After landing at SFO on Virgin Atlantic Flight #19 from my excellent adventure to London, I spent a night at the Huntington Hotel on San Francisco’s Nob Hill before heading “up the hill” on Amtrak to Sacramento, where Shannon said she’d pick me up. There’s a bus connection to Auburn (my normal “plane-train-bus” route home from SFO), but she was being generous.
Nob Hill used to be my home. When I was hired at The Chronicle in 1985, I found a studio apartment on Taylor and Clay. I slept on a futon that I bought in Japantown.
Street parking was a challenge, along with chugging up Taylor Street in my Toyota Tercel with manual transmission — then waiting at the stop light at the top of the hill at what seemed like a 45-degree angle. Later I moved around the corner to a one bedroom apartment on Clay Street — with a garage.
Nob Hill is home to Grace Cathedral (where I often walked to church); Huntington Park (lit up beautifully at Christmas); the exclusive Pacific-Union Club (the Bechtels, Hearsts and the Kaisers are members); the Brocklebank Apartments (where Herb Caen lived); and the Fairmont, Mark Hopkins and Huntington Hotels.
I rode the cable car to work, cutting through the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel to save time.
The Huntington Hotel is a long-time favorite. Its restaurant and “watering hole,” the Big 4, is quintissential San Francisco. My experiences there ranged from a breakfast meeting with Lord King, the longtime chairman of British Airways, to Easter brunch with our family after going to church at Grace Cathedral.
The Huntington — built in 1922 — is recovering from an identity crisis, when new owners renamed it the “Scarlet” — a ridiculous name, even if you’re not an old timer. Last month, it was sold to another group of owners from L.A., who respected the hotel’s storied history and wasted no time renaming it the Huntington, after the robber barron Collis P. Huntington whose picture is in the lobby.
I sipped a cocktail in the bar (a Sidecar made with apple brandy) and ate a Dungeness crab salad before returning to my room to watch the World Series.
This morning I went for a walk in Huntington Park before heading to the Amtrak station in Emeryville via Uber. I am excited to return home to see my family (solo travel has its limitations), enjoy the Fall Colors and watch the election week unfold.