Monday, September 29, 2008

I left my internet connection in Columbus and my heart in San Francisco

I am back. I took a break. A few days without even checking e-mail, taking cell phone calls or texts, and I managed to escape modern technology in a weekend jaunt to San Francisco. Ahhhh the Golden Gate and all its' glory, so urban and cultural- if money were not a factor, and I had an unlimited resource of funds, this could be my home. The trip was fabulous- filled with friends, foodie indulgences and fine wine. Leaving my internet connection was easy, leaving the kids was not. I missed them terribly and I called home everytime I was pained with guilt or just needed a fix for my aching heart.

San Francisco is surreal. You should try to visualize the beautiful Benzes and bright colored Bentleys parked along the streets that lead to some of the most expensive real estate on the West Coast. As I crested the top of Nob Hill and rounded the corner to the stately Fairmont Hotel I could see why people pay the big bucks to live here. The Fairmont San Francisco-Nob Hill is the daddy of all luxury hotels and I was about to spend the weekend holed up in my suite with my husband- alone-with a large corner jacuzzi tub, Sferra sheets, flat screen tv and gourmet room service. At check in the staff delivered a tray of goodies to my room. A artisan cheese molded with edible flowers, a fig tart, a fresh nectarine and a chilled bottle of water. The Sferra cashmere throw was gingerly laying across the featherbed topped with piles of silky white sheets. Oh and the scene from our huge window breathtaking! Ahhhh, I was jazzed and ready to partake of the finer things in life for a few days but the irony of it all left me unable to truly enjoy it.

I was so saddened by San Francisco's obvious homeless population. It is difficult to describe the tug at my heartstrings when I saw grungy women and their filthy children huddled up in a doorway, or a guy pushing his precious belongings in a shopping cart. I am not able to look at those situations and just go about my business. It seems wrong on so many levels. You can't even imagine the incredible differences in society until you are about to snuggle safe and sound in a $599 a night suite right across the park from people sleeping under benches. I saw a fresh, hot steaming, human turd under a stop sign and near a vagrant who was puking on himself. His vomit was flowing down the hill towards Mason Street and I had to step over the stream of hurl to cross at California Street. Once inside the hotel I could not get those images out of my head. How could I order the crazy expensive room service after hopping over a puke river on the sidewalk? Call me crazy but the cultural differences were too much for me to deal with on what was supposed to be my relaxing and rejuvination time. Reality Check? Ugh, yeah, you could say that. Here is a perfect example: A small bottle of Evian water on top of the dresser is $10 plus tax.
The room service menu (double click the photo image to enlarge the detail) shows the outrageous prices for breakfast and beverages, but wait, don't forget to read the small print: add $3.50 per person for delivery, 8.75% Sales tax, and a service fee of 20%- not including the tip to the hard working individual that schleps the fare to the suite. By my calculations a basic morning meal sets you back a minimum of $40. Hard to swallow (literally) don't you think?

I had planned on writing a witty and rave review of my stay at the Fairmont- you know one of those elite and sassy travel blurbs with plenty of name dropping and snobby escapades, the kind of blog entry that makes you jealous and ready to jet set yourself to the named destination. I even asked a fellow tourist to snap a pic of me in front of Loehmann's! My blog aka, travel journal on-line has to mention the good with the bad so I feel an obligation to discuss the surreal experience that is San Francisco. The city's highlights were overshadowed by the lowlights and sadly, I find it difficult to reflect on the original concept of making you green with envy- even if I did see 3 ply, TSE twin sets for less than a c-note.

I did take quite a few amazing photos. I wanted to document all the granduer of my stay in the Nob Hill area and my time at Grace Cathedral with my long time pal, Charles. We spent time laughing and touring this house of worship which is his pride and joy. He gave Jeff and I the backstage tour
filled with historical information, and special stories, and we even got to hike up the bell tower
just before the chimes for 3:00. All the stained glass and architectural beauty is nothing compared to the setting of Grace Cathedral. The view is unbelievable- the park across the street,the Bay filled with boats in the distance, and the rooptop Gardens on the prime real estate were spectacular. My little digital camera tried capture the real beauty of the city from way up high. San Francisco looks like a paradise from a far. But up close, on the faces of the homeless, not so much.

I left my internet connection at home and I loved being disconnected for a bit, but my heart stayed in San Francisco. I guess the lyrics to the famous song ring true for me- I did leave my heart in San Francisco- but when I got back to town and saw my kids snuggled in their beds it did not matter. Home is where the heart is and I am glad to be home again.

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