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Love by the Bay

02/01/2010 04:36AM ● Published by Wendy Sipple

I fell head over heels for San Francisco on the occasion of my first visit nearly 25 years ago.

The seduction occurred in many layers: the sound of the cable cars pinging up Powell Street; the views of breathtaking beauty from the tip of the Transamerica pyramid to the trees of Golden Gate Park; the salty smell of the bay breeze as the fog rolled over the bridge. I’ve never been able to shake off my love affair with this place, and perhaps that’s why I return again and again to rekindle that magic. San Francisco is certainly a city for lovers, with a chance for romance both on a budget and going for broke. Here are a few of my personal favorites:


You may recognize The Fairmont San Francisco from its days as the façade for the TV nighttime soap, Hotel. This legendary building recently underwent a $95 million renovation, resorting the elegant beauty of its illustrious past. Untouched (and thankfully) is the Tonga Room, a tiki-inspired lounge and restaurant with indoor rain showers nightly. Think Fantasy Island minus the “da plane.”

Centrally located in Union Square, Villa Florence is a lovely boutique hotel with easy access to one of San Francisco’s more popular dining and shopping areas. You may feel like you’ve stepped into Tuscany when checking-in, but all the charms of the city are in full bloom here.


Celluloid is king at Foreign Cinema, the über-romantic restaurant in trendy Mission District. Here, the eats are delicious and drinks divine, captained by chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark. Be sure to reserve a candlelit table on the patio so as to enjoy the backdrop screening of their current film selection.

Swing by Say Cheese in Cole Valley (856 Cole Street) and order from their incredible selection of divine cheeses and tasty sandwiches. Take your lunch to go and walk a few blocks to Golden Gate Park. There you’ll find plenty of greens, gardens and even a few museums to visit. Spread out a blanket for an afternoon picnic and watch the world go by.

Play and See

Reserve two amazing tickets at the San Francisco Ballet, housed at the spectacular War Memorial Opera House at Civic Center. Spring offerings from this illustrious company include Balanchine Masterworks, The Little Mermaid, and the story of two very famous lovers, Romeo and Juliet.

Rent some bikes or take the reliable Muni Metro out to the often-overlooked Sunset District, a wonderful neighborhood on the southern end of Golden Gate Park. Full of great shopping and cute cafes, it’s a great place to enjoy an intimate afternoon. If you’re feeling really bold, head up 13th street (straight up) to a hilltop view that surpasses all others in the city. “High on a hill, it calls to me to be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars…”

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