Tuesday, December 05, 2006


We've had this under our hats for a couple months now, but we can't keep it in any longer: We are going to be spending a week in the Napa Valley in February. It's a Friday-to-Friday week, and we're going to be flying into and out of Oakland. However, when we went to make our return flight reservations, for the end of our week, we couldn't get any El Cheapo seats, and Judi has a constitutional aversion to ever paying full price to fly, so... in the long tradition of taking lemons and making lemonade, we decided to stay in Oakland over that weekend and... (drum roll) see San Francisco!

Yes, as strange as it seems, and as much as we have travelled, and as many places as we've been, we have only ever spent two short parts of days in this iconic American city. We flew in once, spent a few hours there, and then headed out to another destination (Santa Cruz, actually, to visit my brother, who was living there at the time). Then, on the tail end of that same trip, we drove in, spent a few hours in the city, and then headed to our hotel near the airport, to catch our return flight early the next day. So we haven't really had a chance to see  San Francisco, but now we will have two whole days, plus part of a third!

We are very excited!

And, on the Monday following, we will fly home in El Cheapo seats!

What more could anyone ask for?

So here's the low-down: On that Friday at the end of our week in Napa, we'll drive back to Oakland, where we'll return the rental car (save a few more $$$), and check into the Fairfield Inn hotel near the airport. Supposedly this is within walking distance of a BART station. Or so the desk clerk told me when I called. So we will be able to take BART to S.F. and back. Better still, we won't have to drive, so I'll be able to have a drink or two! Yay!

Anyway, why am I telling you this (you ask)? Because I know a few of you, my five loyal readers, live in the Bay Area, and I was wondering if you wanted to help me out with a few questions:

  1. This isn't a biggie, but if you happen to already be familiar with the area around the Oakland airport, is it really possible to walk from the Fairfield Inn to the Oakland Airport BART station? The hotel is on Edes Avenue, and the station is actually called the Coliseum/Oakland Airport Station. We aren't concerned about the walking -- I'm pretty active for a geezer with a bum leg, and Judi of course is in the Prime Of Life -- but would we have to walk along an Interstate highway or through a crime-ridden neighborhood? Don't laugh -- I don't know anything about the area, and you wouldn't want to do a lot of walking in the neighborhoods around, say, the Miami airport.

  2. Do you have any tips for riding BART? We've ridden the subways in D.C., New York, Boston, and Chicago, so we have a general idea how subways work, but we've never been on BART. Any tips for BART? Buying passes? Which stations to disembark at? Anything at all.

  3. What would you suggest we do in San Francisco? On our two whirlwind days, a long time ago, we went to Fishermens Wharf, rode a cable car, shopped in (and ate a very mediocre lunch in) Chinatown, and walked and then drove down the crookedest street. We also saw Grimaldi Square. Oh, and we visited the Golden Gate bridge. So we hit the tourist high spots. I think this time we want to spend some time in the park.... Is it convenient to get to Lands End by some sort of public transit? What do you  think we should do? Also, any suggestions for great places to have lunch?

I think we are even more excited about the two days in S.F. than we are the week in Napa....

You can either leave comments or send me a message at gss@att.net.


P.S. Speaking of Napa, I had planned for us to have lunch at The French Laundry, after reading about it in Conde Nast Traveller , until I saw Amy That Ted's bill. Yikes! Now, don't get me wrong: Amy and her That Ted were entitled to splurge. After all, it's not often you get married. And they had thirteen courses, and were there for three-and-a-half hours. But, still... I don't know about us, now. Yikes.

P.P.S. Did I mention we are excited?


1. don't know that region well enough to say
2. only ridden bart once but it was nice enough! nicer than the bus. if i recall you have to buy an amount ($5,10,20) and then your ticket is good for 90 days or something. i don't think you save any money by buying more, so you can probably just wing it on the amount.
3. i do believe there's a bus that goes right by land's end, i think i saw a bus stop when i was there the other day. look at the MUNI site for more info. the cliff house, right there, is famous and has good food. if you like chocolate, go to ghirardelli square. good chinese there too (mandarin). the mission district has murals which are very beautiful. eliza's on california street has good chinese (NOT in chinatown). really good italian/california: palomino, on the embarcadero?

aside from these few places, i would suggest mapping out where you want to visit, and then use google maps' option to look for restaurants near that address. i have found lots of good places that way, because most of the restaurants have links for reviews, even websites, so you really do get a good line on the place.

have fun!
Very nice on both counts! My favorites are several places in Golden Gate Park, such as the Japanese Tea Garden. For lunch you can't beat the Stinking Rose, as long as you don't need to be in polite company for a while. Their motto is that they season their garlic with food, and one of my friends noted that she had garlic coming out of her pores for a week after eating there.

I'll ask Linda about transportation. She grew up in the Bay Area (born in Oakland, in fact!)
oh OMG! WOW! will we finally meet after all these years of haiku and blogs?! we can meet anywhere, as long as you don't mind val throwing crackers at you. =D

i'm no help with tourist-y things to see. uhm, i liked the palace of fine arts the time i ran through there. haight-ashbury is fun if you like to shop and/or see the locals. muir woods requires a car but is nice to bask among redwoods. haven't been to the zoo, but i went to the aquarium, which is disappointing if you've been to the Shedd Aquarium in chicago. i second the cliff house, geez, i can't think of anything else!

stinking rose is fun, crustaceans has good food.

oh! alcatraz is neat, if you haven't already done it.
I am a little nervous about the 'walking in that part of Oakland' thing. The airport area is pretty damn industrial, though the best hockey store in the Bay Area is at the same exit.

BART itself is fabulous, if a bit run-down and short on creature comforts.

It's peninsula counterpart, CalTrain is much much nicer and it connects to BART in Millbrae.

I might humbly suggest getting a hotel somewhere on the CalTrain line and using the BART connection to get back to the airport. I don't think using the Oakland airport area as a home base would be all that much fun.

Or you could stay along the BART line in SF, just take the Fremont train to get back to Oakland.

Anyway, we're stoked that you're coming for el visit!
Oh, how exciting! I will think about your questions and either e-mail you or come back and post the answers.

I'm out of town this weekend (leaving REALLY early on Sat. from Oakland) and not back until late-late-late on Tuesday night. So, if I'm quiet, that's what's up!

You'll have a great visit.

I'll check on the neighborhood, but from when I've driven by, I don't think it's such a great place to be out after dark. I will ask T's friend Jenny, who knows all the ghetto areas if it's known to be dangerous or if it's just industrial and kinda run down.

I second the Eliza's food (it's in Portrero Hill in SF, less than a mile from where I used to teach). House of Nanking in Chinatown is good, too. I think it's on Kearny. Don't order from the menu; just ask the owner to bring you some good stuff. :)

The BART machines can be confusing, but generally it's like this: you figure out what station you want to get off at and put in the amount for that. You can put a round trip on there (typically from T.'s to SF is just under $6 round trip per person).

You can do connections with MUNI and such. (Don't forget to get a transfer; it makes your cost less).

BART stops running by midnight, so check the schedule to see when the last train is.

Other than that, BART is generally a pleasant way to get around.

And if it's at all convenient for you, let me know when you will be out here and we will meet up! Maybe a dinner with Andrea, Liz and Val??

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