Saturday, September 20, 2014

Postcards from San Francisco: Rooms at the Chateau

Finding an interesting, convenient, reasonably priced place to stay in San Francisco was a challenge. Every slick high-rise hotel chain is represented, of course. They don't appeal to me for all the reasons others flock to them — plus they are expensive. Famous historic gems like the Fairmont were also beyond my budget. Other options range from elegant boutique hotels to sleazy dives, motels on the city outskirts, hippie hangouts, and fake "French" inns. Almost anything attractive and in a central neighborhood will be much more than $200 a night, and often more closer to $300. There were also less-inexpensive Airbnb options. I decided I wanted an established B&B.

I was so lucky to find rooms at the Chateau Tivoli. It has only four suites and five rooms, and it's popular, so my room choices were very limited. Each room is named in honor of a 19th-century celebrity, including Mark Twain and Lily Langtry, who visited the Chateau when it was a private home. The place is exuberantly Victorian and funky, and so am I, it seems. We were a perfect match. 

For my first three nights, I had the Jack London Room, which is a steal for San Francisco:  $115 to $135 per night (weekends and holidays are higher). 

I expected icicles and a wolf, given the theme, but it was charming and cozy. Up two long flights, it shared a hallway bathroom with the room next door. I should have photographed that quirky, period bathroom with its clawfoot tub, oak wainscoting, and handheld (telephone-style) brass shower head. It's challenging to shower and wash hair with one hand, but I managed. I don't mind sharing a bath with one or two other guests, and it worked out fine. There was even a door separating my room and the bathroom from the rest of the hallway, so I could come and go in privacy. 

My room's walls were sponged in shades of off-white for a wintry effect. The painted floor was scattered with old Persian rugs, and all the furniture and fixtures were antique except for the mattress. I felt quite at home. (I gave my family a tour of the place and showed them my room. Some were charmed; others were horrified. It seems that sharing a bathroom and a breakfast table are too much sharing for some travelers.)

The windows in "my" turret were open, with the curtains blowing in the breeze. I kept those windows open through my stay. They overlooked a neighboring house painted in shades of lavender that I'll show you later. That turret was a fine place to read or do email.

The only unsettling thing about the room was the closet. It had a lock on the front and opened to reveal a door to the adjoining room. I knew the rooms could be connected to form a suite, but I wasn't sure if that meant I was sharing the closet! I had to run down to the kitchen to ask. The answer was no, so I hung up my clothes and helped myself to a bathrobe.

The only problem with the rooms I stayed in were that both had doors to adjoining rooms so I could hear the people next door. That's when my trusty LectroFan white-noise machine came to the rescue. I believe in packing light but that machine is worth more than its weight in gold. I heard nothing but a familiar "fan" sound whenever it was on, and slept really well.

For my last night. I slept in one of the ornate, high-Victorian rooms on the second floor, named for Enrico Caruso. I think it was $175; hardly a splurge for San Francisco accommodations. When I unlocked the door and turned on the light, it felt like Christmas. Its high ceiling is elaborately decorated with stenciling, gilding, faux-malachite paint, and a wallpaper border:

By the time I was able to back to the B&B that last night, it was late and I was exhausted from a long day, a bad head cold, and chills. But the room restored me. I couldn't sleep for a few hours because I was so busy enjoying my surroundings. (Luckily there was a box of tissues.)


The four-poster bed with its silky comforter was so high that I need a little footstool to climb onto it. I loved that; I never need to get up in the night. But I'll bet other guests had been in for a rude awakening when their feet didn't hit the floor as expected.

The bathroom was a lovely surprise, with three coordinating seashell wallpapers, a period sink and light fixtures, and a leaded glass window. Instead of sharing a bathtub, I now had double shower (for two) all to myself.

I could have slept happily in that comfy bed and lounged in those velvet armchairs for months, but I had to check out the next morning. I will simply have to go back sometime... keeping in mind that the Chateau has other rooms that might be even prettier.

The Chateau Tivoli required massive restoration before it opened as a B&B in 1989. If you click on From the Chateau Tivoli's Past on their site, you'll find an album of historic photos, "before" pictures, and many images of the work in progress.

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