We Left Our Hearts in San Francisco

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First-time to San Francisco was the last weekend in May 2014. #SPLUSTSF was started for this quick 4 night trip to represent Steve Plus Tricia in San Francisco.

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The first tourist stop we made was visiting Alcatraz Island. We sent sail on the 12:45 PM ferry and were glad it was in the middle of the day because it was a windy island with outstanding views. We were lucky to have a bright blue sky while setting sail that day. Make sure to buy your tickets prior to your trip to SF, because rumors were tickets can be hard to find and most likely sold out during peak season.

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DSC03041We walked around the island and took in the views, sun, wind and history. DSC03042

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My husband enjoyed the 3-hour audio tour and even pretended he was in jail several times during it.

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Who’s ready for drink? (Me!) We had reservations at the Cliff House which is on the far West side of SF. We enjoyed a fish dinner and watched the sun set. We commend reservations or being there by 6:30 PM for a nice 8 PM sunset.

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The Cliff House area had a lot to see too. There is even a beach and you could plan to look around for hours.

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Late night beverage late one evening just blocks away from our hotel, with views of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge (known locally as the Bay Bridge). As part of Interstate 80 and the direct road route between San Francisco and Oakland, it carries approximately 240,000 vehicles per day on its two decks. It has one of the longest spans in the United States.

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The first 2 nights were spent downtown SF and we were recommended by friends to rent a car so the sights could be seen downtown in addition to hundreds miles away. The San Francisco Palace Hotel was centrally located with valet parking that we did not use. The rooms were small but nice and the lobby bar was a nice surprise for a quick sip before heading out onto the town. It is a Starwood Resort so using our SPG points helped keep the hotel budget way down.

Parking in San Francisco is expensive-the best is $20 and that will not be near the main area. Find a lot that you can park, but watch the times. Steve woke up one morning at 6 AM to get the car out before being charged another $30.

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The famous Pier 39 was full of tourists and entertainment. We took the sight in and left quick.

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Every where you go clam chowder is served with also famously made sour dough bread. Steve is trying this at a big chain in the Pier called Chowder.

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Who’s ready to ride the trolley? We waited in line for the POWELL STREET trolley car for an hour. It really was the best trolley line to ride.

Locals can jump on any time during the ride until it’s full. The fare was $5 per person 1-way.

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Hanging off the trolley is the best part. But yes watch out for cars.

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China town was a sight to be seen. We walked through it at about 10 AM when the shops were just opening up. Grab a coffee in Little Italy and walk around. If you want to shop, wait until Noon to get there.

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Steve is a bruncholic. (Which means he is addicted to brunch, and would eat it everyday if he could.) A goal is find one of the best spots in town for brunch whenever we travel. So with his research in San Francisco, Mama’s on Washington Square was his pick. Look at those ratings on the window!

We arrived at 10:30, after walking through China town to get there and the line was wrapped around the corner.

Not knowing how long it really was going to take, Steve hopped in line, while I walked around the Washington Square park neighborhood.
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Would I recommend going to Mama’s? Yes. BUT- not if you’re in any sort of rush, have more than 4 people in your group or if your just wanting a 3 eggs and bacon breakfast. I ordered the Monte Crisco and was very happy with my choice. Steve picked a California omelet and it was good-but not worth a 2 1/2 hour wait.

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Walking around the neighborhoods in SF. Behind me are hills of homes and beautiful architecture and churches.

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Ready for a drive? I took our rental car down the famous curvy road of Lombard Street. I guess that is just something you have to do-according to the locals.

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Our first stop entering into Sonoma was a friendly family owned winery Cline Cellars. This is one of the first wineries that greets you will see coming into wine country. We drank our free sampling and walking around with quarter glasses in the vineyards and flower gardens.

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Steve met a real ass at the winery too.

Next stop was one of the oldest wineries in Sonoma area. Buena Vista Winery was down a   wooded path and off the main road. It was a little bit of a walk to the main tasting room too-but we didn’t mind at all.

It felt like you were in another country with the English-inspired buildings and calming atmosphere.

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After dining downtown Sonoma for lunch, we continued on our way through wine country.

We randomly stopped next at Domaine Carneros because of her big white umbrellas, bright sun shining on down on it and perfectly manicured greenery. This winery literally was calling out my name, “Hello Tricia you must stop by today“.

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The website says reservations only, but this winery actually was the only one we went to that served wine, cheese and crackers. There are rules that certain wineries can’t serve food. We nibbled on few almonds but didn’t order anything off the menu. We shared a Pinot Noir and Champaign wine flight. He gave us generous pours because they were slow on the Friday afternoon we were there and the cost was $25.

I would highly recommend this winery. The cellar tour is worth checking out too, it’s 2 hours long and people were raving over it. We didn’t have that kind of time on our wine country journey though.

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While enjoying the sights and wine, Steve saw a Porsche and Lamborghini and a few other “fancy cars” driving down to another winery just across the street.

We were curious.
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We were greeted with this modern delight of the Cuvaison Winery. Online the winery says reservations only as well, but we arrived at 4 PM when they had a break before the night crowd so we seated in the sun and started our tasting.

Cuvaison was a quiet spot and we were happy to learn more about this unique place with almost 1,500 solar panels and implemented green initiatives.

It isn’t a required Napa spot-but it was a nice finish to our journey to downtown Napa.

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Right in the heart of downtown Napa we stayed for 1 night at the Andaz a Hyatt resort. It had been designed just for the Napa tourists with a wine happy hour at 5 PM and we were even greeted with a glass of vino too.

This was one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in. I loved the modern amenities and personal touches of wine country decor. There was a large patio bar on the 3rd floor that had a neighborhood feel and had the bright afternoon sun.

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Downtown Napa was easy to get around and our hotel was centrally located. Steve’s breakfast spot was just 5 blocks away and guess what- NO LINE! It was actually a bakery called Alexis Bakery Company, but wasn’t a chain at all even though the name may sound like it. Everything was made from scratch including ricotta pancakes (another good choice by this MN Design Gal).

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Patio and cabana back at Andaz.

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Beautiful gardens and scapes while walking downtown Napa.


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The last full day in California we got up and drove back to downtown San Francisco to our 3rd hotel in 4 exciting nights. This day’s main event would start at 7 PM.

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The view from our seats on club level. Steve bought them off of Ticket King before we left Minnesota.

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Even wine at the ball game in a cute vintage store.

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About 10 Twins fans there on Saturday when we were there. A few more in the background.

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A successful first trip to San Francisco. We really loved all the food, views, culture and palm trees. The bay makes it extra windy and it wasn’t nearly as warm as you think. Half the days we were out and about this gal wore her long-johns so I didn’t get a chill (for real).

The Napa Valley day was my favorite adventure because of the drive through Sausalito and through the Marin lands then experiencing my first ever California wineries. Being able to experience the downtown San Francisco including some nightlife and also drive up to wine country was a perfect taste of SF.

If you have questions on places we were find this design gal on Foursquare or follow some more of the fun in more detail check out #SplusTSF.

I thought I would leave you with the famous San Francisco song that was even played at the end of the Twins lost against the Giants.

Keep traveling,
your MN Design Gal

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