by Jayme Lamm
One of my favorite things about traveling always has and always will be the variety of hotels I stay at. Each one usually has some distinct charm and I’m amazed at how such a simple concept of a bed and a roof can be manifested in a thousand different ways.
A few weeks ago I boarded a plane from Houston to San Francisco to start my running tour with
Wine Country Trekking. The design of the excursion is fairly straightforward-not to mention quite frankly genius.The adept guides behind the company plan your daily hikes or runs in a personalized trail guide, make arrangements for a concierge service to transport your bags to your next destination, and book your hotel accommodations (and meals) each night while thinking through every conceivable logistic so you don’t have to.
The trip was amazing for a number of reasons, but it allowed me to experience some of the bigger boutique chain hotels (no, that is not an oxymoron if you’re at all familiar with the travel world) as well as some of the smaller, cozier bed and breakfasts throughout the Bay Area. Here’s a brief look at the different places I stayed during my week long
Wine Country Trek from Fisherman’s Wharf heading north up to Sonoma:
Day One. Crescent Hotel, San Francisco, CA
417 Stockton, San Francisco, CA | 415.400.0500 | crescentsf.com
As a sport’s enthusiast, having a 32inch Phillips flat screen mounted on the wall inside the bedroom portion of the suite was a sincerely wonderful amenity. The Crescent Hotel also boasted a sweet little vintage elevator (which warns not to have more than 4 people or 500 pounds) to take you up to any of its seven windy floors. Note, this elevator was endearing at the beginning, but it’s very slow and very finicky, so it quickly got old. This cute true San Franciscan property was walking distance (less than 2 miles) from AT&T Park (and a ton of shopping and delicious restaurants along the way) so the location was ideal for virtually any visit to San Francisco be-it business or personal. My only real glitch with this property was having to book over the phone because their website was down and the guy booked me for the wrong night and almost didn’t have availability for my intended night. Needless to say this experience didn’t start off grand, but the photoshoot worthy lobby almost made up for it.
Day Two. Argonaut Hotel, San Francisco, CA
495 Jefferson Street, San Francisco, CA 94109 | 415.563.0800 | argonauthotel.com
I’ve yet to be disappointed with a Kimpton property on either coast or anywhere in between, and my visit to the Argonaut was certainly no different. The nautical themed narrow room did exactly as Kimpton promised – it told a story set aesthetically in the heart of the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf. Though this was the largest hotel (known well for their business and conference room meeting spaces) during my week long trek, it still had a very friendly and peaceful vibe to it thanks to its layout and friendly staff. The property was located along a cobblestone road (which makes a stroll in high heels nearly impossible) just one block down from Ghirardelli Square with bustling coffee shops and bistros along each side. As with most Kimpton properties, the complimentary daily wine hour from 5-6pm in the lobby is a great excuse to sit down, relax and meet other guests or mosey outside to a patio table at the Blue Mermaid and catch a firsthand glimpse of all the sightseers in action.
Day Three. Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa, Sausalito, CA
801 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965 | 415.332.0502 | casamadrona.com
We always remember our firsts – and this was my first time ever sleeping in a four poster bed, which gave a kind of royalty and Zen-like feeling after a long day of uphill hiking and running (12 miles to be exact). The room was plenty big but I loved the gloriously spacious bathroom equipped with a huge garden tub, separate shower, private toilet, and dual sinks. Not to mention lots of extra legroom if you were to have So You Think You Can Dance playing in the bedroom which happened to peak through the shutter windows just above the tub. One hundred percent hypothetically speaking of course. The town of Sausalito was pretty small, but that made the location of Casa Madrona absolutely perfect – it was a quick and beautiful walk to anywhere in town including numerous seafood restaurants, bars along the water, top destination gelato shops and much more. Although I didn’t get to try it out for myself, I heard the newly renovated spa at Casa Madrona is one of the best the Bay Area has to offer. This vintage property with over 120 years of history and tradition is THE perfect place to stay in the perfect little town of Sausalito.
Day Four. Pelican Inn, Muir Beach, CA
10 Pacific Way, Muir Beach, CA 94965 | 415.383.6000 | pelicaninn.com
Yet another glorious four poster bed to sink my tired legs into after yet another equally brutal uphill 10-mile hike/run. The coolest thing about this bed is the curtains surrounding each side allowed for it to be completely closed in – like a secluded fort. I can picture this place (and yes, this bed) being intensely romantic but being the lone traveler that I was, I stuck to the immature amusement of being an adult and continued pretending I was in some far-off fort serving as another layer to close off the world and unwind after experiencing the glorious views of Mt. Tamalpais. I guess the “far-off” piece played fairly accurately as there were no televisions or cell service so it was easy to disconnect. The Pelican Inn is exceptionally small with only seven guest rooms each with varying canopy beds and oriental rugs. Each of their accommodations is unique and surprisingly authentic – something they’ve been written about many times before. Muir Beach is just yards away, where Sir Francis Drake came ashore 400 years ago with his ship, Pelican. The hotel also has one of the warmest, most genuine staffs around and offer a “Snug Room” which is pretty common for old English hotels. It’s a cute room where guests can enjoy a nightcap or hot tea, read a book or start a fire. A real fire, not the Billy Joel kind.
Day five. Mountain Home Inn. Mill Valley, CA
810 Panoramic Highway, CA 94941 | 415.381.9000 | mtnhomeinn.com
The view upon arriving at the Mountain Home Inn was stunning; the views postcards are made of. Blue skies, towering redwood forests, beach views, fluffy clouds piled high atop one another and the sun shining directly on the deck makes the small trek to get here well worth it. The inn rests atop Mt. Tamalpais ridge with a view that lingers for miles. Hiking is just around the corner in almost every direction, with Muir Woods a popular destination. For those of you who have read Laura Frasier’s An Italian Affair it has long been rumored that the inn in which she takes her lover to for a romantic getaway is in fact the Mountain Home Inn. The inn also gloats that both Jack London and the Grateful Dead have stayed at this little gem of a property. Another small B&B, the inn has only ten rooms, which are both intimate and spacious. Most of the rooms have balconies, fireplaces and Jacuzzi bathtubs; I highly recommend the privacy and amenities of Room 5 just beneath the main quarters but on a private deck. Note – because of its secluded location, there are not many options for dinner so guests primarily choose to dine at the restaurant onsite. Be sure to make a reservation because if your name isn’t on the book, they will close the kitchen and leave you with no food. Trust me. This is not a hypothetical statement like my SYTYCD reference on Day 3.
Day six. Gaige House. Glen Ellen, CA
13540 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, CA 95442 | 800.935.0237 | gaige.com
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at a joie de vivre property), you know this small chain is impossible to disappoint. Having previously stayed at historically quaint and rather old-fashioned inns, this stylish and luxurious property hit the spot with its Asian-inspired ambiance and picturesque settings around almost every corner. The property is nestled along one of the main roads in the historic town of Glen Ellen with blooming greenery along each wind in the road. The Gaige House sits on three lush acres along side the Calabazas Creek and has 23 luxurious rooms; some of which are located inside the main building still standing from 1890 and others nestled along the perimeter of the property – all with views of the entire town. Breakfast is included in your stay, which you have the option to enjoy pretty much anywhere onsite (in the garden, the deck, the restaurant, your room, poolside, etc.). If it’s available, I say splurge for the Creekside room, aptly named with your patio sitting right above it.
Day seven. El Dorado Hotel. Sonoma, CA
405 First Street West, Sonoma, CA 95476 | 707.996.3030 | eldoradosonoma.com
A large bit of history sits at the northwest corner of the Sonoma Plaza, where the El Dorado Hotel (and the delicious El Dorado Kitchen) has held guests for years. There is something to be said for simplicity – the ease and endearing nature of this property was one of the things I appreciated most. That and the friendly and super knowledgeable staff whose goal was to ensure guests not only enjoyed their property, but the entire history of Sonoma. This hotel easily embodied the simple charm of the wine country rolled up into their 27 guest rooms and offered a relaxing poolside visit with their three-cabana beds. French doors led me from my room to an ivy-laden private balcony overlooking the courtyard where the hotel hosts numerous private parties. The room was rather small compared to some of my recent stays, but opening the French doors and letting the breeze in gave the room the perfect feel it needed. Just steps away from my room sat the critically acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant, EDK, which alone warrants a visit. Perhaps even two.
Day eight. Victorian Garden Inn, Sonoma, CA
316 East Napa Street, Sonoma, CA 95476 | 707.996.5339 | victoriangardeninn.com
Just two blocks off the quaint Sonoma Square, this place is a true bed and breakfast style bungalow in a secluded setting that could put the romance back in any relationship (or allow that peaceful, much needed relaxation time to catch back up with yourself). The rooms are all decorated uniquely (mine was an all-pink, super-girly room full of flowers and lace which was altogether too cute for words) and all feature authentic views of their lauded gardens. Each room has a private entrance, your own fireplace and an old-style bath complete with claw-feet, which takes relaxation to a whole new level. Breakfast is served daily (included in your room rate) either in your room, the garden or dining room inside the main house. The entire property has free wireless Internet (yes, even in the garden and at the pool), which makes checking email or writing a travel article that much more enjoyable.
Note: only days two thru six were booked with my Wine Country Trekking package – the other hotel choices were chosen based on availability and online hotel reviews.
Putting on her big girl panties two legs at a time (yes, two), Jayme is finding her place in this world as a freelance writer far, far away from Corporate America. Her entire life has been the epitome of unorthodox, complete with broken bones, medical mysteries, and the worst luck, thanks to her little black cloud overhead. This cloud goes with her everywhere, especially those crazy activity-laden travel plans she packs into her already busy schedule. Most of her travel adventures revolve around sporting events or activities. in addition Jayme writes a regular sports column, The Blonde Side.