San Francisco: A Getaway to the City by the Bay

Hilton Smith in San Francisco
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Travel can be positive in breaking the routine and opening up stimulating adventures. This can mean a short flight with no jet lag for those who are short on time. My recent trip to San Francisco filled that desire.

I started a bit differently with a luxury experience of the Private Suite at LAX and United Airlines First Class. The Luxury Suite is a very exclusive and private facility on the opposite side of LAX. For a fee that varies between member and non-member categories (and specials), you get a very unique experience. Solid metal gates open to a new, blue $22 million facility, which is completely secluded and private. You are personally greeted and escorted upon arrival to a very comfortable private suite well stocked with snacks and beverages. Fresh food offerings are available.

United Airlines has a twist on the formula with a dedicated suite for its Premium passengers on a shared basis at a lower cost. When I was there, there was one other person who was on the London flight. That was it. At the appointed time, an escort arrives and takes you to their dedicated TSA Security Point and you go through in the normal manner... except it is just you. Then the escort assists you and the luggage to an awaiting BMW or similar vehicle and drives you across the airport runways and taxiways to your awaiting aircraft. That was a big thrill for me to be literally between two B777s as we made our way to United Terminal 7 and Gate 71B. Then, I was escorted up the stairs to the jetway opening right into the aircraft. No crowds, no hassle, and all completely exclusive.     

The Private Suite LAX system works in reverse as well as for departing and arriving international flights with US Immigration and Customs in its exclusive facility. There is no question of the value of this program. I loved it with all the airport hassles eliminated. The decision to make is whether the fee structure makes sense for the value provided. 

The First Class United flight to San Francisco went very well... particularly well, in fact.

The weekend stay was at the dramatic Loews Regency Hotel on Sansome Street near the Montgomery Street BART Station. This is in the Financial District. The former Mandarin Oriental Hotel looks good with a new restaurant and the breathtaking views from the rooms are amazing. My king-bedded room on the 42nd Floor had a panoramic “Bridge to Bridge” view of the Bay. During the weekend there were notable meals at Palamino, with a dramatic San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge view, and at informal Dorian’s in the happening Marina District.

There are always things to see and do in San Francisco -- a dramatic contrast to Southern California is style -- but not a world away geographically.

Hilton Smith