Bed down in the heart of San Fran at a boutique hotel that mixes classic history with a cheeky sensibility. Hotel Diva (440 Geary St., 800-553-1900, personalityhotels.com) may have a prima donna moniker and corseted, leggy ladies silkscreened on the blinds, but its black-and-ash palette, sleek lounges and complimentary afternoon sake will make men feel welcome, too. Dashiell Hammett wrote and essentially lived at the Hotel Union Square (114 Powell St., 415-397-3000, hotelunionsquare.com), which honors the man and his era with Maltese Falcon playing constantly in a lobby framed by 1920s murals, plus a Dashiell Hammett suite that feels like the writer’s den. For the baseball fan in your family, book the hotel’s orange-toned, fan gear-filled San Francisco Giants suite. Nearby, erstwhile Elks Lodge Kensington Park Hotel (450 Post St., 800-553-1900, kensingtonparkhotel.com) retains a certain aristocratic aura with painted wooden ceilings and elevators, complimentary afternoon tea and sherry, and classic decor with sassy twists.
Half Moon Bay
You could drive past it a thousand times and never know it was there. For years, Mavericks was kept secret, and then as the rumors leaked, it was dismissed as myth by the very people who discovered it. This fall, a movie about the Mt. Everest of surfing, Chasing Mavericks, will put Half Moon Bay on the map for more than just big wave riders.
Located about 25 miles south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay lies along a crenellated coastline where emerald cliffs plunge into a seething sapphire sea. It’s the kind of semi-secret place favored by rum-runners during Prohibition and modern sightseers seeking the unlikely confluence of sleepy seaside burg with big-city amenities like fabulous food and wine. Add a splash of arts and culture and a streak of outdoor activities, and it all comes together like the waters at Mavericks that it holds in one of its coastal folds.
Taking full advantage of Half Moon Bay’s fog-shrouded coves, Moss Beach Distillery (140 Beach Way, Moss Beach, 650-728-5595, mossbeachdistillery.com) was once Frank’s Place, a Prohibition-era speakeasy supplied by seafaring bootleggers. Dashiell Hammett was a habitué and appropriated the setting into his suspense short story The Girl with the Silver Eyes. Today, you can chase crab cakes Benedict with a horseradish-rich Bloody Mary and keep your eyes peeled for another colorful gal, the Blue Lady. The resident cobalt-clad ghost was allegedly a scarlet woman who had an affair with a prurient piano player and was murdered while strolling with her lover on the beach.
Your ramble on the shore will have a happier ending thanks to Sea Horse Ranch (1828 N. Cabrillo Hwy., Half Moon Bay, 650-726-9903, seahorseranch.org), which stables steeds that will trot you through flowery flora where birds flash red feathers to the beach, where you’ll kick up sand as gulls glide overhead and rhythmic waves dissolve into froth.
If the sea is sounding its siren call, paddle out with Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. (Pillar Point Harbor, 650-773-6101, hmbkayak.com). You’ll navigate between moored ships in Pillar Point Harbor, then take to the open Pacific, watching for seals, seagulls and sundry marine life.
There’s something about watery locations that fosters glassmaking industries; the world’s epicenter of the craft is the Venetian island of Murano, and famed glass twister Dale Chihuly hails from bay-bound, rain-drenched Tacoma, Washington. Whatever the reason, if you’ve always had a hankering to stick a molten blob of silica into a furnace and see what develops, Half Moon Bay Art Glass (12341 San Mateo Rd., Half Moon Bay, 650-283-5626, hmbartglass.com) is a good place to start. You’ll be in the capable and gentle hands of Douglass “nominative determinism” Brown, who’ll ask you to choose a shape (beginners can craft a paperweight, an egg, or a pumpkin) and colors, then guide you as you spool neon-orange molten glass on a blowpipe, fire it up in a furnace, and slowly swirl it spit-style into the desired form. No matter which colors you choose, your glass blob looks orange until Brown takes it out of the cooler the next day to reveal seaweed-like swirls of green, blue, or whatever.
After working next to a 2,500-degree Fahrenheit furnace, refresh yourself with a few glasses of vino at next-door La Nebbia Winery (12341 San Mateo Rd., Half Moon Bay, 650-726-9463, lanebbiawinery.com). Gregarious vintner Kendyl Kellogg fosters a casual setting at her winery, where you can sample vintages for a modest fee (don’t miss the port, served in an edible chocolate cup), then take a glass outside to the picnic tables and try your hand at bocce ball.
Pair your wine tasting with a cheese experience at bucolic Harley Farms (205 North St., Pescadero, 650-879-0480, harleyfarms.com), an award-winning goat dairy where you can meet the goats and the giant llamas that zealously guard them, cradle a baby goat in your arms, tour the dairy and learn how the cheese is made, then sample and shop for feta, fudge, and chevre (the lavender honey chevre is to die for).
Continue the time-honored marriage of alcohol and cheese at Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. (390 Capistrano Rd., Half Moon Bay, 650-728-2739, hmbbrewingco.com), which was a favorite haunt of Gerard Butler and the rest of the Chasing Mavericks cast after they filmed at the nearby surfing spot. Kick back on the bier-garden-style patio overlooking the bay, listen to live music, and order a beer and cheese platter, followed by the delectable seafood sampler and a Mavericks Amber Ale, as robust and refreshing as its namesake wave. If you’re there on the first Thursday evening of the month, join in on Brews and Views, where pilsner meets political discussion; show your support by ordering your choice of Alection Ale, either Obama Ale or Romney Ale. They’re both nutty.
Back in charming, historic downtown Half Moon Bay, peruse the boutiques and specialty stores before succumbing once again to the aforementioned motif at Half Moon Bay Wine & Cheese Co. (421 Main St., Half Moon Bay, 650-726-1520, hmbwineandcheese.com), where you can taste from among 60 revolving wines paired with cheeses.
For dinner, you can go vino-and-pasta-centric at Pasta Moon (315 Main St., Half Moon Bay, 650-726-5125, pastamoon.com), an airy, lipstick-red-accented farm-to-table affair that dishes up a feisty linguini with pan-seared ahi, capers, olives and anchovies. Or follow the crowds to Sam’s Chowder House (4210 N. Cabrillo Hwy., Half Moon Bay, 650-712-0245, samschowderhouse.com), a sprawling bayside classy-shack where you can fulfill your most far-fetched fish fantasies with bay scallop ceviche, an award-winning lobster roll sandwich, a massive, messy platter of chile-garlic-roasted Dungeness crab, and an ocean of other sea-fresh delectables.
You’ll waddle back fully satisfied to the next-door Beach House (4100 N. Cabrillo Hwy., Half Moon Bay, 650-712-0220, beach-house.com) a sand-colored, coastal-cottage-style boutique on a bluff overlooking Pillar Point Harbor. In the morning you can step onto the breezy balcony and watch fishermen in waders foraging for shellfish.
Breakfast at tiny Half Moon Bay airport’s 3-Zero Café (9850 N. Cabrillo Hwy., Half Moon Bay, 650-728-1411, 3-zerocafe.com), a pilot hangout hung with plane paraphernalia where you can go hearty with a crab omelet or spicy sweet potato pancakes, watch the planes zoom into the air, and plan your own return flight to the Bay Area.
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