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The Sir Francis Drake Hotel, San Francisco, California

[Travel--Including Hotels, Modes of Travel, Places, Theme Parks & Any & Everything You Might Encounter on Your Travels]

The Sir Francis Drake Hotel on Union Square, San Francisco 
The Sir Francis Drake Hotel, San Francisco

I travel regularly to San Francisco, California, which is only a two hour drive from my home.  This makes San Francisco the perfect weekend getaway destination.

Recently, I have begun to seek out boutique hotels which are typically smaller than the big chain hotels, more intimate and  friendly.  Boutique hotels are usually part of a small chain and include refurbished, older properties that have been redone to modern standards. 

One of the areas in which boutique hotels excel is that they provide little extra amenities such as complementary breakfasts, wine or cocktail hour, afternoon tea and similar little niceties; those little things that provide convenience and comfort to your stay.

I recently stayed at The Inn at Union Square and loved it, but my last visit, The Inn was totally sold out.  During that previous visit, I had stopped in at The Sir Francis Drake, and I was impressed by the beautiful lobby, the lobby bar which was friendly and fun, and Scala's Restaurant with very good Italian food. 

The location of The Sir Francis Drake is wonderful as it is situated in the heart of San Francisco, right on Union Square.  So with my husband, our last visit to the city, we booked The Drake through American Express.  We wanted a really nice room for a special weekend together and chose the Grand King room.  The Grand King is one class below a Junior Suite.  We were assured that our room would be roomy because they chose a corner room for us.  We were immediately shocked at the small size of the room.  I even asked the bellman if he was sure this was a "Grand King" room.  The bellman told us that it was a Grand King; I didn't see anything "grand" about it! 

We inquired about a Junior Suite but were told that it wasn't actually a suite as it was only one room, slightly larger than our rather small room.  I have to give the hotel credit for the very new, clean look of the room and quite nice decor.  The bed was also really lovely with very comfortable, upscale bedding which included feather pillows.  The room included plenty of drawer, cabinet and closet to enable us to unpack and store our things out of eyeshot. 

As a seasoned traveler, I realize that the older buildings that typically house this class of hotels were built years ago in an era of small city hotel rooms and bathrooms.  One can remodel until the cows come home, but there is little way to increase the room size.  However, when paying upwards of $300 per night, one expects extra amenities and some extra degree of comfort.  We found these lacking at the Sir Francis Drake.  Nothing came with the room.  There was not even a complementary bottle of water! 

There were not the usual, soft, cozy robes in the closet.  The bathroom contained one bar of hand soap.  In the shower there were big bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash mounted on the shower wall.  I found this creepy!  Not a particularly sanitary way to present bath amenities.  There were exactly two sets of not-so-fluffy towels on the one towel bar.  Any of the usual little extras that you might find in a high-end hotel, like body lotion, a shower cap, cotton balls or q-tips were not to be found. It was difficult to function in the small bathroom because there was nowhere to put anything.  I ended up putting my hairspray and mousse cans on the back of the toilet...not too exciting!  There were some small glass shelves for brushes and small cosmetics, but I found the bathroom situation clumsey and uncomfortable.

I think that we could have overlooked the small room and not so great view if the hotel went out of its way to provide something extra to make our stay pleasant; but that was not the case.  In this price range, one expects more. In the refurbishing, or "noise proofed" windows were not in the plan because the room was extremely noisy.  I do understand that the city is noisy, but I have stayed at so many other hotels, even the boutique hotels, where the noise level was much lower.  Again, I would recommend that if you have a problem sleeping, perhaps a big hotel with sound-proofed windows might work better for you.

The hotel does not provide a continental breakfast or wine hour, but on day two, we found out that they do provide drink tickets for complementary cocktails in the lobby bar to club guests. I had joined the Kimpton Club before I arrived, but perhaps because we booked through American Express, we weren't given these when we checked in.  However, a sharp desk clerk on morning two did mention them when we inquired about our missing morning newspaper.  In fact, we found all of the hotel employees to be very friendly and helpful and very anxious to please. The hotel's problems come from the top, it seems, not from the people who work in the hotel.

If you like a bustling, upbeat restaurant, then the hotel restaurant, Scala's, is for you.  We love this type of eatery and enjoyed our dinner at Scala's.  I wouldn't say it is the best Italian food I've had lately, but it is good.  Be sure that you book a table before you travel if you wish to dine at Scala's, as it is very popular and is booked during peak hours, days ahead of time.  If, however, you have a problem hearing over noise or if you prefer a quiet, intimate restaurant, then I would not suggest Scala's.

The night we arrived, we decided to go to the top floor to Harry Denton's Starlight Room for a nightcap and the beautiful city view. The hotel advertises the room as a place on weekday evenings to relax with a cocktail while enjoying the amazing view over all of San Francisco.  When we stepped off the elevator however, we were informed that there was a private party inside and we were not welcome.  Nothing annoys me more than to look forward to enjoying one of a hotels advertised and tauted perks, than finding that it is closed when you arrive!  It's sort of like being ready for a swim and being told that the pool has been drained for cleaning!

On Saturday night, again we tried Harry Denton's. We were told there was a $10 cover charge but hotel guests only had to pay $5.00.  Okay, five bucks, no big deal.  But when we walked in, we were told we needed to be seated by the host.  We wanted to sit by the window or wait for a window table but we were told that he "could offer us" another of 2 tables, neither of which I liked. He was so obviously waiting for a tip in order for us to be seated at a better table.  Frankly, the place was not too crowded and I can see why people turn and leave, which is exactly what we did after collecting our five dollars each back. I refuse to play the tip game in San Francisco just to sit by a window in a bar!  Seriously?  I would skip the Starlight Room--the place is more impressed with itself that I was.

The lobby of this hotel is truly elegant and breathtaking.  The lovely Bar Drake, in the hotel lobby, is an active gathering place with great atmosphere and style.  The bar is friendly and the staff are all very personable and helpful.  Bryan and the bar staff go out of their way to please. The public areas of the hotel are beautiful and historic. This is certainly what drew us to stay at The Sir Francis Drake in the first place.

The Good and Not-So-Good About The Sir Francisco Drake Hotel

  • The location of the hotel is phenominal; just a few steps from Union Square.
  • Rooms are small but very well appointed
  • Street noise level is high in the rooms
  • Very comfy bed with high-end bedding
  • Bathrooms are tiny and not very functional
  • There are few extras offered; no robes, no complementary water or other bath ammenities
  • Most boutique hotels offer complementary continental breakfast but Sir Francis Drake does not include breakfast.
  • Friendly, helpful staff
  • Bar and restaurant are excellent and welcoming
  • Overall, the price is a high for the room and extras that guests are given.



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