Being a weatherperson for the city of San Francisco could be a challenging task. In the morning you could be in shirt sleeves, under clear skies; in the afternoon, enshrouded by mystical fog, and by evening, huddled beneath an umbrella. Yet, in spite of the variances, it certainly doesn’t dampen our spirits during this weekend getaway from Vancouver. In fact, this "The cool, grey city of love," as quoted by the famous poet, George Sterling, is truly romantic, no matter what the forecast is.
It’s close to midnight by the time we arrive. The impressive Hyatt Regency that hugs up to other high rises in the Embarcadero district is an inviting welcome. We bypass conference halls that take over the first two floors. We escalate to the reception area on the third; an exquisite atrium lobby that’s credited for being the world’s largest of its kind. Mosaic-like pathways trail around fountains, lounge areas and the Eclipse café, an eatery that dishes up casual fare. Gift shops and meeting rooms rim the posh perimeter, a geometrical sculpture takes centre stage, and dangling from the heaven-bound dome are countless strands of shimmering lights. They effectively create the illusion of a rain shower. But we know the difference. We’ve just escaped from the authentic drizzle outside. There's absolutely nothing damp or dismal about these interiors!
Floors that tier above, host more than eight hundred elegant guest rooms; one of them becomes our sanctuary for the next two nights. As well as reveling in its marble bath and getting spoiled by room service, Hyatt's signature Grand Bed promotes some heavenly dreamland – as well as a lot more! Although we could easily hibernate in this haven that overlooks San Francisco Bay, in spite of continued precipitation the next morning, "The City" is waiting to be explored.
“We’re not going to let a little moisture get in the way,” my husband says while checking out the glistening streets below. “There’s everything from shopping to sightseeing right outside our door.”
The Hyatt Regency is a short walk from BART transit and directly across from the California line, where we can hop onto the famous cable cars and head up Nob Hill. If shopping turns us on, we may decide to transfer at Powell Street, head down to the treasure trove known as Union Square. Tiffany's, Neiman Marcus, Macy's, Saks and Victoria's Secret are all poised pompously over hundreds of boutiques that cram into the few square blocks. If we can’t find what we’re looking for here, chances are, it’s not to be found.
If it's seafood we’re craving, the cable car traveling down Hyde will take us to Fisherman’s Wharf. Or we may even choose to hop off before the summit and hoof our way through Chinatown. After checking out everything from decorative dragons to dim sum, we can meander to the neighboring area of North Beach. Here, we can sample an Italian coffee house or bakery – maybe dine on tasty cuisine served up Bohemian style.
The City Pass booklet that we had pre-purchased online offers a great bang for our tourist buck. Not only does it include scads of cultural attractions and discounted savings, but it also permits us to ride any of the Muni rails for a seven-day stretch!
Because it’s an "indoor kind-a-day", we decide to take in one of the more mind-expanding opportunities. We could check out art from around the world at the de Young gallery, or gaze at a Picasso, Monet and Rodin at the Legion of Honor. Exploratorium allures with its interpretive hands-on displays. The Academy of Sciences would provide close up encounters with piranhas and
With so many options and too little time, we decide to go thoroughly modern. During a visit to San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), we clearly open our thoughts while gazing at originals by Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still and Andy Warhol. This five-storey cultural venue has been a SoMa
district landmark since it opened in 1995. We discover it houses one of the most eclectic art collections in the world.
The entertainment continues later in the evening after we head to the cabaret-style theatre, Club Fugazio; we reel with laughter over the production of Beach Blanket Babylon. This longest running musical revue in theatre history is a wild and wacky parody on American pop culture; it features outrageous entertainers who are decked out in flamboyant costumes, massive hats and big hair. They mimic a star-studded line up of actors, and a few not-so-popular politicians, who travel the globe in an attempt to help batty-eyed Snow White find her true love. By the end of the show, the hats are bigger and zanier than ever, stretching the width and height of the stage!
The weather does an about face the following day. We wake up to sunny skies and a perfect day for a bird’s eye view! San Francisco Helicopters have been offering whirly bird tours since 1976. As well as sweeping us off our feet, they provide a panoramic overview of this sensational city in just thirty minutes! While crowned by headsets, our veteran pilot, Ron, gives us a run down on every famous landmark. We peer down at Alcatraz, the infamous island prison where mobsters like Al "Scar Face" Capone and "‘Machine Gun Kelly" did time. We glide above skyscrapers including the city’s two tallest – the Transamerica Pyramid and Bank of America – and we soar over hilly knolls that lace this peninsular enclave. As a grand finale, we not only fly above the Golden Gate Bridge that spans the sparkling bay below, but we also dip beneath it! It’s a breathtaking experience that literally leaves us feeling high!
For our final night we transfer to the Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf so that we can be closer to all the action that rims the harbor. Although this contemporary gem certainly meets the criteria of distinction, it’s a different flavour from the Hyatt Regency. Asian-style décor flows throughout, from the simplistically sleek reception and lounge areas to guest rooms that host minimalist furnishings. A high tech work out area, heated pool and pulsating hot tub are inviting perks. The connecting Knuckles Sports Bar & Grill offers great award-winning grub, and the deluxe room amenities, like our oversized rain shower and 32” flat screen TV, are definite delights, (as is that sumptuous pillow top Grand Bed for more rest and romping).
But who has time to snooze? We have one day remaining. With our City Pass clutched in hand, we head around the corner to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. Here, the aquarium provides us with a view of life that thrives beneath the deep, a boardwalk leads us to sea lions that lounge above, and in between, there are enough trinkets to satisfy any tourist.
To wind up our stay, we hop on board one of the Blue and Gold fleet and get a closer look at Alcatraz, and those Golden Gate cables from beneath. Though the skies had been crystal clear when we launched off on this nautical tour, by the time we lap the harbor, the weather has once again shifted. The hillside is now cloaked in that famous fog. It looms like a mystical veil over Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower, cascades over Twin Peaks and hilly knolls, and weaves throughout the high-rises that hover above this "cool grey city of love".