One very lovely weekend early into this new year, my daughters and I were invited to San Francisco to stay at the Wyndham Canterbury resort right in the heart of the city by the bay, or as I fondly refer to it, “The Sanctum of Sourdough Bread.”
First, let’s get all my phobias about San Francisco out of the way. At the top of the list is my fear of bridges, and this city has more than its share of them. Understand that it’s not the suspension of steel over a deep body of water that scares me. It’s the height of the girders supporting the bridge. So I guess my fear of bridges is really masking my fear of heights.
San Francisco Bay Bridge
Two days before the trip, I started to feel a little anxious knowing that I would have to drive over the gargantuan Bay Bridge, the longest, high-level steel bridge in the world that sits 191 feet above water and is about 4.5 miles long (yikes!).
I read somewhere that the deepest pier holding up the bridge extends 242 feet below the water’s surface and contains more concrete than the Empire State Building, so I wasn’t worried about falling into the bay; I was worried about passing out at the wheel as I tried really hard not to think about the two earthquakes that had struck San Francisco in the previous two days. (What timing, right?)
I’m not proud of the fact that I started to cry while driving over the Bay Bridge. You know that famous song, “I left my heart in San Francisco”? It was more like, “I left my dignity on the Bay Bridge.” Anyway, at least my little breakdown provided some much-needed entertainment for my daughters, who always get bored on road trips.
Once I had conquered the Bay Bridge safely, my heart rate returned to normal and beautiful San Francisco opened its arms to us. It’s a spectacular sight to be driving into the city at twilight with the Golden Gate Bridge silhouetted in the distance. We were excited for the weekend to come – and I just prayed that the earth was done shaking.
We pulled up to the Wyndham Canterbury on Sutter Street and were immediately treated like dignitaries. “Good evening, Ms. Armitage! We’ve been expecting you,” announced the doorman. If this is how they treat all their guests, not just the ones writing about them, then I was very impressed.
What’s even more impressive, this newest property in the Wyndham Vacation Resorts portfolio used to be the historic Canterbury Hotel, built in 1923, and is now completely refurbished in a modern, sleek, urban, earthquake-safe design. We stayed in a spotlessly-clean, artsy-chic two-bedroom unit splashed with red, black and chrome accents and featuring a small kitchen, two full baths, a dining area, a living room and three flat screen TVs – one in each bedroom – offering plenty of space for three people with three different TV viewing habits.
For larger families, the resort offers 20 luxurious Presidential Suites in an adjoining tower.
Wyndham Vacation Ownership
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But before you reach for the phone to book a stay at the Wyndham Canterbury at San Francisco, you need to know something: You can’t. See, it’s a timeshare ownership resort in which you buy points that can be redeemed for a stay in any of Wyndham’s resort properties in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. You can’t just walk in off the street and buy a room for the night. You have to already be an owner.
However, if you have a spare $15,000 or so lying around, it’s definitely a rewarding investment you and your family may want to consider, especially if you do a lot of traveling together.
Touring San Francisco
The Wyndham Canterbury is ideally located for those guests who like to walk everywhere. It’s close to Union Square and the shopping district, and you’ll find a good selection of eateries up and down the hilly streets. We ate dinner at a darling little restaurant one street over called The Mozart Café, billed as “The most romantic restaurant in San Francisco.” Steaks, pasta, soft lighting and classical music offered the perfect ambiance for a single mother and her two daughters, with whom I fell in love all over again.
Saturday morning, we ate breakfast at a nearby Denny’s. I know, I know . . . it’s not exactly the best dining choice in a city that is known for its world-class cuisine, but my daughters love their Grand Slams, and for a single mother on a budget, I wasn’t going to argue with them. So imagine my surprise when the breakfast bill came to nearly $40 for the three of us! And that’s the thing you need to be prepared for: San Francisco is an expensive town. One of these days, that Golden Gate Bridge will be paid for, and surely, they’ll lower prices all over the city, but until then, you’ll be paying $10 for scrambled eggs.
Since we got such a late start, we had about four hours to see the city. Our destination choices were abundant: Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, Alcatraz, Union Square, the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Nob Hill and Ghirardelli Square. After a pit stop to Lombard Street, where my daughters nagged me to drive down “the crookedest street in the world,” we decided to venture outside the city limits and spend the day in Sausalito, just a hop, skip and a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Yep, another bridge. But strangely enough, I had no fear. I think I was so awestruck by the legend that is the Golden Gate Bridge, that it washed away my anxiety. My car stayed fixed in the middle lane, though, just in case . . .
If you’re not up for San Francisco’s typical tourist track, I highly recommend that you spend some time, over the bridge, in Sausalito. It’s a charming bayside town where you can park and walk to a handful of good restaurants and a good number of ice cream parlors, and stroll in and out of knicky-knack shops. It reminded me of Carmel, if you’ve ever been there. Same quaintness, same pace, same friendly locals.
The Earthquake Fear
We pulled up to our hotel at 4:45 in the afternoon, ready for a quick nap before dinner somewhere within the vicinity of the Wyndham Canterbury. The time is significant because we found out shortly afterward from my sister in Sacramento that at 4:27 – around the same time I was driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, mind you – a 6.5 earthquake struck Eureka. Although a few hundred miles away, the strong temblor was felt in San Francisco and as far north as Oregon.
If you’re doing the math, that’s three earthquakes in three days.
Over an early dinner, where we asked for a table very close to the door frame, we decided that we had had a great two days in San Francisco and instead of checking out Sunday morning, as planned, that perhaps we wouldn’t be staying another night in this beautiful city at sea level; that perhaps we needed to get back over on the other side of that Bay Bridge – quickly!
We’re not stupid. We saw “2012.” Besides, I couldn’t stop thinking about the irony: I lived for 23 years down in Orange County, where the threat of the BIG ONE striking was always imminent. And wouldn’t that be an interesting twist of fate if, after leaving the Land of Earthquakes safely behind, our story ended with the BIG ONE in San Francisco?
Ah, San Francisco . . . it really is a gorgeous town from my rearview mirror, the Golden Gate Bridge getting smaller and smaller, thankfully, silhouetted in the distance.
Lynn Armitage isn’t always this neurotic, although her ex-husband would beg to differ. She writes the TravelingSingleMom https://www.travelingmom.com/blogger/author/armitage/ blog for TravelingMom. Catch her other peaceful reflections on life at myteenthealien.blogspot.com, amadmom.blogspot.com and oldmyass.com.