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Bed & Breakfasts

An Authentic Taste of San Francisco Luxury

While the summer months may have some of us all prepped for vacation plans in balmy coastal areas or more exotic terrains, others are more than a little accustomed to the occasional stream of visitors who find themselves strangely entranced with the City by the Bay. By June or July, I tend to receive phone calls from out of state friends eagerly awaiting a temperate -- or sometimes, even inclement -- spate of weather. But that's not all a summer stopover in San Francisco has to offer. The fact that we have some of the best architecture in the nation is no secret, but few people realize that we have some of the best bed & breakfasts as well. Ranging from charming and quaint to majestic and decadent, San Francisco's inns proffer some of the most luxurious accommodations available. So if your apartment is already filled to capacity and you want to give your visitors a more authentic taste of the city than a mere hotel can offer, consider some of the following options.

Most out of town visitors go ga-ga over the "painted lady," that most quintessential of San Franciscan signifiers. Chateau Tivoli, at the edge of Alamo Square, is perhaps the most elaborate painted lady around. Built in 1892, it boasts nine lavishly appointed rooms and suites, with names like Mark Twain, Lily Langtry, and Jack London -- all of who paid their visits here at one time or another. Filled floor to ceiling with adornments like hand-carved woodwork, crystal chandeliers, and Oriental carpets, some of the furnishings hail from the estates of the Vanderbilts and Gettys. Historically, the house has an interesting background. In 1975, it operated as the Center for Release and Integration, a major organization in the New Age movement. At that time, it was covered in murals of lotus flowers and unicorns; and the New Age newspaper Common Ground was launched here. In the late 80s, Chateau Tivoli underwent painstaking restoration efforts; the floors were refinished, the grand oak staircase replaced, and the roof redone with slate in stripe and diamond patterns. Chateau Tivoli has garnered many accolades, from the California Heritage Council's Award for Best Restoration of a Victorian House in California to Best Bed & Breakfast Inn in San Francisco. My personal favorite room is the Isadora Duncan, a spacious second floor bedroom with a fireplace, American Renaissance furniture, and period papered ceilings; and my favorite suite is the Luisa Tettrazini, with its generous canopy bed, frescoed ceilings, private parlor, and balcony with parapet. With their opulent common areas, courteous wait staff, and cozy wine and cheese receptions, Chateau Tivoli offers a deal fit for royalty. Rooms range from $99-$185, and suites range from $135-$265 per night.

Other B&B locales pair charm with downright decadence. Nestled between Nob Hill and Union Square, Petite Auberge is an ideal romantic getaway filled with the provincial enchantments of the French countryside. Beveled glass, a collection of French art pieces, a perpetually crackling old-fashioned fireplace, and complimentary afternoon and evening wine and hors d'oeuvres await guests upon their arrival. With 26 guest rooms and suites -- 18 with their own fireplaces -- and a gourmet breakfast buffet offered every morning, Petite Auberge offers personalized luxury on an ornate scale. The Petite Suite, perfect for honeymooners, boasts a private deck, hand-painted king bed, claw-foot tub, and an endless festoon of champagne and chocolates. Rates range from $99-$215 per night.

The Tenth Avenue Inn is a quaint mainstay of the Richmond District. Built in 1910, it is an Edwardian house perched on a quiet, tree-lined avenue that's two blocks from Golden Gate Park. The Tenth Avenue is tiny but cozy and features two huge guest rooms with private baths. The French Blue room has a glorious view of the Marin Headlands, while the English Rose Room opens out onto a manicured, stately-looking garden. The Garden Apartment is an 800-square foot flat with its own private entrance. Equipped with a fireplace, private garden, and completely furnished kitchen, it's a romantic, airy alcove that remains softly luminous in the nighttime hours. The Solarium is Tenth Avenue's garden breakfast nook, a gorgeous add-on encased in glass and flooded with light. There's no better place to be for simple peace and quiet. Rates range from $95-$165.

The San Francisco B&B experience, for both the callow and seasoned traveler, is a bonus flourish, given that so many of our visitors are already taken by the city's Victorian elegance and old-school charm. For those who can afford to splurge, keep in mind that you'll want the full treatment when you get here. And believe me -- if I didn't already live here, I'd be tempted to check in with the tourists myself.