Happy Wanderer: Nob Hill still one of San Francisco’s treats


California Daily LifeEASTBAYTIMES.COM: November 25, 2016

Our Bay Area fog is intoxicating, especially with a splash of rum. In fact, celebrated San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen would have loved the free “Fog Lifter” cocktail they serve at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco.

As if Nob Hill’s allure isn’t enough, each evening, the AAA five diamond hotel rolls out two punch bowls shrouded in mist (dry ice) with a tabletop replica of the Golden Gate Bridge.

This salute to San Francisco set the tone recently for an overnight stay in this elegant San Francisco neighborhood. It included an array of fine food, adult beverages and a four-hour walking tour that burned 1,624 calories.

“Nob Hill is a candy store for the eyes,” said Don Rea, my former KSFO radio producer-turned-tour guide.

As we traversed the hilly streets with their telescoping views of the city, he pointed out the French-flair Edwardian style of so many structures built in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fire.

“Look at the heavy cornices, the recessed entryways, circular bay windows on the corners and those ornate fire escapes on the balconies,” he said. “Nob Hill was where railroad barons and finance kings lived … so they could look down on the city and see their holdings.”

They sure don’t build them like they used to — the 450 Sutter St. building with its elegant Neo-Mayan Art Deco flair; the Notre-Game-des-Victoires French Catholic Church at 566 Bush St. boasting both Romanesque and Byzantine styles; and the Presbyterian Mission House on Chinatown’s border at 920 Sacramento St. made of eclectic, irregular bricks called “clinkers.”

Even Nob Hill’s alleyways have cache, with street names like Pflueger (named after famed local architect Timothy Pflueger) and Dashiell Hammett (with a plaque referencing his book “The Maltese Falcon”). And tucked away in an alley called Joice Street, a cascading set of stairs reminiscent of Rome with gardens, balconies and a shrine to Saint Francis.

Tying Nob Hill together is San Francisco’s iconic cable car system. The lines intersect at the crest of California Street, where a Muni employee sits in a little tower and runs the signal lights. The cable cars and the nearby free Cable Car Museum at 1201 Mason St. are two favorites for tourists.

Nob Hill’s rich history includes its historic hotels — all of which are decked out in baubles and lights for the holidays. The Ritz-Carlton stands out as a neoclassical landmark, as elegant today as it was in 1909.

And that’s the real appeal. No matter how much San Francisco changes and grows — Nob Hill remains a constant. Like the cable cars and the fog — it’s a pleasant reminder of what makes San Francisco so special.

FYI
The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco’s winter rates start at $369 per night. For more information about the hotel, Spa L’Occitane and JCB Wine Tasting Lounge, see http://www.ritzcarlton.com/sanfrancisco.

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