Monday, June 18, 2012

Land's End on a Sunny San Francisco Day

Francine is in town for the week. On Friday I met her and Harriet for a day of hiking and visiting. As luck would have it, this was a sunny warm day with not a bit of fog...a perfect day to be outdoors even on the western-most end of San Francisco.

We met at Land's End at the new Visitor's Center, which has been open for about a month and a half.

 The Visitor's Center is a spectacular building which looks out onto the Sutro Baths and toward the Cliff House, all with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean everywhere you look.


 The Center has an information desk, interpretive displays, a gift shop, and a café. There is lots of bench seating in a sheltered area by the Center's entrance and lots more, and more wind-swept, seating along the path in front of the parking lot (lots of free parking here).

Land's End, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is at the Northwest end of San Francisco.


 The Visitor's Center is at the trailhead of a scenic 2-mile long footpath that follows the shoreline all the way to the Legion of Honor. We first walked the less rigorous El Camino Del Mar Trail to the Legion of Honor and then took the hillier Coastal Trail on our way back. Parts of the Coastal Trail are narrow and steep, with steep flights of rickety steps, but most of it is fairly easy to walk, especially with stops along the way to take in the views. Those who want to hike further can continue further past the Legion of Honor into the Sea Cliff neighborhood and all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Back at the Visitor's Center trailhead, there are still the Sutro Baths down below to explore.

 After a few hours of walking and talking, we were ready for a hearty lunch. Choices in the immediate area include the Visitor's Center café, Louis', a family run café that has been here for over 74 years, and the Cliff House.

 We decided to indulge ourselves with lunch at the Cliff House Bistro, the Cliff House's more casual dining room. The Bistro serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, but does not accept reservations. On a busy sunny Friday our wait was only about 15 minutes. We were seated by a window on the south side, with views of Ocean Beach.


 Our lunch began with a basket of warm popovers! What a treat!

 We all ordered meals that included Bay Shrimp, probably inspired by Fran's mentioning that in Bethesda, where she now lives, she never finds Bay Shrimp on a restaurant menu. Fran had the Shrimp Louis

Harriet had the Seafood Omelet

And, I had the Ocean Beach Sandwich, which was served open faced.

The other dining options in the Cliff House include Sutro's, a more formal restaurant; it serves lunch and dinner daily. For Sunday Brunch, there is the Terrace Room on the lower level; it is open on Sundays for brunch only. Reservations are accepted and advised in both of these dining venues.

Just a note about Louis'...I have never eaten here, but, knowing it is open daily from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. had planned to have breakfast here before meeting Fran and Harriet. But, I got diverted at the Visitor's Center and had coffee and a pastry there instead. As we were walking to the Cliff House, we noted lines of people waiting outside of Louis'. Curious about it's attraction, we stopped in on our way back. It has great views...almost as good as those from the Cliff House...and a menu that is very much like that at the Cliff House Bistro, but with more modest prices. There is seating at a counter and at tables. Some of the people waiting to be seated told us that it is a local favorite and, from what I saw, it looks like it is just as much a favorite with visitors from near and far who come to Land's End to hike. Next time...

All the Cliff House dining rooms (and their bar) have spectacular ocean views, as does Louis'. And, of course, you can always pack a picnic or buy something to eat at the Visitor's Center and sit outdoors there.

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