Booking a trip to San Francisco I forgot a simple detail – the car.  You do not want a car in San Francisco. In fact, most cities, the last thing you want is an automobile. Unless, of course you plan on driving to that city- more about that later.

San Francisco is a town meant for walking, almost everything is a healthy walk away,  from one side of the city to another. And, if you need to there are plenty of taxis or car services to take you where you want to go.  But in my excitement thinking about the new opening of Michael Mina’s flagship restaurant, and Zuni, and Chez Penise – I forgot about valet parking.

Plenty of great hotels to stay in San Francisco. One of my favorites, The Mandarin, is spectacular.  It’s  located in the middle of the City, so you could easily walk to Chinatown, North Beach, the Wharf. It  is, for us, a perfect respite.  The rooms located high above the City, with great views of the city, the Golden Gate…one easily forgets that in spite of getting a great deal for the room, parking the car means the hotel parks it.  You don’t want to drive in San Francisco, you want to walk.  If you do drive it is a pain: one way streets, going at angles that make Pythagoras weary of geometry.  So you cab everywhere.  The charge for the parking, a cool 90 bucks a day (yes, that is 90 American dollars, not Turkish Lira).

Here is your plan for San Francisco: get a hotel you like, they are plentiful (check the bed bug registries of course). And do not take your car. Stay downtown- it is a breeze.

Here are a few other cities to think about staying outside the city and going in:

Seattle. One of my favorite cities, the place where we became “a couple.” No need for a car.  Stay downtown, take a cab, walk a lot- enjoy the market.  Do not try to park in Seattle. You have two choices: spending half a day finding a parking spot or spending half of your “walk around money” paying for parking.  From Sea-Tac airport take a cab to your hotel , or a car service.

Yes, a car service, one of those little luxuries that pays for itself.  The cars are cleaner, they wait for you at the airport, and they handle your luggage (you do not want to ruin a trip with a bad back). They don’t get upset with the car-seat for JJ, and will help you put it in properly and securely.  How much more for this service ? About ten bucks.

Portland, Oregon. Another one of our favorite cities in the West.  Do you want to stay downtown? If you do, you do not want to valet a car (your mortgage payment is less). The city is easy to walk around in, the cabs are plentiful- and it takes less time to catch a cab than to wait for a busy bellman to pull up with your car (especially if you are there on a cold, rainy, Portland day).

Staying outside the city and coming in for fun is the best strategy. But lets say that you have a car, for whatever reason.  And in Portland,  we often have a car because relatives and friends live in different parts.  Here’s how we deal with that.  We stay on the outskirts of town.

Hotels on the outskirts of the city have two big advantages: rooms are larger and parking is free. Make that three advantages, the rooms cost less. Two places we love: The Century Hotel in Tigard (just off Interstate 5),and The Avalon Hotel (parking isn’t free, but the lot is right there so it takes no time to retrieve the car). From the Avalon taking a cab into the city is easy and we have no worries about parking. Easy for that quick trip to Voodoo donuts (even if you have to wait an hour for the maple bar with bacon on top).

Seattle offer many fun options for staying just outside the city as well. Let’s face it, sometimes staying in the heart of downtown can be just a bit too much.  The Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland lets you relax with a beautiful view of Lake Washington, with great room , and while you are away from the city, it’s still an easy drive in for dinner (you can take your car to Canlis for that special dinner).

Driving to San Francisco? Unload the bags at the hotel, then when you drive to dinner, park outside the city and take Bart back after dinner, or even a car service (still cheaper).  Great thing about car services- you find a good guy with a car and he will be available to you all day long.

Another city you don’t want to mess with a car: Rome. Oh, you do not want a car in downtown Rome. They make Sun City drivers with macular degeneration and blue-blockers sunglasses the safe ones.  Rome drivers taught Danica how to drive Indy- but with bumper cars.  The roundabouts are called that because you go around, and unless you close your eyes and get out, you will forever be in the first circle of Hell.