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The Joy of Living

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You may not have heard of Joie de Vivre Hotels. The chain doesn’t really shout about itself. In fact it doesn’t really advertize itself at all. It relies on buzz to promote its more than 30 boutique hotels located up and down the coast of California. If you live in the Golden State, or are planning to visit it, it’s definitely worth checking out what Joie de Vivre has on offer.

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Founded in 1987 by San Franciscan Chip Conley, Joie de Vivre is California’s largest boutique hotel collection. At first glance, ‘boutique’ and ‘collection’ do seem like something of a contradiction, but, rest assured, this is no motel chain.

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Each of the hotels, from dozens in the Bay Area, to a smattering around LA, is one of a kind. In San Francisco’s Japantown, for example, the Hotel Kabuki offers Japanese communal baths. In Big Sur on the Pacific coast, Ventana Inn and Spa is the height of low-key luxury.

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Like California itself, Joie de Vivre aims to be fresh, inventive and casual, with hotels that defy convention. They’re also pretty affordable, making a road trip through California an even more interesting prospect than before.

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In San Francisco’s SoMa alone, there are three boutique hotels on one street corner. And if you’re visiting the city with your extended family, there’s one for each generation.

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Firstly, for teenagers and young adults, there’s the Good Hotel. As we described in Been-Seen on a previous visit, the Good Hotel is eco-friendly, philanthropic and hip. Its pared-down interiors are utilitarian, focused on recycling and economy of resources. Recycled chandeliers, bedspreads made from plastic bottles, sinks that double as toilets (or was that toilets that double as sinks? You’ll have to go and find out for yourselves), it has plenty of fun elements for the young and young-at-heart.

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Down the block is the Americania, a retro-style hotel perfect for grown-ups with a keen eye for design. Mid-century in style, its choc-full of pop culture references, toys and games, bubble chairs and Coke bottles. It’s colorful and cheeky, with a rooftop pool to boot.

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And finally, just next door, is the Carriage Inn, a cosy, literary-themed hotel, decorated with eclectic furnishings. Each room plays tribute to a San Francisco eccentric or local luminary, giving guests an insight into the city’s notorious and diverse counterculture. Perfect for older guests with a sense of fun.

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Meet for breakfast at any of the hotels’ eateries, then head off to explore the nearby Metreon, Yuerba Buena Gardens, and the Museum of Modern Art. San Francisco has been voted the country’s most walkable city, and you’ll soon see why. RM

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