It was an Edward Hopper moment on the day we hit the streets of San Francisco. There they were – two Santas sipping Starbuck lattes on a chilly morning near Chinatown. But they were not alone. We had come to SF to get in the holiday mood but this was way bad. Everywhere you turned there were Santas, or Santa’s helpers headed for bars and mayhem. It was SantaCon. Apparently the founder of Santacon has disavowed any association with the event in its present incarnation. It has degenerated. Spirits are lifted but not the type he had in mind. It felt a little like St. Patrick’s Day when everyone claims they are Irish, but for SantaCon everyone was claiming they are Santa. And that is just not possible. One might classify this crowd as naughty and not exactly deserving of gifts under the Christmas tree.
Credit Card Bonus points bought us two nights at the Fairmont Hotel. As we walked in the doors, it was clear that this place knows how to celebrate Christmas. We had to maneuver our rolling bag through crowds of party goers taking selfies around the tree and those lounging around sipping from small bottles of Moët Champagne.
Beyond that enormous gaudy tree stands a two-story gingerbread house…made of real gingerbread. Many selfies are taken inside this fantasy space that does indeed smell of baked goods. And though a warning is posted not to indulge in grabbing a candy off the gingerbread house walls, it is clear some have not heeded this sage advice…small gaps are evident in the candy masonry.
Our friends Dawn and Peter guided us on a walk around the downtown to see the festive decor and buoyant crowds floating through Union Square after the monsoon downpour of the afternoon.
AstroTurf was spread out down a block for a Christmas Market in front of Gucci and Hermes. The Union Square ice rink had a small crowd skating round and round…and around…and around. Windows displayed high end couture outfits with manikins stargazing through ancient telescopes and fondling globes. Tiffany had tiny white mice dashing through the snow near sparkling diamonds.
Gumps had a little more traditional look in its small windows. A bit retro and sentimental…but we needed a touch of that.
Our only disappoint was that the Tonga Room was booked for private parties both nights. We have consumed powerful tropical drinks on the deck of a ship in the Tonga Room before, and ordered a dessert shaped like a volcano that blew off whiffs of smoke. The band floats out on a barge into the middle of the artificial sea and a thunderstorm passes over with rain cascading from the ceiling. Tahiti it is not, nor the Cook Islands but all together a must see if you happen to visit the Fairmont some evening.
As we left San Francisco and the Fairmont Hotel after a whirlwind visit, we paid our respects to Tony Bennett and hummed a few bars of “I left my heart in San Francisco” –
“ I left my heart in San Francisco, high on a hill it calls to me, to be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars!”