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Cool New Things I Learned About San Francisco

Evelyn Hannon

I've had the pleasure of being in San Francisco more than a few times. What an interesting city it is! It's the kind of place where 'creativity' is 'queen' and it is next to impossible to run out of things to see or do. And, oh my goodness, the shopping opportunities are wonderful.

Fairmont San Francisco Hotel ...

Fairmont, San Francisco

Since this most recent visit was business related I was treated to a two-night stay at the 5-star Fairmont, San Francisco located atop Nob Hill. This is a grand hotel in every sense of the word - impeccable, friendly service, magnificent chandeliers, a lobby that goes on and on and a grandiose elegant bar area. My spacious room on the 21st floor looked across the Bay and I had a lovely view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. For most travelers, this is a 'very special occasion' hotel but it is definitely the choice of the elite. I understand that Mrs. Obama held her fundraiser here and Joan Rivers and Amy Adams were guests not too long ago.

Looking into the hotel's history, I was pleased to find some excellent female connections. It was the Fair Sisters in 1902 who began construction of the hotel as a monument to their father. By 1906 the two women found the project much too difficult to handle themselves and they sold it to the Law brothers just days before the great San Francisco earthquake and fire. To repair the structure and continue the work, Julia Morgan, the first woman graduate of Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris was hired as the project architect. It's Ms. Morgan's elegant design that we enjoy today. P.S. This same woman later went on to become the architect of the Hearst Castle and was recognized as the preeminent female architect of the United States.

TIP: This is a wonderful hotel with impeccable service. Imagine! When I didn't answer my wake-up call an hotel employee was immediately at my door checking to see if I was OK. Regular per night rates at the San Francisco Fairmont can run in the $400 - $800 range. My only objection during my 3-day stay was being charged $14.00 for two short phone calls to friends across the Bay (about a 20 minute ride away). It's not the fee I objected to, it's the concept. I believe that for a hotel of this stature, just like free WIFI connections, a one minute call within a short radius of the hotel should be a complimentary service for guests.

The weather in San Francisco is unpredictable ...

Whole Foods shopping bag
(Photo Wikipedia)

Every guidebook tells you this but it's worth saying once again. Dress in layers. During my stay (March 30 - April 1) I met a girlfriend for dinner and we both confessed to wearing an undershirt under our T-shirt, sweater and rain jacket. During the warmer days, I took my jacket with me just in case the weather turned ... and it usually did. I packed a light, roomy and colorful shopping bag from Whole Foods grocery chain. I kept it in my backpack but when I discarded my layers, the bag was perfect for carrying larger pieces of extra clothing.

TIP: My travel umbrella of choice comes from H&M, is extremely light and it costs in the vicinity of $7.00. Shopping for a rain hat? San Francisco is the city to buy it in. Ditto for raincoats. For bargain buys, check out Nordstrom Rack downtown at 555 Ninth Street.

TIP: Looking for bras in hard to find sizes? I suggest Nordstrom in the centrally located Westfield San Francisco Centre where you'll find a wonderfully varied selection of lingerie in lovely designs.

Getting around town ...

Getting around San Franciso, cable car

MUNI Bus system charges $2.00 per ride or $0.75 if you are a senior. You should have exact change and proof of your age when asked.

BART (subway) offers these instructions on their webpage:
'Children 4 and under ride free but everyone else must have a ticket. BART tickets are like debit cards with stored value. All BART stations have automatic ticket vending machines that accept nickels, dimes, quarters and $1 coins, as well as $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills. You can also use credit and debit cards in select machines.

When you enter BART, insert your ticket into the fare gate and it will be returned to you. 'Use the same ticket when you exit. The correct fare will be automatically deducted and tickets with remaining value will be returned. If your ticket has too little value, a sign on the fare gate will read "Underpaid: Go to Addfare." A nearby Addfare vending machine will tell you how much additional fare you must add to your ticket to exit the BART system. To find the cost of a particular BART trip, use the BART fare calculator.

CABLE CAR Of course, you can't visit San Francisco without at least one ride on their iconic cable car. It's the world's very last manually operated system and great fun to experience. Their website will answer all the questions you might have about this way of getting around.

TIP: To access a walking biking map of San Francisco that shows you where the hills are, click here.

TIP: If you are a senior (65+) flying into the San Francisco Airport, you can take the BART subway from the airport right into town (30-45 minutes). The fare is normally $8.50 each way for adults but if you ask for a 'Green' ticket, you pay just $9.00 for a card with a value of $24.00 (a 62.5% discount) which you can use during your stay in the city.

My favorite brand of clothing ...

My favourite brand of clothing

I'm a great fan of the Cut Loose brand of casual clothing which is made in San Francisco. I find it wears well and is so comfortable for travelling. What exactly is Cut Loose styling? In their words, 'Cut Loose clothes skim the body for a fluid silhouette. When a Cut Loose garment fits, it simultaneously flatters the figure and allows room to really move.'

I was pleased to discover that there is a Cut-Loose outlet shop in the San Francisco's Mission District. Of course, I couldn't resist checking it out. In the few hours I had before departing for the airport I took the BART at Powell a few stops (24th Mission District) and walked a couple of blocks to their 1218 Valencia Street @23rd Street address. The shop is very basic - just racks displaying styles from previous seasons that are reduced to affordable price points. I was like a kid in a candy shop trying on outfit after outfit in their communal dressing room. And I was successful. The light linen coat I scored was reduced by 50% and it will be a wonderful addition to my travel wardrobe. Website: Click here.

TIP: San Francisco is a city of beautiful, meaningful murals. If you have time seek out the multi-storied Women's Building Mural located at 3542 18th Street between Valencia and Guerrero. The entire fašade as well as the side of this landmark is covered by a mural created in 1994 by a group of seven women artists. The mural is called, MaestraPeace and it is a 'visual testament to the courageous contributions of women through time and around the world.' Some of the faces you might recognize are Gloria Steinem, Gloria O'Keefe and Audre Lorde. For more information, click here.






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