San Francisco Report: The 2011 Great Adventure Day 1

Jul 10, 2011 by

San Francisco Report: The 2011 Great Adventure Day 1

We had a pretty amazing trip to San Francisco.  Between the day-trips, the food, the shopping, the attractions, it was just a really great trip.  I found so much great stuff I have to cover it day by day.

We arrived in San Francisco airport around 10:00 a.m. West Coast time and hit the road for Carmel and Monterey.  Of course I was starving, really starving, but didn’t want to ruin a nice lunch on the coast.  So Hubby suggested we stop for an In and Out Burger, as I had never had one.  There isn’t one in the city, but using the great app Next EXIT we found one off the highway on our way.  The app is excellent in places where they don’t label the exits or you just want to see what else is out there, beyond the signs.  It gives you the options and when you pass the exit it moves to the next.  We split a hamburger with fries.  The fries were really light and crisp and not overly salty like so many french fries.  The burger tasted fresh, with actual ripe tomato, the sauce was ok- I would save the cals and add ketchup or mustard.  It was definitely good for fast food, but not something to go out of your way for.  Then we headed through Santa Cruz and down the coast for Monterey.  If you can hold your hunger a little bit there are some amazing looking road stands on that drive out in farm country.  You could see them picking the fresh strawberries and artichokes, mmmm.

Monterey is incredibly touristy, mind you, but the aquarium is really fantastic.  I have been to aquariums all over the world- because yes I am five inside- I love aquariums like some people like art, or shoes or breathing.   But because I have been to so many, I have a fairly high standard at this point.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium is spectacular.

But to be honest one of the things that makes it spectacular is the restaurant.  Oh no not the cafeteria- the real restaurant.  You have to go to the hostess stand and then wait a bit, but you can look through the aquarium then.  Then you sit down with an amazing view over Monterey Bay with otters playing in the bay, and not just a couple, but piles of them.  There were seals swimming around and sunning themselves the birds flying in and out of the kelp beds fishing.  This might be one of the most fantastic dining spots for a nature enthusiast.  (Bring good binoculars, the ones on the table are not adequate.)  They serve wine and beer, have fantastic organic and local food and desserts.  I had a lovely California Bass, pan roasted with sauteed vegetables and roasted potatoes and a reduction sauce of butter and apricot.  It was an incredibly high end lunch that was relaxing and just amazing looking out watching the bay teeming with little otters playing in the sun.  The exhibits are quite breath taking, they light the exhibits so well and they have a huge section of things you can TOUCH!  If you have a small child, or a me, expect to spend a whole day here.  Check out my pics for some of the amazing exhibits from seahorses to jellyfish.

After this we drove through the lovely Pacific Grove with misty, rocky, craggy coastline sprinkled with beaches.  We then drove through Pebble Beach- which for us who don’t know- the whole area has quite a number of golf courses.  You have to pay to do the drive, but the pull offs and views are really quite nice to enjoy.

We then ended up in Carmel and Carmel by the Sea.  We perused lots of cute shops.  Drove by beautiful houses.  We checked out the Nielsen Brothers Market which was a combination between normal little super market and gourmet store, farmers market, but the wine selection inside was very nice, especially local wines.  Thinker Toys across the street has an amazing ferris wheel built out of Tinker Toys and a really great selection of neat toys and vintage toy items.  They had a number of cute dog shops, as well.  Lots of clothing shops and shoe shops with neat things.  But the galleries were the real draw.  We really liked the selection at   Gallery 1000 Fine Art.  So much we thought about purchasing a piece, that is unfortunately a little too big for our space.  There is also the George Rodrique– known for Blue Dog- Studio and so many other great galleries.  I almost found that piece I have been looking for to place in the dining room.

There are so many good choices of places to eat in Carmel by the Sea.  With fresh ingredients grown so close, it is hard to screw them up.  We wanted something light after a long day of traveling and we wandered into Mundaka, a Spanish tapas restaurant using local ingredients.  It was a great choice.  The setting is really nice, and food was excellent.  We had a hilarious group of neighbors in the dining room that made it quite a humorous evening, but our server was so nice and gracious (we could have asked to move to multiple other seating options, but it was like watching simultaneous train wrecks).  We started with fried squash blossoms with chili oil.  They were crisp and light with a sweet taste that balanced well with the chili oil.  We then moved on to patatas bravas which were crisp and spicy and a good version. Squash and zucchini spaghetti with almonds and pecorino were very fresh and vibrant.  Lamb chops with mashed potatoes and some herbed olive oil were cooked perfectly with nice gamey flavor, and tenderness.  The lavender pork skewers with almost a kimchi like side of greens was not what I was expecting, but a nice taste and very different. I really loved this little place and we didn’t want a huge meal, even with this we ordered to much, but it was all fresh and prepared well.  The staff was gracious and very nice.  They had a great wine list, but we stook to there homemade lemonade in preparation for the ride back to San Francisco, which was crisp and refreshing.  From the pictures, the lighting after dark seems pretty cool too, we left before dark to get home!  (Pictures from their website- not our meal.)

 

Last but not least: Home Sweet Home at the Huntington Hotel.  This place has quickly jumped onto my short list of fantastic hotels.  The customer service is amazing, they are so nice and personable, by the second day they recognize you.  Housekeeping was Nay, who told us if we needed anything to call her at any time.  The doormen were just friendly and helpful as can be.  The room itself was spacious and clean, with a mix of modern and antique furnishings and art.  The bathroom was huge with a large vanity, the room had floor length mirrors, a necessity in my book.  L’Occitaine amenities were quite adequate.  The view from our room was just amazing, one of the perks of being on the top of Nob Hill.  And they have a spa, that I WILL go to next time.  It looked incredible and has a pool and sunning patio overlooking the other side of the city.  The hotel and staff are amazing, this is the place to stay in San Francisco.  Below you can see our exact room and incredible view.  MMMMM, I can close my eyes and dream of this place.

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