After a tiring 10-hour flight from London to San Francisco, floating in a heated outdoor meditation pool lullabied by the soft sounds of chirruping birds from the grassy slopes around me was the most perfect revitalising tonic I could have wished for.
Add to that a short session in a hammam and an outdoor Jacuzzi set among tall scented cedars and my arrival at Cavallo Point near the Golden Gate Bridge couldn’t have been better. To top off a delightful Saturday, the kind receptionist at this attractive clapboard-style multi-house property invited us to join a traditional wine get-together being hosted in a communal area called the ‘lodge’ that evening and morning yoga classes the next day.
Guests at Cavallo Point can stay in either historic spacious two-bedroom, family-friendly suites – once officers’ residences – located on an expansive green space encircling the former parade ground with San Francisco skyline views. Or in more contemporary rooms and suites on a nearby hillside. Many of the guest rooms and suites are dog friendly.
We spent a weekend in historic building 606, constructed in 1902 and named ‘Bunker House’ after Colonel Paul Bunker who led a long and eventful military life, including stints in the Philippines and Panama, and as a Japanese prisoner during the Second World War.
Stepping inside the house, I felt I had travelled back in time. Located along a horseshoe-shaped road known as Murray Circle winding around a massive carpet of green grass, it reflected Colonial Revival design complete with charming step-up wooden porches.
A member of Historic Hotels of America and listed as a Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places, Cavallo Point can best be described as ‘understated luxury’ with its complex of houses primarily of redwood offering spacious rooms, painted tin ceilings – first installed as a cover to prevent bits of plaster falling on to the carpet from the thud of cannons – and vintage heritage fixtures. Our suite featured nautical themed lamps on surveyor equipment tripod legs, a gas-burning fireplace with a beautiful white marble surround and antique cast iron radiators, comfy, organic cotton robes, and even an iron and ironing board. Flooring throughout was a mix of marble, varnished wood and carpet, a wonderful stucco ceiling adorned the living-room and old-style corner table lamps created delightful penumbras. There was also a large 36-inch flat-screen LCD television, a desk with reading light and mini-refrigerator.
Winding roads and pathways link all the houses with decorative shrubs and bushes creating a quiet bucolic setting. If you’re lucky – as we were – you might spy a mission blue butterfly, an endangered species, fluttering sensuously from flower to flower.
A delightful way to pass a leisurely sunny afternoon at Cavallo Point is to sit outside on the terrace of its Murray Circle restaurant directly across from the majestic arches of the Golden Gate Bridge and watch people playing Frisbee, flying kites or simply strolling through the verdant grass of the former parade ground.
Sipping on a favorite tipple from the nearby ‘Farley’s’ bar with its impressive 200 selections, including house cocktails such as ‘Officers Club,’ (Glenmorangie, Laphroaig, yellow Chartreuse and Amaro) and ‘Peter Rabbit’ (Ford’s gin, carrot, orange hibiscus, lemon and grapefruit), help make the scene all the more delightful. The bar is named after a nationally-syndicated comic strip character by Phil Frank for ‘The San Francisco Chronicle.’ Framed strips and a photograph of the artist at work adorn the walls.
Menu items at Murray Circle restaurant include seafood stew and wood fired chicken on the lunch board to Pacific swordfish and black cod steamed en papillote for dinner. Being there over a weekend, we enjoyed the property’s special brunch, combining sweet and savoury – citrus French toast of kumquat preserve with crème anglaise and fresh berries with homemade bagel and lox and Dungeness crab Benedict.
An aspect of Cavallo Point Lodge we liked very much is its communal activities which create goodwill and guest interaction. These include traditional wine gatherings every evening, complimentary morning coffee with croissants and freshly-baked muffins and free historical tours around the property on golf carts by which guests learn how and why the former Fort Baker was established more than a century ago to protect the port of San Francisco, the development of the resort and specifics about its architecture and design. Not to mention enjoying the rare sight of the mission blue butterflies.
Meeting space both indoors and out caters to corporate demands, with classic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. Eco-friendly indoor facilities can accommodate between 10 and 300 people, with diverse options for breakouts, food and beverage functions, and pre-event space. State-of-the-art technology includes high-speed Internet, drop-down screens and built-in sound. Outdoors are 12,500 square feet of spectacular space framed by stately trees and wonderful views of the bridge, bay and city.
Aside from its obvious historic ties, Cavallo Point is also linked to popular culture. It was home to both Starfleet Headquarters and Starfleet Academy in the Star Trek universe and was also used as the final pit-stop of ‘The Amazing Race 2’ reality TV game show. It also featured in the third ‘Dirty Harry’ film, ‘The Enforcer’ and was the finish line of the ‘Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.’
Adding an extra touch of style, gleaming Lexus cars shuttle guests to their rooms and there is also a daily complimentary shuttle bus service to San Francisco and the ferry terminal in nearby charming seafront town of Sausalito.