Palace Hotel, San Francisco – Lusso
Ten years before Matthew Weiner pushed Don Draper out of his Madison Avenue office to crash into our screens, David Fincher pushed Michael Douglas out of an office building in San Francisco. Douglas crashed through the Art Deco glass roof of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and landed in what is now his Garden […]

Ten years before Matthew Weiner pushed Don Draper out of his Madison Avenue office to crash into our screens, David Fincher pushed Michael Douglas out of an office building in San Francisco. Douglas crashed through the Art Deco glass roof of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and landed in what is now his Garden Court restaurant.

Destruction and reconstruction - and the city's wealth - have been a recurring part of the hotel's 140-year history. It was the largest hotel in the world when it opened in 1875, immediately gaining a high reputation through the innovation of giving many rooms their own private bathrooms. It was not the 1906 earthquake that destroyed the original building, but the fires that razed the city just after.

As tastes change, so does the structure of the building. The restaurant that Michael Douglas landed in was originally the carriage turning circle. But if tastes change, the Palace has worked hard to keep some things the same. You can still post your mail in the polished bronze chute on each floor, to be picked up in the marble clad lobby later in the evening, 6 times a week by the postman on his rounds.

And there's the Pied Piper bar. The name is not a reference to the start-up in the recent fictional sitcom, Silicon Valley, but at the start of the 20e Painting of the Century by Maxfield Parrish spanning the back wall of the bar. It was taken away by the owners to be auctioned off a few years ago, only so locals could implicate the mayor and insist on bringing it back. The locals have remained loyal and it is they, rather than the hipsters or tourists, that you will find at the bar in the evening - or in the 50 or so wooden place settings in the restaurant behind.

Today, the Palace Hotel is very Instagram-ready, in a decidedly pre-Insta style. The Garden Court's stained-glass vaulted ceiling, supported by Italian marble columns, contains 20 Austrian crystal chandeliers, original from the hotel's opening. Every Christmas, a decorated tree reaches the stained glass roof, and the entire space has now been designated as a San Francisco landmark.

There's also a health club, with a swimming pool where you can maintain the classic theme by doing your laps in the Old English backstroke style to admire the domed, sky-lit glass ceiling.

The most recent renovation began in 1989 when the palace closed for a two-year, $ 170 million renovation. Three years ago there was a major renovation, with redecoration and new rugs, bringing contemporary design alongside classic.

So what you find today is a hotel that has the glamor of the old, with the care and attention expected of a modern hotel. Sometimes the grandeur seems to stifle the natural flair of the human software that runs the place - each person is serious and attentive - and loyal: Jose, the head concierge, has worked in the hotel for over 25 years. But there are occasional shortcomings: a dirty mug or windows in the suite that haven't been washed recently enough.

It's hard to say exactly which is the best room in the house, but Lusso stayed in a double bedroom suite on the fifth floor with a corner view of Market and New Montgomery streets. There is another locked door suggesting that if you play your cards right you can expand it into a triple room layout.

The living room has 11 foot high molded ceilings and its own chandelier. The walls are a restful light blue with white panels. There are of course Bose audio systems and Nespresso machines. But there are also deep sofas upholstered in linen.

The bedroom is also generous in size, with a fine-structured dark wood four-poster bed, armchairs, and space to walk around. In fact, you could probably fit 2 mid-size New York hotel rooms into the bedroom alone.

The bathroom is also large. Not huge, but big enough with twin basins set apart in the marble surface so that you and your companion can vigorously clean their teeth at the same time without bumping their elbows. It must be this large, Lusso thinks, to accommodate the 20 napkins that are stored in different places.

There is a full-size tub and a double shower and there is competition for what should be the best little bathroom feature. Could it be the Byredo toiletries or the high-tech toilet seat?

Since this is the city of technology, it's probably the toilet seat that wins. There are about a dozen different functions, including a pulsed `` front '' wash, which, in all fairness, Lusso was very hesitant to try. It could be a terrible embarrassment, with a front of pants, maybe even a shirt, soaking wet, or it could be the perfect invention to make those five minutes every day a little bit of joy. These pages will tell you everything soon enough, with the verdict signaled either by condemnation of silence or by a review of the 20 best electrically heated toilet seats with integrated pulsed bidet function.

Chris West remained as a guest of the Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105, United States • +1 415-512-1111


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Fall ( September – November ) : temperatures cool down gradually, although September is usually still very pleasant. Expect crisp fall leaves and some sunnier days, but plan for wet weather too. Fall carries many of the same benefits as spring, but with slightly less predictable weather.

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Travelers wishing to visit Italy can use a bus, train, plane, or boat to get there. Most tourists arrive by plane though, often landing in Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport, the country’s busiest airport. This is the preferred point of entry in Italy when you want to visit Rome, or tour the entire country. Click here for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Rome.

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Milan Malpenza Airport ( north ) is the largest international airport in the Milan metropolitan area in northern Italy ( and also the main getaway to the Italian Lakes ). Click here for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Milan.

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