san francisco Travel Guide
The world is officially in "Countdown to Christmas" mode and now, so are we. Every day until Christmas we'll be featuring a hotel that's in a holiday mood--whether it be with gigantic gingerbread houses, over-the-top Christmas decorations, thrilling lighting displays and best of all, Santa appearances. But of course, any hotel can assemble a fake tree, put on some lights and declare themselves "festive." Which is why we're looking at hotels that are really going ALL OUT. Know of a hotel that's super excited for Christmas? Let us know!
We knew it was snowing on the East Coast but in San Francisco? What's that about?
Well, once again, The Hyatt Regency San Francisco has transformed its lobby, one of the largest in the world, into a virtual, over-sized “snow globe” with 30,000 lights that cascade down the hotel's 17-story atrium, a 30-foot Christmas tree and best of all, daily snowfall.
The snow falls daily at different times throughout the day (see below) which is sure to delight the children (and adults) of the world who don't usually see snow. For the snow-weary folks, don't worry, the snow will only "fall" until December 30th.
Bad Celebrity Behavior / Sean Penn / St Regis Hotels / San Francisco Hotels / Celebrity Scoop / → All Tags
Apparently, a fan tried to snap a pic of the actor while he was hanging out in the hotel's swank Lobby Bar. Penn noticed the flash and went ballistic, lunging at the man fan and screaming "Do we look like f**king zoo animals?" (Umm....) Penn also threatened to make the fan "eat the phone" before telling him to "get the F out of here." You can watch the video of the temper tantrum here on TMZ. Incidentally, his outburst was caught on video...by another person in the bar. LOL.
Penn even went up to the hotel manager and told him that he "should do something about that." But hotel management actually asked the fan, who was attending the same conference as Penn, if he wanted to call police. Fortunately for Penn, he said no. After the whole kerfuffle ended, Penn went back to drinking at the bar.
Yeesh. Granted the fan should have asked Penn's permission, or at least not used flash, but we're kinda thinking Sean Penn should be grateful someone still wants to take his picture. No need to make someone "eat the phone." Which is going to be our new saying BTW.
When folks ask us to recommend a hotel in San Francisco, there are so many options to give them as San Fran has a crazy diverse hotel scene--from fancy luxury (St. Regis, Mandarin Oriental) to cool boutique (Vitale), or just plain friendly and happy (any Kimpton or Joie de Vivre Hotel) but here's one hotel you should seriously avoid--The Europa Hotel.
SFist has combed through some of the online reviews from TripAdvisor and Yelp for the hotel where rooms are incredibly cheap (about $36 a night) but often come with baggies of drugs, bed bugs, cigarette butts, sheet stains and the smell of urine and feces. (That's the official picture above from the hotel. You should see the ones posted by travelers on TripAdvisor.)
We didn't have the stomach to read through all the reviews as the first two literally turned our stomach but we did enjoy this line from SFist:
Curiously, on Google Plus, we'd like to point out that the hotel has 3.5 stars, because why? No one uses Google Plus.
And other hotels to avoid in San Francisco? Let us know in comments below.
[Photo: Europa Hotel]
All this week, we'll be talking about Hotel Beds--where to buy 'em, how to make 'em, how to trust 'em (see story below!) and what to do when the bed isn't enough to send you to Sleepyland. Got a hotel bed question or comment? Send it to us! We're not sure about you, but we like to know a little bit about the different beds in which we sleep. At the end of the day, hotels are simply community beds, a concept that brings up a few questions: How often is the mattress replaced? Or worse... what about those spills and stains? We caught up with Philip Ridgway, Director of Housekeeping at the Four Seasons San Francisco, to get some answers. Here are 6 things to know about the life of a hotel mattress:
1. All the mattresses in the Four Seasons San Fran are the same, and they are made specifically for the brand. They are usually ordered on a large-scale by the corporate office and delivered directly to the individual hotel. They typically try to replace the whole hotel at once about every ten years, unless there’s an incident where one has to be switched out.
2. Speaking of incidents, don’t worry about spilling that glass of wine. Just don’t set the room on fire. Four Seasons will only charge in the case of gross negligence, like if you had a huge party and literally (not figuratively) set the sheets on fire. They won’t charge you for a small spill or if your kid wets the bed. Those things happen. The best thing to do is just be honest and let housekeeping know.
Hotel Emergencies / Airport Hotels / Airline Hotels / San Francisco Hotels / Best Western Hotels / → All Tags
We hoped it wasn't true when we saw the tweet below stating hotels were price gouging after the Asiana Airlines tragedy. We could say we were surprised, but as we've found out just last year during the middle of tropical storm Sandy and Hurricane Irene, these things do happen.
But we wanted to find out who would take advantage of such a horrible situation, with so many passengers delayed (many for multiple days) and needing hotels. Surely hoteliers have learned this type of behavior wouldn't go unnoticed?
Sweet Suites / Haagen Dazs / San Francisco Hotels / Kimpton Hotels / National Ice Cream Moth / → All Tags
Who knew the Hotel Triton in San Francisco had such a sweet suite? (Literally!)
The Haagen Dazs "Sweet Suite" has been open at the Union Square hotel since at least 2007 (we told you to book the suite to get over a bad break-up)-- but it recently underwent a refresh. It still has the "Sweet Spot", which is an ice cream cabinet full of cartons of Haagen Dazs ice creams along with bowls, scoops and spoons. But now there's new furniture and new giant photographs of ice cream and ice cream ingredients (LOL.) Despite the ice cream obsession, the suite is quite stylish with a residential feel. Don't worry, you can still bring the ice cream in bed with you.
In honor of National Ice Cream Month, which is next month, the Kimpton hotel is offering a Haagen Dazs Sweet Dreams package which includes deluxe accommodations in a recently redesigned room, Haagen Dazs ice cream delivered nightly to the room, a groovy ice cream scoop to take home and a signature Triton rubber ducky. Rates start at just $175 a night with a portion going to the Haagen Dazs's charity of choice, The Delancey Street Foundation. The Sweet Suite is a bit more at $350 a night.
[Photos: Hotel Triton]
San Francisco Hotels / Charlie Palmer / Charlie Palmer Hotels / Hotels Near Union Square SF / Union Square Hotels / → All Tags
Did you know that famed chef Charlier Palmer is also a hotelier?
The man best known for his award-winnng Charlie Palmer steakhouses opened the boutique-style Mystic Hotel in San Francisco's Union Square 'hood last year with his Burritt Tavern, installed on the second floor of the hotel. (He's already opened the Hotel Healdsburg in Sonoma too.)
Now, the property has just completed a renovation of all 82 guest rooms (this place used to be the old Crescent Hotel) and it looks like an ideal place to rest your weary head...and your full stomach. The rooms are small but big on comfort and personal touches like fluffy white beds, exposed brick walls and carefully chosen honor bar selections from local companies such as PopChips, Oaktown Jerky from Oakland and 479 popcorn (note: the fuller-sized bottles of alcohol too.)
Hotel Chefs / Hotel Restaurants / Ritz-Carlton Hotels / San Francisco Hotels / California Hotels / → All Tags
Here's the latest happening in the luxury hotel world as told by JustLuxe's own Lena Katz. Got a question about luxury hotels, the travel biz, and where to stay? Send it in and we'll have Lena answer it.
A recent dinner at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco’s swank Parallel 37 food-geeked us out, thanks to new chef Michael Rotondo’s tendency to incorporate the most exotic produce items in California into his tasting menu. Torpedo radish? Smoked sunchokes? Arugula blossoms? It’s all coming at ya…and it’s good.
Chef Rotondo, who recently arrived from Chicago where he cooked under Charlie Trotter for eight years, admitted when he wanders through the San Francisco area farmers markets, he often doesn't recognize some of the stranger fruits – and when that happens, he usually buys the questionable item, takes it back to the kitchen, and figures out a tasty use for it.
We asked him to identify seven awesome produce items he’s cooking with right now, and tell us what the heck to do with them
Fermented Black Garlic: Ferment whole bulbs of garlic at high temperature, and they’ll turn black and taste sweet and syrupy, with hints of licorice and balsamic. Black garlic isn’t the prettiest veggie in the drawer, but it adds a complexity to a dish that raw garlic can't match. Most Asian markets carry black garlic. We have it on the lunch menu currently - blended into a light aioli and used on our albacore tuna sandwich.
Next week we'll be debuting our HotelChatter 2013 Cruise Guide. It might seem like a funny time to release this as, to put it lightly, the cruise ship industry has been in the spotlight over the past year. And few flowers have been thrown on stage.
There have been some dramas. Costa Concordia sank off the coast of Italy. The disabled Carnival Triumph had its feces run down the walls. Food-related illness continues to be a problem. And now cities are starting to debate whether or not they should welcome ships, whether they do more harm than good. Charleston is having an internal debate about it currently, and it isn't pretty.
One resident described cruise ships as "sardine cans" that are "susceptible to horrific accidents that instantly can put thousands at risk for their lives.” Another saw the ships as a detriment to the city's ambiance. “I can’t believe they are doing this to Charleston,” she said. “I can hear the announcements from my house. And that black smoke. It just tumbles out of that smokestack. You should see the dust in my car.”
While a reasonable person could understand that side of the coin -- the resident's viewpoint -- we can't forget about the other side -- the business side. And also a strong consumer force that continues to love cruising.
Hotel Packages / Hotel Art / Museum Hotels / San Francisco Hotels / Mandarin Oriental Hotels / → All Tags
For all you Sinophiles out there, the acclaimed "China's Terracotta Warriors" exhibition has finally landed at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco this month. Featuring 120 life-size clay soldiers, out of the nearly 8,000 that were excavated from the tomb of China's first emperor Qin Shihuang, the relics are considered by many to be the eighth wonder of the ancient world.
Unsurprisingly, this was a perfect opportunity for Mandarin Oriental SF, which is located near the museum, to offer a "Terracotta Warrior" package. No, you don't get to cuddle up to the statues in your room, or enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner with one of them at the hotel's Brasserie S&P restaurant.
What the hotel wants you to do is simply get to the museum and spend an afternoon admiring the warriors—they are 2,000 years old, after all. The package starts at $545/night and, in addition to accommodation in the hotel's recently-renovated guest rooms, also offers special access to the exhibit with two VIP tickets and a catalogue with additional info on Emperor Qin Shihuang and his burial complex (ie, something to peruse while you lounge around your "room in the sky").
UPDATE 2:05pm, A rep for the hotel informs us that the hotel is experiencing some minor delays and will not be opening today. As of now, the Zetta is on track to open later this week.
San Francisco's newest belle opens today in the city's SoMa district, right next to the Powell St BART stop. The 116-room Hotel Zetta is in fact a Viceroy Hotel, and is the latest output from the brand's "Urban Retreat" collection (this is also what will open in New York next September).
The original building that houses the Zetta was actually built in 1913, and the hotel features "reclaimed" decor like a front desk made out of old lumberyard wood, a chandelier made out of old sunglasses, and a "used electronics" art installation that incorporates old cell phones, computer chips and other expired gadgetry that was donated by locals (this is the home of Google and Facebook, after all) last month.
Best of all: the hotel had been keeping quiet about its lobby restaurant (the website still lists an unnamed "exclusive destination restaurant"), but SF Gate finally spilled the beans last week that the venue will be called The Cavalier.
Run by Ana Weinberg and chef Jennifer Puccio, The Cavalier will be a "London-inspired brasserie," with leather banquettes and polished brass giving the place a vintage feel, as well as a "semi-private bar and lounge" in the back of the restaurant named Marianne's, after Marianne Faithful (whom we love). Weinberg and Puccio will also handle the food and drink menus at the S&R lobby bar (pictured). The Cavalier is set to open later this summer.
It's no surprise that Cali is always on the cutting edge when it comes to technology, but even we were stumped when we first heard about Hotel Abri's "iPad wall". We knew it had to be gimmicky in some sort of way, but hopefully helpful, too.
The "wall", which is located in the hotel's lobby, holds five iPads loaded with the latest and best apps out there to help guests tour San Francisco. There's a bunch of best of lists, links to Alcatraz tickets, details on Napa tours, games and more.
Along with the iPad wall, Hotel Abri has a "Tech Menu" for guests who've forgotten important items at home. Need to borrow a phone or laptop charger? They've got it. How about some ear buds, speakers, or a flash drive? Yeah, they've got those for you, too. All for free. Love it so much you want to keep it? They'll sell it to you, no problem.
And of course, your room, with its free 100 Megs of WiFi, will be laced with all the bells and whistles, from the in-room iPod/iPad docking clock radio to the new iPhone 5 adapters (whew!).
Rates at Hotel Abri begin at $279 per night in February.
[Photo: Hotel Abri]