San Francisco shortie

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A quick report on my whirlwind (flew out Monday, returned Wednesday) trip to San Francisco last week (my first time back in this great city in more than a decade). The advantage of such a short trip is flying with only a small carry-on bag and a briefcase; the disadvantages are no time to explore and complete exhaustion afterward (in my case, coupled with a hacking cough likely picked up somewhere en route).

While it’s easy to get from the airport to the city center by train and trolley, I opted for SuperShuttle, as I didn’t want to mess with either schlepping up a hill or getting on a trolley with a small suitcase. Price is reasonable for a shared van service. The trade-off is waiting for the van to arrive and fill, and then stopping at perhaps a half-dozen other hotels before yours; it’s not a good option for the impatient or anyone on a tight schedule. Tip: Book online to get a 5% discount and not have to hassle with driver payment.

My conference was at The Fairmont San Francisco. This is the original hotel in the chain, named for John Fair and built atop Nob Hill, the mount or mont (Fair-mont, get it?). It’s a gorgeous property, and architectural and design gem (think marble, gilding, flourishes), the kind of place I could hang out for hours in the lobby, watching people, sipping tea, reading, just soaking it all in. Rooms on the upper floors have expansive views. From mine (see above shot), I could see the bay over the rooftops, yet also hear the clang, clang of the trolleys way below. The hotel sits at the intersection of the two lines. Tip: At any Fairmont property, join the free President’s Club. Perks include free Internet access, free local calls, daily newspaper, and often free access to a fitness facility.

I have one complaint about this Fairmont (one echoed by plenty of other conference attendees, many very familiar with Fairmont properties): the lack of coffee and tea-making facilities in the room. Especially tea, since Fairmont has its own line of excellent teas. Yes, it’s available in the lobby around 4:30 a.m. (This I know from my return shuttle), but that’s only in the morning, and one has to dress to go downstairs and get it. Very strange for a Fairmont; only one I’ve visited that does this.

In my few hours of free time on Monday afternoon, I wandered down to Chinatown until I ran out of touristy-looking white folks, popped into a mostly takeout dim sum dive populated by elderly Chinese men, pointed at things in the case, and took it all to a park. Fabulous! but I have no idea what I ate, and perhaps it’s better that way.

Booked my return shuttle through the Fairmont’s concierge, who assured me that the hotel was the final stop on this route, that it would be direct to airport. Since I was cutting it a bit close timewise, that was important. He was wrong. Shuttle made three more stops before heading to the airport, and I just made my flight. Next time, I’ll taxi—just not worth the worry and aggravation for a 6 a.m. flight.