I watched Hitchcock's Vertigo last night!
It made me crave a trip back to San Francisco! Especially Nob Hill!
As we watched, I recognized the Fairmont Hotel behind Jimmy Stewart. Don and I last visited San Francisco in 2019 and spent a night.
It was October 20, which was 40 years after the day we were married. We were in giddy spirits that day... which was just a couple months before the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Sure glad we didn't know that was coming.
So today, I'll remember that carefree evening on Nob Hill! We started by pulling our tiki attire from our suitcases and heading for the hotel's Tonga Room!
The iconic basement lounge opened at 5. We arrived at 5:05 and got an abrupt greeting from a guard. "Private Event."
I pointed to our clothes (as if that was the ticket to get us in) and sputtered, "Look at how we're dressed we came all the way from Houston and we're here one night it's our 40th anniversary and when I made reservations weeks ago they said it would be open..." The guard was not amused.
If it had been a party we could have crashed it. But some big name company had booked many of the event spaces and they were using the fabulous tropical lounge, like an office. Workers quietly gazed into their glowing laptops, mostly ignoring the festive decor or buffet of food. Good grief. "Well, you'll at least have to take our photo." I insisted. The guard agreed.
Luckily there are lots of options if you're staying at the Fairmont. We headed upstairs to the lovely lobby bar, which did not turn us away.
Don insisted on changing out of his shirt with the ukuleles. I was determined to make use of my flamingo dress.
We sat on a comfy rounded couch, with a sort of Tuscan scene behind us. We toasted to our happy 40 years, with French 75s. I wish we'd also had a toast with the water glasses. They matched my dress!
Sir Francis Drake Hotel (Now Beacon Grand)
From the Fairmont, we took a walk of less than 10 minutes, to another iconic hotel. The rounded sign above the marquee, lured us to the rooftop's Starlight Room. The happening lounge on the 21st floor opened a few years after the hotel opened in 1928.
Don and I actually stayed at the Sir Francis Drake nearly 20 years ago. But we were with our kids and didn't visit the swanky lounge. The lounge had recently reopened with a new name and we were eager to go.
In fact the hotel itself, has a new name as of 2021. The British explorer Sir Francis Drake, evidently is not someone we want to spotlight anymore. He played a big part with British slave trade...
The entrance to the hotel looked just as grand as I remembered. I recall our kids posing for a photo with the doorman, dressed his elaborate Beefeater's attire. Our gracious doorman also offered to pose. I read that those uniforms cost $3,000 and weigh 40 pounds!
I couldn't find the old photo, but I found this one of Don and kids heading up the grand staircase to the lobby. The sign on the left shows an arrow to the Harry Denton's Starlight Room! Harry Denton was the club owner at that time. His Sunday Drag Shows were a big hit.
Before heading to the elevator, we took in the palatial lobby bar! The gold leaf and marble and vaulted ceilings and glamorous chandeliers were quite impressive! The tourists hanging out near the bar, were less so.
It was tempting to sit on one of those comfy barstools, just to take it all in.
Maybe the bartender could have told us more about that glossy Beefeater, displayed in the center. It looked like it had just popped out of a jello mold. But I snapped a photo and we moved towards the elevator. The Starlight Room closed early on that Sunday evening.
The Old Starlight
As the elevator took us to the 21st floor, I wondered what the lounge would be like. We knew it had just reopened with a new look. I guessed we would not see men in dark suits and ladies in gloves.
I also guessed we wouldn't see red velvet and high back booths. Not that long ago, there had been a dress code for the lounge.
Suddenly we had arrived at Lizzie's Lounge. Supposedly the new name was for Queen Elizabeth who supposedly had an affair with Sir Francis Drake. Hmm. .
The light, modern vibe was a pleasant change from the lobby. It was definitely a younger crowd.. although not a bit crowded. We stood for moment and the bartender greeted with a reminder. "Last call is at 8:00." For a moment I wondered if that reminder was issued to old geezers like us.
But clearly things were winding down in the pretty pastel lounge. The DJ was tucked into his own little corner, between white wispy curtains and walls of glass. The only dancers on the floor were purple lights.
There were no throbbing dance beats filling the lounge. I kept hoping some of the interesting guests would get up and make use of that glowing dance floor.
I was especially curious about the woman (far left) with rabbit ears, poking out of her shiny wig. Her mini skirt and fishnets looked like they were meant for an audience. But she was too busy with her drink. I liked the way she held her wig hair back, with both hands, as she leaned over her glass and sipped through the straw.
No Straw For Me
I enjoyed my wine, even though I had no straw.
I didn't worry that I was the oldest woman in the lounge, Or that my skirt was below my knees. I was wearing my flamingo dress and proud of it.
We enjoyed our drinks, while looking out over the glowing city.
We tried not to rush, but the lights in the lounge got a little brighter and our bill was delivered.
Before we finished our drinks, the lights seemed to get brighter and then our bill arrived.
We were told "No rush." but we definitely felt the nudge to leave. Don signed away, with a lovely quill pen.
Nursing my Drink
I'm very good at nursing drinks, but Lizzie's did not invite me to linger. I posed with my glass and left it behind. In the elevator, we lucked out and got to ride down, with the woman wearing bunny ears. I told the woman that I really liked her ears. She complimented my flamingo dress.
After feeling a little rushed to leave the lounge, we arrived in the lobby to realize Don had left his jacket behind. The elevator wouldn't allow us to go back up. The lounge wouldn't answer the phone. We alerted the lobby bartender and finally the DJ came down the elevator with Don's jacket. Oh what a silly time.
Food at Sears!
This post is about drinks in 3 hotels. But I need to make it clear that we did eat. Yep, it was our 40th anniversary and we could have done better. But we were just winging it.
After Lizzie's, we headed across the street and had a fun and fattening meal at the 81-year-old Sear's Fine Food! Not exactly classy, but just right for us!
Mark Hopkins Hotel
After our Sears feast, we were ready for our last stop at the lavish Mark Hopkins Hotel.
Long before the hotel was built in 1926, the Mark Hopkins mansion, stood on this spot. It was destroyed by fire after the 1906 Earthquake. (Love these facts!)
Top of the Mark
In my daytime photo, you can see the Top of the Mark bar, on the 19th floor near the flag. Originally that top floor was an 11-room penthouse apartment.
Don and I were excited to return fr our second visit to Top of the Mark. We often laugh at memories of ourselves in 1982, ordering beers at Top of the Mark and gasping at the price.
Dark and Cozy
We headed up the elevator feeling much less intimidated in 2019. We planned to NOT order beers.
We probably should have ordered martinis. There serve 100 varieties! But it was so cozy and quiet on a Sunday at 10. We got Irish coffees and once again enjoyed a view of the illuminated city. It seemed just right.
My photo is blurred, but at least I have one. Back in the 80's we have so few photos of our travels. I'm pretty sure I wasn't wearing a flamingo dress that evening, years ago.
In the 50s?
I do know what Top of the Mark was like, 40 years ago. But how about the 50's when women wore hats and smoking was allowed. Or in 1958 when Vertigo was filmed. I'm sure Hitchcock and his stars, Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak probably enjoyed a drink or two.
I was glad to find some old photos. Evidently it was in 1939, that the penthouse was converted to a glass-walled cocktail lounge. I looked around, trying to figure out what changes had been made over time.
I wandered just a bit from our table and found a raised dance floor and a rounded bar, which gave me hints of the past.
After we finished up, we headed towards the elevator and noticed a case holding old bottles. What were those notes wrapped around them?
During WWII, San Francisco was a major transit point for troops. Servicemen often had farewell drinks before shipping out. The NW corner of the lounge was knows as Weeper's Corner. Wives were known to gather for their final look at the departing ships. Sad.
I read that it was during the Korean War that "Squadron Bottles" were kept at the bar. Members signed and dated the label after claiming a free drink.
The man who drank the last sip from a bottle would keep the signed one and purchase a new bottle. By the end of the war, there were 32 squadron bottles in use.
After visiting The Mark, we had a 1 minute walk to the Fairmont. What a fun night, visiting 3 hotel lounges! And thanks Mr. Hitchcock, for reminding me of this wonderful city and area. I had fun thinking back to that memorable night on Nob Hill
I'm ready for another visit. Not sure we can ever afford the Mark Hopkins, but I heard there is a "Hotel Vertigo" in the area. It was one of the buildings used in the film.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.