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Transcript: San Francisco

Sharron Wood answered your questions on vacationing in San Francisco on March 16, 2004

San Francisco is the most visited city in the United States--and with good reason. Top-notch restaurants, a wide variety of museums and other cultural attractions, and quirky neighborhoods that reflect the styles of its even quirkier residents are packed into a tiny picture-perfect peninsula, easily traversed on public transportation and by foot (hills notwithstanding). Tiny seaside towns, mountain landscapes, and the elegant B&Bs of the Wine Country are also easily accessible by car once you've had your fill of the urban experience.

You can certainly find what you're looking for in San Francisco, but it helps to know your own mind, and to know where to look. While some visitors will want to prowl around the gritty Tenderloin, searching out the best budget Vietnamese restaurants, others would be much happier having pastries and espresso at a fabulous French bakery. So whether your idea of a night on the town involves dancing to DJs spinning or sipping cocktails at a skyline piano bar, I'll point you in the right direction. I'm also happy to answer any questions on hotels, sightseeing and transportation.

Sharron answered your questions Tuesday, March 16, at noon EST.

Since moving to San Francisco almost 15 years ago, Sharron Wood has contributed to more than a dozen travel guides to San Francisco and California. She is also the author of Chow! San Francisco Bay Area: 300 Affordable Places for Great Meals and Good Deals. Her most recent writing projects have focused on San Francisco restaurants, nightlife, and shopping, and the Wine Country just north of the city. When she's not working on travel guides, she's probably editing a cookbook, baking, or shaking cocktails for her friends. Despite her fondness of travel, especially to cold, windswept places and islands where she can scuba dive, her love of San Francisco means she is always happy to return home, where the attitudes are tolerant, the food is world-class, the weather is practically perfect, and she's constantly surprised by astounding views.

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Sharron Wood: Hi there. I'm happy to answer your questions about visiting San Francisco!

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Orlando, FL: What is your favorite Chinese restaurant--not dim sum?

Sharron Wood: In Chinatown I like R&G Lounge. The downstairs is more casual; upstairs is more elegant. They specialize in unusual Hong Kong-style specialties, including lots of extremely fresh seafood.

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Washington, DC: I'm going to San Francisco for a long weekend with my boyfriend. We are staying at Fishermen's Warf at the Marriott. I'd like to take him out one night for a romantic dinner. What would you recommend? It doesn't have to be at Fishermen's Wharf, but within a reasonable cab ride and a memorable and NICE place. I would like to make make it a surprise. I would appreciate any recommendations. We like Greek food, but any foods are fine. Thank you.

Sharron Wood: Very close to Fisherman's Wharf is a restaurant that is generally regarded one of the very restaurants in San Francisco--Gary Danko. Gary Danko, who was a chef at the Ritz Carlton before opening this restaurant, cooks beautifully decadent food in a sleek, sedate setting. Of course, you'll pay for the privilege of eating there. Another favorite is in Ghirardelli Square - but, oddly, does not get many tourists, probably because it doesn't really have a view of the water. Ana Mandara, in a dramatic, high-ceilinged warehouse, serves upscale Vietnamese food, like sea bass wrapped in banana leaves. The bar upstairs is elegant and sometimes has live music. It's my pick for a romantic dinner in that part of town. Kokkari Estiatorio, an upscale Greek restaurant, is widely considered the best Greek restaurant in town, and it is only a short cab ride from the Fisherman's Wharf area.

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Virginia Beach, VA: Sharron, My girlfriend and I can't hardly wait to arrive on Saturday. We will be staying a week. The only reservations we have are the rental car and the first two nights we will be at the Hyatt. Our plan is to leave to head North on Monday after rush hour. Two days in Napa and then we will be heading down to the Monterey/Carmel area. We are the type that like to be flexible, stopping along the way to explore. My question is this: Will I be able to find accommodations without a reservation in both Napa and in Monterey and/or Carmel? I would rather not stay in a chain hotel. I am not cheap but not trying to break the bank. Any ideas? Thank you for your consideration. Also is Muir Woods worth the trip?

Sharron Wood: It's not hard to find a place to stay without a reservation this time of year in Napa; it's the off season, and things are pretty slow (in a nice way) up there now. There are lots of options up there that aren't chains; some of the better bargains are in the towns that are on the far end of the valley, further away from San Francisco, like Calistoga. Brannan Cottage Inn is one reasonably priced Victorian-style spot in Calistoga. Muir Woods is very pretty, but the paved paths and crowds mean that it's not exactly a dramatic nature experience. If you're an outdoorsy sort and like hiking (as opposed to strolling through the trees), I'd suggest going for a hike on adjacent Mt. Tamalpais instead.

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