Father's Day at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco

June 20, 2007
GV Krishnan

I don’t know about other parents, but my response to any suggestion involving spending money has been to ask my son, ‘can’t we do without it’? This was how I reacted when our son and daughter-in-law came up with this plan of our spending the weekend in San Francisco to do the sights. My question: couldn’t this be done without spending money on hotel? After all, we live in San Ramon, less than a hour’s drive to San Francisco.

I was evidently missing something here. June15-17 was a weekend for celebration – of Ravi-Meera’s wedding anniversary. It was Father’s Day weekend. And then our son’s son Siddarth, who completed 18 months on his parents' wedding anniversary, had to visit the aquarium at Fishermen's Warf and take a ride in a San Francisco tramcar.

It turned out to be our weekend to remember. It is not every day you get to stay at Westin St. Francis, overlooking the Union Square; a hotel that has been witness to history for the last 100 years. Putting us up there was Meera’s (daughter-in-law) idea. Siddarth and I enjoyed the rides in the bubble-top elevator, in which we went up and down, often, between the lobby and our rooms on the 17th floor; and, at times, to the top floor at Level 32.

St. Francis is a heritage hotel. It played host to delegates at the 1945 UN founding conference. Greta Garbo had stayed there. So had Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. The hotel has a MacArthur suite, so named to celebrate Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s stay at the St. Francis. A TV Travel Channel documentary recalled how St. Francis came to host Queen Elizabeth II. The queen who usually stayed in the royal yacht Britannia on her overseas tours had to be accommodated on shore because of rough weather conditions during her visit to San Francisco.

The Clintons dine there when they are in town. Actor Robin Williams, a San Francisco resident, could be spotted at Michael Mina, the hotel’s signature restaurant. So they said. I couldn’t bring myself to walk in there to check this out. Dining there could set you back by $100 plus per person. We had other plans for dinner. The four of us took to our rooms sandwiches and salad brought from Cheese Factory at nearby Macy’s; and, for lunch, we parceled pizza from a Powell St. eating joint to be eaten at the Union Square.

I don’t know what it cost us for the two-day stay. The St. Francis wasn't exactly a budget hotel. I got a sense of the price level at the place when I discovered that a bottle of plain water cost $ 7. A six-minute overseas call made from the room would run up your bill by over $60. I ordered some roses from the hotel florist, to be delivered to the wedding anniversary couple. I do things that smack of uncharacterestic flourish, occasionally, unmindful of the cost.

The flower bill: $84 and 32 cents. I know the precise amount because the sales girl handed me back 68 cents when I paid out $85, counting it out in tens and five-dollar bills. As I was counting I heard her saying, "it's okay if you give $84". I would have nothing of it; and insisted on paying in full, down to the last cent. If the florist found me weird, she didn't show it. I must have been the only hotel guest who got away without tipping.

Retired Times of India correspondent, based in Mysore.; hosts MysoreBlogPark, a parking lot for a bunch of Mysore-connected bloggers; writes a Monday column for www.zine5.com
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