Entries in ‘San Francisco’ Journal

Cruising San Francisco Bay Aboard Bay Voyager

Wednesday May 21, 2014 at 11:11 AM | 3 Comments

The dismantling of the old span of the Bay Bridge, Oakland, CA.

The dismantling of the old span of the Bay Bridge, Oakland, CA.

I have logged many hours cruising around the San Francisco Bay. Two of my good friends live on a houseboat at Pier 39 and take us out on their wooden sailboat “Lola” and I worked for years as a bartender on a beautiful charter yacht called “Compass Rose” out of Alameda. I also have a good friend who is a ferry captain on the Blue & Gold fleet.

But, never have I experienced the Bay the way I did aboard the Bay Voyager!

Parker and Captain Charles Jennings of the Bay Voyager.

Parker and Captain Charles Jennings of the Bay Voyager.

Captain Charles Jennings is extremely affable and knowledgeable about the Bay, and his banana yellow rigid inflatable boat is, how shall I say, super fast!

I was invited recently to go out to test the waters with my nine-year-old daughter, Parker. It was one of those picture-perfect San Francisco days, made all the better by riding the waves on this amazing 300hp, 12-passenger vessel.

Capt’n Charles is meticulous about safety and even though it was balmy on the dock, he had all of us suit up in full waterproof jackets, pants and safety gear.

Since it was a light crew, we skipped circling Alcatraz (been there, done that) and headed out of the Golden Gate where the currents are strong and the view is unparalleled. Parker and I couldn’t wipe the perma-smiles of our faces!

We circled back, ducked under the first stretch of the Bay Bridge and took a look at the construction in progress on the second span. Here we could see the piece of the old bridge that is being taken down in pieces. An amazing sight.

Next we dipped into McCovey Cove just before game day at the San Francisco Giants’ stadium. We crossed the paths with some party boats — one already in full swing with bikini-clad ladies chugging champagne from the bottles. Good times.

During the cruise, Capt’n Charles peppered us with interesting facts about the cities (San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley) and articulately answered all of my pesky questions.photo copy 3

This is, by far, one of the best ways to experience the San Francisco Bay.

If You Go:

Bay Voyager
Captain Charles Jennings
Bay Voyager
Pier 39 Gate “C”
San Francisco, California 94133
(510) 542-4200

Post and photos contributed by Lisa Crovo Dion of Friscomama.com. I was a guest of the Bay Voyager.

San Francisco Golf: TPC Harding Park

Friday May 16, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

The fairway bunkers at TPC Harding Park golf course, San Francisco

The fairway bunkers at TPC Harding golf course, San Francisco

I live in the east bay, near Walnut Creek, 20 miles east of San Francisco and have been playing a different local public golf course nearly every weekend for 15 years.  There are tremendous public golf opportunities within a 40 minute drive from Napa (north) to Brentwood (east) to Livermore/Sunol (south.)  There are literally dozens of golf course choices.  With that in mind, I rarely consider the City when it comes to golf. My son, Evan, and I and another father son twosome, Tim and Brian Repp, had the opportunity to play  TPC Harding Park golf course in San Francisco on the Saturday of the Masters weekend. We were fortunate to score a 9:30 a.m. Saturday tee time.  The advice ‘Go West young man’ is still very sound when it comes to golf.

Golf at TPC Harding Park

When playing a golf course for the first time, I have found it advantageous to ride in a cart rather than walk.  One can check out the blind shots in a cart and still keep pace. Many golf courses require carts and distances from greens the next tee box are often extended.  I prefer to walk a golf course whenever I have the opportunity. Fortunately for me, our group decided to walk TPC Harding Park. (it is cart path only at Harding for and you can get a pull cart both are included in the green fees).

"TPC Harding" golf

TPC Harding Park #9 Fairway

TPC Harding Park golf history

TPC Harding Park was built in 1925 before golf carts were a part of golf.  This golf course was meant to be walked and is a classic course; meticulously maintained with new greens and bunkers this year. It is a wonderful walk, spoiled only by the things that make golf fun and frustrating at the same time….one’s own golf game.  The first nine holes are in the center of the golf course with the back nine wrapping around the perimeter.  There are no condos, roads or bike paths on the golf course; perhaps a few San Franciscans wondering with small dogs on number 18 as you approach the club house, but otherwise the golf course is lined by cypress trees with amply wide fairways and beautiful hole after hole of challenging but straight forward golf.  It is a par 72, the white tees play at 6405 yards (71.1/122).  At one point our own shadows startled us while putting on the back nine, but the sun quickly retreated as it does in San Francisco.

"TPC Harding" golf

TPC Harding Park Cypress and Lake Merced

We played our round in four hours and ten minutes, a treat to never have to wait as this is not always the case on some public golf courses.  Chris in the pro shop gave us sound advice “the new greens run true.”  TPC Harding Park has a full driving range and range balls are included with the green fees. The dining facility at TPC Harding is very nice and they have a good selection of beers with outdoor tables overlooking the lake.  Across Lake Merced, which borders several holes on the back nine and over the hill, is the Olympic Club where the 2012 US Open was held.  Just across Lake Merced is the Pacific Rod and Gun Club. Established in 1934, it is the last facility of its kind in a major metropolitan area.  I mention this fact because you may experience the sound of shot guns as you play the back nine. The gun club opens at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.  They close at 5:00 p.m. so you could fit in a round or two of skeet after golf with an early tee time.  ($40 a round of skeet including steel shot that you have to buy there.)

I played Lincoln Park Golf Course a long, long time ago and remember the views of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The Presidio Golf Course is on my list to play and it is known for its tight fairways. I will come back to TPC Harding Park as it was a premier golf experience with excellent facilities, friendly staff and an outstanding golf course.

"Evan D. Brown" "TPC Harding"

Evan D. Brown drives it home from TPC Harding Park 18th tee

Insider Tip

Did you know that TPC Harding Park is an ADA accessible golf course? For ADA program access, the accessible route to teeing grounds, putting greens and other playing areas is via the accessible golf cart. The accessible cart at Harding Park Golf Course is available for use with 24 hour notice. For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @nancydbrown and TPC Harding Park on Twitter for golf tips @TPCHarding.

If You Go:
TPC Harding Park Golf   (415) 664-4690

99 Harding Road
San Francisco, CA 94132

Related Post

Golfing at Half Moon Bay Golf Links

Article and photos by Cory Brown who was a guest of TPC Harding Park.


14 for 2014 — Ideas for Kid-friendly Trips

Tuesday January 28, 2014 at 8:08 PM | 0 Comments

Kicking it palapa-style at Dreams Nueva Vallarta.

Kicking it palapa-style at Dreams Nueva Vallarta.

Dreams Resort, Puerto Vallarta Mexico

For a great all-inclusive resort vacation, I highly recommend Dreams just north of Puerto Vallarta. We stayed for a week in this lovely paradise with enormous crystal clear pools, beach palapas, entertainment, all manner of activities and fantastic restaurant. To lounge and read with feet in the sand and a drink in a coconut shell while the kids splashed around or painted ceramics was, in a word, dreamy.


Train Town, Sonoma, California

Did you know that there’s an amusement park for the shorties in Sonoma! And it’s dirt-cheap! This adorable destination is located a mile from Sonoma Plaza. Zip though tunnels and over bridges on the quarter-scale railroad on your way to Lakeview, the miniature town and petting zoo.

There is also a Ferris wheel, scrambler, roller coaster, and carousel to further delight the young’uns.

Camping in Big Sur, California

I’m not much into camping, but it gets us outdoors, it’s affordable, and kids love it. Fernwood on the Big Sur River offers different levels of lodging —cabins, tent cabins, campground, and a motel. We scored a nice site next on the riverbank to pitch our tent. The kids went tubing, climbed trees and simply explored. Upstairs the hill at the lodge are shops (with lattes in the morning), a restaurant, and a tavern. A nice getaway for nature lovers who also love city amenities.

Legoland, Carlsbad, California

These Danish plastic bricks have taken the world and my son’s bedroom by storm. And Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, Calif is up there next to Disneyland as the ultimate children’s fantasyland. It’s home to to more than 60 rides, shows and attractions and they debuted their first U.S. hotel there last spring. Continue the fun straight into your hotel room!

A salute from Legoland, Carlsbad, California

A salute from Legoland, Carlsbad, California


Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Acres (71,028 to be precise) of pristine coastline are located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County. The water is best explored with a wetsuit but since kids are generally impervious to cold, why bother? Pack the sand toys and have a castle contest! The hikes range from easy/moderate to difficult and the views are spectacular. Plan ahead and reserve the Windsong Cottage yurt for an unforgettable family getaway.


Ocean Beach dunes/Java Beach Café, San Francisco, California

Being a city dweller close to the ocean, taking the kids to the beach is one of my favorite go-to adventures. Our usual routine is grilled cheese and soup at Java Beach Café then watching the sun set on Ocean Beach. There is a treacherous undertow on this beach (with scary riptide warnings), so the kids mostly stick to rolling down and hiding in the massive dunes.

Kids’ Suite at the Hotel Union Square, San Francisco, California

I love this room! If you’re visiting San Francisco with little ones, this is the place to stay. It’s spacious, cheerful l and equipped with all manner of well-curated kids’ toys and books. From baby toys to a Wii, there is ample in-room entertainment. Then, just step out the door into bustling Union Square for great shopping and restaurants.


The kids' suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco.

The kids’ suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco.

New York City

Last summer, I hit the road with the kids for a (very, very hot) summer on the East Coast. My daughter was the right age (eight) for NYC and fell in love with it. My little guy not so much — I ended up leaving him with my mom while Parker and I explored the city on foot, subway, taxi cab, and the Staten Island ferry. We had a blast. There so much to do there with a curious kids — Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building. Even driving through Times Square at night is a thrill.


Fairyland, Oakland, Califoria

Oakland’s adorable Fairyland is where Walt Disney got his inspiration for Disneyland. It is sweet and kind of run down but in a charming way. It definitely skews toward the really young crowd. Take the train to get the lay of the land then visit one of the shows. There are lots of rides, play areas, and a decent café on the premises. Oh, and good luck getting them out of the giftshop!

Boston, Massachusetts

I come here frequently to visit family and one of our rituals is to take the kids to the Boston Public Gardens to ride the swan boats. After, we go for chowder at Union Oyster House that claims to be the oldest restaurant on the East Coast. It certainly looks like it could be with its low ceilings and narrow passageways. You can gaze out the window and picture Paul Revere riding down the cobblestone streets out front.

 Ice Skating at Embarcadero or Union Square, San Francisco, California

This is a fun way to while away the afternoon during winter break when they kids have been cooped up. The Union Square rink is especially festive during the holidays with the humungous Christmas tree nearby. The Embarcadero is less crowded though, and you are right across for the Ferry Building Marketplace for lunch.

Chinatown, San Francisco, California

This is one for slightly older kids who like to explore on foot. It’s always pretty crowded but there are so many interesting and outrageous sites. A bunch of live frogs in a bucked anyone? A must stop is at the Fortune Cookie factory, a teeny hole-in-the wall on a narrow pedestrian alleyway where you can watch the old ladies make the cookies and taste a sample. Don’t forget to have lunch at one of the many dim sum counters.

Coastal Maine

While I might avoid it in the dead of winter (like right now where it’s 10 degrees), Maine has a beautiful austerity. Summer in charming Oqunquit or Kennebunkport is where it’s at. The kids loved the hot summer weather and enjoyed Portland, a laid back Northern town with gorgeous brick buildings, cool people and great seafood restaurants. Maine in fall is lovely also with a spectrum of colorful leaves on the trees.

Ogunquit Harbor, Maine

Ogunquit Harbor, Maine

San Francisco Insider Tip:

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, Ca

While it might seem too touristy for us adult folk, kids love Fishermans Wharf. For some tips that we all can enjoy, I suggest a trip to the Musee Mechanique, a collection of 200 antique penny arcade machines. There is also a restored WWII submarine, the Hyde Street Pier with its collection of vintage sea vessels, and the cool Aquarium of the Bay nearby.

Post contributed by Lisa Dion of Friscomama.com