By Eileen Ogintz
SAN FRANCISCO — What’s your hotel style?
You can certainly take your pick in San Francisco with more than 220 hotels—from luxurious and historic ones like the 500-plus room Fairmont St. Francis (dating back to 1907 and where the United Nations charter was first drawn up) to tiny (just 30 rooms) newly renovated ones like The Inn at Union Square and the 22-room Inn at the Presidio, within the world’s largest national park in an urban area famous for hikes above the Pacific shoreline.
There’s even one recently opened called Hotel Zeppelin that is a bow to the 60s and the classic rock era with a gigantic peace sign downstairs and bathroom wallpaper offering a shout out to classic bands. Some are specifically aimed at Millennials, like the Hotel G complete with denim headboards (a nod to Levi-Strauss)
The Hilton San Francisco Union Square now boasts Cityscape San Francisco lounge, on the hotel’s 46th floor, with spectacular evening views, 14-foot floor to ceiling windows and signature cocktails (How about a Nob Hill Manhattan or a Pacific Heights (Cognac, Cointreau and lemon) with your Avocado Hummus with farmer’s market veggies or lotus root crisps. (San Francisco is the ultimate foodie town, of course.
This year, San Francisco is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, a yearlong celebration of the city’s counter culture with exhibits, performances and more. The city, of course, served as a magnet for musicians, artists and social rebels and many young people who gravitated here. (Take the Haight Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour—more in an upcoming column!)
San Francisco is particularly known for its boutique hotels that seem to be more common overseas—the Kimpton group and Joie de Vivre both started here.
The Inn at Union Square offered the extra plus of a late afternoon complimentary wine reception and continental breakfast, which besides saving money and being pleasant, offered the chance to mingle with guests and compare notes. The renovation, incidentally, was inspired by Alma Spreckels, a famous San Franciscan and patron of the arts who was born in 1881. She was known both as “Big Alma” (she was 6 feet tall) and “The Great Grandmother of San Francisco.” She persuaded her husband, sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels, to donate the California Palace of the Legion of Honor to the city of San Francisco. Art at the newly renovated boutique hotel is inspired by her love for dance, theatre and French Baroque design; Each guestroom floor has a small seating area. My daughter and son in law, who live in San Francisco, found themselves over a glass of that complimentary wine, offering suggestions to newly arrived tourists from South Carolina in San Francisco for the first time.
That was before we walked over to Cityscape for a drink followed by dinner at Le Colonial for Vietnamese dishes with French colonial flair. The atmosphere at Le Colonial evokes the elegance of Vietnam in the 1920’s. From the mosaic-like tile flooring, the vaulted pressed-tin ceiling, the, the rattan furniture, and the tropical plants, makes diners feel like they are transported back in history, 10,000 miles away. Vintage black and white photographs add to the ambience with choices like sea bass wrapped in banana leaves, wok-tossed sweet potato noodles with Dungeness Crab, crispy Saigon Crepe with shrimp, scallops and veggies. Yum!
So you might ask—with so much abundant choice, why have we chosen to spend our last night in San Francisco at The Westin San Francisco Airport?
Convenience–and comfort. After a busy few days, we had a 7 a.m. cross-country flight and the Westin is less than a mile and just 10 minutes via free shuttle to SFO. It’s even got nice views, overlooking the San Francisco Bay. If you’ve got time, there’s a fitness center (with Westin’s gear-lending program) and an indoor heated pool.
Westin, of course, is famously known for their “Heavenly Beds,” which we knew from experience would translate to a good night’s sleep before a long flight.
And frankly, after several days in San Francisco and Sonoma County, sampling all kinds of great food, all we really wanted was a good burger and an early night. The Grill & Vine Restaurant delivered on the burger and the room on a good night’s sleep.
No wonder the 5:35 a.m. shuttle to the airport was full!