San Francisco has arguably the best concentration of high-end retail anywhere.
As the gal has said, you only have to walk around Union Square (only a few minutes’ walk from such luxury hotels as, in alphabetical order, Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, St Regis San Francisco and Taj Campton Place, and a good healthy hike down from the Fairmont, atop Nob Hill).
Neiman Marcus dominates the south-east corner of Union Square. Go in, and look up at its brilliant dome. The clothes here all seem to have their own mini-boutiques. There were some covetable Stella McCartneys and some absolutely outrageous grunge trash that is part of the epidemic of the shows right now coming out of not only New York but also certainly London (which cannot produce anything but publicity for its haute couture these days now that Nathalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter, heads the British Fashion Council) and Milan and Paris. I personally long for the day when simplicity returns. Now that Victoria Beckham plans to sell limited edition garments online, if she sticks with simple elegance she should do even more brilliantly. For the international traveller, as I have said before, style wins hands down over fashion, any day.
It is worth looking at the shoe floor in Neiman. It seems endless. Yes, there is a corner for Christian Louboutin, and one for Jimmy Choo, and another, of course, for Manolo Blahnik. The most exciting, actually, is the Charlotte Olympia display. Now shoes are the one element of fashion that can be over the top and Charlotte Dellal, the designer of Charlotte Olympia, actually does it brilliantly. Interesting girl: her grandfather, Jack Dellal, who died last October worth £480 million, was known as Black Jack because of his notorious love of gambling – he was a big-time financier, involved in such London buildings as Bush House and the Shell-Mex House (another of his grand-children is model Alice Dellal).
The Apple Store, two blocks from Union Square, is as friendly and helpful as the one on Hong Kong Island (tip, do not even try to get an appointment at the London Regent Street Apple Store as it is crowded beyond belief and the staff just do not have time to ‘do’ customer service). Here in San Francisco they work on, despite having Stockton Street outside completely closed while a short subway is put in underground. When it opens it will take people between the Moscone Center to Chinatown. Remember, San Francisco’s mayor, Ed Lee, is Chinese-American.
I got away from all this and headed to gloriously quiet and elegant St Francis Yacht Club, at the north side of the Pacific Heights area of town. Bookings for meals, here, in the two floors of restaurant are already completely full during the last days of the America’s Cup this September (in all, eight teams from six countries will be competing from July 4th, 2013 to the finale on September 22nd, 2013). It is here, in the inland San Francisco Bay waterway that has the Golden Gate Bridge to your left, and Alcatraz ahead of you to your right, that Larry Ellison and Oracle Team USA will try to fight off rivals and retain the Cup. Conveniently, apparently, the city’s new cruise terminal, due to open next year alongside the existing terminal at Pier 19, is already ready, and will be used for the Cup. The lucky visitors will be able, nightly, to enjoy computerised illuminations on the other, Bay Bridge – by Leo Villareal, they are being paid for by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and others.
We moved on, to Presidio, the massive national park at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. A New Spain fortified location in 1776, it passed on to Mexico and, in 1848, became a US property. Until 1994 it was military. Its buildings must be retained, in exact historical state, and some have become very bijou office headquarters (just discreet signs say which cream wood bungalow is used by which lawyer). The former three-floor brick building that housed bachelor officers has just opened as a 22-room luxury hotel, The Inn at the Presidio, but guess what, even I was not able to see a room as it is booked solid, six months ahead…