Story by Sharon Baker
Photography courtesy of the San Francisco Travel Association
Anniversary Revisit to San Francisco and Carmel, CA
One year later and back to where it began; San Francisco and Carmel in northern California. This is where Kenny and I fell in love and got engaged; a perfect place to celebrate our first anniversary.
We left our home near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina on a summer morning and arrived in San Francisco on a chilly evening. Gazing out the airplane window at the city’s glittering skyline, we looked forward to a second exploration of one of America’s most fabulous cities. And good thing we brought sweaters and jackets, because this lovely town turns chilly when the sun goes down.
A quick cab ride brought us to Kensington Park Hotel, an elegant boutique property right in the heart of Union Square. Housed in a gorgeous 1925 Gothic style building, we were impressed with the stylish lobby featuring hand-painted ceilings and modern artwork. We received a friendly welcome from the front desk manager who invited us to stop by each afternoon for complimentary sherry or tea, and to listen to classical music concerts in the lobby. We promised to make time for both.
Next morning we awoke to clanging trolley cars and stunning city views from our cozy corner room on the 12th floor. I went down to the lobby for a cup of complimentary coffee and was pleased to see guests chatting with each other. So I sat in a cushy velvet couch with the San Francisco Chronicle, but never got to read it because everyone was having so much fun exchanging “where are you from” stories. I met a couple from West Virginia who were heading to Napa Valley for a weeklong cycling tour, stopping along the way at wineries. “More discovering our next favorite wine, than bike riding,” they joked. Turned out we had a friend in common in Charleston, South Carolina… six degrees of separation still alive and well.
Kensington Park Hotel is conveniently located on Post Street, a perfect location for strolling to all the best shopping. Each morning, we ramped up our energy with breakfast at “Sear’s,” just around the corner. We gorged on fluffy pancakes, spinach omelets, and chicken sausage. They promise the fresh strawberries are “rushed from local farms to you every morning,” and when you taste their sweetness you know it’s true.
If you love fabulous food as much as we do, make reservations at Farallon, a unique restaurant next door to the hotel. With fanciful lights resembling giant jellyfish and glowing sea urchins, you’ll be floating in a mysterious Jules Verne “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
Chef/Owner Mark Franz and Executive Chef Ryan Simas change the menu daily according to what’s seasonal and fresh. One could happily dine on appetizers like this: American paddlefish caviar, chilled Maine Lobster, oysters on ice from New York, British Columbia, Washington, and California. Sample the Hawaiian tombo tuna tartare, smoked sturgeon, Hudson Valley foie gras or octopus carpaccio.
Cozy in our curved banquette, we began our feast with Fruits de Mer; an extravagant platter festooned with Dungeness crab, Maine lobster, Florida prawns and Washington oysters, accompanied by cocktail and champagne sauces. Next, a tangy fresh organic mixed greens salad, topped with Swanton strawberries and cheddar crostini.
After sharing lovely linguini in parmesan rosemary cream sauce, we just couldn’t make it to the heavier entrees, like Alaskan halibut, veal sweetbreads, or the grilled 16-ounce dry aged prime rib.
“Of course you saved room for dessert?” asked Lash Himes, our charming waitress. And she brought the most divine fruity tart adorned with real whipped cream. After dinner… no taxi needed. We just stepped back into Kensington Park’s lobby.
The next few days we explored Union Square like kids at camp, joy riding the trolley up and down Mission Street, ogling San Francisco’s painted lady row houses, ethnic restaurants, and fashionably dressed locals. We shopped the sales at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s. We even braved four floors of the coolest trendiest shoes at DSW, and came home with bags of shoe bargains.
Our CityPASS gave us unlimited rides on the trolleys and buses, and deep discounts for a delightful cruise on the Blue & Gold Fleet at Pier 39. This one-hour Bay tour reveals interesting anecdotes on the city’s history as you float under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz. Here’s the perfect way to photograph the glorious city skyline, as well as 700 sea lions barking on the docks near Pier 39.
After our cruise, we stopped into The Aquarium of the Bay, where we saw tanks home to local sea creatures like moon jellies, sturgeon, sting rays, purple starfish, and a very ominous one hundred pound Giant Pacific Octopus.
After three nights in the city, we rented a convertible for our trip to Carmel. We stopped along the way at Muir Woods National Monument. Strolling among 600-800 year old redwoods, we read a brochure detailing how Mr. and Mrs. William Kent had bought this land back in 1905, determined to protect one of America’s last uncut stands of redwoods. Later, they donated it to the Federal Government, and in 1908, President Roosevelt named it in honor of conservationist John Muir.
Arriving in Carmel, we revisited the town’s captivating charms, with artfully designed cottages, secret courtyards, and magic gardens. Sidewalks meander through quiet neighborhoods, and downtown beckons with boutiques offering trendy fashions, jewelry, paintings and home collectibles.
Beside shopping, there’s lots to do in Carmel, like driving to Point Lobos State Reserve two miles south, and hiking along the rugged coastline, where you might see sea otters, sea lions and seals. At Carmel Beach, check out the waves with a surfboard or just picnic on the beautiful white beach. If you want to get up close with whales, book a boat tour at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
A leisurely way to see the area is on horseback. At the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, guided rides are offered daily, ranging from 75-90 minutes. You’ll be matched with a horse, fitted with a riding helmet and then guided on a trail ride to the forest and the beach to enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
Carmel is a small village, but there’s always something interesting going on. Summer offers surfing contests, wildflower shows, home tours, Wine Walks, the Superbike World Championship, and the famous Concours on the Avenue, when the town is filled with exotic American and foreign cars.
Our Carmel Hotel
We enjoyed three nights at Tradewinds Carmel, a 2013 Forbes Recommended Hotel. This three story Asian style boutique property has 26 guestrooms and 2 suites, just three blocks from Carmel’s downtown.
Architect Richard M. Catlin Senior, lived seven years in Japan, and his happy experience there inspired Tradewinds Carmel’s design. Bamboo, burbling fountains, and a lovely Buddha Meditation garden create a peaceful mood. Guestrooms feature elegant kimono robes, perfect for relaxing in front of a crackling fire or on the balcony. Antiques and art from Bali and China create a serene ambiance. Enjoy the hotel’s gift of chocolate covered strawberries and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.
Included in our room rate was a fabulous breakfast: fresh fruit, pastries, cereal, bagels, hardboiled eggs, juice, and delicious coffee. The staff was friendly, and helpful in recommending ideas for touring and dining.
Our favorite? Boissiere Restaurant & Patisserie on Mission Street between Ocean and 7th. We devoured homemade clam chowder, roasted chicken on fresh made baguettes, and chicken/spinach salad with caramelized walnuts. And don’t miss a slice of the most decadent flourless chocolate cake on Planet Earth.
Kenny and I love to shop, and Carmel offers extraordinary opportunities to find unique treasures.
For example, at Conway of Asia, you’ll find oriental rugs and fine antiques from India, Tibet, Burma and Thailand. At Burns Cowboy Shop, pick up a pair of hand-made boots. Carmel Cashmere and Company features gorgeous cashmere, silk and fine wool sweaters from Italy and Scotland. Hasselbein’s Jewelers is where you’ll select a sleek Rolex or Patek Philippe watch. And J. Lawrence Khaki’s of Carmel was voted by Esquire Magazine as one of the best men’s stores in America.
All that shopping whetted our appetities and so when Kenny said “let’s go enjoy dinner” I didn’t put up a fuss. Hey, we’re still newlyweds.
IF YOU GO
Kensington Park Hotel, 450 Post Street, San Francisco, CA. Reservations: 1-800-553-1900. www.kensingtonparkhotel.com
Tradewinds Carmel, Mission Street & Third Avenue, Carmel, CA.
CityPASS, 888-330-5008, citypass.com
© July 2015 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.