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San Francisco August 2014-12

San Francisco: its colors, angles, smells, views, and ever-changing scenery create a different experience for each and every one of the numerous visitors who descend upon the iconic West coast city by the bay.

San Francisco August 2014-27
[Hearst Building interior]

As a former San Franciscan, I’ve often returned with the tourist-in-my-own town perspective. There’s always something new to discover, and on our recent trip down here, we weren’t disappointed. San Francisco is a big, bad, old, expensive city that’s filled with both tourists and convention-bound business people nearly year-round.

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I personally couldn’t fathom spending nearly three hours waiting at the foot of Market and Powell Streets waiting for a cable car ride, but it’s a rite of passage for the millions of tourists that the city receives each year (16.9 in 2013 alone).

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[I have a soft spot for the old trolley cars going along Market Street: don’t miss riding one!]

On an average day in SF, over 134k visitors spend upwards of 25 million dollars on goods, services, tours, and conventions. Join us as we take a look around the city, starting from our 19th-floor hotel room with a view at conveniently-located Westin San Francisco Market Street, close to several museums, Moscone Convention Center, Metreon entertainment district, Yerba Buena Gardens, MUNI and BART transit, Ferry Building, Financial District, Chinatown, and AT&T Park (home of the San Francisco Giants).

San Francisco August 2014-5

Note the SFMOMA is currently undergoing renovations/expansion, but you can always be tempted in their ultra-cool museum gift shop!

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We slept like royalty on a Westin Heavenly Bed, one of many creature comforts in this green-minded hotel. The hotel offers an incentive of declining housekeeping to receive a $5 voucher at their hotels (or 500 SPG Starpoints). It’s a great way to help save the planet. Speaking of recycling, pack lots of shopping bags into your luggage when coming here. San Francisco has a strict 10-cents-per-bag law in place.

San Francisco August 2014-1

The Westin also features wifi ($15/day), in-room safes and coffee/tea maker, a fitness studio, and conference rooms. Executive Chef John Hart oversees the kitchen at Maso Bar Lounge and Terrace, offering up breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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[Tourists from around the world converge inside the Westin SF lobby]

Comfort food features prominently on the dinner menu. Think buttermilk fried chicken, chargrilled filet of beef, Kobe meatloaf, Dungeness crab cakes, mac ’n’ lobster. The interior combines vintage with high tech, including the antiquated leather straps with steel bars dividing the restaurant from the lounge.

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[Top: Maso Lounge; bottom: Palace Hotel]

We also headed north to Healdsburg for an afternoon of wine tasting with family. This region boasts lush valleys filled with Northern California’s finest wine appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, and Russian River Valley, among others.

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We focused our tour on Dry Creek Valley, starting with a picnic lunch at Wilson Winery, then driving along the small, winding road passing Raymond Burr Vineyards, stopping in at Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves, Quivira Vineyards, and Martorana Family Winery.

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This region is best known for its zinfandels, and we found a favorite in Wilson’s Blushing Zinfandel as well as Bella’s Rocky Ridge Vineyards’ 2011 Rockpile Zinfandel. Wine fans will be happy to learn that Healdsburg, although a busy wine region, isn’t nearly as built up – or as crazy on weekends – as neighbouring Napa and Sonoma valleys. My brother and his wife love coming up here (less than two hours from SF) and packing a picnic spread to enjoy amongst the fabulous scenery and vineyards.

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Don’t forget to check out the Bay Bridge near the Ferry Building at night; there’s a new illuminated sculpture installation, SOMA, by The Flaming Lotus Girls (of Burning Man fame), and Leo Villareal’s LED Bay Lights project: a moving light installation containing 25,000 dancing lights on the western span of the bridge.

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Hula-hoopers came out on Saturday night to add color to an already-vibrant atmosphere.

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[Tadich Grill: California’s oldest restaurant]

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[Perbacco on California Street offers Northern Italian dishes and amazing homemade gelati!]

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