San Francisco is one big movie location – so many films have been made there – from The Hulk to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner to the car chase in Bullit. The Pacific Heights neighbourhood hosted Mrs Doubtfire and, er, Pacific Heights. The early Broadway stage-door scene in All About Eve was shot at the Curran Theatre in Geary Street in San Francisco 's less than salubrious Tenderloin area. And there are way too many scenes in Vertigo to mention – from Mission Dolores church to the Golden Gate bridge.
But my most thrilling holiday movie moment took place 60 miles north of the city at the tiny hamlet of Bodega Bay, the setting of Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 masterpiece The Birds. I called into a gift shop near the Tides Inn (which also features in the film, though now totally transformed into deli, gift shop and restaurant) to ask directions to 'the centre of town' as seen in the movie. I was told by the woman in the shop: 'This is where she gets in the boat, the school is four miles inland!' I'd clearly not been the first fan of The Birds to call in to ask directions!
Inland was the classically spooky schoolhouse (very Edward Hopper) perched high on a hill, but no neighbouring jungle gym next door where the crows once perched. It was like being transported into the film and I half expected Tippi Hedren to appear at any moment. I never found the centre of town – there is no town – just cinema, the magic of.
North of San Francisco, take the coast road for the views.
Google map: tinyurl.com/ycyg6n5
It is like rollercoaster ride and offers sensational views. My tips would be to (1) get there early in the day and (2) avoid being fleeced by the guys who hang around Powell purporting to sell tickets, but then slink off with your money into Burger King! You buy the tickets ON THE CAR. Don't make my mistake.
If you're looking for somewhere classy to stay on the West Coast The Westin St. Francis in San Francisco brings old time nostalgia to the 21st century. Located in the very heart of Union Square it is in a prime location to explore all that this city has to offer.
However if all that sounds a little too strenuous then why not stay awhile and as the saying goes "meet me at the clock". The old style grandeur shines through in the lobby of this 5 star luxury hotel. Marble doric columns all exquisitely maintained and acres of polished wood make guests feel welcome as soon as you set foot in the door.The greeting is no less warm from the staff that work here, from the doorman to reception.
The rooms are very well appointed with all the modern amenities that a seasoned traveller could ask for. Especially the Heavenly Bed, you'll be fast asleep in no time. If you can, ask for room 1132 the views across Union Square are superb.
If you do decide to "meet at the clock" then be prepared to taste some fantastic cocktails and nibble finger foods from Michael Mina. Or why not stroll across the lobby and sample this Michelin starred chefs menu for yourself. Exquisite dinner and lunch at a price that might just surprise you!
Of course you may feel the need to work off some of that excess and there is a gym if you're so inclined, or why not head to The Spa and indulge in some rest and relaxation. Treatments to suit all tastes and budgets are catered for. Whether you would like a massage to relieve jet lag or just getting your nails done - its' all here.
If you are tempted to leave this luxury retreat then San Francisco has much to tempt you with. Take a cable car to Fishermans Wharf and experience the tacky side of 'cisco. Stalls selling fresh seafood, souvenir shops and the sea lions at Pier 39. Try Boudin bakeries sourdough bread with clam chowder - delicious! But make sure you leave room for the bread. Its the best bit!
No trip to San Fran would be complete without a visit to The Rock. Alcatraz has been closed for many years now but visitors still flock to its spooky corridors. The night visit is especially terrifying and not for the faint of heart.
The ferries also take you across to Sausalito a small slice of the Meditteranean in The Bay. Art galleries, boutiques and the best sandwiches ever at the delicatessen 'Venice'. On your return the Golden Gate Bridge spans the straits and there are some great photo opportunities.
Once you return to terra firma explore Chinatown, Little Italy and Nob Hill as all these areas are in easy walking distance. Don't forget Lombard Street the worlds windiest road. San Francisco may seem like a long way to go for a city break but its accessability is it's strong point. Everything seems to be in easy reach and a cab ride is taken at your own risk...remember Bullitt?
Couple your trip with a stay at The Westin and if you need to escape the hustle and bustle of San Francisco and need a quiet oasis to recharge and regroup then The St. Francis will leave you feeling refreshed - but I'm sure that at some point you'll want to return to the Streets of San Francisco!
The Bay Area has numerous beautiful panoramas to appeal to even the most cynical visitor, but Indian Rock in Albany, next to Berkeley, offers perhaps the most spectacular views of the Bay - in fact, the views are up there with the best in the world. Its location in the middle of leafy suburbia, far away from any other major tourist draws does make it something of an effort to get to. But it also means that, a few locals aside, you'll have the place pretty much to yourself a lot of the time. And believe me, it is worth the effort. Directly opposite the Golden Gate Bridge, the view from Indian Rock encompasses almost the entire Bay Area. The shimmering skyscrapers of downtown San Francisco, the gridiron of the East Bay (mesmerisingly illuminated at night), the waters of the Bay, the far-off glistening Pacific, the coastal mountains including the forest-clad hills of Marin County. A world-beating feast for the eyes that you can hardly believe. Come and witness the spectacular sunsets and have your breath taken away. The memories will last a lifetime.
A couple of miles north of downtown Berkeley, a car is the best way to get there, as it's more than half an hour's walk from North Berkeley or El Cerrito bart station. Indian Rock Park, 950 Indian Rock Ave, Albany, CA.
An historic Inn 15 mins from downtown San Francisco across the Golden Gate bridge with stunning views of the city and the Bay. Just a five minute walk to the ferry crossing through streets of funky boutiques, museums, eateries and scented gardens. Finely furnished historic Inn with wonderful touches of detail.
Lovely B&B near Point Reyes which is a little way out of San Francsico (oh ok, about an hour's drive) but worth it for the absolutely stunning views.
The Inn looks like a giant treehouse and set in a forest it feels like one. Big open fire, huge windows and fantastic breakfasts. I stayed in the Lupine room which was beautiful - slanted ceilings, peaceful and the sort of place you felt the impulse to write a best-selling novel in!
No, not cheap - if you want that stay in a crusty motel. But a real experience.
This is a fantastic little French bistro in the relatively unknown neighbourhood of Potrero Hill. Fantastic views reward the climb to the top (or drive), and enjoy perhaps the best burgers in the city, with perfect french frites.
1453 18th St
San Francisco 94107
Btwn Missouri & Connecticut St
Hog Island Oyster Company is about 10 miles north of the town of Point Reyes on Highway 1. There are tables and grills where you can shuck your own oysters at the edge of Tomales Bay. In Pt. Reyes, you can buy a baguette at the Bovine Bakery, some local cheese at the Cowgirl Creamery and some wine or beer.
Then drive north to Hog Island. The ocean fog often burns off in the late afternoon. A marvelous way to induce a sense of wellbeing.
This is a restaurant located in the Ferry Building. They serve great, great food.
Watch out for the dog, though. He is not dangerous, but the owners are not polite enough to keep the dog away from the communal table, which I think is weird.
You have a straight view on the Bay Bridge, which doesn't have the fame of the Golden Gate, but is still well worth looking at.
Right in the Ferry Building. Tons of trams and buses go there.
You will never find it on a map or a guide book but 20th & Vermont Street makes Lombard Street look straight.
No Japanese tourists but your backseat passengers might get sick if you go too fast.
Vermont Street and 20th.
Look for the sign that looks like a snake and a street that disappears straight down
A county park that bisects the peninsula south of the main city, San Bruno mountain is accessible by car and has loads of walking and biking trails. The Saddle Trail goes through woods and leads to fantastic views of the city.
It's particularly convenient for the airport, which is why if you've got a couple of hours to kill before or after a flight it's a great antidote to the stress of air travel. Parking is $5.
Guadalupe Canyon Parkway;
For directions see www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/smc/department/home/0,,5556687_12313315_12345092,00.html#Directions
The huge hotel Westin St Francis on Union Square has five outside glass elevators that afford the most amazing views of the city. And it's all free! Walk through the lobby and take an elevator to the 32nd floor. Exhilarating.
Hotel Westin St Francis, at Union Square
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Hotel Westin St Francis, at Union Square
See my photo: www.flickr.com/photos/bryceedwards/134703108/
Read more at www.sfcvb.org/travel_media/press.asp?rid=110&cid=5
A fantastic view of San Francisco, along with all the bridges, down to the Dumbarton, as well as much of the entire Bay Area, can be had from the top of the Oakland Hills, on the opposite side of the Bay.
You'll need a car, for this, and it's a bit out of the way, but, to get there, go east, across the Bay Bridge, and follow the signs for Highway 24. Continue about 5 miles, up and through the Caldecott Tunnel; then, take the first possible exit, get back on the freeway going west, and immediately take the exit for "Fish Ranch Road". Go to the end of the ramp, and turn rignt; then, go up to the first stop sign (four way stop), turn left, and drive about 1/4 of a mile. The road will bend to the left, and you'll find yourself looking down on one of the most stunning views of the San Francisco Bay Area you'll likely encounter outside of an aircraft. At sunset it's simply gorgeous!
When you're ready to leave, just follow the road down; and, when faced with a stop sign, always turn downhill (mostly right, but there's a left at the bottom, just before you're returned to the Highway 24). Once you reach 24, just follow the signs back to the Bay Bridge, and San Francisco. You might also stop at Yerba Buena/Treasure Island for a more close up view of the skyline.
Top of the Oakland Hills on Tunnel Road.
A great late afternoon/early evening walk up Grant Avenue starting at Market Street and ending at Coit Tower. You start in the heart of downtown but soon transition to Chinatown and then the Italian North Beach district before ending with panoramic views of The City and The Bay.
Stop at local establishments Tosca (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7859) for an Irish coffee, Cafe Macaroni (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7860) for dinner, then catch some live blues at the Saloon (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7858) - Perfect!
Start at Grant Ave and Market Street.
Great for dogs and humans alike. 360 degree view from this centrally located gem. Bring your walking shoes as you might be tempted to explore some more! It also overlooks the kid-friendly neighbourhood of Bernal Heights. I'll leave that up to you to check out.
1 Andover Street, San Francisco
Cocktail bar and restaurant that has a Pacific island theme. The band plays on a boat that drifts out into the lagoon to a mock storm complete with rain. As fabulously tacky as it sounds.
Fairmont Hotel: 950 Mason Street (there's an entrance off California Street);
tel: (415) 772 5278;
OK, it's tacky and touristy, but it's fab. Hang on to the side while you race down toward the Bay, or better still, late at night shooting down California Street. Better than a fairground ride.
There are cable car turnarounds at the bottom of California Street and at the bottom of Powell Street;
A small park on Russian Hill with fabulous views over North Beach, Financial District and Bay Bridge. Peaceful and quiet, you'll usually share it with a few folk up from Chinatown doing their Tai Chi. Just over the hill - between Vallejo and Green (for those who know their Tales of the City) is supposed to be macondry lane - complete with wooden steps. Named after a poet.
At intersection of Vallejo St and Taylor St
A great film by Judy Irving, a Sundance and Emmy Award winning filmmaker. It's about, well, the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. They are cherry-headed conures, also known as red-masked parakeets, an indigenous species from Peru. They have been also spotted farther east on Embarcadero Plaza.
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