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Thursday, July 31, 2008

IN SAN FRANCISCO, PLEASE STAY HERE



If I leave my heart in San Francisco, the reason will be Petite Auberge, our Union Square neighborhood hotel ranked with good reason in by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the top 75 hotels in the United States. From the instant our taxi unloaded our luggage in front of Pete Auberge’s tricolor flag, we moved into the world of a French country inn. Petite Auberge belongs to a hotel group called joive de vive, and that is the attitude with which guests are treated.

Some months ago when I reviewed Peter Mayle’s book,
A Year in Provence, (http://thirdagetraveler.blogspot.com/2007/12/year-in-provence.html) I was also looking for a San Francisco hotel so we could spend a few days after out Panama Canal cruise. Serendipity brought me to Petite Auberge and a series of reviews that made this boutique hotel in the center of the city ideal. In February I spoke so enthusiastically about the hotel (still sight unseen) that friends traveling to San Francisco a week after our stay also booked here. They won’t be disappointed.

Our room is lovely. The walls are papered in a flowered pattern. Bowed windows overlook the street below us. There’s a lovely fireplace, its mantel carved wood, its hearth tiled. On our antique queen bed across the room, a Russ teddy bear awaits in greeting. Live ivy plants, a personal library, and soft robes with the hotel’s logo await in the antique armoire, the top drawer converted to accommodate a swing-out TV. Two comfortable wingchairs and a small antique secretary with plenty of stationery complete the bedroom. It’s lovely and romantic.

Not only does the bathroom contain the usual soaps and shampoos but also cotton swabs and cotton balls. There’s even a large two-sided regular/magnifying mirror attached to the wall abutting the sink.

Downstairs is a lovely parlor complete with fireplace, loveseats and tables, a library and games, and 24 hour coffee (French roast, of course) as well as a selection of teas. Bottles of waters and soda jam the refrigerator. Everything is included.

From 5-6:30 each evening snacks and wine are served, again included, and we get to meet other guests. The wines are Fetzer selections, and there is a variety of cheeses, fruits, biscuits, and cakes. It’s lovely, relaxing and we meet guests from England, Scotland, France, and the U.S. in this warm, comfortable setting. This is an experience in itself and a restful way to end a day sightseeing in this city of seven hills.

Breakfast is included with our room, and beyond the downstairs parlor is a cozy dining area with doors leading to outside seating. San Francisco’s morning weather doesn’t seem to lend itself to using those tables too often, so the inside is painted as a patio. One wall has a mural of the outside of a home, and tucked into one of the roof tiles is a small bird’s nest. The posts are painted with vines winding up and across the ceiling, the ceiling is painted as sky and there are even birds flying overhead. The effect is charming.

Breakfast is more than charming. There are scrambled eggs, sausage patties and links, broccoli quiche, fresh fruit pieces—watermelon, pineapple, honeydew, and cantaloupe—freshly baked croissants, specialty bread, melt-in-your-mouth French pastries—and a crock of oatmeal (no instant here), butter and fresh apricot and raspberry preserves. Orange juice and cranberry juice, French roast coffee, and a choice of Bigelow teas round off the breakfast.

The tables are full as guests relax, open the morning newspapers they’ve found outside their doors, and talk to each other about their plans for the day. The hotel’s clientele come from all over the world. We exchange addresses with a couple from London who will be in NYC next year, and we have an enjoyable political discussion with a man from Southampton, England who is intrigued by our upcoming presidential elections. At two of the tables French is spoken. We also meet a Russian couple now living in Brighton Beach, New York. The result is a stimulating morning of invigorating conversation before we part for a day of sightseeing and climbing the hills of San Francisco.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? This morning before leaving, we left the front desk our flight and confirmation number, and we came back to printed boarding passes and airport shuttle reservations.

Beyond the lovely inn-like quality of the d├ęcor is the solicitous nature of the staff. They are available to help you in any way possible and to make your San Francisco vacation as satisfying as possible. Visit the website and you’ll discover ways to make your San Francisco visit more enjoyable, must-see sights and suggestions for tours as well as arrangements with a special group of San Franciscans who will take you on free personalized tours tailored to highlight the best of their city. BTW, for a different experience two doors down from Petite Auberge is the White Swan Inn, another Joie de Vivre hotel—this one an English Country Inn.


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