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  1. #1

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    San Francisco Trip Advice

    Okay, I'll be going to San Jose and San Fran in the middle of July for a family wedding / reunion. I haven't been back to California for a long time so will be looking forward to it.

    I'll be spending a few days in San Fran on my own and I need some hotel advice. Anyone know anything about The Mosser? It's in or around Union Square. It's fairly inexpensive, but the bathroom facilities are communal/shared. I have never stayed in such a hotel before! But the yelp and tripadvisor reviews are fairly positive.

    Also, I am so jealous of the many Vietnamese restaurants that specialize in broken rice dishes! Where I live, it's all about pho, pho and more pho. UMBSGoBlue's post on San Jose for US Nats is great, but is there a specific broken rice place I should check out?

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    I stayed in a similar kind of hotel when I was in San Francisco a couple years ago. It was called the Edward II Inn & Suites (which does not appear to still be open), and while some rooms had their own bathrooms, mine did not. I didn't have any major issue with that - the bathroom wasn't terribly close to my room, but it didn't turn out to be a problem.

    I don't have any restaurant recommendations - the hotel was in the marina district and I just wandered around until I found some that looked interesting. This one was my favorite: http://www.thecrepehouse.com/index%20-%20polk.htm

    I did a lot of walking and also got a 1 day bus pass - for me the most interesting place was the cartoon art museum, but I also checked out the SF-MOMA and the Legion of Honor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by manhn View Post
    ... the bathroom facilities are communal/shared. I have never stayed in such a hotel before! But the yelp and tripadvisor reviews are fairly positive.
    I stayed at The Pod Hotel in NYC last year - similar setup with shared shower/toilet facilities. There were four per floor, and they had indicator lights in your room, so you could see which ones were available. The rooms had a sink so you can wash up and brush your teeth in your room.

    Obviously mornings were the busiest for shower time, but I shower at night so that was not a problem for me.

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    Be wary of cheap non-brand name hotels "around Union Square" because the Tenderloin is nearby. It's to SF what Downtown Eastside and Main & Hastings is to Vancouver. A totally dire area full of drug dealers, addicts, skeevy street types (even for SF), and constant police activity and flashing police car lights at night. Lots of hotels market themselves as "Union Square Area" or "Lower Nob Hill" or "Nob Hill Area" when they are in fact in the Tenderloin.

    Do you really have anything to do in SJ besides the family event? I say skip SJ - really an endless stretch of boring suburbia masquerading as a large city of ~1 million people - and stick to SF if your time is limited. I live on the peninsula between SJ and SF, a bit closer to SJ in fact, but spend as much free time as I can in SF. While SJ is... okay... it's just lame compared to anything SF. I'm actually getting ready to drive up to SF right now and go , in fact.

    What's your budget for hotels, or your budget, period? Have you tried Priceline/Hotwire (see http://www.biddingfortravel.com for Priceline bidding FAQs)? PM me if you're not comfortable talking about $ details here.
    Last edited by UMBS Go Blue; 06-23-2012 at 04:36 AM.

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    Do you really have anything to do here in SJ besides the family event? I say skip SJ - really an endless stretch of boring suburbia masquerading as a large city of ~1 million people - and stick to SF if your time is limited.
    Do you even know me, UMBSGoBlue? I LOVE suburbia masquerading as large cities! I can't wait to go to Santana Row!

    I will be in San Jose only for family, although I do have a couple of days where I can do things on my own in San Jose and surrounding areas (already planning to use SJ's light rail, then try Philz Coffee, then go to Santana Row, and then at least one broken rice restaurant).

    My PM limits are in constant warning levels and I have no trouble discussing $. I haven't really tried priceline before. I would like to stay somewhere along Market near a Muni station (I plan on using Muni my entire stay). I'd like to spend not much above $100/nite (internet would be only real demand). I'd be willing to spend up to $150/nite as long as there is a decent gym and internet access and my own private bathroom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by manhn View Post
    Do you even know me, UMBSGoBlue? I LOVE suburbia masquerading as large cities! I can't wait to go to Santana Row!


    I will be in San Jose only for family, although I do have a couple of days where I can do things on my own in San Jose and surrounding areas (already planning to use SJ's light rail, then try Philz Coffee, then go to Santana Row, and then at least one broken rice restaurant).
    [snob alert]

    Philz is really a SF thing, and to get the real experience and ambience with a yupster/hipster crowd (instead of a... SJ crowd), you should go to a Philz (or, better yet, Blue Bottle or Ritual Coffee Roasters) in SF proper. Then again, anything in SJ is rather... lame compared to SF, all of which (good and bad) never ceases to amaze me.

    [/snob alert]

    All right, all right, if you really want to spend some time here in SJ without renting a car, then use Priceline to get a cheap rate ($40-80/night max) at a Santa Clara (Great America area; it's along the Light Rail), SJ airport-area hotel (along the light rail and easily accessible by Caltrain or SuperShuttle from SFO airport), or downtown SJ.

    If you do want to spend more time in SF proper, then stay in SF proper, and try Priceline and Hotwire for something at least 3 stars. I would recommend downtown (Financial District / Embarcadero) instead of Union Square, unless you can get a hotel that is no more than 2-3 blocks west of Union Square. If you are willing to pay up to $150/night (including fees), then you could snag a 3* or 4* Marriott/Hilton/Hyatt quality hotel that usually goes for $250-300/night for the regular rack rate.

    To use Priceline, go to http://www.biddingfortravel.com and read their Priceline bidding FAQs. Here are current prevailing rates for SF proper:
    http://biddingfortravel.yuku.com/for...o#.T-U-HhdfHMo

    If you can figure out Priceline, I'd say $90-100/night for the Hilton or Hyatts listed in the above link is a STEAL.

    If you want to pay full price, Hilton has a sale right now which I've used for some upcoming travel on the East Coast.
    http://hhonors.hilton.com/en/hhonors...ay/index.jhtml

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    Philz is really a SF thing, and to get the real experience and ambience with a yupster/hipster crowd (instead of a... SJ crowd), you should go to a Philz (or, better yet, Blue Bottle or Ritual Coffee Roasters) in SF proper. Then again, anything in SJ is rather... lame compared to SF, all of which (good and bad) never ceases to amaze me.
    In SJ, I'll be staying with family, so no need for a hotel. Just SF.

    While doing my research, I detected that Philz was more of a SF institution but I figured that because there are soooo many coffeeplaces in SF (I will be going to Blue Bottle at the Ferry Building, don't you worry!), I can check off Philz from my list while in SJ to allow me to try another place in SF.

    I guess I know what I'll be reading this weekend...

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    Ferry Building is more of a busy, businessy, touristy sort of place, although all the outlets there are high quality (and a bit on the $$ side), and the weekend farmers' market is great. You definitely won't go wrong there.

    Consider going to Hayes Valley (short 20 minute walk SW of Civic Center BART) and try the original Blue Bottle kiosk in the alleyway with nothing but an outdoor parklet for seating. Then try the new Ritual Coffee Roasters kiosk a 1/2 block away in the Hayes Valley dog park, and also try resisting Smitten Ice Cream next door. Enjoy your coffee and ice cream in the dog park.

    Hayes Valley is an incredibly small but pretty neighborhood worth exploring on foot, and it's near so many other interesting and walkable neighborhoods (just take your time up those hills), like the lower Haight, Haight-Ashbury, Alamo Square, the Mission, and the Castro. That's why I love SF - so much "urban hiking" to do and so much to see (good and bad) within a short walking distance. It's got everything NYC has, but on a less dense, more human, and more liveable scale.

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    2 short blocks from Union Square (old B&B hotels @ $60/day with a little upgrade in the last 4-5 years so the price is between 100-160 USD for single room)
    Choice 1) - Fitzerald Hotel (2** hotel, 5***** location)
    http://www.fitzgeraldhotel.com/

    Choice 2) - Chancellor Hotel (3*** hotel, 5***** location)
    http://www.chancellorhotel.com/

    Choice 3) - Via Florence Hotel (3*** hotel, 4**** location)
    http://www.villaflorence.com/

    If these are busy, try to search these (all with in 3-4 blocks of Union square, 2** and 3*** hotels under 150 USD night basic single room)

    Hotel Diva
    Union Square Plaza Hotel
    King George Hotel

    Quote Originally Posted by Impromptu View Post
    I stayed in a similar kind of hotel when I was in San Francisco a couple years ago. It was called the Edward II Inn & Suites (which does not appear to still be open), and while some rooms had their own bathrooms, mine did not.

    Edward II suites is still open.
    http://www.edwardii.com/

    It is a lovely Bed and Breakfast with "theme rooms" styled with Victorian to Roaring 20-es furniture and interior.

    It is FAR from Union Square in the residential area West of Van Ness.

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    Even though its website appears at first glance to be functioning, the Edward II went out of business a year or two ago.

    The fact that a hotel named after Piers Gaveston's lover was located in the most notoriously heterosexual part of San Francisco instead of the Castro District probably explains all you need to know.

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    We stayed at the Cornell Hotel de France last fall. Great location and great value (a hot breakfast was included). We splurged for a large room with a private bathroom, which was about $150/night, but there were cheaper options.

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    Quote Originally Posted by UMBS Go Blue View Post
    Be wary of cheap non-brand name hotels "around Union Square" because the Tenderloin is nearby.
    As long as it's within a couple of blocks of Union Square, it should be as safe as most places in San Francisco. It's when you start getting a little further away that you're really getting into the Tenderloin. There are a number of boutique hotels within a block or two of Union Square that are basic, but fine. Just check out the reviews. It's a convenient location. If you're into theatre, check out what tickets are available at the ticket booth that is right on Union Square. You can get discounted tickets there the day of the show.

    Mahn, even if you like suburbia, I strongly suggest spending more of your time in San Francisco rather than in San Jose. There's no place like San Francisco. The same cannot really be said of San Jose.

    If you're looking for certain types of restaurants, I'd look on Yelp for suggestions and see which ones strike your fancy.

    Yes, the Ferry Builiding tends to be upscale. Along with tourists, there are plenty of foodies and folks from the financial district there. But there's excellent food there, and it doesn't have to be super expensive. I'd get a Blue Bottle coffee (and several bags of beans -- I love them all, but the African blends are my favorites) and start wandering. Pick up some picnic stuff -- cheese at the Cowgirl Creamery, salumi at Boccalone, some Acme bread, fruit, etc. If it's a farmer's market day, then even better. Then just eat on one of the benches out back and look out at the water and the Bay Bridge.

    If you like eating and wandering, then I suggest eating and walking your way from Union Square through Chinatown (take-out dim sum shops on Stockton) and North Beach (Italian food, gelato, etc.) to Fisherman's Wharf (Dungeness crab, clam chowder, etc.). I don't care for Fisherman's Wharf itself, but on a nice day it's a great walk (or rent a bike) to go from there out to Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge.

    I'd also suggest looking to see what is going on in Golden Gate Park while you're there. In addition to checking out the exhibits at the De Young, there may be some free concerts going on. It's really easy to get to Golden Gate Park on muni if you're staying near Union Square. Take a bus to the Haight, spend a little time there, and then walk through the park to the De Young. (Depending on when you're there, you can sometimes find some good food trucks right by the De Young and Japanese Tea Garden).


    If you like good Mexican food, check out the Mission. It's easy go get there on muni.

    Be aware that it will probably be quite foggy while you're there. Have a sweater at all times and try to plan any major outdoor stuff for before mid-afternoon. (For example, if you're planning to go to Angel Island or Alcatraz, book a ferry for late morning. Otherwise, your view of the Golden Gate Bridge is likely to be obscured by fog. When my sister visited me, it was a running joke that the Bridge didn't really exist.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vagabond View Post
    Even though its website appears at first glance to be functioning, the Edward II went out of business a year or two ago.

    The fact that a hotel named after Piers Gaveston's lover was located in the most notoriously heterosexual part of San Francisco instead of the Castro District probably explains all you need to know.
    Darn! too bad about Edward II... but why? a year or two ago the tourism business was still booming in San Francisco and it was practically impossible to book any reasonably priced hotel during summer time or holidays... I can't imagine they lacked business in any section of San Francisco....

    Ok... then there is an alternative "Victorian Decor" hotel/B&B with 4-poster beds, named after British Royalty.., in the same area,in the same style: Queen Anne Hotel

    http://www.queenanne.com/?utm_source...ogle_places_ms

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by UMBS Go Blue View Post
    Hayes Valley is an incredibly small but pretty neighborhood worth exploring on foot, and it's near so many other interesting and walkable neighborhoods (just take your time up those hills), like the lower Haight, Haight-Ashbury, Alamo Square, the Mission, and the Castro.
    I second this recommendation. One of my friends used to live in Hayes Valley and I loved visiting her there and walking around the neighbourhood. Unless Haight-Ashbury has changed significantly, though, I wouldn't bother - too many tourists trying to pretend it's 1967 and too many shops & hustlers trying to rip them off in their hippie haze.
    Who wants to watch rich people eat pizza? They must have loved that in Bangladesh. - Randy Newman on the 2014 Oscars broadcast

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    Quote Originally Posted by overedge View Post
    I second this recommendation. One of my friends used to live in Hayes Valley and I loved visiting her there and walking around the neighbourhood. Unless Haight-Ashbury has changed significantly, though, I wouldn't bother - too many tourists trying to pretend it's 1967 and too many shops & hustlers trying to rip them off in their hippie haze.
    I like Hayes Valley and looked for an apartment there at one time. I can see why visitors would enjoy it, but the reality is that it isn't all that different from a number of other San Francisco neighborhoods, including parts of the Haight, where I once lived.

    Sure, the stereotype of the Haight is hippies, and if you only visit a couple of blocks one can certainly find shops there catering to tourists wanting to buy a bong or tie-died shirt from the Haight, but there's plenty of other kinds of stores and restaurants, and certainly many other kinds of people in the neighborhood. (Nobody would ever consider me or my friends who currently live in the Haight to be hippies, and there are a number of young professionals in the upper Haight as well as students because it's fairly close to both USF and UCSF. There's a reason why there's a Whole Foods store there.) The neighborhood is far more than some stores aimed at hippie tourists. For people who like to check out second-hand clothing stores or vinyl records and other used music, the Haight is a good place to go. And, like many other San Francisco neighborhoods, it's a great place to check out San Francisco Victorian buildings. It also has the benefit of being adjacent to Golden Gate Park.

    For any visitor to San Francisco, there is plenty to see, but where to go really depends on the particular person's interests.

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    I've stayed at the Radisson at the Wharf and it wasn't bad. it was $99 a night and they have a pool. It was an online special, my cousin and brother joined us and they had a car - it included her parking. It was easy to take a bus from the Bart station and I was the only adult with a toddler and a young child and luggage.

    We ended up walking a lot to the Italian restaurant area for dinners.

    Personally for good Chinese, I'd take the Bart to Oakland's Chinatown. Mmmmmm..... the best baked BBQ pork buns are there! http://www.yelp.com/biz/wonder-food-bakery-oakland We buy 4 pink boxes full, one for the week we are there, one to take home to freeze and 2 more for family.

    We like to spend as much time at Golden Gate Park as we can. So much to do and enjoy!

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    Coffee: If you're going to Blue Bottle, don't go to the Ferry Building (It's just a crowded-ass stand. That said - there's Cowgirl Creamery and Acme Bread at the Ferry Building, which are great. Frog Hollow Farm is best for coffee in the building.) or the kiosk in Hayes Valley (snobby, in a hurry, and burnt). Either go to the full-on one on Jessie at the old SF Mint (they serve hella expensive breakfast, but you get to see the big siphons in action), OR at the rooftop garden of SFMOMA (they have a bunch of overpriced desserts designed after the art in the museum!). The 7-foot tall dude that looks like Frida Kahlo at SFMOMA is the best. They're within a few blocks of each other, and just across Market from Union Square.

    However, jmho, Blue Bottle is the least of the "good" roasters in SF. Try Sightglass in SOMA (7th/Folsom) - huge space, great coffee. Four Barrel on 14th if you're in the Mission, Ritual, etc. Philz in the Castro is fun.

    Hmm, Vietnamese. Supposedly everyone raves over Ta Lun on the south side of Market on 6th (Julia Child loved it). I find it dry and sketchy (it's on the South side of the tenderloin). Yummy Yummy in the Sunset is good. Or, if you like that flavor profile in general, in the Richmond on Clement, there's what a lot of people call the best restaurant in SF - Burma Superstar. I find it meh and overcrowded, but RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET is a place called Singapore Malaysian that everyone ignores that's amazing! Amazing Javanese Ayam Kalasan chicken!

    Hmm, or if you wanna go high-end, The Slanted Door in the Ferry Building is tops Vietnamese in the city, but very popular and expensive (amazing riesling and gewurtztramminer selection though). However, Out the Door, their smaller outpost in the San Francisco Center on Market/4th (across from Union Square) has the full range of gourmet Vietnamese and isn't as expensive.

    I think the best Vietnamese is in Oakland though.

    OH! And if where you're going is along both BART and Muni, take BART. Muni is so frustrating. Two cars per train, never know when a train is going to come despite the schedules, fights break out, etc. Plus, intra-city trips on BART are actually cheaper, and faster.

  18. #18
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    Hmmm... of all the coffee places you mentioned, I'd personally rank Ritual #1, just barely ahead of Blue Bottle at #2. Philz and Four Barrel are certainly very good too and I've enjoyed them very much, just not my absolute top favorites (as I happen to like dark, deep, and burnt).

    As for Muni, I don't see what's wrong with it. After all, you never know what comedic experience could break out at any moment (link NOT SAFE FOR WORK or slightly more safe link.

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    Where in San Jose will you be? If you're taking light rail, I would suggest going to Campbell/Los Gatos and perusing the shops there. Peggy Fleming's wine shop is in Los Gatos if you're at all interested.

    In terms of coffee, I'm a big fan of Four Barrel in San Francisco and the area around it (15th-ish and Valencia). Lots of fun shops with local designs. Plus, the Mission is usually the place for random food cart festivals.

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    Downtown Campbell's pretty but rather... small - about 2-3 blocks. It might be worth going to during the farmers' market every Sunday from 10am-3pm, but just about every other Silicon Valley town has its own weekend farmers' market, like Mountain View, which is a bigger one and is held every Sunday 9am-1pm. Mountain View also has a bigger downtown area than Campbell with much more interesting restaurants like Xanh (fabulous lunch buffet, although this is only on the weekdays, not on Sundays).

    Peggy Fleming's wine shop (the Fleming Jenkins tasting room) closed on December 31, 2011 and from what Peggy told me face-to-face at Nationals in January, the whole Fleming Jenkins enterprise has been wound down, with all the remaining bottles sold. To the extent that you have a car, Testarossa in Los Gatos might be a better choice for a wine tasting tour at an actual winery, without having to go all the way to Napa/Sonoma.

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