Fairmont, San Francisco

1204
One of roof gardens at the Fairmont, San Francisco
One of roof gardens at the Fairmont, San Francisco
Caroline Hurry
Caroline Hurry

Staying at The Fairmont in San Francisco made me feel like a goddess on high. Black and white stills of President Kennedy, Princess Margaret, and assorted famous folk down the corridors capture the elite halcyon days of the 20th century. From my room in the tower, my gaze swept past city streets, across the bay, and the island of Alcatraz

It’s worth visiting la Grande Dame of Nob Hill just to sip tea in the lobby surrounded by marble Corinthian columns, vaulted ceilings, velvet chairs, and the wraparound staircase.

Lobby at the Fairmont Hotel
Lobby at the Fairmont Hotel

And oh, the joy of calling reception day or night and having your call answered after one ring with: “Good morning/evening Ms Hurry. How may I best assist you?” That’s what I call service!

Opened in 1907, a year after an earthquake and fires ravaged the city, the Fairmount on Nob Hill  – aka “White House of the West” having hosted every U.S. president since William Taft – dominates the central San Francisco skyline. Movies filmed at this hotel include Vertigo, Dirty Harry, Towering Inferno, and The Rock.

The Tonga Room at The Fairmont in San Francisco has been blowing people’s hair back since 1945.
The Tonga Room at The Fairmont in San Francisco has been blowing people’s hair back since 1945.

Here, uniformed doormen leap forward to open your taxi door and escort you up the Palladian portico steps and staff members know your name. The Fairmont, SF is the one place you’re likely to bump into somebody rich and famous in the splendid lobby with its marble Corinthian columns, vaulted ceilings, velvet chairs, and wraparound staircase. If you book a room in the tower, the view comes to you.

View from the 21st floor of the Fairmont, San Francisco
View from the 21st floor of the Fairmont, San Francisco

A short cable car trip from the bustling Financial District, Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, The Fairmont’s stately entrance is in Mason Street atop Nob Hill, the only spot where each of the City’s cable car lines meet. 

Barack Obama, the Clintons, Prince Charles, Mick Jagger, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, and Marlene Dietrich are all former guests.

Fairmont bedroom fit for a queen, prince or president.
Fairmont bedroom fit for a queen, prince or president.

The elite stay in the penthouse suite that spans the entire eighth floor, while ordinary mortals opt for one of 591 individually furnished guest rooms, including 62 elegant suites all offering impressive City and Bay views.

Private dining in the Penthouse suite at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco
Private dining in the Penthouse suite at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco

My room (71) offered a comfy bed, classy colonial-style furniture, iPod dock,  flatscreen, mini bar, dainty welcome snacks, a splendid bathroom with separate walk-in shower, deep tub and fluffy toweling bathrobe. There was also a gym somewhere. I just never quite managed to locate it

Breakfasts at the Fairmont’s main restaurant, off the lobby are the best. Think fresh orange juice, berries, yoghurt, smoked salmon, waffles  delicious runny honey sourced from the hotel’s own bee hives and Illy coffee.

Beyond delicious: breakfast at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco

The hotel’s Tonga Room, a retro Tiki bar, has blown people’s hair back since 1945, with its tropical rain forest with faux thunder, lightning, regular rain showers and tables under thatched umbrellas surrounding the pool. Mai Tais come in ceramic coconut shells and a band performs from a floating raft. Splashy post-war 40s, swinging 60s, the Tonga Room is whatever you want it to be.

Entrance to the Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel.
Entrance to the Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel.

Leaving The Fairmont, San Francisco, is like bidding farewell to an old flame. You’ll want to linger (a hellofa lot) longer.