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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Night at the Ritz

Our Christmas getaway now seems much like dreams of a childhood Santa Claus. How did we become overnight guests at the splendid Ritz Carlton Hotel on the shores of a blustery Pacific Ocean at the tiny town of Half Moon Bay? It started with Scott Angeletti, a creative tour director for Sports Leisure Travel. He had hosted trips to the Ritz Hotel at Lake Tahoe as well as tours along the coast to Monterey and Carmel. He wondered if it would be possible to create a two night-three day trip to the Bay Area and negotiate an affordable stay at the Ritz on one of those nights. He succeeded.

We signed up for the trip in May so we had half a year to look forward to it. It far exceeded our expectations. On Saturday Scott served box lunches on the bus. Our first stop was at Filoli Gardens mansion. For nine days in December nearly two thousand volunteers turn the ground floor of the mansion into an upscale Christmas store to raise money to keep the gardens open to the public.

After two hours of shopping we headed to the San Jose Fairmont Hotel located next to the Ceasar Chavez Park which had been turned into a delightful Christmas park with a couple of hundred decorated Christmas trees, rides for the children, scenes of elves and Santa Claus preparing for Christmas, an outdoor ice skating rink, carnival rides, food stations and vendors. Many families enjoyed the excitement and splendor. Lost in this two block wonderland was one nativity scene. I wondered how many of those children know why we celebrate Christmas.

Two blocks north of the Fairmont Hotel the grand Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph hosted the debut Gaude choral group concert at 8 o'clock that night. Four men and four women made up the group. They sang old German songs written as far back as the fifteenth century. The excellent acoustics in the magnificent cathedral accented the perfect harmony of the singers. A great experience!

The following day we ate an amazing brunch at the Hayes Mansion, another place with a fascinating Bay area family story. Waiting for us that evening on the grand plaza by the sea was the lighting of the Christmas tree. Seats were set up in rows and the large fire pits were lit early. A local high school boys choir entertained with Christmas songs, no traditional carols. The MC announced the winners
of the gingerbread houses lining the hotel halls. Santa Claus rode down the hill by the ocean in a golf cart. With a couple of children from the audience he lit the Christmas tree. Christmas messages and pictures were projected onto the large hotel wall.

We arrived home Monday evening full of Christmas, but looking for a missing "Merry Christmas" after being saturated with "Happy Holidays" for three days. I wish my readers a Merry Christmas and of course Happy Holidays as well.