Monday, September 29, 2008

A mansion in San Francisco

All photos courtesy of

I was awestruck from the moment I walked in, both as an educator, and as a wedding guest.

The Hamlin School, an all-girls' independent school in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco is also known as Hamlin Mansion, a much sought-after special occasion venue in the city.
The building, which has its beginnings in the early 20th century, entraps your senses with its intricately carved wooden beams and paneling, captivating mosaic walls, and high ceiling with skylight. It is charming how the school hides its bookcases and student artwork behind the deep red curtains as it transforms itself from a haven of education into a centerpiece of decadent celebration. Keep walking through the library and into the solarium, and you are completely bowled over by the sweeping vistas of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge through its large bay windows. Walk up the stairs, and imagine yourself being transported back in time, looking down upon the hallway being attended to by uniformed staff.

The Hamlin School/Mansion is located on 2120 Broadway, San Francisco.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Hamlin Mansion

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eight Wineries in One?

Photo courtesy of the Press Club website

At the bottom of the Four Seasons in San Francisco lies an unique concept. As we settled down for drinks at the lounge bar of the nearby Amber India restaurant (I'll blog about this later), friends told us about the Press Club.

Apparently this trendy venue, which opened on Sept 10 this year, has eight Californian vineyards rolled into one. You walk into a spacious and stylish tasting room which allows you to acquaint yourself with several wines. This seems like a wonderful alternative for both connoisseurs and amateurs to have the 'Napa experience' minus the long drive out there.

I think I'll pay a visit, but I like long drives and basking in the authentic milieu of wine country. Have you been to the Press Club? What did you think? Drop me a line here if you have or perhaps somewhere similar elsewhere.

The Press Club

Tracking flights through YAPTA

As per a recommendation by a user, I have now logged onto YAPTA, a website which allows you to track the price of flights you might want to take in the future. I am hoping to go to England at some point within the next four months, so all I did was enter the details, save the trip, and allow the website to find good fares for me. I guess this concept works best if you're flexible with your trip and can plan ahead. If I do get a ticket and register those details with YAPTA, they will notify me via email if there is a price drop for which I get credit I can use toward a future flight. Sounds good. Let's see how it works out over the next few months.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

10 savvy travel sites

This slide show from caught my eye. Introducing some great travel sites, I wonder if anyone out there has actually used ones like YAPTA or DOPPLR. For future posts, I hope to review some of these on this blog, and perhaps, even use them. The all-time favorite Tripadvisor, is not surprisingly, also on this list.

If you have used one or more of these websites, leave your feedback here.

'10 Hot Travel Websites'

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bar with a view in San Francisco

p.s. This image is courtesy of the Grand Hyatt website.

Apparently there are lots of swanky high-rise bars in the city of San Francisco, such as the famed Harry Denton's Starlight Room, or the Top of the Mark for instance. While I planned to research other similar swanky hot spots and visit the aforementioned, my discovery of the Grandviews Lounge atop the Grand Hyatt near Union Square was quite accidental.

After having a reasonably nice dinner in Chinatown one Friday evening, and with plans of having a drink before we left for the suburbs, we gasped at the sight of a very chic lounge bar steps from Chinatown, only to be politely turned away because it had just closed. It was 9:50 pm! While why most eateries and bars close so early in SF is an intriguing myster, and fodder for another post at some future time, this disappointment spurred us on to a most wonderful discovery.

In a much earlier post, I had reminisced about discovering a wonderful lounge serving late night desserts and wine at the five star rated Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. I hoped to discover the same in San Francisco, and there it was - at the Grand Hyatt, on Stockton at Sutter.

The night was indeed very young, and we were very glad to find out that the Grandviews Lounge was open till about 2 am. Perched up on the 36th floor, the elevators opened up into a hallway, and then muted lights, marble, house music, cacophony, and oh..grand views.

We walked towards the bar and found a table with a view. Service was very fast, given how busy it was. Clientele were a mix of hotel guests, and people like us who were simply looking for something decent open past 10 pm. The age group was 25-40.

We ordered a Bailey's Irish Cream Creme Brulee at $12. Beautifully presented, it was heaven melting on your taste buds. Coupled with the fantastic views, it became a night to remember.

Another tip: If you're driving into the city, do use the Sutter-Stockton garage, which also happens to be across the street from the Grand Hyatt. After 6 pm, it only charges a maximum of $7.50.

The Grand Hyatt and Grandviews Lounge

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Brit in Belmont, California

As I was walking through the aisles of my local Walgreens this morning, a voice came over the tannoy, "assistance to pharmacy, assistance to pharmacy". She said "pharmacy" in a way which made me think she was from Britain. Lo and behold, I go to the check out counter, and the lady greeted me in her British accent. After a little chit-chat, I found out that Pam had been in Belmont for 40 years. She had grown up in Clapham, Peckham and various other places across the British Isles. She would go back in a tick, but she loves her husband, who loves golf and the Californian weather.

Isn't the world a funny place? There always something around the corner to remind you of home.