Some three days after returning to Melbourne from our vacation in Finland (more of which later), I was on the plane again – this time to San Francisco on business. Despite the less than optimal timing, I was looking forward to this particular trip for at least two reasons; not only is work there always interesting thanks to the ubiquitous high energy and world-class people, but I also got to stay there over the weekend and catch up with some good friends who now live in the area.
The $35 bagel and the curse of the “luxury” hotels
I’ll tell you one thing; upscale hotels are ripping their customers off left, right and center. I stayed at one of the supposedly best hotels in the city for the first few days, Mark Hopkins San Francisco. The room rate was reasonable (although, I later found out, so deeply discounted I didn’t even get points for the stay!), but the more or less necessary extras were far from it. Parking? $52/day. Internet? $19/day. Breakfast? $32 + tips. Bottled water? $6.50/bottle. Shower? Malfunctioning. Water pressure? Nonexistent. The list goes on. Thanks to one busy morning, I once had just a bagel. Because the breakfast was a fixed-price buffet, this meant I had a $35 bagel; and that only by tipping far less than is the generally accepted norm nowadays.
And no, the price-quality ratio was not too great at that level. It was a pretty ordinary $1-level bagel.
On top of that, “basic” luxury amenities like swimming pools were nowhere in sight. The typical clientele is obviously from a different socioeconomic group than me, which became apparent when I asked if there was a swimming pool nearby. The concierge said sure, there’s a pool a couple of blocks down the hill. The catch? They charge what the hotel concierge said is “a nominal fee of $20” to use the pool. Now I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell don’t think $20 is a “nominal” fee for a swim.
Sure the company paid for the stay, but there is a limit to how much I like even them to be fleeced, so for the latter part of my stay I switched to Crowne Plaza in Palo Alto. Not only was it more convenient considering my last day’s schedule, it was a much better deal. At a lower room rate, one got a bigger, better equipped-for-work room, a swimming pool with hot tub and all, free breakfast, free (actually truly high-speed) Internet and free bottled water. Oh, and a shower that works with decent water pressure and that works without having to call maintenance in the first place.
Enough with that, however. During the weekend I managed to get out and take some photos:
First, the Muir Woods National Monument; gotta love the big trees.
Another walk took us to the Big Basin area; nice environment for walking and driving alike:
While the forests were ideal bushwalking destinations for the day, The Dish at Stanford was better experienced in the not-too-hot late afternoon sun. This scorching jogging track near the dish is most likely not a pleasant destination in the midday summer sun:
San Francisco, though often foggy, had a couple of sunny breaks. This view is from the Top of the Mark, the restaurant of the first hotel, which admittedly had some pretty splendid views:
The sunny breaks were followed by copious fog pretty much every evening: