When Obama visits San Francisco he stays at the historic St. Francis Hotel on Union Square.
“Every U.S. President (19 in all from Tehodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy through Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and most recently Barack Obama) in office since we opened has stayed here,” points out the hotel's director of sales and marketing Meryl Kirschenberg.
“The St. Francis is the envy of the hotel industry. I know it's an overused word, but the St. Francis truly is iconic. It's so historic. It's the only hotel right on Union Square, and the cable car passes right in front.”
Yes, the famous San Francisco cable cars.
Since we didn't bump into Obama the best thing about about me and my nine-year-old daughter's stay at the Westin St. Francis Hotel was running through the revolving front door to catch one of the City by the Bay's signature cable cars that pass the elegant hotel.
We rode the cable car only a short way, but in the requisite way – hanging off the side, the wind blowing through our hair with traffic zipping by only inches away.
And then it was back to the hotel where our spacious room in the landmark section of the hotel features a sparkling crystal chandelier hanging from the high ceiling.
My daughter Grace admires it and talks of the logistics of hanging one in her bedroom back home.
The chandelier isn't the only thing that's crystal, all the doorknobs are too.
These are the kind of touches befitting the St. Francis, which just went through a $40 million renovation that pays homage to its 108-year history but adds freshness and all the mod-cons.
A little history: the St. Francis' first renovation was in 1906, just two years after it opened, because while it survived the Great San Francisco Earthquake, it was gutted by the devastating fire that followed.
The St. Francis is a hybrid – 600 rooms in the original landmark 12-storey section that directly faces Union Square and 595 rooms in the 32-storey modern tower behind that was added in 1971.
New York-based Rockwell Group oversaw the the restoration and updating of the lobby, which features as its centrepiece the Great Magneta Clock, a timepiece that made the trip from Europe to start gracing the lobby in 1907.
Sought-after San Francisco interior designer Kevin Joyce oversaw the guestroom renovations with a eye to bridging old and new.
Rooms in the landmark section have traditional high ceilings and the aforementioned chandeliers, crown mouldings, deep baseboards, dark patterned carpets and neutral walls.
There's a 37-inch flat screen TV, ergonomic chair at a granite topped desk and Westin Heavenly Beds that guarantee a good night's sleep.
Rooms in the tower are more modern, but comfortable, with fewer embellishments.
It bugs me that hotels of any size or star rating still charge for Wi-Fi.
The St. Francis levies $15 a day for the privilege.
Service is seamless and anticipatory from the doorman at the front and well-stocked rooms to a newspaper outside the door every morning and the milk and cookies that arrived for my daughter at bedtime.
Michelin Star chef Michael Mina has a Burbon Steak restaurant and the Clock Bar off the St. Westin's lobby.
The Oak Room, which started its life in 1913 as the Men's Bar, now serves breakfast, lunch and dinner inside its wood-panelled room.
They don't make 'em like this anymore.
Historic elegance in an unbeatable location in stylish San Francisco.
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Steve MacNaullSteve MacNaull is a business reporter at the Kelowna Daily Courier, but loves to travel and write about that too.
Located: Kelowna Canada
Likes: sun destinations, Europe, exotic, adventure, wine and food