Back in May I learned (through a pretty cool video) that I’d won a California Passport from the Joie de Vivre (JdV) boutique hotel chain. Based entirely in California, JdV has 35 properties throughout the state, and this passport included a 2 night stay at every single one of them. For the mathematically challenged, that is 70 nights (or nearly TWO months). And making it even nicer for me, the vast majority of the properties are conveniently located in San Francisco and the Bay Area, both of which are just a few hours from Lake Tahoe.
While I was super excited about this prize, I only visited the first hotel at the end of September. Life got in the way. N and I decided to head down to San Francisco to meet up with his parents, who were driving down from Bend for a family reunion. The reunion was on Treasure Island, so we stayed at the relatively nearby Hotel Vitale, located a stone’s throw from the Embarcadero and Ferry Building.
The Vitale was gorgeous – by far the nicest hotel I’ve stayed in while in San Francisco. Apparently each JdV hotel has a theme, and this one’s is very obviously healthy living – is there a Wellness Magazine? Daily yoga classes, access to the nearby YMCA, a spa, and lots of muted natural colors giving the place a calming feel. We didn’t spend a lot of time in the room (does one ever when in this city?) but the location was perfect for on-foot exploration, given the proximity to the Ferry Building (hellooooo, food mecca!), North Beach, SOMA and Union Square. And the hotel restaurant had a happy hour menu that, in an unusual twist, ran on weekends. The weekend we were there it was unusually warm, making sitting outside with a glass of wine and tapas most appealing. It felt almost European, only without the cigarette smoke.
I was able to get a room for N’s parents at the Hotel Carlton, whose magazine has to be National Geographic Adventure. It’s located in a historic building that apparently survived the 1906 earthquake (and later the Loma Prieta quake), both because it’s built on bedrock and because the structure itself is reinforced. Given that I’m no fan of shaking ground, this in itself is a huge selling point. But the hotel’s ADA room really sealed the deal. It was spacious, with a wheelchair accessible bathroom, and plenty of room overall. While it didn’t have the views the other rooms might have provided (it is on the ground floor), the effort that was put into making sure this room really adhere to ADA requirements was noticed and appreciated. The staff were terrific here, too, very friendly and fun – they all seemed to truly like working at the Carlton.
While an abbreviated trip, there were a few firsts. I’d never been to Baker Beach, where the photo was taken, nor to Treasure Island. The latter is almost a throwback in time, with the old barracks from its Naval Base days sitting vacant and dilapidated. Some of the buildings have been repurposed, but the part of the island where we were was quiet with no amenities. Despite this, we had a huge grassy lawn to ourselves, along with a stunning view of the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge. It was quiet and there was relatively few people there, which, based upon the traffic we saw on the Bay Bridge, was a rare thing in this part of California.