Skip navigation
All People > painedplatinum > Travel Report from Near and Far > 2012 > October

After enjoying a nice breakfast in the CL at the Stanford Court Renaissance, we were ready to hit the road. Day 3 started out with a drive to the Golden Gate Bridge and a ride through Sausalito. This was the first day of our trip where the top of the Golden Gate was fog free.  This magnificent structure celebrated it's 75th anniversary in May, 2012. We drove over the bridge and parked in the northeast side Vista Point area. The view of the bridge and the bay was spectacular. We spent about an hour and then headed to Sausalito. That was a great little town. Many people were out walking and having breakfast. You could sense the overall feeling of contentment and relaxation in the residents.


We went back for an hour or so to Fisherman's Wharf for some souvenir shopping and then on to Chinatown for lunch. Once again, we asked for recommendations from the locals. My wife has a friend that lives and works in San Francisco. She suggested the House of Nanking on Kearny St.  One other local had mentioned this restaurant, so off we went. Merchants and clients alike were out in force throughout Chinatown. We surprisingly found many parking spots two blocks from the House of Nanking. The walk to the restaurant made clear why the parking was theaters were the main tenants, yikes!! The exterior of the restaurant was nothing special so we were now getting a bit worried. That all changed once we entered and were greeted by the cheerful, knowledgeable staff. Our party of three shared three appetizers and main courses for lunch. This was the best Chinese food any of us had ever eaten!!!  The cold sesame noodles, house fried rice and steamed dumplings were all outstanding. My wife enjoyed lettuce wraps. I had sesame chicken. My daughter ordered sauteed calamari. All three were, once again, outstanding.  The quantities were all too big to finish so we packed up a great big doggy bag. The tables were full of happy customers from 11:30AM when we arrived until 1:00PM when we left. This is a restaurant that I can suggest if you're looking for great food at reasonable prices.


The last sight I needed to see was the zigzag to Lombard! It was comical watching the cars and the tourist on both ends of this famous avenue. We took our pictures on foot and then turned the car down the hill. The houses and landscaping on Lombard are beautiful to see. Now it was time to set course for Madera, CA.


We chose Madera vs Fresno as our overnight stop on the way to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Both towns offered Marriott properties. There is a recently built Springhill Suites that fit our needs in Madera. For less than $100, we were set.  The drive from San Francisco to Madera  was a little over 3 hrs. The setting sun and evening sky over Madera was beautiful. The hotel had fresh coffee available all evening. The breakfast was full and replenished throughout the next morning. All staff members that we met were cheerful and professional.

Pictures have been added!!












The second half of Day 2 was all about indulgence. I had a list that was an arm's long of possible dining locations. Mrs. Pained had one demand. She was to have Clam Chowder in a Sour Dough Bread Bowl. We spoke with a few shop owners and compared our notes. The final decision was to enjoy our dinner at Nick's Lighthouse (pic by Kim..all others mine). Tripadvisor reviews were all over the place, but the locals all recommended it, so we listened to the locals.


Nick's Lighthouse was perfect for our party. Not fancy, somewhat small (20 tables?), and full of life. Mrs. and Daughter Pained started with the CC in the bread bowl. I elected the cup of chowder to save room. Good consistency, plenty of clams, made for good chowder.  The sour dough bowls were attacked and destroyed successfully!! The main course was one Chilled Shellfish Platter and the House Specialty...Cioppino.  This dish is a fish stew that originated in San Fran. It's like bouillabaisse with the shells. The shells are meant to intensify the flavors while creating a bit of a fun, messy, experience. Right up my alley!! Both dishes were fabulous and plenty for the three of us to share. We were worried about ordering too much. The idea was to leave some room for a Ghirardelli dessert run.  Overall, from the service by our waiter, Francis, to the timeliness, to the food quality.....we had a great experience at Nick's Lighthouse. Like I have historically found, the locals almost never get it wrong.


Now, on to dessert. The walk from Nick's to Ghirardelli Square was just right.... a leisurely stroll of a few blocks followed by the semi-exhausting climb that only San Francisco can offer. Mrs. Pained, is a butter pecan aficionado. She ordered the  Strike it Rich Sundae featuring her favorite ice cream, butterscotch, hot fudge and other wonderful toppings. I chose the Banana Split Sundae...OH YEAH!!. My daughter had just enough room for a cup of Dark Hot Chocolate with Sea Salt and Caramel. This old fashioned Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop is a must see for Fisherman's Wharf visitors.



Nick's Lighthouse


Frances waiter Nicks Lighthouse.jpg

Francis.....very good server.

sourdough clam chowder.jpg

jackie chowing down.jpg

chilled seafood platter.jpg

ghiradelli square.jpg

ghirardelli desserts.jpg

We spent our 2nd day touring Alcatraz and visiting Fisherman's Wharf. 


We had a couple of logistical issues that we needed to work though. Since the main part of the visit was to spend time with my daughter, we had to work around her schedule. She's on a traveling nurse assignment in Palo Alto.  She was scheduled to work from 7:00PM to 7:30AM. We were going to use her car to drive to the ferry for Alcatraz. She would sleep for awhile and meet us in town or we would come back and grab her later. I took a chance to call the Renaissance and speak with the Concierge. I asked if we could get a very early check-in....8:30AM... this would allow for my daughter to drive in with us and sleep at the hotel. A big favor if granted that would save the transportation obstacle. The hotel was sold out the night before, so   this early request was going to be a challenge. Not only did the hotel work with us to assure the check-in, they were able to upgrade us to a larger room that accommodated three adults. Cudos go out to the hotel staff. It makes life so much easier when  the nice people at Marriott extend their reach for this type of exceptional customer service.


We headed to the ferry for the 10AM departure. As many have noted. You need to order your tickets for these Alcatraz trips well ahead of time. We reserved out slots 8 days ahead. Our visit was a Wednesday morning. There was an A-Frame sign stating that the next available cruise wasn't until Sunday! Anyone looking to walk up and get tickets was big-time out of luck. Thanks for the heads up on this from my fellow MI members. 


The boat ride was easy and quick. Keep in mind that the temperature was a good 10 degrees cooler on the bay than on land. Bringing one extra layer of clothing paid off. The tour is at your pace. There is an audio segment that is part of the fee. It was great. We were outfitted with individual headgear that allowed for pausing and restarting whenever we wanted to spend a few extra minutes taking in the sights.  This was my first visit to any prison. All information gathered reinforced the idea that I would never want to come back as an inmate. We spent about 2 hrs on "The Rock". This part of our visit to the San Francisco area was well worth our time.


We took our first walk through the Fisherman's walk area upon the conclusion of our Alcatraz cruise. The diversity was impressive. There are businesses that are crisp and clean. Some that are more weathered, and some that get down and dirty. I enjoy that type of mix. It feels like real life. The seals that sun themselves on the piers are very cool, but carry quite a stench!  Since we wanted to wait for my daughter to enjoy a late lunch...we ordered a warmed up sourdough sandwich roll for $1.49, that was liberally buttered, from Boudin. It was very good and hard not to go in for more. 


boat to alcatraz.jpg

san francisco from boat.jpg

time out.jpgFILE0145.JPG



The flight from PHL to SFO was one hr late on both ends. We headed to Palo Alto from the airport for our first night. The first morning we headed out for Big Sur at 7:30AM. The drive from Palo Alto to Big Sur was about 2 1/2 hrs. We stopped once for a cup of coffee at Peet's right outside of Carmel.  Very good coffee, by the way. The weather was overcast so the pics are a bit steamy.


That drive was one curve after another. Breathtaking scenery for the passengers was available for most of the ride. We had brunch in Big Sur at Nepenthe, Cafe Kevah. Excellent traditional Eggs Benedict and a unique version featuring avocado and lump crab were consumed. This restaurant has a wonderful history, from Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to Henry Miller, among others.The fireplace overlooking the sea is gorgeous.


We headed north and stopped at the beach in Carmel.  Mrs Pained and daughter Pained needed to dip their toes in the Pacific. Pebble Beach Golf Links was visible from the beach. We drove through lovely neighborhoods that only jerrycoin could afford.  One two bedroom home was available for just $4.2 Million!!


big sur.jpg

cafe at big sur.jpg


pacific coast 3.jpg

carmel beach 4.jpg

phone booth.jpg

restaurant big sur.jpg

We're heading from PHL to SFO today. This will be my first trip to a city that has been on the wishlist for many years. I AM PUMPED.

Cashed in Miles on USAir for 2 RT First Class tickets.... The low rate was available so the tix cost only 45,000 ea.... Isn't that great?

Normally for domestic flights, I'd stretch the points and book coach, but the 6 hr flight and the reduced rate screamed "get the wide seats".

We're bunking at my daughter's for the most part but have a points stay at The Stanford Court Renaissance. Keep your fingers crossed for the upgrade to a Jr Suite.

We're all packed up and driving to the airport soon. I'll grab a load of pictures. I'll report back on experiences, good and not so good. (Hopefully all good!)


Thanks to all the nice folks who shared ideas: jerrycoin, pluto77 richard37075 sg1974 razorbackfan lone6star curiousone erc cindapin and californian

My idea is to bring a little sunshine to the cities and towns of Pennsylvania. I travel around the state a few times each year and will share points of interest to any would be visitors.If it it seems to be of value, I'll expand to other destinations around the globe.


Let's start with Lancaster in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The city itself has some old world charm. Red brick buildings, a sparkling newer Marriott with a  neighboring Convention Center, and outlying rolling hill farms. Besides the Marriott, Lancaster also is home to a Courtyard and a Fairfield Inn.


There is plenty of shopping available with HUGE outlet malls containing retailers of all types. We do a lot of our pre-Holiday shopping in Lancaster. This wipes out most of our list and helps keep the anxiety level down as Christmas approaches.


The local dining options include local fair and the big chain restaurants. We enjoy PA Dutch cooking. Our last visit included a stop in at the Shady Maple Smorgasbord. I know a lot of folks today steer clear of these type of restaurants, but if you ever have the urge, don't miss this place. For $15, a diner will find a 90 ft long buffet with multiple grill stations and phenomenal homestyle desserts. Shady maple was about a 15 minute ride from the Marriott in a neighboring town of East Earl, PA. The menu included local favorites like dried corn, ham balls, with shoo-fly pie and  whoopie pies for the sweet tooth......