San Francisco

Guest blogger and THIRDHOME member Lawrence Grossman shares his must-do activities in San Francisco. He just came back from a trip to San Francisco in which he stayed at a Ritz-Carlton Destination Club residence through his THIRDHOME membership.

They had me at the 24-hour-a-day cookie box!  Located in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton Destination Club in San Francisco was a wooden box filled with 5 kinds of fresh baked cookies. Our friendly concierge Mark gave us our welcome cookie and explained that humidors were not just for cigars anymore, but were the perfect holding tank for cookies. He then sent us up to the swanky 12th floor guest lounge for a complimentary California wine tasting. Following our tasting, we entered our 2-bedroom residence and found a bottle of sparkling wine to assist us in celebrating my friend’s birthday. In 45 years of vacationing I can’t remember a better opening hour. It was shaping up to be a really good week in San Francisco.

This was my second stay at a Ritz-Carlton Destination Club residence through THIRDHOME and like my stay in St. Thomas, the customer service was unmatched. Our residence had everything necessary to really relax and be comfortable after a day of sightseeing. The location in downtown San Francisco was perfect: It was an easy walk to numerous restaurants and 3 blocks from Trader Joes allowing us to stock up on food and adult beverages. They even had a state of the art exercise facility to work off some of the Ghirardelli chocolate calories we packed on all week. Additionally, the staff were extremely helpful in sharing dining and transportation options.

This Ritz-Carlton Destination Club residence was the perfect base for exploring all that San Francisco has to offer. In a 1999 Special Edition, National Geographic Traveler named “50 Places of A Lifetime” to visit and explore. Included were 10 cities, only 2 of which are located in the US: New York and San Francisco. There’s a good reason San Francisco made the list and we were determined to fully understand and appreciate this choice before our week ended. Of course we “cable carred” on the Powell-Hyde Line, we “Fisherman Wharfed” at Pier 39 and we “Anchor Steam Beered” at the Anchor Brewery, all of which were iconic picture-perfect experiences. We biked through Golden Gate Park, toured the Castro district and experienced Haight Ashbury during the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love”. We biked to a San Francisco Giants baseball game and took our picture in front of the Willie Mays statue.


But our Top 3 San Francisco activities were our self-guided bicycle tour over the Golden Gate Bridge, our magical walk through Muir Woods and our ferry ride and tour of Alcatraz Island.




Golden Gate Bridge

Cycling through the Presidio, over the Golden Gate Bridge and coasting downhill to the town of Sausalito was an absolutely exhilarating experience. The views from the top of the bridge of San Francisco were sensational on an unusually clear day for the Bay area. Dozens of people were out enjoying the day walking and biking across the 8,891-foot span of the bridge and most of us stopped at the highest point to take out our cameras and record the experience. After a curvy and scenic downhill ride we ended up in downtown Sausalito, a historic waterfront community with loads of cool shops and waterfront watering holes. The marina featured several houseboats and legend has it that Otis Redding wrote his famous “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” while living on one of these boats. An unexpected treat suggested by locals was ice cream at Lappert’s ice cream shop featuring giant scoops of Kona Coffee and Kaui Pie in a waffle cone. It was well worth the ride.




Our second “don’t leave San Francisco without experiencing it” adventure took place 30 minutes north of the city in Muir Woods National Monument. Everyone should experience the mystical nature of hiking underneath a canopy of coastal redwood trees. It is hard to believe this beautiful park is so close and accessible to a major city. The sheer majesty of these giant trees makes one talk in hushed tones and use an indoor voice. We entered the park with our map, water and camera and 3 hours later exited feeling humbled, tired and awed by this magnificent place. The only disappointing thing for me personally was when my friends informed me that Caesar and his ape friends and family from the movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” didn’t really live there as portrayed in the movie. They politely suggested I stop calling out Caesar’s name as we strolled through the park. I was gratified to read later that park officials attributed a recent increase in attendance at the park to the movie’s release so I clearly was not alone in my hope to run into the apes.




Our third great San Francisco adventure was the ferry ride to and the tour of Alcatraz Island. I’m old enough to have seen Clint Eastwood’s “Escape from Alcatraz” and Charlton Heston’s “The Birdman of Alcatraz”, which both spark curiosity to visit the island and walk the grounds. The exceptional self-guided tour of the prison included headphones and narration from former prisoners and guards complete with sound effects and compelling storylines related to prison riots and escape attempts. As the ferry left the dock to return to San Francisco I could picture the 3 escapees entering the Bay on their improvised raft to try to get to the mainland. To this day the fate of these men is unknown adding to the intrigue of Alcatraz.


San Francisco

To summarize the week, National Geographic Traveler had it right, San Francisco is one of the great cities of the world and any traveler who has the opportunity should pay it a visit. Just don’t forget a good pair of walking shoes!

Members, click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in San Francisco.

Dr. Charles Stoopack, a clinical instructor at UC San Diego and a former practicing OBGYN, has a second home in Vail, Colorado. He combines his love for skiing and adventure with THIRDHOME ski properties across the globe. He also loves discovering new cultures and attending musical events in Vail. He highly recommends catching a George Balanchine ballet (either Swan Lake or Serenade) if you ever get the chance. Meet THIRDHOME member Dr. Charles Stoopack!


Charles Stoopack

Left to Right: Dr. Stoopack, his wife Judy, daughter and daughter’s fiancé Tyler


How did you get involved with THIRDHOME?

I saw an article in a travel section of the Sunday paper. This was back in the fall of 2014. It just sounded like such a unique concept. The article showed all these places you could go, and it looked amazing. What happened at that point, I either called or emailed THIRDHOME in October, and we had a couple of conversations and I ended up joining around Christmas.


Charles Stoopack

Dr. Stoopack and Judy in Ireland


Where are you based?

I’m based out of Carlsbad, California, which is North of San Diego. I grew up in New York and moved here when I was 25 for my residency at UC San Diego, and I just fell in love with the place.


Charles Stoopack

Dr. Stoopack hiking through Grouse Creek Trail in Vail


What do you do for a living?

I originally practiced as an OBGYN. At this point in time, I’m a professor at UC San Diego. I used to be in clinical practice for 23 years, but I had to have some orthopedic surgeries and stopped practicing and transferred to education. It’s wonderful teaching. I’m doing a lot of good. You try to mold young physicians into caring doctors, try to teach them what we call the “Art of Medicine,” how to appropriately care for patients to make them feel valued. The gain as a physician is that your practice will be more fun and be rewarding if you have that sort of relationship with your patients.


Charles Stoopack

Dr. Stoopack with the staff of Bon Vivant Barbados


Who do you usually travel with?

My wife and my daughters. Now they’re both engaged, so we’ve got two weddings coming up this year. We travel with other couples as well. The idea behind joining THIRDHOME was that the properties were large and we could bring groups of friends or family.


charles stoopack

Left to Right: Family friend Martha and Judy Stoopack at Villa Celeste


What are your favorite travel hobbies?

I like skiing. I also like beach holidays with a beautiful beach that has nice sand and warm water. I like traveling where it involves culture, fine dining and fine wining as well. Not like whining, but wining!


Charles Stoopack

Dr. Stoopack with his brother, Peter, and his best friend Knut


In your past travels with THIRDHOME, what was your favorite destination and what did you love about it? 

I wrote down the whole list so I could think about it. I would say Barbados. We stayed in a 9 bedroom and 9 bathroom villa that was fully staffed. The whole experience was very spoiling. The staff felt like your family after a day or two. They prepared all the meals. We paid for food and staff, of course. We had access to a private beach club at Sandy Lane which is one of the premier beach clubs in the world. It’s where Tiger Woods got married. The whole thing, the island, the people the staff, the access to the beach, it was just wonderful. We brought 13 people with us, and there was plenty of room for everyone. The food was incredible. We’d come home from wherever we were and there would be pitchers of margaritas and hor d’oeuvres waiting for us. We’d be sitting at a long dining table and it felt like we were in an old fashion movie. It was just spectacular.


Charles Stoopack

Dr. Stoopack and Judy with friends and family in Doolin, Ireland  pub


What’s the next destination you are eyeing to travel to with THIRDHOME?

I’m going to Kenya next, to two different THIRDHOME properties. We’re going to Hippo Point and then to Cottars Mara Private Homestead. They look incredible. There was only one week available at Cottars, and it’s our 30th wedding anniversary and after several weeks of talking with the owner, with the help of Liz Bates, THIRDHOME‘s Director of Travel and Concierge Services, the owner agreed to give us that week. We’re very excited! The other property [Hippo Point] was featured on the cover of Architectural Digest as well. It has a gorgeous tower. I recall reading that Brad and Angelina had stayed there once, too.


Charles Stoopack

Ski trip to Whistler


What do you love most about your property with THIRDHOME?

The skiing in Vail. It’s the best skiing mountain in North America because it’s not terribly cold (Whistler members would argue with that). You get sunny days, which is much different than Whistler, where it was very dark. Vail’s got the back bowls, which if you don’t ski are these large open areas, they call them the legendary back bowls. The condo is extremely well located. It’s about 5 minutes from the gondola, if you don’t want to walk to the bus stops out front too. Our building went under a $10 million remodel so everything is updated and upgraded. The location is wonderful, 3 nice bedrooms, and 1800 sq ft. It’s very spacious. You can go there with other couples or two families and not feel on top of each other. I used to bring our daughters along with their friends for ski trips. We still go every summer for the annual dance festival. Something that’s unique to Vail is the summers. There is a BRAVO music fest that goes through July for 6 weeks or more, then a dance fest, then a jazz fest around Labor Day. There are a lot of cultural experiences that are just delightful. During the day you can hike or golf, then at night you go to the performances. These are world-class performances. The saying is that people go to Vail for the winter and then move there for the summers.


Any personal/family achievements you’d like to share?

Both of my daughters are engaged now so we have a busy year ahead of us. Their fiancés are great guys. We also have our 30th wedding anniversary coming up.


How has THIRDHOME changed the way you travel?

It allowed me to visit places that we probably would not have gone to and has allowed me to have accommodations for many people.

Charles Stoopack

Left to Right: Dr. Stoopack’s daughters their friend at Bon Vivant


Anything else you think members should know?

I think the staff [of THIRDHOME] is wonderful. The concierge and member services are very helpful: Liz, Kristine, Amy Jo, Kelly. I hope I didn’t leave out anyone. I got a friend to join, and he booked a trip to San Juan Island. Actually, I’ve had two people that joined and two others thinking about it. And the Chairman’s Club, I’d thought about it for a while and when I finally did it, I loved it. It’s definitely worth it.


Charles Stoopack

Dr. Stoopack and friend Jon at Villa Azul Celeste

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