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The seafront home of stately mansions, car-chase crazy hillsand eclectic arts and culture, San Francisco is one of the US's most appealing West Coast citiesByKate Rigbyhe vertiginous appeal of San Francisco has soaredever higher since the days of the Gold Rush.Despite its fortunes having risen andplummeted as dramatically as its trademarkhills, it remains one of North America's bestloved cities. Variously home to the Beat Generation, the 'summer of love'hippies and dot-com entrepreneurs, this West Coast gemreflects an appealing mix of nationalities, cultures and qualitiesas a consequence of its rich history. This is a city that in 1906was decimated by an earthquake. It later survived the GreatDepression with a flourish, as it was during this time that thelegendary Golden Gate Bridge, still one of the world's mostfamous and best-loved bridges, was opened in 1937 amid aweek of celebrations. Today, San Francisco honours its vibrant heritage and blendscosmopolitan and artistic culture with a charismatic, modernvibe. Its waterfront setting, in particular, highlights its laidbackappeal, and the entire city is small enough to explore during along weekend. Tour the museums, wander around Nob Hill withits rococo palaces recalling yesteryear's railroad and silverkings, dig into clam chowder, tune into the San FranciscoSymphony, and toss a Frisbee in Dolores Park. Among the big players here, the likes of theRitz Carlton, Four Seasons, Fairmontand Mandarin Oriental, isthe St Regisin theSOMA district, featuring a historic building and a new 40-storeytower offering incredible city views. Its choice location offerspleasing distractions, from the acclaimed San Francisco Museumof Modern Art alongside to the Yerba Buena Gardens opposite. The Clift, home of serious style, is worth a visit. It has an old-world elegance thrown together with a Philippe Starck designedinterior starring an eclectic collection of furniture and dŽcor. It islocated just by Union Square and Nob Hill, so rest assured you'llbe among good company. At the base of the Golden Gate Bridge is Cavallo Point, whichoffers a pleasing mix of historic lodgings and contemporary hotelrooms. For historical appeal, stay in the former officers' residencesof Fort Baker (once a US Army post) where family suites areluxuriously appointed yet homely. Alternatively, more modernrooms and suites can be found on the hillside above theFort where they afford incredible views of the GoldenGate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. The Huntington Hotelon Nob Hillhas crowned one of the city'shighest perches since1924 and 48Isea&iIAUTUMN 2011san francisco

AUTUMN 2011I sea&iI49cityguide