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San Francisco's charms are great and small

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       WEEKEND GETAWAYS - Friday, November 23, 2007
    Make The Most Of Your Vacation - From Coast to Coast!


Greetings Getaway Lover,

We're off to the city of Chocolate.....Yes

Snuggled on a 46½-square-mi tip of land between San 
Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco is 
a relatively small city of about 750,000 residents. 
San Franciscans cherish the city, partly for the same
reasons so many visitors do: the proximity of the bay 
and its pleasures, rows of Victorian homes clinging 
precariously to the hillsides, the sun setting behind 
the Golden Gate Bridge. Longtime locals know the city's 
attraction goes much deeper, from the diversity of its 
neighborhoods and residents (trannies in the seedy 
Tenderloin, yuppie MBAs in the Marina, elderly Russians 
in the Richmond, working-class Latino families in the 
Mission) to the city's progressive free spirit (we voted 
to ban handguns, we embrace a photographer's project 
that involves naked people frolicking in trees on public 
land, our thirtysomething mayor poses for GQ and is seen 
out on the town with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, a former 
model). Take all these things together and you'll begin 
to understand why, despite the dizzying cost of living 
here, many San Franciscans can't imagine calling any-
place else home. 

Happy Trails,
Jan

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--DESTINATION: 

San Francisco

San Francisco's charms are great and small. You wouldn't 
want to miss Golden Gate Park, the Palace of Fine Arts, 
the Golden Gate Bridge, or a cable-car ride over Nob Hill. 
But a walk down the Filbert Steps or through Macondray 
Lane or an hour gazing at murals in the Mission or the 
thundering Pacific from the cliffs of Lincoln Park can be 
equally inspiring. 

Chocolate Rush 

The Maya considered chocolate sacred, and it is believed 
that they sometimes buried their dead with pots of the 
elixir to nourish them in the afterlife. San Franciscans 
are not far behind in their adoration of this complex 
confection. 

One of San Francisco's first chocolate manufacturers, 
Domenico Ghirardelli started making chocolate in 
California in the mid-19th century. In the 1890s, he 
purchased the Pioneer Woolen Mill building, now part 
of San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square, and moved the 
Ghirardelli Chocolate Company there. Although pro-
duction of its chocolate has since been moved across 
the bay, you can still visit the original factory, 
where you can purchase the famed confections, get a 
peek at some of the original chocolate-making equipment, 
and order an eight-scoop hot fudge sundae at the adja-
cent soda fountain. 

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--WHAT TO DO AND SEE:

Alcatraz Island 
Island, Jail, Fisherman's Wharf 
 
The boat ride to the island is brief (15 minutes) but 
affords beautiful views of the city, Marin County, and 
the East Bay -- it's a great way to combine a sail on 
the bay with a truly worthwhile sight. The audio tour, 
highly recommended, includes observations of guards and 
prisoners about life in one of America's most notorious 
penal colonies. A separate ranger-led tour surveys the 
island's ecology. Plan your schedule to allow at least 
three hours for the visit and boat rides combined. 
Reservations, even in the off-season, are strongly 
recommended. www.parksconservancy.org/visit/alcatraz.php. 
COST: $11.50; $16 with audio tour; $23.50 evening tour, 
including audio. OPEN: Ferry departures every 30-45 mins 
Sept.-late May, daily 9:30-2:15, 4:20 for evening tour 
Thurs.-Mon. only; late May-Aug., daily 9:30-4:15, 6:30 
and 7:30 for evening tour. 

Address: Pier 41, San Francisco, CA, USA
Phone: 415/773-1188 boat schedules and information;
415/705-5555; 800/426-8687 credit-card ticket orders; 
415/705-1042 park information
 

Buffalo Paddock 
Nature Preserve, Golden Gate Park 
 
The original denizens of the paddock arrived at the 
park in 1894 for the Mid-Winter Exposition. The current 
herd, from Wyoming, was acquired in 1984. 

Address: John F. Kennedy Dr. west of Spreckels Lake, 
San Francisco, CA, USA
 

Cable Car Museum 
Museum/Gallery, Nob Hill 
 
San Francisco once had more than a dozen cable-car barns 
and powerhouses. The only survivor, this 1907 redbrick 
structure, is an engaging stopover between Russian Hill 
and Nob Hill and an absolute must for kids. Photographs,
old cable cars (including one to sit in), signposts, 
ticketing machines, and other memorabilia dating from 
1873 document the history of these moving landmarks. The 
massive powerhouse wheels that move the entire cable-car 
system steal the show; the design is so simple it seems 
almost unreal. You can also go downstairs to the sheave 
room and check out the innards of the system. A 15-minute 
video describes how it all works -- cables must be re-
placed every three to six months -- or you can opt to 
read the detailed placards. The gift shop sells cable-car 
paraphernalia. www.cablecarmuseum.com. COST: Free. OPEN: 
Oct.-Mar., daily 10-5; Apr.-Sept., daily 10-6. 

Address: 1201 Mason St., at Washington St., San Francisco,
CA, USA    Phone: 415/474-1887
  
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Other Places of Interest:

Cartoon Art Museum 
Museum/Gallery, SoMa 
 
Krazy Kat, Zippy the Pinhead, Batman, and other colorful
cartoon icons greet you at the Cartoon Art Museum, 
established with an endowment from cartoonist-icon Charles
M. Schulz. The museum's strength is its changing exhibits, 
which explore such topics as America from the perspective 
of international political cartoons, and the output of 
women and African-American cartoonists. Serious fans of 
cartoons -- especially those on the quirky underground 
side -- will likely enjoy the exhibits; those with a 
casual interest may be disappointed. The museum store 
carries lots of cool books and a small but tempting selec
tion of toys and gifts. www.cartoonart.org. COST: $6, pay 
what you wish 1st Tues. of month. OPEN: Tues.-Sun. 11-5. 

Address: 655 Mission St., San Francisco, CA, USA
Phone: 415/227-8666
 

Children's Playground 
Carousel, Park, Golden Gate Park 
 
Kids have been coming here to cut loose since the 1880s. 
The equipment has changed over the years (not very often, 
by the looks of it), but the squeals and howls remain the 
same. A menagerie of handcrafted horses and other animals 
-- among them cats, frogs, roosters, and a tiger -- twirl
on the 1912 Herschell-Spillman Carousel, inside a many-
windowed circular structure. The Romanesque-style Sharon 
Building looms over the playground; the 1887 structure 
has been rebuilt twice, after the earthquake of 1906 and 
a 1980 fire. There are better playgrounds in the city, 
among them Julius Kahn Park in the Presidio and Mountain
Lake Park in the Richmond, but the carousel makes this 
one worth seeking out if you're in the park with kids. 
COST: Playground free, carousel $1.50. OPEN: Playground 
daily dawn-midnight; carousel Memorial Day-Labor Day, 
daily 10-4:30, Labor Day-Memorial Day, Fri.-Sun. 10-4:30. 

Address: Bowling Green Dr., off Martin Luther King Jr. 
Dr., San Francisco, CA, USA
Phone: 415/753-5210, 415/812-2725, or 415/831-2700
 
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------------------------------------------------------------

--WHERE TO SLEEP:

Adelaide Hotel 
Under $90, Union Sq. 
 
You can rent a private single or double room for $55-$70 
at this funky, folksy place, or share one of the dorm 
rooms -- some same-sex only, some coed -- for $22-$24 per 
bed a night. Each room has a sink, and some have private 
baths. The hostel, formerly a small hotel, is at the end 
of a nondescript alley in the theater district. Many of 
the guests are likely to be from Europe, making for 
lively chats over the free morning coffee and pastries 
in the small dining room or a lounge with a fireplace. 
Smoking is allowed in the private rooms. 
www.adelaidehostel.com. 9 four-bed rooms, 2 six-bed rooms, 
6 private rooms (3 people max). In-room: no phone. In-
hotel: restaurant, laundry facilities, public Internet, 
parking (fee), no-smoking rooms. AE, MC, V. Continental
breakfast. 

Address: 5 Isadora Duncan Ct., San Francisco, CA 94102, 
USA   Phone: 415/359-1915 or 877/359-1915
Fax: 415/359-1940
 

The Archbishop's Mansion 
$90 to Over $250, Western Addition 
 
Everything in this stately 1904 French-chateau-style 
mansion is extravagantly romantic, starting with the 
cavernous common areas, where a chandelier used in the
movie Gone with the Wind hangs above a Bechstein grand 
piano once owned by Noël Coward. Guest rooms here are 
grand, too; they're individually decorated with ornately 
carved antiques, and many have whirlpool tubs or fire-
places. Have complimentary continental breakfast served 
to you in your canopied bed if you wish; then stroll 
past the famous Victorian "Painted Ladies" homes that 
share your Alamo Square location. The hotel will even 
arrange a free tour of the area with a local volunteer. 
www.thearchbishopsmansion.com. 10 rooms, 5 suites. In-
room: no a/c, VCR, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: restaurant, concierge, 
laundry service, parking (no fee), no-smoking rooms. AE, 
D, MC, V. Continental breakfast. 

Address: 1000 Fulton St., San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Phone: 415/563-7872 or 800/543-5820
Fax: 415/885-3193
 

Argonaut Hotel 
 
$150 to Over $250, Fisherman's Wharf 
 
When this four-story brick building was a fruit and 
vegetable canning complex in 1907, boats docked right 
up against the building. Today it's a tribute to nau-
tical chic -- anchors, ropes, compasses, and a row of 
cruise-ship deck chairs find their way into the lively 
lobby decor. Spacious rooms, many of which have a 
sitting area with a sofa bed, have exposed-brick walls, 
wood-beamed ceilings, and whitewashed wooden furniture 
that evokes a beach mood. Windows are open to the sea 
air and the sounds of the waterfront, and many have 
unimpeded views of the bay. Suites come with extradeep 
whirlpool tubs and telescopes for close-up views of 
passing ships. www.argonauthotel.com. 239 rooms, 13 
suites. In-room: safe, refrigerator, VCR, dial-up, 
Wi-Fi. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, gym, 
concierge, laundry service, public Internet, parking 
(fee), no-smoking rooms, some pets allowed, minibar. 
AE, D, DC, MC, V. 

Address: 495 Jefferson St., at Hyde St., San Francisco, 
CA 94109, USA   Phone: 415/563-0800  Fax: 415/563-2800
 
 
--WHERE TO DINE:

A-16 
Italian, $10 to $22, Marina 
 
Marina residents -- and, judging from the crowds, every-
body else -- gravitate to this lively trattoria, named 
for the autostrada that winds through Italy's sunny 
south. The kitchen serves the food of Naples and sur-
rounding Campania, including house-cured meats (wild 
boar salami, fennel salami) and crisp-crusted pizzas, 
including a classic Neapolitan Margherita (mozzarella, 
tomato, and basil). Among the regularly changing mains 
are pork loin with pine nuts and golden raisins and a 
combo of lamb riblets and lamb sausage. A big wine list 
of southern Italian and Californian wines suits the fare 
perfectly. The long space includes an animated bar scene 
near the door; try for a table in the quieter alcove at 
the far end. Reservations essential. AE, MC, V. No lunch 
Sat.-Tues. 

Address: 2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA, USA
Phone: 415/771-2216

 
Acme Chophouse 
Steak, $15 to Over $30, SoMa 
 
Dine here and you'll agree that cows don't need to eat 
corn. Grass-fed beef, served up as a filet mignon and 
tartare, is the specialty at this old-style chophouse 
next door to the Giants baseball park. The kitchen 
stocks only naturally raised local meats and poultry, 
including a 22-ounce rib eye and a double-cut pork chop 
(both grass fed but grain finished) sized to satisfy a 
sumo wrestler. All the familiar chophouse sides -- 
creamed spinach, onion rings, scalloped potatoes -- will 
keep traditionalists smiling. The setting is suitably 
casual, with lots of wood; TV monitors in the bar area 
mean no inning is missed. Lunch is more casual, with a 
burger, crab salad, and pastrami on rye in addition to 
steak. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Mon. No lunch weekends. 

Address: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA, USA
Phone: 415/644-0242

                      ********************
              
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