by the Bay

A couple recaptures the romance of
their honeymoon in San Francisco
and ends up leaving their hearts
behind once again

We were in bad need of a vacation, and my husband Derek, who is the orchestra and choir teacher at Moanalua Middle School, kept waxing poetic of our San Francisco honeymoon, taken several years ago.

"Wouldn't it be great if we could go back?" he repeated at least twice a week before I gave up waiting for him to take the initiative. I went Web surfing and began booking the winter vacation of our dreams.

Unfortunately, a week before we left for the city where Tony Bennett left his heart, it seemed the vacation of our dreams was shaping up to be one of Dante's trips to a circle of Hell.

First, there was an earthquake in Southern California that was followed by a 50 percent power outage in San Francisco. A widespread flu outbreak made the news, and before we even stepped out the door, Derek and I developed sniffles. To add to our troubles, on the day before we left it was announced that the nation was on high security alert.

"Maybe we weren't meant to take a vacation," I cried.

Derek assured me our trip would be all right, and miraculously, it was.

When we arrived in San Francisco, Derek's aunt and uncle picked us up at the airport to spend the day in San Jose. Because we got off the plane at around 5:30 a.m., they treated us to Krispy Kreme donuts and Starbucks coffee before letting us nap at their home.

After grabbing some shut-eye, we headed to Santana Row (, the strip mall equivalent to Ala Moana Center's third floor. There, upscale stores accompanied kitschy restaurants.

We enjoyed French onion soup -- a welcome treat in 50-something degree weather -- and a variety of sandwiches at The Left Bank Bistro. The food was a little pricey, but well worth its cost. Highlights at Santana Row were a hip Japanese stationery shop, Maido, and San Francisco chocolate-maker Joseph Schmidt. There was also The Container Store, which would have required a container for shipping some of its contents back to Honolulu.

But we weren't there to tour San Jose, so we headed to our hotel.

Locals who get hungry for a taste of home can head to San Francisco's Chinatown for dim sum, Thai or Vietnamese cuisine.

THANKS TO, we received great rates for the Pan Pacific (, rated 4 1/2 stars, no doubt due to its helpful, enthusiastic staff.

After dropping our bags off, we went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where we promptly got busted. I was taking notes on my favorite Frida Kahlo and Henri Matisse paintings when a short female guard approached me with what looked like a golfer's scoring pencil.

"Please put the pen away and use this." I stared at her for a minute before I realized pens aren't allowed in the museum due to vandalism fears.

Derek, who in San Antonio, Texas, was told, "Sir, please get your foot off the Alamo," set off a different kind of alarm. He had stepped close to a painting to peer at its lines when a short female guard, a clone of the first, hurried up to him, scolding, "Too close! Too close!"

The first guard saw that he was with me, the potential vandal, and we were marked as "them," the people each guard watched and followed throughout the museum.

When it was time for dinner, we opted for John's Grill, home of the Maltese Falcon (, for steak and live jazz. Open since 1908, the restaurant gave us welcome reprieve from the cold, and the jazz guitarist added to the coolness of being in San Francisco.

A journey via wine train was one of the adventures awaiting Genevieve Suzuki in San Francisco.

THE NEXT DAY we were up at 7-ish for the Napa and Sonoma wine country tour I had booked online ( The bus that came to pick us up was half full of sleepy-eyed passengers, clearly wondering why they had chosen to imbibe so early in the morning.

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to ride around in a bus of drunken foreigners, this tour is your chance to find out. When we arrived at the first winery, Viansa (a play on the names of its owners, Vicki and Sam Sebastiani), we didn't socialize with our fellow tourists, sharing smiles only over sips of wine.

But after several little glasses of wine, we met Nigel.

Nigel was a bespectacled archaeologist from the United Kingdom, who demanded fuller glasses from our wine pourer. Derek and I sampled Vicki's gourmet dips and nibbles; Nigel went from counter to counter, trying wines at will and asking to try the reserve bottles. When he boarded the bus with his loot, he had spent almost $200 on wine.

Fisherman's Wharf is the place to be for Dungeness crab. This month, the city hosts its annual Crab Festival.

On we traveled to Domaine Carneros (, founded by Champagne Taittinger. Oh sure, the chateau was breathtaking and the facility fascinating, but most entertaining was the Latvian and Brazilian tourists arguing over what would make a better photo. After the winery tour, staffers gave us a glass of sparkling wine -- the term "champagne" is reserved for the French version -- and we purchased a glass of their other offerings. The tour is really a brilliant marketing scheme for the wineries.

By the time we got on the bus to go to lunch, everyone was happy. The decibel level had risen and there was goodwill among all. The United Nations should definitely think about staging wine tours before their meetings.

After lunch, we hit the third winery, the Kirkland Ranch Winery. Nigel hated its cowhide decor and deer heads hanging from wall.

"Ugh, who is this cowboy," he groused.

I found the Western interior intriguing. Wine is such a refined art, and hunting, well, you're shooting Bambi's mom.

At Viansa, one of owner Vicki Sebastiani's specialties is crab cakes, available for purchase on the wine tour, which Derek Suzuki was happy to sample.

We discovered on the way back to San Francisco, an hour's drive, that Nigel didn't have plans for the evening, so we invited him to share dinner with us. We were regaled by his stories of how the United States still belong to the British because King George was insane when he signed the colonies away.

This was at the über-hip Fifth Floor at the Hotel Palomar ( French cuisine again, but much more upscale. The dishes were delicious, but the last thing we needed was more wine.

Our last day in San Francisco was devoted to Derek. We went to see the San Francisco 49ers play the Seattle Seahawks at 3Com Park.

I was once told that no matter where you are in the world, you'll always find people from Hawaii. We found them on the bus to the game, and laughed at how funny it was that we recognized each other.

Sitting at the stadium, we were freezing but happy as we downed hot dogs and hot cocoa. Seeing an NFL game for Derek was huge, and his eyes bugged at the sight of Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens, two members of his former fantasy football team. My eyes bugged at the amount of cussing the fans did at their own team.

Visitors to Viansa are greeted by stacks of wine barrels.

That night, we slipped into Blondie's Pizza for a couple of slices before going to the Starlight Room atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel ( The plush Starlight Room, with its formally dressed hostesses, conjured images of a swankier time. We were told we could sit in our booth for only 45 minutes before giving it up. We sat for about 15 and then decided to dance to the live swing music.

Sure enough, after we got up to dance, the band took a break and was replaced by a DJ spinning funk. After several songs, the band began playing again, but this time the music was more reminiscent of the time Earth, Wind & Fire reigned.

Dancing near large picture windows with a view of the brightly lighted Union Square was an unforgettable experience and I would urge anyone visiting the city to go to the Starlight Room.

At Pier 39, vendors also offer live lobsters in addition to Dungeness crab.

Before we said goodbye to San Francisco, Derek's aunt and uncle took us for Sunday brunch at the Carnelian Room ( on the 52nd floor of the Bank of America building, in the financial district. Sipping mimosas while enjoying the restaurant's panoramic view of the city was icing on the cake.

What started out as something only National Lampoon could imagine had actually been an excellent trip with memories to spare. As we flew back to the islands, Derek turned to me and asked, "Wouldn't it be great if we could go back?"

A view of the TransAmerica building is available from the Carnelian Room.

Genevieve A. Suzuki is a freelance writer in Honolulu.

If you go...

Where to stay

Pan Pacific: At 500 Post St. in the heart of San Francisco's downtown. Rates are about $170 for a super queen and $190 for a deluxe king when booked through All rooms offer marble bathrooms and separate dressing areas, mini bar, in-room safe, in-room computer data ports and access to in-room fax machines. Call 1-415-771-8600 or visit

Sir Francis Drake: At 450 Powell St. For those who like bigger hotels, The Sir Francis Drake features 417 rooms with spectacular views of the city and San Francisco Bay, and the 1930s ambiance of a grand lobby with classic chandeliers, gilded ceilings, and a curved marble staircase leading to the mezzanine lounge. Prices start at about $150 for a standard room when booked through Call 800-795-7129 or go to

Cartwright Hotel: At 524 Sutter St. This boutique hotel has bed-and-breakfast charm, providing such complimentary services to guests as a continental breakfast buffet from 7 to 9 a.m. daily, 24-hour coffee and tea service with afternoon cookies served in the lobby, and wine hour from 5 to 6 p.m. Rooms start at about $90. Call 800-919-9779 or go to

Where to eat

Carnelian Room: At 555 California Ave., on the 52nd floor of the Bank of America building. Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is about $40 per person. Dinner available nightly from 6 p.m. Call 415-433-7500.

Fifth Floor: At Hotel Palomar, 12 Fourth St. Dinner comes to about $130, plus tip.

Scoma's: Seafood and pasta served at Pier 47 and Al Scoma Way, named for one of the restaurant's founders. Call 415-771-4383.

What to do

The cost of the Sonoma wine country tour booked through came to $52 per person.


Crab Festival celebrates

San Francisco celebrates the city's culinary icon, the Dungeness crab, with the second annual San Francisco Crab Festival throughout the month of February.

The centerpiece is the San Francisco Convention & Visitor's Bureau and VISA's Crab & Wine Marketplace, taking place Feb. 28-29.

This year, the second annual Marketplace event expands into both the Festival and Herbst Pavilions at Fort Mason Center, located at Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street in San Francisco's Marina District.

Also new for 2004, Sunset Magazine sponsors a food and entertaining stage, where cooking demonstrations are offered by some of San Francisco's most celebrated chefs.

The monthlong Crab Festival includes events throughout the city, including Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, the Mission District and other neighborhoods (see calendar listings below).

Crab Festival 2004

Events include:

Feb. 20 and 27: Mission Merchants Association Mission Crab Crawl at Alma's, Andalu, Bissap Baobab, Bruno's, Butterfly Lounge, Charanga, Foreign Cinema, Platanos, Ramblas Tapas, Roccapulco Supper Club, Spiazzino, Tannour, Blondies Bar & No Grill, and Elixir. For more information, visit or call 415-920-0125. The North Beach Chamber of Commerce also sponsors a monthlong Crab Crawl. Visit or call 415-989-2220.

Feb. 21: Union Square Festival Celebration. Chefs from restaurants including Kuleto's Italian Restaurant, Puccini & Pinetti and Scala's Bistro pair up with the San Francisco 49ers to celebrate the divine Dungeness in a crab-cracking competition. Also joining in the fun is the world's largest crab. Noon to 4 p.m. at Union Square. Admission is free. Call 415-781-7880.

Feb. 21 through 29: Pier 39 presents its popular Tulipmania Festival showcasing 39,000 tulips in full bloom throughout both levels of the pier, this year focusing on crab-shaped topiaries. Free, guided landscaping tours will be presented at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily, beginning at the entrance plaza. Call 415-705-5500.

Feb. 24: Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras & Crab Festival presented by the Mission Merchants Association will feature world music by Loco Bloco, Bayonics and DJ Papi Chocolate, and Roccapulco's signature crab enchiladas will be served. All proceeds will benefit local drum-and-dance ensembles for Youth Arts Education; 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Roccapulco Supper Club, 3140 Mission St. Tickets $12. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit or, or call 415-920-0125.

Feb. 27: North Beach Chamber of Commerce Neighborhood Crab Feed takes place at the Sts. Peter and Paul Church, 666 Filbert St. It's a silent auction and fund-raiser for the Bill Weber North Beach Jazz Mural at Broadway and Columbus. Tickets are $50. Visit or call 415-989-2220.

Feb. 28 and 29: San Francisco Crab & Wine Marketplace is the centerpiece of the Crab Festival, sponsored by the San Francisco Convention & Visitor's Bureau. The festival celebrates the Dungeness crab with plentiful food and wine tastings and samples of Epicurean specialties from top Bay Area restaurants and wineries. Festivities include the Kids Crab Cove (a children's recreation area) and entertainment. Shop for culinary items, fresh seafood, select wines, and fine arts and crafts from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the 28th, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the 29th, at Fort Mason Center's Festival and Herbst Pavilions, Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street. General admission is $20 for adults, which includes a commemorative wine glass, three wine-tasting tickets and an event gift bag. Admission for ages 5 to 20 is $5, and children under 5 are admitted free. For more information, visit, call 415-391-2000 or visit the Convention & Visitors Bureau's Visitor Information Center in the lower level of Halladie Plaza, near the Powell Street cable car turnaround.

Throughout February: Lark Creek Restaurant Group's 15th Annual Crab Festival features complimentary crab tastings for dinner patrons, menus filled with crab creations and prize drawings, involving: One Market Restaurant (San Francisco), The Lark Creek Inn (Larkspur), Lark Creek Walnut Creek, Yankee Pier Larkspur, Yankee Pier Santana Row (San Jose), and Parcel 104 (Santa Clara Marriott). For more information, visit or call 415-777-5588

More information
For further information on the events, call 415-391-2000 or visit and click on the San Francisco Crab Festival icon.


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