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