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Interview with Brendan Carlin, General Manager of Cavallo Point Lodge from San Francisco

Cavallo Point's history dates back to the 18th century. The complex that was Fort Baker military base in those years is currently housing to the Cavallo Point Lodge with the Golden Gate Bridge view, on the coast of the San Francisco Bay. I talked with Brendan Carlin about Cavallo Point Lodge.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Brendan Carlin, General Manager of Cavallo Point Lodge

Brendan Carlin, General Manager of Cavallo Point Lodge


by Melisa Kaya

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From Fort Baker military base to Cavallo Point Lodge. The location is the same but all the buildings have been restored and the purpose of use is now very different and friendly. Cavallo Point Lodge is surrounded by Golden Gate National Parks, overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. With historic and contemporary lodgings, Healing Arts Center & Spa, Murray Circle Restaurant and Farley Bar, the Cooking School, and dedicated team, Cavallo Point Lodge offers a unique experience to the guests. I asked Brendan Carlin, who has been the General Manager of Cavallo Point Lodge since the fall of 2014, about the past and the present of Cavallo Point Lodge.

Brendan, before start talking about Cavallo Point Lodge, could you tell us about yourself?

My father was a Navy Intelligence Officer so I had lived in Asia, the South Pacific and several European cities by the time I returned to the continental US at 14. I went to high school and college in Virginia where I met my wife. After we married, we left for our honeymoon to Maui and never returned. Seven years and three beautiful girls later, I was promoted to the Executive Assistant Manager at the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage. From there, I opened the Ritz Carlton Sarasota before taking a general manager job at a small boutique hotel in Beverly Hills, the Mosaic. After 5 ½ years of launching a successful new hotel and brand, I was offered the general manager job with Vail Resorts, at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen. From there, I was recruited by the Joule in Dallas before joining as the general manager of Cavallo Point in the fall of 2014.

You are responsible for a historical heritage. How do you successfully manage Cavallo Point Lodge which has so many different features? What is your secret?

I manage Cavallo Point with 385 amazing Ladies and Gentlemen with a common goal that is always evolving.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Cavallo Point Lodge has more than a 100 years of history. Could you briefly tell us about the history of Cavallo Point Lodge?

Cavallo Point Lodge is an upscale, environmentally, family-friendly resort set within Golden Gate National Parks at the foot of the famed Golden Gate Bridge. Once the site of the Fort Baker military base, today meticulously restored turn-of-the-century officer’s quarters and sensitively designed new buildings respect the site’s stalwart history and majestic natural setting. The 10-acre parade ground of Fort Baker remained an active Army post through World War II and, in 1973, Fort Baker was listed as a Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places. When the Golden Gate National Parks were established in 1972, Fort Baker was designated for transfer to the National Park Service when no longer needed by the military and turned from a military post to a 350-acre national park site in 2002. In 2008, the site was transformed into Cavallo Point Lodge, an enchanting and environmentally sustainable “base camp” where the city’s urban edge meets the rugged Marin coast. Since opening, it has earned much recognition, including LEED Gold certification and being named No. 59 among the World’s Top 100 Hotels and ranked as No. 5 in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure magazine who also previously named the hotel as one of America’s top new national landmarks. Cavallo Point Lodge sustains Fort Baker’s stalwart legacy, as it preserves historic landmark buildings, restores natural habitat, protects the environment, and ensures access to the revitalized national park site for generations to come.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

You are welcoming your guests with the Golden Gate view. Could you tell us about the Cavallo Point Lodge and the overall concept?

Cavallo Point Lodge is an environmentally sustainable resort set in a cove surrounded by fragrant Eucalyptus trees at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Its prime location allows guests to enjoy iconic, panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay, and the San Francisco city skyline. Cavallo Point Lodge is truly a California treasure and its unique setting ensures visitors are naturally infused with magical views and vistas from nearly all points of the property. Cavallo Point Lodge offers a luxurious hotel experience achieved with ecological intelligence. In this breathtaking setting, sophisticated urban living melds with nature’s wonders in a blend that is harmonious but not austere. The result is rich with authenticity, comfort, and quality, but free from excess and ostentation.

What type of different suites do you offer to your guests? What are their features?

Cavallo Point offers two room categories, crafted with distinctive features but are a century apart in character and style: the 68 Historic rooms and suites once served as officers’ quarters for Army personnel, which have been beautifully restored to the Colonial Revival specifications of Fort Baker’s original architecture, giving lodge a clean, elegant look that harmonizes with the surrounding nature.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge The Frank House - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Ideal for small groups and families, the Frank House is an historic residence/suite-style room offering 1175 square feet of living space. This distinctive house features two bedrooms, each with a queen bed, walnut furnishings and period details. Highlights include; sweeping views of Fort Baker, San Francisco Bay and the city; separate living room with gas fireplace; and private glass-enclosed sun porch to enjoy the views year-round. A small kitchen provides a refrigerator, cooktop, microwave, coffeemaker, and other necessities.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Historic Two-Bedroom Suite - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Our Historic Two-Bedroom Suites are our most spacious accommodations, with an average of 800 square feet. All offer two bedrooms and one bathroom, making them ideal for families or small groups traveling together. Some have stunning San Francisco Bay views. One bedroom has a king bed and the second bedroom has one queen bed. Also available is The Loft Room, a charming third floor walk-up with two twin beds in the second bedroom. Both options include a separate living room featuring an inviting gas fireplace and queen sleeper-sofa, which can accommodate two additional people.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Historic Loft - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

The Historic Loft is a two-bedroom room type, with an average of 800 square feet. On the 3rd floor, The Loft offers two bedrooms and one bathroom, making it ideal for small groups traveling together. One bedroom has a king bed with an inviting gas fireplace and the second bedroom has two twin beds. A separate living room features a queen sleeper-sofa, which can accommodate two additional people.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Historic King Suite - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Historic King Suites feature a king bed, vintage details, and exceptional amenities - plus an average size of 540 square feet. An inviting gas fireplace enhances the separate living room, where a queen sleeper-sofa can accommodate two additional people. Some suites enjoy panoramic San Francisco Bay and city views. Outdoors on the first floor, rocking chairs on shared front porches beckon guests.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Historic Deluxe - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Each Historic Deluxe with a View features a king bed with high-quality bedding and organic linens, vintage architectural details and inviting gas fireplace. All feature breathtaking San Francisco Bay and city views, sitting room, ceiling fans and windows that open to bay breezes. Each Historic Deluxe features sitting and sleeping areas, either a king or queen bed with organic cotton linens, and vintage architectural details. First-floor guests enjoy shared front porches with rocking chairs.

And the other room category is our 74 newly constructed Contemporary rooms and suites of modern design, set on a hillside, offering spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Contemporary King Suite - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Contemporary King Suites are our most exceptional accommodations of modern design. Most feature breathtaking views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Offering 578 square feet with the separate sleeping area and sitting area with window seat, each expansive suite is defined by a two-sided gas fireplace to enjoy from both spaces. Each has a king bed, double sinks, separate tub & shower, and spacious patio or deck to savor the view. Secluded and romantic, these luxurious suites are perfect for intimate getaways.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Contemporary Deluxe King - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Contemporary Deluxe Kings feature modern design, one king bed, bamboo furnishings, gas fireplace, sitting area with window seat to read or relax, luxury amenities, and patio or deck with outdoor furnishings to savor the scenery. Most feature stunning views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Averaging 478 square feet, these spacious and secluded suites are perfect for romantic getaways.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Contemporary King - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Each Contemporary King room offers modern design, one king bed with organic linens, bamboo furnishings, inviting gas fireplace and a private deck. Most rooms feature views of either the San Francisco Bay and/or Golden Gate Bridge. More like a standard hotel room, this lodging offers a spacious 350 square feet.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Contemporary Two Queens - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Our Contemporary Two Queens feature modern design, two queen beds in one room, and inviting gas fireplace. Some rooms enjoy views of the San Francisco Bay or Golden Gate Bridge. Accommodating up to four persons in 450 square feet, this room is ideal for families with children or friends traveling together.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Healing Arts Center & Spa - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

What kind of special services do you offer to your guest for making their stay unforgettable?

The Lodge features a Healing Arts Center & Spa offering indulgent spa treatments, where guests can rejuvenate with organic facials, massages, shamanic journeys, and individualized wellness packages. The Cavallo Point Mercantile, with an adjacent Art Gallery, is an alluring stop for guests and visitors from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Featuring elegant and eco-friendly clothing, tasteful jewelry and accessories, Cavallo Point Signature Goods and innovative products by local artisans, the store's warm ambiance encourages guests to discover its treasures. Personal discovery and growth are encouraged and nurtured at Cavallo Point Lodge through a variety of activities, including cooking classes, watercolor classes, daily morning yoga, weekend afternoon teas, live music performances, guided hikes beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and even an Eco-Luxe Pups package for traveling pets. Children enjoy the next-door Bay Area Discovery Museum or playing on the parade ground lawn. Guests can also, of course, venture off the property to enjoy a plethora of adventurous activities the SF Bay Area has to offer.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Murray Circle Restaurant - Photograph by David Wakely

Cavallo Point Lodge host to Murray Circle Restaurant. Could you tell us about the Murray Circle Restaurant and Chef Monique Feybesse?

Melding a warm, casual elegance with a dramatic setting under the Golden Gate Bridge, the Lodge’s Murray Circle restaurant features the seasonally inspired, ingredient-driven Northern California cuisine of Chef Monique Feybesse, Chef Mike Garcia and their talented culinary team. Chef Feybesse and Chef Garcia source local, seasonal, farm-focused ingredients selected weekly from the area’s farmers and fishermen. Highlighting refined modern Northern California cuisine anchored to its Marin roots, the freshest local ingredients and stunning views, a meal here is inspired.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Farley Bar - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

A similar market-driven philosophy guides the seasonal specialty cocktails at the adjacent Farley Bar, which is a Bay Area favorite. Understated and relaxing, it offers a small-plate menu, creative cocktails, cozy fireplaces, leather club chairs, and a bar crafted from a fallen tree. Farley Bar's merry mix of lodge guests and locals provides the social heart of Cavallo Point. The three-time, Grand Award-winning wine cellar boasts one of California’s deepest and most diverse collections, featuring more than 2,000 options.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge The Cooking School - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

And another culinary location is the Cavallo Point Cooking School with a different purpose. What are the details?

Previously rated #1 Hotel Culinary School by Gayot.com, the Cavallo Point Cooking School is led by Head Chef Tony Adams and is an intimate place to taste, create and explore. Filled with natural light and top-of-the-line culinary equipment, the Cooking School offers an ever-changing roster of cooking classes and programs flavored by the bounty of organic offerings from the San Francisco Bay Area. All classes are led with a keen eye toward seasonality, sustainability, and stewardship. The Cavallo Point Cooking School is 1,200 square feet in size and features four comfortable workstations for hands-on classes. For demonstration classes, two flat screens linked to adjustable cameras provide a close-up look, and comfortable chairs and tables accommodate the students. There is a maximum capacity of 20 people in the hands-on cooking classes and 30 in the demonstration classes. Country wood tables and Heath Ceramics create a beautiful dining experience when the meal is ready to be enjoyed with wine (of course!).

Additionally, in summer 2017, the Cavallo Point Cooking School launched an exciting dining series for couples and small groups: "Chef's Counter – Exclusive Seats at the High Table." The memorable three-hour evening event welcomes up to six guests. Currently available once per month, the exclusive, chef-driven experience showcases an evening full of exceptional food and wine that begins with hors-d'oeuvres and Champagne, followed by an exquisite meal of four courses along with wine pairings from Cavallo Point's Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine cellar. Guests enjoy a curated, high-end dining, interacting with and learning from the chef as he deftly prepares each gourmet dish before them. The experience is not quite a chef-prepared meal at home or dining at a high-end restaurant, it's somewhere in between. And the result is a unique experience and elevated meal from Head Chef Tony Adams, who attends to his guests and cooking with equal care and attention.

There is Healing Arts Center & Spa at Cavallo Point. Could you tell us about this special spa and spa treatments?

The Lodge features an 11,000-square-foot Healing Arts Center & Spa with 11 treatment rooms integrating the best cultural healing practices from around the world. A heated outdoor meditation pool is a focal point for guests, as well as the Tea Bar, featuring teas, snacks, and herbal tonics. Spa treatments include facials, massages, and body wraps, while healing arts services include herbal consultation, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, and shamanic journeys with a resident shaman.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Healing Arts Center & Spa - Brad Jacobs, resident Integrative Medicine doctor - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

We even have our very own resident physician, Bradly Jacobs MD, MPH, who offers complete solutions for healthy, vibrant living. His integrative health approach responsibly combines the best of modern medicine with established wisdom and traditional East-West practices. Working in collaboration with his clients, Dr. Brad develops state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic plans tailored to individual needs and circumstances. Dr. Brad addresses diverse concerns - ranging from chronic health issues to healthy aging to work-life balance. Dr. Brad provides cutting-edge clinical care by combining conventional medical treatments with the following: Acupuncture; Dietary Supplements (Herbal Medicines, Vitamins) recommendations; Nutritional counseling; Fitness and body awareness programs, including yoga and martial arts practices; and Mind-body relaxation techniques.

Please tell us about your services and amenities. How could your guests spend time at Cavallo Point Lodge?

Additionally to features of our rooms that I mentioned before, all guest room accommodations feature a variety of luxury amenities:

Most rooms face south; many enjoy views of San Francisco, the bay or Golden Gate Bridge; Windows that open to San Francisco Bay breezes; Ceiling fans; Gas-burning fireplaces in most rooms; Fine organic linens & cotton towels; Certified organic cotton robes; slippers; Large flat-screen LCD televisions; Wine hour, 4 – 6 pm daily; Coffeemaker; Iron & ironing board; Hairdryer; Mini-refrigerator; Alarm clock with iPod plug-in; Desks with reading lights; Comfortable chairs, ottomans & throws; All rooms non-smoking; ADA rooms available; Bellman & Concierge services; Lexus vehicles available for guest use; Complimentary shuttle provides round-trip transportation to San Francisco and Sausalito Ferry Terminal; Additional services and amenities are included in a per night, per guest room $28 resort fee

What can your guests do when they step out of the Cavallo Point Lodge?

Part of a large and vibrant community, Cavallo Point is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the dynamic offerings in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. The region offers great opportunities to enjoy sightseeing, activities, performances, and events. Our dedicated concierge staff is pleased to provide guests current information on the area's ever-changing roster of activities like museum exhibits; performances at the opera, theater, ballet, and symphony; and more. Among many other activities, visitors can venture off to downtown Sausalito, take a walk or bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to explore San Francisco, enjoy a ferry ride to the famous former prison, Alcatraz, borrow a complimentary Lexus car and explore the abundance of local trails within the Marin Headlands and/or Muir Woods.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge Weddings - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Every bride wants to organize her wedding with Golden Gate view. Could you tell us about your wedding services? What could you offer to make their special day more special?

Cavallo Point Lodge is one of Northern California's most romantic locations. The lodge marries breathtaking beauty in a historic setting with understated luxury, inviting accommodations, award-winning cuisine, venues, and activities all on site. Flexible indoor and outdoor event space includes the historic Mission Blue Chapel. With its verdant park setting and panoramic vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco city skyline and Bay, Cavallo Point Lodge has an iconic backdrop for outdoor weddings. If the couple prefers, the lodge also provides beautiful options for indoor weddings. Once a military fort, built in the 1910s Colonial Revival style, the lodge highlights beautifully restored interiors. The lodge has one of the few unaffiliated chapels in the San Francisco Bay Area, the original chapel features a high, peaked ceiling and a burnished wood floor. The lodge is a retreat where couples can focus on celebrating their commitment their way. Additionally, Cavallo Point provides wedding packages for couples and the dedicated wedding team works with each couple to ensure a smooth and unforgettable experience.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge "La Mariposa Borracha" Vintner's Room - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Meetings and event spaces are very important for local and international companies, and in San Francisco, it is one grade more important. Please tell us about your meeting and event spaces. What type of services do you offer to your business clients?

Cavallo Point Lodge offers more than 29,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting and event space in a dramatic setting at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Lodge offers historic and high-tech green meeting facilities and outdoor event staging areas unlike anything found in Northern California and is an ideal alternative meeting venue for business meetings, corporate retreats, executive think tanks, sustainable conferences, weddings and special events for groups of 10-300. Cavallo Point is where culture, culinary discovery and adventure meet. The lodge offers abundant outdoor recreation and educational opportunities on-property, including our Cooking School, Healing Arts Center & Spa, and private gathering places provide venues for deeper connections and inspiring fun. In addition, our expert team of "experience designers" can work with individuals to customize a program for the group's specific needs and culture. Groups can also choose to explore the area outside of Cavallo Point and enjoy unprecedented access to activities such as hiking, biking, bird watching, and kayaking. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area encompasses more than 30 national park sites, including famous forts, rugged Pacific coastlines, verdant redwood forests and hundreds of miles of spectacular coastline trails, including park sites easily accessible from Cavallo Point: the Marin Headlands, Muir Woods, Angel Island, and Alcatraz.

Could you tell us about the awards that the Cavallo Point Lodge has won?

Cavallo Point Lodge has earned several top environmental accolades for its exemplary commitment to the environment, the community and establishing responsible travel practices, as well as top awards in the travel & hospitality industry.

Awards include:

  • LEED Gold certification
  • Travel + Leisure’s Global-Vision Award in the category of Sustainability
  • America’s top new national green landmarks by Travel + Leisure
  • Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards 2015: #1 Best Hotel in the San Francisco Bay Area & #2 Best Hotels in California
  • 2015 National Geographic World Legacy Awards in the category of Sense of Place
  • Winner of Virtuoso’s 2017 Best of the Best Award in the category for Sustainable Tourism Leadership
  • Wine Spectator Grand Award 2016, 2017 and 2018
  • Sustainable spa of the year - Green Spa Network | Spa Sustainability Awards 2014
Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

What kind of additional services do you offer for leisure and business travelers?

And Cavallo Point Lodge includes the following services and amenities in a per night, per guest room $28 resort fee:

  • Valet and self-parking
  • Wi-Fi and hard-wired internet access in your guest room and throughout the property
  • Access to fitness suite
  • Morning yoga class
  • Complimentary shuttle providing round-trip transportation to San Francisco and Sausalito Ferry Terminal

How can travelers make their individual or business/group reservations? Do you have any advantage packs that you offer to your regular and long-term guests?

Individual and business/group travelers can make their reservations through our own reservations and sales team located on the property or through our website: cavallopoint.com. Local guests are offered a 50% discount off of suites during low occupancy Sundays.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge - Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood

Which is the top season for travelers who want to visit San Francisco? What is the reason?

Due to the temperate climate of Northern California, the San Francisco Bay Area is a year-round, seasonal destination. However, it’s important to note that the typical “summer” season from June through August is not really a summer season in San Francisco. While the rest of the Bay Area experiences summer weather, it is typically quite chilly and foggy (think low 60’s)in SF during these months. September and October typically boast the warmest days of the year in SF and visitors will enjoy sunny and warm, yet temperate, days.

What are the most famous attractions near you?

The obvious attraction is, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge located just next to Cavallo Point. Other local famous attractions include Alcatraz Island in the middle of the Bay, the Marin Headlands, Muir Woods, and many attractions located in the city: Golden Gate Park, Ghirardelli Square, the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, Haight-Ashbury, the original Chinatown, among many others.

Cavallo Point Lodge

Golden Gate bridge - Photograph by Michal Venera

If you have only one weekend in San Francisco as a first-time visitor, in this limited time, what are the best things to do?

The options are endless! As referenced in my previous answer, there are a plethora of amazing activities to see and do as a first-time visitor to San Francisco. A “foodie” would love the Saturday farmers market at the Ferry Building. This local attraction features a mecca of local farmers, artisans, and a wide variety of wonderful, unique ingredients to taste test. Depending on the weather, one could enjoy a nice stroll or bike ride across the Golden Gate bridge, followed by a great lunch at Cavallo Point or another great restaurant in Sausalito. If shopping is your thing, check out Fillmore street in the Lower Pacific Heights district, which is great for high-end designers and local boutiques or Union Square located downtown with a wide variety of brand stories (but beware of the crowds!). Haight-Ashbury is a great place to explore, shop, eat, drink and learn about San Francisco’s famous “hippie culture” from the 60’s. And on a nice day, the locals (think young adults and families) swarm to Dolores Park in the Mission district, which features a playground and amazing views of the city.

Anything you would like to add that I haven’t asked?

If you’re planning a trip to San Francisco, Cavallo Point truly offers the best of all worlds. We are the only five-star resort in the SF Bay area, with waterfront access and situated on 90 acres inside of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. We are also only 25 miles from the town of Sonoma and 15 minutes from Muir Woods.

Thank you Brendan for your time and this enjoyable interview.

For more information, please visit website of Cavallo Point Lodge

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