, which is so peaceful and calming. The park also has the California Academy of Sciences, which is quite pricey but a good way to spend a morning, probably better if you’re taking small people though, as they’ll spend all day there among the aquariums and educational bits.

  10. Extremely envious of your upcoming trip Rebecca! SF is second only to Tokyo on my places to go list. Hotel looks crazy glamorous!


  11. Aw, check you out looking all honeymoon glam!

    Hmm, places to go in SF. We had a great day wandering around and people watching in the Castro (the gay area – watch Milk before you go if you haven’t already), the Mission (you HAVE to get a burrito) and Haight Ashbury (hippie central – proper old-school SF). I also love North Beach, the old Italian neighbourhood – amazing pizza. We went to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park the last time we were there which was very cool – there’s a huge indoor rainforest and you can walk from the bottom up to the canopy. Great if it’s a classic chilly San Francisco day!

    • Another vote for the burritos in the Mission – the taquerias there are about as close you can get to Mexico without being there, and will completely change everything you thought you knew about burritos. Our fave was La Taqueria, but I bet there’s dozens of equally good places.

  12. I’ve been hearing a lot about JdV hotels lately but not really had the time to properly check them out – looking forward to hearing what you think, Rebecca! Just looked at their website though – LOVE the look of that roof terrace at the Vitale – and I think that’s just solved our question of where to stay on our first night or two stateside later in the year. Though I have a feeling that your holiday review will leave me questioning our decision not to return to San Fran this year…

  13. I remember this from the RMW wedding report and for ages we were planning to do the same route as your honeymoon however because H2B isnt over keen on driving (and loves beaches!) we’ve gone for Singapore and Bali now. But I sooooo want to do this trip!!! Definitely have to plan this for after the wedding!

    PS Love the red dress and the hair – how glam do you look in that reflection in the mirror (and ridiculously tiny!) xxx

  14. I’m headed out to SF for the first time next month and can’t wait! For us its going to be all about the burritos and baseball (we love it!)

  15. Love San Francisco… have not been there for a couple of years and reading this article made me wanna go again. By the way thumbs up for that red dress.

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