San Francisco Days and Mandarin Oriental Nights

December 1, 2013 frvtravel

Rachel Love visits the dynamic city of San Francisco, where she rides across the Golden Gate in a Ford Mustang, watches a live baseball game at AT&T Park, and experiences the height of luxury at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

San Francisco has only one drawback – ’tis hard to leave – Rudyard Kipling

A long weekend in San Francisco isn’t long enough, of course it’s not, but after a spectacular road trip through Nevada and Oregon, 24 hours on a walnut farm in the Central Valley and a couple of days in the Bay Area visiting family and friends, our holiday was almost over. We decided to wrap it up in style and booked ourselves into the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco. If you’re looking for city sleek in the heart of the bustling financial district, just a short walk from Chinatown, then this is it. Yet this is also a neighbourhood that becomes remarkably tranquil at weekends when the financial activities cease, making the hotel popular with business guests and tourists.

As soon as we entered the lobby, a place of lustrous Italian travertine marble and gleaming wood, we were greeted with welcoming smiles and addressed by name before being escorted up to our room for the check-in procedure. Meeting rooms, an event venue and a new 8,000-square-foot spa and fitness centre are located on the 2nd and 3rd floors but the greater part of the hotel is way, way above, occupying the top 11 floors of the city’s third tallest skyscraper. An express lift whizzed us up to the 43rd floor at ear-popping speed and here a knee-buckling vista was revealed from the glassy skybridge, which links the building’s twin towers.

The 151 guestrooms and seven suites at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco, borrow from the French deco era with elegant custom-designed sofas in petrol blue together with commanding, white-ash burl desks. In our room, the scene from the bed took in the Transamerica Pyramid – the tallest landmark on the city’s skyline, the Bay, the island of Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. We learned, however, that the view is not guaranteed because sometimes these eyries in the sky are engulfed by the characteristic San Francisco fog. For that reason, we especially liked the fact that our windows opened – only about six inches but if one needs fresh air, that’s enough. Our next pleasure was to drink in the atmosphere with a sampling of the hotel’s famous and extensive gin collection paired with homemade specialty tonics.

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San Francisco is a foggy wonderland of attractions and It wowed us with its heights and its sights

The decorative theme of the guestrooms is continued on the ground level at the Brasserie S & P – named in part for the hotel’s location at Sansome and Pine Streets, with muted colours, bleached wood, cosy leather banquettes and velvet lounge chairs. We really felt immersed in the city here, and with a raw oyster bar, plenty more gin, and Executive Chef Adam Mali’s reinvigorated menu of seafood and farm fresh treats – including Dungeness crabcakes, grilled Diestel turkey burger in a Leadbetter’s English muffin, and Kampfe family ranch ribeye – we had a chance to eat the local produce.

The concierge team at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco proved to be the best we’d ever encountered, especially the baseball enthusiast conscierge who went beyond his call of duty to secure us some last minute seats on Club Level at AT&T Park. As a baseball virgin, I was awestruck by the enormity of the ballpark, the legends on the field and the Friday evening turnout of orange-clad fans. The game was equally captivating, a fast moving battle of nerves, in which the Giants were elevated to the status of the gods against their erstwhile rivals, the Chicago Cubs, who unfortunately came out on top by four runs at the end of the game. The rules, I decided, were simple, while any confusion was cleared up by the beer.

San Francisco is a foggy wonderland of attractions. It wowed us with its heights and its sights: a thrilling ‘must do in an open-topped car’ drive across the Golden Gate Bridge behind the wheel of our rented Mustang Convertible was followed by the plates and tastes of the oldest China Town in the USA. Then there were the punishing up-hill walks, the romantic European-style sidewalk cafes of North Beach, the pretty little houses hugging the hillsides of Sausalito, and the sweet smell of juicy Californian peaches at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market.

We loved the festive atmosphere of Fisherman’s Wharf, our clam chowder served in sourdough bowls, the honking of sea lions at Pier 39, the groaning of the cable cars and the clanging of their bells. Finally we visited the postcard-perfect Lombard Street, allegedly the crookedest street in the world, unless you count Wall Street, but this is San Francisco, New York’s another story…

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