SPORT­ING CHANCE

Con­vert a trip to Rugby World Cup Sevens into a San Fran­cisco sight­see­ing try-fest

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION UNITED STATES - MATT RAGGHIANTI

Iwill never for­get the mo­ment it hap­pened. Al­though I was on the op­po­site end of Al­lianz Sta­dium (nee the SFS), I could clearly see the ball knocked from Jeff Wil­son’s hands as he was go­ing in for the win­ning try. The roar from the crowd that fol­lowed, a pul­sat­ing cock­tail of shock fol­lowed closely by deliri­ous joy stays with me to this day. If I close my eyes and con­cen­trate, I swear I can still feel it.

The Wal­la­bies beat the All Blacks to win the 1994 Bledis­loe Cup, Ge­orge Gre­gan in­tro­duced him­self to the world, and an Amer­i­can fell madly in love with rugby.

Like nearly every­thing about my time in Oz, I car­ried my love of the game back home to San Fran­cisco and was thrilled to dis­cover I was far from alone in my ob­ses­sion. Within a week I was train­ing with friends at The Olympic Club (oly­club.com, the city loves its pri­vate clubs) and soon be­gan play­ing there. We bat­tled the dozens of other top-level clubs in the bay area giv­ing our best im­i­ta­tions of our footy he­roes each Sat­ur­day. No, not match-sav­ing-tackle-to-win-theBledis­loe Cup-level glo­ri­ous, but still won­der­ful. Which should help ex­plain why I’m so thrilled the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens are com­ing to my home town.

San Fran­cisco and Syd­ney share a re­mark­ably sim­i­lar vibe, from their iconic land­marks and daz­zling cui­sine to their fun-lov­ing and gen­uinely wel­com­ing peo­ple. When I first ar­rived in Syd­ney I felt in­stantly at home – al­most like I’d been there be­fore, some­how – and I can prom­ise that, re­gard­less of what part of Aus­tralia you (still) call home, San Fran­cisco will wel­come you with equal verve. And, once you’ve dropped your bags, we’re ready to show you one hell of a good time, too!

So, where should you drop those bags? There are dozens of great op­tions, but, if you’d like to com­pete for the World Cup of Shop­ping on your hol­i­day, con­sider Union Square. The Westin St Fran­cis (west­in­st­fran­cis.com) is drip­ping with colour­ful his­tory as the site of the big­gest scan­dal in Hol­ly­wood his­tory – the 1921 “Fatty” Ar­buckle in­ci­dent – all the more in­fa­mous for the fact it never ac­tu­ally hap­pened. Or book into the sleek Ho­tel Nikko (hotel­nikkosf.com) just around the cor­ner and cre­ate some colour­ful his­tory of your own. Miss­ing your four-legged-friend back home? Call the Nikko’s front desk and ar­range a play date with “Buster” the ho­tel’s ca­nine op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

Wher­ever you hang your hat, the city is yours to ex­plore and ready to re­ceive you from morn­ing ’til mid­night, and well be­yond ...

Start with a morn­ing stroll through the city’s his­toric Mis­sion Dis­trict

with a stop at Crafts­man and Wolves (crafts­man-wolves.com) for their leg­endary “Rebel Within” muf­fin (one of the most de­li­cious things I’ve ever tasted). If more sub­stan­tial brekkie is in or­der, lo­cals love Mama’s (ma­mas-sf.com) on Wash­ing­ton Square where one taste will ex­plain the line half­way down the block (get there early). Have a larger party and don’t have time to wait? Check out Sears Fine Food (sears­fine­food.com) for great eats and even bet­ter at­mo­sphere. Next, jump on one of San Fran­cisco’s beloved cable cars, in­vented be­cause the city’s fa­mous hills were too steep for horse-drawn trans­port, to the Buena Vista – the “BV” – (the­bue­nav­ista.com) just off Fish­er­man’s Wharf. En­joy a brac­ing Ir­ish cof­fee to get the en­gine run­ning for a great day of bar­rack­ing the Wal­la­bies at the sta­dium just 5km down the water­front. AT&T Park (san­fran­cisco.giants.mlb.com/sf/ ball­park/in­dex.jsp) is a beau­ti­ful mix of old-world base­ball park and mod­ern-day fa­cil­i­ties and lux­ury built on the edge of San Fran­cisco Bay. The park hosts the San Fran­cisco Giants all sum­mer as well as other sport­ing and en­ter­tain­ment events.

Need a quick, in­ex­pen­sive snack to keep up your strength? It’s a short walk from AT&T to Red’s Java House (red­s­java­house.com), a tiny shack serv­ing lo­cals tasty burg­ers and cold beer since 1923. An­other easy stroll in the op­po­site di­rec­tion leads to Pier 23 (pier23­cafe.com), whose com­fort­able vibe and great live mu­sic make it an­other lo­cal favourite.

Spend­ing a day out­side the rugby? You al­ready know lo­ca­tions like Al­ca­traz is­land, but you likely don’t know Pel­i­can Inn (pel­i­caninn.com). Barely 20 min­utes from the city, this beau­ti­ful English pub is hid­den amid the ma­jes­tic pine trees and ocean mist of Muir Beach. Park­ing is chal­leng­ing and you’ll want to en­joy a pint (or two) with lunch, so con­sider an Uber.

Need to burn off all that great food and drink? How about cy­cling across the Golden Gate Bridge? Try Blaz­ing Sad­dles (blaz­ingsad­dles.com/san­fran­cisco) and join a guided tour with a lo­cal, or go it alone and spin through beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tions like Fort Ma­son and the Pre­sidio as you climb your way to­wards the most fa­mous bridge in the world. On the other side awaits beau­ti­ful Marin County and the down­hill leg into the town of Sausal­ito where your re­ward is a sunny, sea­side lunch and a ferry ride back to the city for you and your bike.

For din­ner, book into the vi­brant China Live (chi­nalivesf.com/be­strestau­rants-in-chi­na­town). Part mar­ket, part restau­rant, you can eat (get the dumplings), drink and shop ’til you drop. Fi­nally, get your­self to the glitzy Fairmont Ho­tel atop the city’s posh Nob Hill. There, you’ll dis­cover the one-of-a-kind Tonga Room (ton­ga­room.com), a bar that sim­ply can­not be missed. Once the ho­tel’s pool, the space was trans­formed into a palace of Poly­ne­sian kitsch with trop­i­cal rain­storms, thun­der and light­ning (se­ri­ously). This is the bar An­thony Bour­dain called “... the great­est place in the his­tory of the world”.

What­ever you choose, we’re thrilled you’re com­ing. I’ll be back­ing the USA as long as they’re alive, but I’m switch­ing to green and gold af­ter that. Look­ing for­ward to see­ing you in San Fran­cisco. If you need any­thing, give me a yell. It doesn’t have to be as loud as that night in 1994.

THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF SAN FRAN­CISCO TOURISM

RUGBY SEVENS

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