September 11-18. As usual, we have scheduled the car service from the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco to come and haul us out of San Francisco Airport. We do this for two reasons: one, because we don't think any cab driver in a free country will deal with our suitcase, known to us as The Blue Behemoth, and two, because it's so much more comfortable than a cab, although we do and will travel in plenty of cabs during our stay in San Francisco.
Why we hire the car is kind of like why we stay in the Ritz. It's not so much that we love luxury--which is highly subjective; to you it's unlimited caviar, to us it's a matched set of European soccer players in tiny, tiny Speedos--as that we have a need for reliable comfort.
And no, those soccer blokes wouldn't exactly be comforting (and may not be reliable).
To us, "comfort" doesn't mean that everything is perfect, but that you don't have to argue with anyone to get it fixed. If the TV doesn't work or they forgot to put a mini-fridge in your room or the housekeeper doesn't come to make up the room that day, it only means that this will be rectified...without you having to debate or threaten or apologize in order to get it done.
The Ritz, apart from this: Clean and pretty, decorated in the best of taste, with a thick wool rug that is wonderful on your aching tourist feet. A quiet and peaceful atmosphere, especially on the Club Lounge floor. And in the Club Lounge itself, the bar drinks, wine and fizzy drinks flow untrammeled, and the food is loaded onto the table for breakfast, lunch, cocktail hour and even the late night cocktail tasting. Ruggerio and his staff are as quick, quiet and understanding as ever. And if the lunch seems to feature the same egg salad popovers and tuna salad croissants every day, with the same crudites and the same cheeses on the side, what of it? They are all good to eat and, as on a cruise ship, they seem to be free--although you did pay extra to stay
on the Club floor.
September 18-23. At some point in our life, that plan to rent a car in San Francisco and drive up to Napa will come true. Not this year, unfortunately. And so, with a dented self-respect and more than a hint of queasiness, we pack La Skolnique and The Behemoth into the Carey Town Car piloted by Mr. Tony Wong, and we headed outta town...this time to Calistoga, a tiny resort town in the North, to stay at Doc Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort.
Doc and his missus came to this town in 1952 and either discovered the hot springs or made the most out of them, we never did figure out which. We are pleased to tell you that there are no cockroaches in the rooms, mostly because cockroaches don't eat cinder block and also because they get bored just as easily as you and I.
In addition, the spring water appears only in bottles, as sold at the local Cal-Mart (it is quite tasty), as a component of the old-fashioned mud baths (which we, as a diabetic, could not take part in, and which La Skolnique disliked, as being too heavy on the breathing apparatus), and as filler in the three enormous swimming pools--one, indoors, actually a hot tub; two more outside, one cool and refreshing, one warm and heavenly.
We ourself spent most of the time in the warm pool, and a little of it walking through the bungalow-dotted little town which, we discovered, had been named by a fellow who wanted to call
it the Saratoga of California but was too drunk to say it properly.
It was also quite near the place where the Donner Party...couldn't find a Holiday Inn, and also near Santa Rosa,
in which the Hitchcock film "Shadow of a Doubt" was filmed.
If you do not have a rental car, this is roughly all you can do, except for eating heavy meals at the four or five too-fancy-for-the-town restaurants and listening to the comforting noises of your travel companion despising you.
September 24-31. It's a long way down to Santa Cruz, but getting there (in another town car) is fun, and even better when we come to check in at the splendid Hinds House. A new idea (to us at least), the Hinds House is a big old Victorian house, a landmark in fact, which had been made over to accommodate ten to fifteen traveler in a series of plain, bright rooms, two with private baths and the others with shared baths.
It isn't a bed and breakfast...just a comfortable (there's that word again) house with a fully-equipped kitchen, a laundry room, three large "public rooms", perfect for working on your computer or just on a good novel.
You do your own housekeeping, and you can't stay for less than a week, but we (you know how we are) stayed in the best room in the house for seven days AND IT ONLY COST $660 WITH TAX which, if you were wondering, is as much as one night at the Ritz can cost. It is a fine new experience and we would recommend it to anyone, except not next February, because that is when we plan to return.