Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms
Travelers coming into San Francisco will find many places to stay in Herb Caen’s legendary “city-by-the-bay.”
However, quantity isn’t ever the issue, is it? Instead, it’s quality that’s our real mission (as we seek to blend comfort and location and those intangible extras, since it’s these things which place a hotel on our ‘repeat performances’ list).
Accordingly, the Galleria Park Hotel, nestled at the jewel-center of San Francisco’s vibrant financial district, is a place that should top the lists of both business and leisure travelers looking for a unique place to hole up for a few days.
Galleria Park is part of Joie de Vivre Hospitality (translated, it means “the joy of life”), which serves as the largest boutique hotel chain in California. Galleria Park (a living reflection of the creative vision of JDV founder Chip Conley) is known for comfort and practicality (as well as for its deep dedication to the consumer).
Simply, the Galleria Park is a true extension of the over-all Joie de Vivre mission – but with some twists that make it notable in the rarefied world of posh ‘Frisco hotels.
The Galleria Park was first opened in 1911, under the moniker The Sutter Hotel. In June 2005,Joie de Vivre took over the Sutter from the famed Kimpton Hotels group (which had assumed ownership in 1984), launching an 8-million-dollar renovation that culminated in the face that the Galleria Park now wears.
From the moment you step into the lobby of the Galleria Park (with the original cut-crystal ceiling from the old Sutter Hotel looking downward on all passers-by), you quickly realize that you are in for a hotel stay that is also going to serve as mini-review of myriad aspects of San Francisco’s grand history.
In essence, that’s really what this hotel is all about—the history of the city now encapsulated in the history of one of its oldest districts (showing all those who walk these halls that we can indeed keep up with the times without forsaking connection to our collective past).
The Galleria Park sets itself apart from similar hotels in the area by administering a marriage between services and location – building an experience that will not only accommodate a traveler’s need for shelter but also feed his need for intellectual stimulation on multiple levels.
Luxurious is the word that best defines the Galleria Park’s rooms. The King-sized beds feature pillow-top mattresses that are surprisingly efficient in their ability to mix firmness with that right amount of ‘give.’ In addition, these beds are out-fitted with three plush pillows that provide ample support to both neck and back. Also, spacious nightstands flank each side of the bed give you space for all your ‘in-pocket’ essentials. Rooms come with both a small side chair and an ottoman, with bedside lamps that boast dimmer switches – a wonderful feature that gives you extra light for reading or just the right dusky-dimness to bring on drowsiness – and sleep. Peeking around the corner into the lavatory, one is greeted by a clean and well-stocked bathroom – the Lather Bath soap is truly luxuriant, the after-scent fragrant without being over-powering (metaphorically related to the soul of the Galleria Park in this regard). I also found particular solace in the corner desk, which is generously stocked with commonly-used supplies (anyone in the midst of work who doesn’t have to scramble to the drugstore for paper-clips or post-its will be eternally thankful). However, the most note-worthy aspect of the Galleria Park’s rooms is the black-out drapes: I have never seen these kinds of curtains in any hotel before, and frankly, they are a Godsend – blocking out random strands of light so you can sleep without disruption. These curtains, which were designed by Marni Leis, will encourage weary red-eye patrons (jet-lagged and exhausted) to actually catch that 3 PM nap. These drapes also provide an extra barrier of insulation from street noise and serve as the icing on the cake where the Galleria Park’s rooms are concerned. Ultimately, the idea of these rooms enjoins elegance with utility – the goal here is to soothe the traveler with deep opulence without those unnecessary helpings of pomp and circumstance (rest assured, the Galleria Park scores a ten on this scale).
Still, as nice as the rooms are, it’s the intangibles that make the Galleria Park the choice for lodging in San Francisco’s Financial District. Patrons will note that the Galleria Park has a unique feature called GPS (short for the “Galleria Park Suggests”). As part of this program, the hotel spotlights a particular San Francisco neighborhood every month, spotlighting its 10 most intriguing traits (things like where to go to get a good crab sandwich or a cappuccino with the perfect head on it) – suggestions aimed at quality instead of those tired tourist-trap destinations. The result is that GPS gives travelers the opportunity to “know what the locals know” rather than a blow-by-blow review of some tour book. Consequently, those staying at the GalleriaPark will enjoy a real sense of the city – this ‘top ten’ neighborhood list meant to personalize your stay rather than homogenize it into some ‘this is what San Francisco is supposed to feel like’ experience. Additionally, the hotel offers a daily architectural tour of the Financial District (free to guests; $15 for the general public) which introduces folks to little-known facts about the unique construction of the area (such as the first “Green Building” in the city which was erected in 1920). The Galleria Park also sports a third-floor terrace with a jogging track that is notable because it serves as the perfect place for people on the road to walk a dog or a cat (yes, the Galleria Park is indeed a pet-friendly hotel). The terrace is really one of the crowing jewels of the hotel – one can retire to read the paper in perfect peace here, sipping coffee and looking across the towering skyline). Finally, the second-floor Business Center is truly reflective of the totality of the Galleria Park experience: Travelers who aren’t equipped with their laptops can still check email and the internet for free on the Business Center computers. This feature mirrors the Galleria Park’s bigger vision – rather than nickel-and-dime a guy doing business in the city, the managers have instead offered this as a complimentary service (which says everything about the fact that this place isn’t about booking a reservation and then turning its back on you).
LOCATION: This is a Financial District hotel with a unique face. Located at 191 Sutter Street (near Kearny), the Galleria Park is within eye-shot of both Union Square and Chinatown and about a mile from legendary Columbus Avenue and the North Beach district (a place so many clubs and four-star restaurants call home). Thus, it’s perfect for the week-day business traveler (who needs to hit the Pacific Stock Exchange or other near-by financial institutions) and the weekend leisure traveler looking to play in and around the many nightspots and world-renowned theaters indigenous to San Francisco.
EXTRAS: Many extras here, such as valet parking (important in this ultra-congested area); a great selection of Tazo teas set on the television hutch in each room; free in-room Wi-Fi and high speed internet; in-room CD players; and Frette linens that pool around your skin.
PRICE: Ranging from $160 to $300 based on availability.