Traveler's USA Notebook
Hotels, restaurants, vistas and romance are spoken
San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau photo
Here is a quick roundup of San Francisco hotels and restaurants
-- sort of a where to be while losing your heart guide.
Mansion---Victoria's Superb Secret
1000 Fulton Street SF CA 94117 Tel. 415 563 7872
Entering the Archbishops Mansion, you will notice the sound of
opera playing softly through speakers. Later, at five, eerie, ghostly hands tinkle the
keys of a player piano, inviting you to free wine and cheeses by the fireplace. Dont
be afraid. Later, if your nerves are still shot, you will be able to ask the desk to
arrange for a licensed shiatsu massage therapist to pay a visit and rejeuve your
Built in 1906 as a residence for a Bay Area archbishop, the Mansion
went through a number of decorating incarnations; in the late 80s Chip Conley
grabbed it. It took two years to refurb-rehab-remod: now the mansion is a swagged, sturdy,
stunning, gorgeous hideaway, from its voluptuous, old-fashioned, Merchant/Ivory honeymoon
suites to the ubiquitous rubber duckys in the baths, the archbishop might agree, God is in
the details. and what details they are.
The joint drips with classic, tasteful romance:
fireplaces with new permalogs daily, lots of dim little lights you can make bright or low,
bold strong dark woods, rich thick fabrics, flowery wallpapers that borders on but never
steps on cutesy. Honeymoon heaven. People book the whole mansion for wedding parties, and
the place is so romantic, one wonders how many guests have been tempted to creep softly
along the gently creaking floorboards in the capacious halls amongst the bedchambers in
search of a bit of tasteful Victorian midnight frolic.
Kimpton's Palace of 'Tude
342 Grant Avenue SF CA 94108 Tel 415 394 0500 or 1 800 433 6611
Fax: 415 394 0555
"Hotel Triton is co-ol," say San Franciscans. Triton is
nothing if not an attitude hotel, sort of chic (if cramped) and funky, with a Toontoon
lobby you wont believe. Heres the sneaky bit: Triton's exterior is just an old
flophouse style, seven-story structure -- really boring architecturally, so your biz
contacts in suits won't guess how weird and imaginative your hotel looks when you step
inside maverick owner Bill Kimpton's hip little palace of 'tude.
The lobby's wild, pretty, all turquoise and gold, with an enchanting
wraparound Hellenic mural of best-loved characters of Greek mythology, joined (at this
time of writing) by a Weiland sea mammal mural. Below it all are the Triton's trademark
looping chairs that eschew a horizontal line and opt instead for the vertical, ending in
Here at the Triton all the neon colors stay on the lobby walls; no
fanny-packers in neon sweat clothes with bold logos were staying when we visited. No, here
the Independent film-maker types in Banana Republic khakis and Raybans slouch coolly on
yellow signature Kong-back chairs, reading Le Monde and the Sunday Times
of London from the World Press Bar, an excellent, well-stocked foreign newsstand and
coffee bar next door. If you are one to suffer from out-of-town panic attacks if you
cannot find a Times or a decent cup of joe, Triton is the most convenient hotel
your reporter visited in San Francisco, located right at Bush and Grant streets, down by
the milestone Dragon's Gate, the entrance to Chinatown, right on the corner.
Your reporter was sequestered in a room on the Triton's famous eco
floor. Here the air is specially purified. Here you get expensive, undyed beige pure
cotton sheets, pillow cases, towels and bedspreads, and it's true, they're softer and
nicer than any linens this reporter has ever rubbed up to, and that includes those indigo
satin numbers so popular in the Sixties and those decadent filthy expensive Charismas from
Bloomingdales. This reporter has never been tempted or stooped to consider that lowest of
hotel crimes, Grand Theft Towel-O, but is grateful to report that these extraordinary
linens, are on sale in many stores, and may be for sale through the hotel. Ask at the
But glitches and hitches on the eco floor give the Triton a
fascinating atmosphere. No wasteful little bottles of complimentary shampoo here, not even
a bar of soap! All the goop stays in a large dispenser in the shower, and very
nice-smelling it is too, even if you are forced to lurch back and forth into the shower
and carry a handful of glok back to the sink to wash your hands. (The next day, a small
bar of nice see-thru seagreen soap appeared.) No towel rails by the sink to park a towel,
but there are mirrors under the sink, I guess, so any passing dustballs might stop and
preen. There's a note explaining that to be eco, they won't change the sheets on your bed
unless you ask. Hey, I can get that at home!
Is the Triton really cool? Perhaps. Cold? Definitely.
Some staff members haven't quite grasped that outmoded
service-with-a-smile concept No one offered to help with bags on arrival, and nobody knew
how to get an outside line without dialing 9 to use the modem for a local call, a
disastrous gaffe for battered media snails with ancient laptops. This was awhile back, and
to be fair, the hotel now reports to have dataports in all the rooms, so you probably
wont have that problem anymore if you stay there.The rooms are small, not quite
comfy, and despite the often riveting design surprises, they still have that lonesome
Death of a Salesman, sad sack, down-at-heel vibration in them, left over from the last
incarnation of the building. Short of hiring a happy exorcist, I dont know what the
hotel can do about that. It doesnt feel warm or floppsy-wopsy to stay at the Triton.
But frosty is fine with Travelers USA Notebook as long as you can get your mitts on a
serious newspaper, and jump in a taxi whenever you want one, and if the lobby chairs want
to look like cockatiels, what the hey. For more Triton info, click here.
Hotel Boheme---Frisco hilly evening sitdown vision
444 Columbus Avenue, SF, CA 94133 Tel. 415 433 9111
A B&B on Columbus Avenue puts you smack dab in the center of Little
Italy or the Beat Generation or whatever is happening. Best not to be too encumbered with
luggage because Boheme is a flight up. the rooms are comfy cozy. comfortable bed and
bracing stirring shower. In case you forgot where you were and what la vie boheme is all
about, corridors are lied with vintage '50s era photos of poetry readings and jam sessions
and talking talking talking talking way into the night.
325 Columbus Avenue San Francisco, CA. 94133
Tel. 415-781-7673 Fax. 415-403-0665
Among what Ruth Reichl calls theme park
restaurants (Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Fashion Cafe, Jekyll and Hyde), it's so
nice to go to a restaurant where the theme is food. The Stinking Rose is on Columbus
Avenue in the North Beach area; and it feels (and smells) like a
neighborhood fixture. Its name refers, of course, to garlic, and The Stinking Rose is a
This is not a subtle place. The flavors are strong, direct, and
honest. And full of garlic--- smoky, sweet, passionate. The Penne #30, with garlic and a
cracked red pepper that you couldn't see but you definitely could feel is sensational. The
gnocchi was a little soft, but it came with hearty marinara. And yes--- you'll have to
make a decision. Should you be a blatant tourist and have the garlic ice cream? Yes. As
Phil the waiter explained. By the time you reach the meal's end, you're kind of used to
Moreover, it's basically a vanilla ice cream with a caramelised chocolate
syrup, and very nice it is too. Stinking Rose is obvious, rewarding fun and a noble,
successful experiment, the only garlic restaurant so fars we know. Foods good.
The Rose stays open late, and locals (we learned later) go there a lot.
Turn right out of the Boheme on
Columbus Avenue and walk up to Green Street and you'll see it, jammed with locals. Grab
your two sunnysides here and avoid the rip-off six-buck omelettes on Columbus. But do get your coffee
opposite Hotel Boheme, at Cafe Puccini, where Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet owner of the
famed City Lights Bookshop, likes his java.
North Beach, one of the basic shrines in the Beat generation chronicles, is still going
strong., okay the Hungry i where the Kingston Trio and Odetta and Lenny Bruce, turned
everyside down is now a topless bar and they're calling the neighborhood little Italy
instead of the home of oh wow. But it's a vibrant, strong place to hang around.
Light's Bookstore, the book shop founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti is still going
strong. "It's so good," said a neighborhood resident, "to see Ferlinghetti
going to the Cafe Puccini every morning for his dose of caffeine."
San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau photo
Best Shiatsu Massage in San Francisco, probably the World:AUTHENTIC ACUPRESSURE CLINIC
1324 Grant Avenue, S.F. CA 94133 Tel. 415 391-7880 Open Daily 10am to 10pm.|
You call up to see about a shiatsu massage. "No sexy! No sexy! No fun!" says
a kindly Chinese voice, the voice of Authentic Acupressure Clinic, just behind Hotel
Boheme. This is the real thing, a headache removing, muscle rejeuving, cheerful healing
acupressure by a master massage therapist who trained for years in Japan with the masters
FEEL THESE VIBES! The Very Most Awesome Vibey "Spiritual" New Age Bookstore
Open Secret Bookstore, Cafe and Meditation Centre
San Rafael, CA Tel. 415 608 3100
The Buddhas in the back cost big bux, the incense is exquisite, the
selection of books enormous, the vibes are incredible and the more-conscious-than-thou
hubris of staff and patrons must be seen to be believed. Visit the extraordinary god masks
from India and Nepal; Buddhist fabric wall hangings of ashuras, devas, lokis and the
perpetual wheel of karma are only $1500. This is spiritual art of the highest standard,
the best of the best: after you're in the shop for a few minutes you may want to burn your
clothes, wear only white, and surrender your life to the ineffable infinite purity of the
spirit. Yow! Don't do it! You are being vibed by the siren song of the spiritual hip chic
of the famed affluent "good life" of the Marin County set, and of course, it's
all a shuck. The REAL spiritual life is ever with the sick, the scared and the smelly,
giving money to bums in doorways, working in soup kitchens, and picking up your own socks.
But don't miss this feeling-is-believing atmosphere, the nee plus ultra of pretentious
spiritual/intellectual vibey designer chic.
Traveler's USA Notebook