San Francisco and its hotels lost their appeal over the years as both the room and parking rates shot up to the stratosphere. Also, for the last few years, I’ve been a big proponent of vacation rentals, especially when I stay in my favorite city.
But as I mature, I’m beginning to see the benefit of staying in hotels, simply because you know what to expect when you arrive. You might get varying degrees of luxurious décor, but you’ll nearly always get a comfortable bed and a sparkling clean bathroom. You won’t have a kitchen, but you’ll get a pest-free environment 99.5% of the time…and access to some decent restaurants for meals.
At the rentals I’ve lately been staying, I’ve encountered these and other inconsistencies more often. Most of the places have been fine. But it’s disappointing to find something I was expecting not be there (a Nespresso machine, mentioned in the Airbnb description and the owners in-unit guidebook in San Francisco), or I encounter something that I didn’t want to (a few creepy crawlies in a kitchen in Austin).
That’s why I’m writing a series of hotels I’ve stayed at in the past few weeks during this summer. Since JRS is in San Francisco for a month-long art program, we aren’t going somewhere major for our family vacation. These very short hotel stays have essentially become that for the year.
First up…the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco
What’s not to love about this place? It’s not a behemoth like a classic SPG, Hilton or Hyatt hotel but part of the new wave of boutique places. I guess if I had to choose a favorite type of hotel, this would be it.
The non-touristy location is just right for someone like me who’s almost a native of the City. Right down on the Embarcadero, it’s literally steps from the Ferry Building and about a quarter-mile from the Bay Bridge.
Tempted to get a drink in the bar, I realized it wasn’t even noon. Thanks to my remaining moral upbringing, I instead opted for lunch. A drink could certainly come later.
A Korean lunch aside
Since my room wasn’t quite ready, I headed out to Rincon Center and originally intended to get a to-go order of Yank Sing dim sum. But I was on my own, with no husband and no kids (at least then – I was going to meet JRS later in the day). Instead, I did something wild and crazy – I tried Sorabol, a popular Korean fast casual chain. For some reason, I’ve been on a sustained Korean food jag lately. I think because it’s spicy and different from the usual Thai and Chinese we can get back in Denver.
As you may already know, I’ve tried not to consume red meat too often. But I make exceptions when it comes to some quality hamburgers, char siu bao (steamed pork buns), and bulgogi (Korean beef). Here was that opportunity, where I could try a place that wasn’t Yank Sing and not get dirty looks from the rest of the family.
The deceptively named Veggie Bowl included produce of my choice, glass noodles, steamed rice (either white or brown), and a protein option (I went for the beef, naturally). Kim chee, the spicy pickled cabbage I inexplicably love, was available in a separate plastic cup.
Now back to the hotel…
I finally settled in to my Waterfront View King room. This was probably the only disappointment to my stay, since JRS was planning to stay with me later that evening for two nights. I haven’t shared a bed with either of my kids since they were in kindergarten. Luckily this was a big enough king bed that we could make a soft partition with extra pillows.
Everything else about the Hotel Vitale was just about perfect, from the jaw-dropping view from the multi-decked terrace to the complimentary 10-minute massage in the hotel’s spa.
I once mentioned that I can never sleep in hotel rooms without waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble getting back to sleep. I didn’t have that problem in my bed here, either night. Not sure why that happened, but I loved it.
Why I’m learning so late in life that you really shouldn’t rent a car in San Francisco, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a persistent habit from my parents and when they would drive their boat-size Oldsmobiles and Lincolns up and down the hair-raising steep hills and narrowly avoid the bad drivers. It’s also a matter of convenience, for sure.
Anyway, JRS and I only relied on the city public transportation to get around, using the heavily promoted Clipper pass. This allows you to take nearly any Muni vehicle, including the famed cable cars, as much as you want. If you want to add ferries or BART, you can just pay extra and tack it on to the card.
No matter how you get around, the Hotel Vitale makes a great home base for all your City adventures.