Five weeks tomorrow (Wednesday) my wife and I will be flying out to our second home, San Francisco, California, USA. I use the word “home”, not in the sense that it is where we are permanently domiciled, but rather as the place where we feel most “at home”. This will be our eighth trip to the City by the Bay and we could not be looking more forward to it.
Since the millenium we have, in the Spring of every even year (’00 to ’10 inclusive), spent 3-4 weeks “out west”. Each vacation has followed a similar pattern - a week or so skiing in Heavenly, Lake Tahoe at the beginning and week or two in San Francisco at the end, with three or four day visits to other locations sandwiched in between for a few days – these have included Vegas, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Death Valley and Yosemite.
Following last year’s vacation we decided that life was too short to have to wait two years for our next skiing and SF fixes, so, at least for now, it has become an annual event. Our long term aim, finances permitting, has always been that once my wife has joined me in Retirement Row, which may still be a few years yet, we will spend longer in San Francisco / Heavenly, upwards of three months at a time, twice a year.
But for now it’s three and a half weeks, starting with the customary first night stay in San Francisco followed by the drive to South Lake Tahoe on the following day. Ever since the night in 2002 when we thought we could make the trip from SF to Tahoe immediately following an eleven hour flight, and then, after negotiating a heavy rain-splashed evening commute out of town, spent seven hours crawling through a four foot snow storm (of which more another time), we have seen sense and stayed in the City before venturing out refreshed the next morning.
Besides, we have developed a routine, now I suppose it warrants being dignified with the word tradition, for that overnight stay that sets the scene for the entire vacation – dinner at Calzone’s on Columbus Avenue in North Beach followed by a scan of the shelves in the City Lights Bookstore and a few drinks in Vesuvio’s in the evening, and breakfast at the Eagle Cafe on Pier 39 the next morning, along with half an hour in the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Fisherman’s Wharf stocking up on any vacation reading before we head off to Tahoe.
We are only skiing for four days this year, though it’s four more days that we would have anticipated when we left there last March. So we are hoping for perfect spring conditions – they snow is already there, all we need now is the sun. And the best meal of our entire trip last year was at the Riva Grill on Ski Run Marina, so we plan to eat there again.
After five nights we fly from Reno to Vegas where we are meeting my wife’s parents, both of whom are now 80 and still hitting “Sin City”! Just three nights there but, as ever, action packed – Cirque de Soleil Viva Elvis show in the Aria, possibly another show yet to be booked and a trip to the Hoover Dam with a deluxe cruise on Lake Mead. And then there’s at least two of those nights spent tackling feisty “Whiskey Girl” cocktails at Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and Grill.
With such tasty appetisers cleared away we move onto the main course – San Francisco. Last year we eschewed a hotel for the first time and stayed in an apartment in Hayes Valley for two weeks. This will now be the template for the future. We wanted to “live like locals” as much as possible, and staying in someone’s home is a good starting point - no maids knocking at your door in the morning anxious to clean your room, you can eat in as often or as little as you want and, if you have a washer and dryer, you are never short of clean clothing! The last facility is particularly important this year since Virgin Atlantic has halved the cabin luggage allowance since our trip last year.
We are staying in a much larger apartment this year on Fulton Street, half way between Alamo Square and Golden Gate Park. Not only is it more spacious but it comes with a huge TV, computer and, rarest and most precious of all in San Francisco, a designated parking space.
I will post separately about our plans for San Francisco but our emphasis this year will be on new places and new experiences, though I’m sure that we won’t be able to resist returning to many of our favourite haunts such as Beach Blanket Babylon (already booked for our fifth visit), the Cliff House, Haight-Ashbury and AT & T Park.