Behaving Like Grown-Ups at San Francisco’s Clift

September 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel

By: Tosha Woronov

We are parents, which means our recent family getaways always seem to involve some over-blown resort with a swimming pool, water-slide, splash zone. I had grown tired of it, and missed the vacations my husband and I used to take, in those halcyon days before having our son –exploring a city through day and night, untethered by lunch restrictions or nap schedules.

I wanted to travel like grown-ups again, and for our son to be a part of that.

I simply could not don another adhesive wristband required for pool entry; I wanted to travel like grown-ups again, and for our son to be a part of that. And so we three headed to San Francisco, the city that inevitably causes me to lament the youth I never spent there. To shake things up we booked a two-night stay at the Clift in Union Square.

Once one learns that the Clift is the lovechild of designer Philippe Starck and hotel genius Ian Schrager, it’s pretty easy to conjure up advance adjectives to describe it. Trendy, funky, edgy, sleek? Yep. It’s all those things. The stone exterior is (almost) unmarked, just minimal letters whispering to you among the blaring Geary Street traffic, “Pssst. Hey – I’m the Clift. Come inside. You know you want to”. Very cool.

The valets are stylishly dressed and beyond charming (which seems fair, since parking is $50 a day). Just as one doorman-model entreated us to enter the dark and purple-hued lobby, I hesitated –suddenly wishing we’d chosen a place less…hip. Peeling a Swedish Fish off of my son’s t-shirt, I thought: We don’t belong here…must find a kid-friendly, pool-soggy hotel right NOW.

“Mom! You HAVE to come see this. It’s the biggest chair in…the…WORLD!”

But the staff was surprisingly warm and friendly. No one noticed or cared that my 5 year-old was wearing candy, nor did it seem to matter that he was announcing, in his terribly un-chic, outside voice: “MOM! You have to come see this! It’s the biggest chair in…the…WORLD!” And so it seemed. So big in fact, that he could not – but still tried – to climb atop it (much to my horror), which also seemed to be an acceptable activity as far as the lobby staff was concerned.

And so I relaxed, and had a look around. The lobby is very very dark, which makes it all the more fun to explore. It’s more of a functional art gallery, with furniture pieces by Salvador Dali and Ray and Charles Eames, a dramatic floor-to-ceiling fireplace decked out in bronze, and a sofa with steer horns. I was suddenly Alice (in Wonderland), had she the good fortune to drink from a bottle labeled “Vogue Me”.

The Living Room adjacent to the lobby is fun too, particularly the whimsical black and white photographs of plastic animals dressing its mood-lit walls. People were actually lounging in here –reading the paper, playing backgammon –although I couldn’t help feeling that they were planted; it was all too perfect.

I’m a sucker for a beautiful bar, and the Redwood Room really did me in.

Ah…and then I wandered into the Redwood Room. At night, this space becomes a standing-room only “nightclub” packed with hipsters and the beautiful set. Yikes. But I got to hang here on a late and still quiet Friday afternoon, which allowed me to drink in not only its grandeur, but also an artfully crafted $20 sidecar. I’m a sucker for a beautiful bar, and the Redwood Room really did me in. Its backdrop is a breathtaking 30-foot lightbox illuminating sparkling bottles of booze. Story has it that a single 2,000 year-old tree gave its life for the rich redwood paneling adorning the walls and hand-carved bar. The crunchiest of tree huggers would be hard-pressed to find a more noble sacrifice for the tree. Entranced by the hand-etched Venetian mirrorwork lining the bar’s surface, I understood immediately that here is where the Clift’s (near) century-old history is preserved. Even the multimedia digital art show, which does nothing for a girl like me, can’t mar its timeless elegance.

Primed as I was by all I had experienced in the lobby and its environs, I was disappointed once we got to our room. It was small –which might be expected in an old, city hotel – but shockingly so, for a deluxe room (2 tiers up from standard). And where the Starck design succeeds so beautifully downstairs, it comes off cold in the guest rooms. The lavender walls appeared almost tacky in the late afternoon light, as did the orange acrylic sidetables. Having the word “Ikea” run through my mind as I unpacked in our “luxury” hotel room was unsettling.

Our little room on the 7th floor became a welcome recharging station.

BUT…

I will say this about the room: the beds are very nice, which is a big deal to me. After a restful night spent on perfectly firm mattresses and delicious 400-thread count Italian percale bedding, we were pretty close to forgiving the room’s shortcomings. In fact, once we drew the drapes (blocking out the not so lovely view of a rooftop), lit a few lamps, and allowed the light purple walls to do their thing, the décor started to grow on me. There were no real amenities in our deluxe room to speak of, which was ok. After all, we were here to experience the city, not to lay around all day in fluffy robes, chowing on room service. (We did enjoy an early morning buffet in the hotel’s stunning Velvet Room, which included fancy schmancy pastries, delectable meats and cheeses, and photo-worthy slices of fresh fruit, $28 per person.)

In the end, over two day’s time showing San Francisco to our son (Pier 39 and the sea lions, Golden Gate Park, trolley cars, Chinatown, a ride over the bridge, Lombard Street, and several random and funky meals around town), our little room on the 7th floor became a welcome recharging station.

Clift (Stay)
Redwood Room (Drink)
Velvet Room (Dine)
495 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

CLIFT Hotel Package

-   Two-Bedroom Suite Package (sleeps 2 adults in king bed and 2 kids in double/double beds)

-   Including continental breakfast for up to 4 ppl per day

Includes a choice of 4 tickets to either the Walt Disney Museum, Exploratorium or California Academy of Sciences (4 tickets max per stay)http://disney.go.com/disneyatoz/familymuseum/index.htmlwww.exploratorium.edu; or  www.calacademy.org

Rates starting at $500.00 per night ($60 extra per night per additional child or adult)

Valid until December 30, 2010, based on availability.

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