Ernie and I flew to Oakland California last Friday. On Saturday we attended an Indian/Sikh wedding. When we received the elegant invitation in the mail a few months ago I told him, “Hon, I’ve never been to anything like this before.”
Ernie, who grew up in India and came to America at the age of 18 many years ago replied, “I’ve never been to anything like this either.”
Our connection to the couple is Ernie’s good friend, Ravi. They were co-workers together many years ago during his days working in the aerospace industry. The couple, both born and raised in the US chose this traditional Indian/Sikh way of getting married. The bride is an attorney. The groom is a pharmeceutical sales rep.
There were Sanskrit words on the ornate red and gold invitation, so I went about looking them up on Google so I’d understand what they were about. Quickly I discovered Indian weddings are a big deal. This one was a two-day affair filled with cultural depth and rituals passed down for centuries.
I have to say this straight up – when I met Ernie, I’d never even experienced Indian food let alone Indian culture or Indian people. All I “knew” was that Indian women were supposedly considered second class citizens and had to walk two steps behind their husbands. Back when we started dating I was terrified that within a few months he’d have me chained to a stove stirring curry. It never happened. We’ve been together 15 years now and he’s the most supportive, kind, thoughful, funny, caring man I’ve ever known.
The evening before the wedding there was a party put on by the bride’s family. Actually the siblings of the bride host the party – but the parents probably paid for it. It’s an Indian traditon. It was held at a Marriott hotel with a open bar featuring Margaritas, a Fajita buffet and a DJ playing Punjabi hip hop faves. Okay, some American hits by Usher and Katy Perry slipped in but it felt Indian.
One of the unique Indian fashion traditions is the bride usually has intricate henna (an herbal dye) tatoos traced on her hands and arms called “Mehndi.” They’re considered a beautiful adornment for the bride. At the party Friday evening a Mehndi tatoo artist was doing designs on any of the women who wanted them done on their hands and arms.
I have a detailed design on my left hand that looks like a heart with leaves trailing up my arm. It has a red/brown cast to it, and, I’m told it will last about 10-14 days. I’m surprised a few people have noticed it since the wedding and pointed it out saying, “Oh, you have a Mehndi.”
Of course the bride had her Mehndi designs done the day before the party and the photographer got pictures of the beautiful designs on her hands and arms a part of the memories of her wedding.
Towards the end of the party there was a ritual where different family members put bangles and charms on the brides arms as a symbol of happiness, prosperity and long life. The tradition is that the bride is supposed to wear the bangles for the first 40 days after her marriage.
On her wedding day, I asked the bride if she wore her bangles and charms to sleep the night before. She told me she kept the bangles on her arms but removed the charms so they wouldn’t wake her so she could get some sleep the night before her wedding.
The bangles were red, white and gold similar to the ones you see in this picture - which are the customary bridal colors of India.
The day of the wedding Ernie and I arrived at the Sikh temple called a “gurdwara” at about 8:00 am in the morning. After a lot of standing around wondering what to do the groom rode in on an ornately decorated horse surrounded by family members who are all dancing, whooping and hollering with joy for the soon-to-be husband and wife.
The bride chose pink as her color and the groom chose purple so there were lots of brilliantly hued pink and purple saris and other Indian apparel. Because both men and women have to cover their heads in a Sikh temple there were also a lot of men wearing pink or purple handerkerchiefs tied on their head to honor the bride and groom.
A light breakfast was served with Samosas, Pakoras and Indian sweets. Indian chai tea was offered along with orange juice. All the food was vegetarian. Volunteers at the temple traditionally cook and serve the food at this meal.
Then people started filing into the actual hall in the temple you see in the picture. Men sit on the left side of the gleaming marble aisle, and, women sit on the right side. It’s a very meditative space and you remove your shoes and sit on the heavily padded and carpeted floor.
In researching a little something about Sikhs, I discovered they broke off from the Hindu faith about 500 years ago. They are not Muslim. They are very peaceful people and most of the 700,000 Sikhs in America are in business, medicine and academia.
The most devout of Sikh men never cut their hair and wear it bound in tight, meticulously wrapped turbans. They are not Muslims – the only similarity with that faith is the turban. Another thing I learned about Sikhs is they believe in complete equality between men and women, husbands and wives. All the unfair treatment of women in the Middle East is not a part of the Sikh faith.
Finally the ceremony was about to start at 10:00 am and the groom came in. He was wearing the most incredible beaded and embroidered jacket that came down almost to his knees. He wore dark red pants beneath the jacket, bare feet, a red ascot and a red turban. The groom in this wedding is usually clean shaven guy with a conservative Western haircut. It’s common for Sikh grooms in America who cut their hair in a standard American way to grow a beard for about a month before his wedding day out of respect for the Sikh tradition among men.
At last the bride appeared from the back of the temple. She was slowly walked up the aisle by two friends – sort of handmaidens. They brought her up the aisle in her gorgeous red wedding dress resplendent with heavy gold embroidery and beading. Her mother and soon-to-be mother-in-law were also a part of the procession walking up the aisle with her to her waiting groom.
Both Hindi and Sikh weddings, very similar, are wordless affairs. No vows are spoken. There is much well wishing by family members as the wedding takes place but no “I do’s” are said.
The groom walks around the altar in the temple and the bride follows him around. They are connected by a sash or a ribbon of red fabric. Each time around the altar represents something – though I never found out exactly what. It’s all done very prayerfully and mindfully. If she follows him around all four laps they are finally husband and wife. Ernie told me that in a Hindu wedding there are seven laps around the altar so the wedding ceremony takes even longer
Once this ritual is completed there is handshaking all around and the ceremony is almost complete. Then, all the wedding guests get in line to give their good wishes to the new bride and groom. They also make a contribution to the gurdwara – I would imagine the money helps to pay for the food. Most people seemed to give about ten dollars each, so that’s what Ernie and I contributed to the kitty.
I’d say there were about 125-150 people at the temple so the line was a slow one. When we got to the front of the line there was a photo op to get your picture taken with them.
Now I said the wedding ceremony is a wordless one – but it’s not a silent one. These three bearded dudes played drums and sang traditional Punjabi wedding music – much like chanting throughout the entire wedding ceremony.
After the ceremony was over we left the main hall of the gurdwara. I removed the scarf from my head and put my stilettos back on. Felt like me again. Once again, volunteers prepared Indian food in a buffet for lunch. This time the food was served by some of the family members. The lunch was a little more hearty compared to breakfast. As much as I told myself “don’t eat any more” – it was just all so good. And there was more to come at the reception.
For a few hours Ernie and I went back to our hotel room before the reception which took place at a lovely venue for weddings and other big events owned by a winery. As we arrived appetizers were served and there was an open bar and lots of milling around. Lots of dancing, too. The music was booming. Ernie and I cut a rug and had a lot of fun, even if we didn’t understand the words to the music.
When the bride and groom made their entrance into the wedding reception room they looked very different. She was wearing a white dress, though Indian in style with a lot of gold embellishment. He was clean shaven and wearing a very modern suit. They both were beaming.
Dinner is served later in India. Same as in Europe. Ever been to Paris and the restaurants don’t even open up for dinner until 8:00 pm? At about 9:15 pm, six huge doors into a buffet area were opened and dinner was served. If this was a food blog I’d go into detail about the food. Suffice it to say everything was the most delicious Indian food I’ve ever had the opportunity to enjoy.
Unlike at the temple – it wasn’t vegetarian. Fish and two kinds of shrimp were served during the cocktail and appetizer hour. During dinner chicken and lamb curries were served. No beef or pork, of course.
Everyone we talked with and hung out with was lovely, gracious and full of fun. Old guys with salt and pepper beards were on the dance floor celebrating. Young women in saris and Indian dresses with the latest platform heels were getting their groove on to the music. It was a once in a lifetime experience I’ll remember with fondness the rest of my life.
Sunday night was approaching and Monday morning we would leave for Vancouver. We already had a car scheduled to pick us up and take us to Seattle’s downtrodden Union Station. We had a few more hours on Sunday evening and wanted to take advantage of our last hours in The Emerald City. We decided to go up to the top of The Seattle Space Needle.
The Space Needle was built in 1961 for that Seattle World’s Fair held in 1962. It’s privately owned by the same family that originally built it almost a half-century ago. It’s 605 feet tall and 138 feet wide at the widest point and was built to withstand earthquakes of up to 9.1 in magnitude. The elevator soars to the top in about 45 seconds.
We were told, when it was built, the original architect bragged in the future all buildings would be constructed this way. Though The Space Needle has a cool, sleek Jetson’s look – it didn’t happen. The Space Needle only has three usable floors of space making it highly impractical for developers and builders.
It costs $18. to go to the top of The Space Needle. Ernie’s ticket was $16 with the Seniors discount. They invite you to spend as much time as you want at the top. Of course, you will find the ubiquitious gift store at the bottom with every Space Needle themed item you can imagine. We had already had dinner, so we weren’t interested in the restaurant at the very top floor. On the floor we were on they had grab and go fast food, soda, bottles of water. I wasn’t too interested in the $7 Kobe Beef Hot Dog, either.
The picture at the top of this post I took with my cell phone after we came down from The Space Needle. Above and to the right you see the Seattle skyline just as all the lights are coming on. And, to the left is a view of the sunset. We checked the local newspaper to find out what time the sun would set. A lot of other people seemed to have the same idea and the outside observatory deck was crowded with throngs of people trying to get the best pictures. After two and a half days of running around town – and seeing as much
of the sights as we could – this was the perfect way to close out our time in The Emerald City before boarding another Amtrak train and high-tailing it to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Getting the layout of the city from way up above we could look down and see all the places we’d hung out at over the weekend. It was fun to pick out the Harbor Cruise boat we took on Puget Sound the day before, Pikes Place Market and other landmarks we visited during our short stay in Seattle.
Ernie and I have different passions when it comes to travel. I want to plug my laptop into a cafe and write. He wants to ride all the mass transit possible in the time he has allotted. As for me? I’m happy to ride a bus, trolley, train or subway to get somewhere. He, on the other hand is content to ride a light rail train to the end of the line. Get off. Walk around for a few minutes until the next bus or whatever comes along to take him back from whence he came.
So, as we travel there are days we will spend together seeing the sights. Then, there are other days when we’ll have breakfast together and each go off our separate ways to see and do what we want. The day we went to the top of The Space Needles was one of those “apart” days.
Here’s how I used that time: I stayed downtown within a mile or two of our hotel. I went to Nordstrom Rack and bought a sexy pair of sandals – but with a moderate heel. I have no desire to wear Space Needle heels to walk in. They turned out to be my most expensive “souvenier” of the entire trip at $50. I also returned to Pikes Place Market to get better pictures for one of the blog posts below. I had fish and chips for lunch at one of the tiny vendors across the street from where they produce and flowers were sold (the fries were tempting – but I just ate the fish). On the way back to our hotel I meandered into a tea shop and sipped an iced White Peach Green Tea and chatted with the owner of the shop.
Then I walked back to our hotel, fired up the laptop in our hotel lobby and got to work – or I should probably say play – writing about our excellent adventure so far. Ernie went God only knows where on the city buses and had Vietnamese food for lunch in a part of Seattle with a high population of Asians. Hey, I don’t completely get it, either. But I respect it – and that’s enough for him. For me – no rides anywhere without at least a point of interest or some kind of destination in mind.
Coming together at the end of the day is always our way of checking in and sharing our adventures from the day. Gives us things to talk about and share with each other. For us, respecting those differences keeps our marriage fun and interesting and keeps our travel more enjoyable. He doesn’t have to be dragged off shopping with me when I know he’d rather stick knitting needles in his eyes. I don’t have to set aside my passion for writing because I’m riding all over kingdom come with my husband who has no particular place to go.
Last time I visited Seattle was twenty years ago. Coming back to the Emerald City was going to be familiar but new at the same time. Ernie and I were looking forward to getting to know the ambience of Seattle during the few days we had to visit.
Because our Amtrak train engine had “issues” (See post: “The Little Engine that Couldn’t.”), we got to our hotel in Seattle at 7:00 pm rather than 4:00 pm as scheduled. We had dinner at a Thai restaurant at the Pacific Place mall. Nice, but my feeling is anything in a mall doesn’t give you the real experience of a city. But hey, it was 8:30 pm by the time we ordered dinner. You gotta be prepared for things changing when you travel. So, we wanted to get an early start the next morning – a Saturday.
At 6:10 am we headed out the door of our hotel to explore and catch the city in the early morning as it’s just starting to shake off the cover of darkness. We headed in the general direction of the harbor area not knowing where the streets of Seattle would quite take us.
In short order we were at legendary Pike Place Market – but it was a far different scene from what most people see when they stroll through. At six-something in the morning it was empty. Some of the flower vendors were pulling their wares out of refrigerated trucks. The fishmongers were getting the crushed ice just right for their fishy displays. The produce vendors were starting to set up their best displays of brilliantly colored fruits and veggies.
This early in the morning there was no fish throwing going on. No street musicians singing and strumming. I stopped into a Starbucks across the street and bought a bottle of water to sip on as we were about to walk back to our hotel to shower and have breakfast. I asked the barista, “Is this the original Starbucks?”
“No,” she replied. “It’s down one block and to the left a few doors.” We decided to come back later.
We trekked to 4th Street and then down Wall Street back to our hotel. Our plan was to return in a few hours.
When we did the area was transformed – with people. Lots of people Wall to wall humanity, in fact. Pikes Place is like a Farmer’s Market – on steroids. There is every type of produce you can imagine. Seafood fresh caught from the ocean that morning. And everything in between.
We started out at The Pike Place Fish Market. This is where the famous “fish throwers” do their thing. Every time someone buys a fish, these guys toss it over the big fish display to the guys waiting to cut it up and wrap it to the customer’s specifications – or ship it cross-country. They are famous for putting on a “show” and shucking and jiving with the crowds. And you can tell they’re having a good time. People crowd in just to see these guys toss fish and joke around with the crowd.
I get why they do it. It’s great marketing. In fact, the Pike’s Place Fish Market has been written about as an excellent example of how a not so unusual business – a fish market – has distinguished itself by providing an experience that’s fun and unique. What blows me away is the crowds. People really dig fish throwing. All that fame probably is a good thing for all the other vendors, too.
We kept walking through the throngs of people. Since we had a refrigerator in our hotel room we bought oranges, apples, raspberries and blueberries to keep with us as healthy snacks. Prices were pretty close to what I pay at Trader Joe’s at home.
At Pikes Place you can find wines, cheeses, meats and sausages, baked goods – including a locally famous donut joint known as The Daily Dozen. I almost bought something called Chocolate Pasta. It’s a dessert. I guess you serve it hot over a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream with a few berries or toasted nuts. I thought it would be a nice dessert, but I never went back to that vendor for it.
Pikes Place Market is so big and so busy you can even find tours to take you through and “show you the hidden gems in Pikes Place so you can experience it like a local.” Yes, the crowds can be a somewhat daunting – but I need a tour guide to go through a market?
The flowers are positively amazing. For a mere five dollars you can get a pretty respectable bouquet. It’s a riot of brilliant color that just makes you feel happy to look at it. For ten dollars you can get a larger, more lush bouquet. How they do it so inexpensively – I have no idea. But I didn’t see any florists shops in the downtown area – they just can’t compete with those prices. I’ll bet a lot of people who live in the area buy flowers to adorn their dining room or hall table all the time when they’re in season.
I’m starting to get it. Pikes Place Market is about food (and other curiosities) as entertainment. It’s crowded but it’s still fun. It’s about the food hawkers who try to tempt you with “just a little taste.” They’re a little silly while being about business. In a way it’s small business at it’s finest. In fact, the market is so expansive and varied I’m going to write another blog post about the food we enjoyed in the area. Stay tuned for more. And if you’re planning a trip to Seattle – you can’t miss it. You might not get Pikes Place as I didn’t at first – but go anyway.
I want to travel more. I want to travel a lot. As a result, to enjoy more time traveling it means watching our dollars as we head out on our excellent adventure. Truth is, I don’t want to “travel” in the typical sense – I want to live in new places – maybe for a month or more at a time.
So, when Ernie and I talked about taking this Pacific Northwest Tour we had to lay out how much money we could spend. If we wanted real elegance – we probably could have taken a long weekend. A little less and we could travel for a week. If we were even more careful we could head out on our excellent adventure for ten days. (If we were willing to camp – we probably could’ve been gone three or four weeks.)
Elegant hotels call my name. Their siren song is seductive. When I step in a gorgeous lobby with pristine decor, excellent service and every detail attended to, I’m putty. In fact, the day before leaving on vacation, my friend Stacey and I met at The Four Seasons in Las Vegas for lunch and reveled in the beauty of it all.
When I worked for a successful author and seminar leader I stayed at lovely hotels traveling on business. I was working 12-14 hour days. Believe me, when I fell into bed at the end of a very long day I appreciated elegance. Still do.
The bathroom sink didn’t work, the shower didn’t work and the TV remote control didn’t work. I brought these issues to the attention of the Manager and he gave us a key to another room to shower and dress. We also got our breakfast free. I appreciated his willingness to make things right, but still.
When we arrived at our hotel in Seattle, I wasn’t expecting much for $79 a night. I was happily mistaken. Okay, it’s not The Four Seasons. It’s not even the Hilton I stayed at last month in San Francisco. But it’s spotlessly clean, the bed is uber-comfortable and the amenities are impressive at double the price.
We got that screaming price because we booked our room six weeks ago at the hotel’s website. We talked with another couple who booked their room just before arriving over the phone and they paid $139. Honestly, that’s still a good price for a hotel room in downtown Seattle Washington.
My experience is, the ritzier the hotel, the more they nickel and dime you to death for extras. For example, $20 more for a wifi connection in your room, $25 for parking. Or, $7 for a bottle of water.
We stayed at The Best Western Loyal Inn on 8th Avenue between Denny Street and Westlake.
Our spotless room had a pillowtop queen size bed, a comfy club chair, a flat-screen TV, a desk and office chair, a microwave, refrigerator, iron and ironing board, fluffy towels, hair dryer, toiletries, a coffee maker and coffee, a safe for valuables, free breakfast, daily newspaper, a dry sauna, a large indoor jacuzzi and free local calling. Oh, the front desk service is gracious, friendly and helpful. The view from our window was alley and a cement block wall, but it seems to me the trade-off was definitely worth it.
Best Western: Loyal Inn
2301 8th Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98121-1907
To visit the website click here now.
We woke in Portland eager to begin our journey further north in the magnificent Northwest. My husband is a train buff. He’s taken trains all over the world. Europe, India, Thailand and much more. So, instead of renting a car and driving to Seattle – we decided it would be fun to take the train.
What made it an easier decision is that Portland and Vancouver have great mass transit systems. Portland has the MAX light rail system and Vancouver has the Sky Train. We figured if we stayed in spots close to downtown, or at least close to mass transit access, we could take the trains for travel in between cities.
So, after breakfast at our Portland hotel Friday morning (More about THAT hotel later. Sigh…) we boarded a shuttle to the PDX Airport a five minute drive away. From there we got on the MAX line which took us to Portland’s Union Station. We got to the station with an hour to spare.
Ernie and I each checked our larger bags. I pulled a small wheelie bag with water bottles, snacks, my laptop (the train has wifi) and a couple books. At 12:15 pm on the dot our train, Amtrak Cascades 506, pulled out of the station. I took the picture below left as we boarded. The train was almost full when we left.
Quickly we crossed the Willamette and Columbia rivers taking us across the border into Washington state. We were close to the water and traveling through what felt like forests, but we couldn’t see the coast. It was green and lush compared to Las Vegas, but not remarkable.
Traveling by train is pleasant and relaxing. The seats are larger and more comfortable than airplane seats. There’s more legroom. It’s almost like First Class on a plane. I got engrossed in a book. Ernie watched what was going on outside the window as you can see in the picture below. After a half hour we went to the “Bistro” to get lunch. I got the Market Salad with spiced walnuts, bleu cheese and dried cranberries on a bed of arugula with an organic raspberry vinaigrette and apple wedges ($6.75). Surprisingly good for train food. Ernie got a Chicken Caesar Salad for the same price. I felt I got the better of the two choices. You pay for your food and then take it to one of the dining cars to eat.
In the dining cars you sit anywhere there’s a space, so you may be joining a total stranger at the table. At first the two other women were engrossed in their smartphones. But after a few minutes we started talking. One woman was an executive with a major hotel chain. The other was a clinical psychologist. We shared a lively conversation, getting to know each other. Finally, we went back to our seats.
At 2:30 pm we reached the Olympia WA station. The conductor got on the loudspeaker and announced the engine on our train had mechanical problems. In fact, the engine stopped a few miles ago and we coasted in to the station. Coasted! That’s when things got interesting. For the first half hour I stayed seated and kept reading my book.
Finally we were told we could go outside and stand on the platform. Below is a picture I took of our hobbled train. The platform is a long strip of concrete running along side the train, ten feet wide. That’s it. The weather was lovely – but we were stuck. If we left the platform area we couldn’t get back on the train.
We kept getting conflicting reports. There was talk about sending buses, but those were another couple hours away from arrival. Everything was up in the air.
Try as I might, I couldn’t get clear information from any of the crew members. They seemed to want to help – they just didn’t know. The crowd on the platform started thinning. Some people called friends and family to pick them at the station.
After two and a half hours, we learned another train, the 516, was traveling northbound from Portland headed for Seattle. However, the conductor told us the 516 is always full on a Friday. I asked him to call just to double check. He called and miracle of miracles, Ernie and I got a reservation number.
I ran into the station with the reservation number to get tickets from the ATM-style machine. Then, ran back to the train to retrieve our bags. All while being told the 516 was arriving “any minute.” We got on the new train and left the rest of the people from the 506 standing on the platform. I have no idea how many hours they stood there until finally getting alternate transportation.
Another 20 minutes up the tracks we were traveling along Puget Sound. The views are breathtaking. Deep blue waters, green pine-y forests, the silhouette of mountains and the sun hanging low in the summer sky. I could breathe again and we were excited about arriving in Seattle and enjoying The Emerald City.
If you’ve gotten to know me a bit through this blog and my facebook page – you know this time of year I’m all about getting out of the oppressive Las Vegas summertime heat. It’s actually been a moderate summer for us – but its still too hot for me. If the heat outdoors wasn’t bad enough, getting into an even hotter car several times a day is worse. The temps inside the car are 130 to 140 degrees Farenheit. By the time my car cools, I’ve reached my destination ten to fifteen minutes away. When I get out of the car to go to a meeting – my car quickly starts heating up again.
Since moving to Las Vegas almost ten years ago I’ve wanted to do a Pacific Northwest Tour, enjoy the beauty of that part of the world and get out of the blistering heat. Finally – we’re going!!
This evening (today!) we’re flying to Portland Oregon. We visited Portland in August eight years ago and loved it. We were even considering the possibility of moving there. We wanted to visit again to see how we felt about the city during the rainy winter season. It rains a lot which is why it’s so gorgeous and green. Ernie was crazy about the light rail system. I was crazy about Powell’s books and the sense of history you feel in this city
What stopped us? Ernie’s daughter-in-law was pregnant with his first grandchild. He didn’t talk a lot about being a grandfather. But before making a big move from Las Vegas to Portland, I wanted to
see how he was as a Grandpa. Believe me, the minute his son Dave put hours-old Angelica Rose in his arms at the hospital the day she was born, I knew we wouldn’t be moving anywhere for awhile. We’re still living in the same home in Las Vegas.
The morning after we get to Portland, we’ll head from our hotel to Portland’s Union Station. We’ll board a train for a four hour journey to Seattle, Washington. I haven’t been to Seattle for 20 years and I’m sure things have changed.
We don’t have a lot on our list of places to visit beyond the Space Needle and Pikes Place Market. We’re just going to see what attracts us once we arrive. We’re open to suggestions and ideas. On Saturday August 20th we plan on stopping in at Uptown Espresso and we’re having a little get-together with our Seattle Facebook friends. It’ll be interesting to see who shows up for our meet and greet.
Here’s what I don’t quite get about Pike Place Market. Every tourist visits the market – but I’m not sure why. To see big ol’ fish flying through the air? I don’t quite get the appeal. After all, if you’re staying in a nice hotel room, you can’t exactly clean and gut a fish and grill it and top it with a Buerre Blanc sauce, y’know?
But I WANT to get it. So we’re going. Sure, we can buy some fresh fruit and enjoy it while we’re strolling around the city after lunch perhaps. Nice to have a healthy option. We’ll see – part of an excellent adventure is coming to understand what different sights are about.
After three days in Seattle we’re heading back to the train station and boarding again. This time we’ll be taking another four-hour journey and crossing the border into Canada (Yes – our passports are ready!) and going to Vanccouver, British Columbia for three days.
I haven’t been to Vancouver for a few years and both times I visited previously was for business trips. Sure, I tried to squeeze in a little time at the end of my trip to see a few sights – but business beckoned. This time it’s for fun.
Honestly, there are only two items on our agenda to do while in Vancouver: Stanley Park and we’re having another meet and greet event. I’ve invited all my facebook friends who are in Vancouver. I’m pretty excited, I think we’ll have about a half-dozen or so who’ll be showing up. We’ll be doing that one on Wednesday August 25th at Aroma Cafe & Bistro not far from the Elizabeth Park area.
I’m sure there are lots of amazing things we’ll find to do while in Vancouver. Maybe we’ll visit the Olympic Village. My husband is looking forward to riding the Sky Train around town to get from place to place. You have to understand the man I married. He’s a big train buff. He’s traveled on trains all over the world including Europe, India and Southeast Asia. To me, it’s just an efficient way to get around. To him getting to the destination IS the destination.
I remember when he got back from his Southeast Asia trip which included visiting sights and riding trains in Taipei, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos he spent one night at home and then flew to New York where I was at a big conference. What did he want to do? Ride the subways, of course. This trip is light on trains for him – but it’s a good balance for both of us. When I got back from my recent trip to San Francisco with my sister Cherie, the first question he asked was, “Did you ride the trolleys?”
After three days in Vancouver, we’ll board another train. This time for an eight hour journey all the way down the coast and back to Portland again. We’ll spend three more days in Portland and then we’ll finally fly back home to Las Vegas again.
Travel is about what you see and savor along the way. For us, it’s not about extreme travel hacking our way through the depths of a rain forest or hang-gliding off the top of a mountain. An excellent adventure is about visiting a city or a country and pretending – even if it’s for a few days – like you’re a local. It’s also about sharing time together without the hustle-bustle of our lives at home.
I plan to write on my laptop at cafes – because that’s what I love to do. I’m sure I’ll write several restaurant reviews and write about what we see and experience along the way. At home it’s hard to squeeze in time. We’re looking forward to the adventure and hope you’ll hang out here and see what we’re up to along the way.
My sister Cherie’s husband, Ray, travels a lot on business. My experience is people who travel a lot for business get to try out a lot of good restaurants in different cities. Ray recommended we have a meal at Scoma’s during our weekend. We were planning to have dinner at the Fisherman’s Wharf location on Saturday – but it wasn’t meant to be and we ended up at Postrio’s instead. On Sunday, we took the ferry to Sausalito and decided to have lunch at the Scoma’s location there.
Scoma’s in Sausalito is housed in a quirky building perched out over the bay. There are spotless, starched white linens on the tables and a fresh iris on each one, adding a pop of color. I don’t know how old the building is, but it feels old – early 1900s old. Think of a house that’s been added-on to over and over.
We lucked out. Our wait for a table on Sunday for lunch at about 1:00 pm was less than five minutes. Oh happy day! The place was lively with couples, families, business people, girlfriends hanging out together. Linda, our server, was terrific. Friendly, fast, efficient and knowledgeable. Oh, and fun.
We started by ordering two appetizers. The Cajun Shrimp and the Fire Roasted Artichoke. The shrimp were colossal and juicy-fresh. There is a certain amount of heat I associate with anything that’s called “Cajun” on a menu. Remember, my husband Ernie is from India. He enjoys heat. Not the “take the top of your head off” crazy heat I see on Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. But a pleasing, linger in the back of your throat warmth I’ve come to appreciate.
Unfortunately for me at least, the Cajun spice on these shrimp was very mild and definitely meant for American palates – not for people who really enjoy a little “caliente.” A small arugula salad with a light vinaigrette came with our shrimp.
The Fire Roasted Artichoke with Garlic Aoli was addictive. Have you ever wanted to order the largest, most decadent dessert on the menu, and just indulge and call it dinner? I’ve never done it – too much sugar. But that’s close to the joy Cherie and I felt scarfing down this artichoke. And, how cool is this… it’s a green veggie – so it’s healthy. Couldn’t stop. The artichoke was perfectly cooked with a light smokiness. The Aoli was fresh and creamy-smooth. A wonderful pairing.
I probably could’ve eaten another Fire-Roasted Artichoke and called it good – but onward.
We went back and forth on what to order for our entrees. Cherie ended up getting the Alaskan Halibut. I ordered the Stuffed Sole with a filling of Shrimp and Crab and a Lobster Sauce.
Cherie’s Alaskan Halibut was served on top of what tasted like escalloped potatoes with Broccoli Rabe on the side. She enjoyed her lunch and said the halibut was flaky and light. My Stuffed Sole was what I expected – very mild and delicate. The Lobster Sauce on top seemed suspiciously like Lobster Bisque ladled on top. Since Lobster Bisque is one of my favorites, it’s one of those soups I know right off the bat when I taste it.
The Stuffed Sole was accompanied with white rice and garlicky Haricot Verts. I skipped the white rice. The garlicky green beans seemed like the most adventurous offering on the plate. Maybe I’m picky. It tasted fine, if a little bland for my tastebuds.
Don’t get me wrong, Cherie oohed and ahhed over everything. It’s a lovely dining experience with a lot of history in this amazing Bay area. The views out the window of the water and sky are amazing. So it’s really a matter of preference on how you like your food seasoned and the kind of dining experience you crave.
If you like American foods without a lot of fuss, adventuresome sauces or surprises – you will love dining at Scoma’s. However, if you like discovering little hole-in-the-wall places with the most authentic Vietnamese Pho or a Greek bistro where the shouts of “Opa!” and flames shooting from plates of Kasseri cheese ring out, Scoma’s might not be your cup of tea no matter how much it’s steeped in San Francisco tradition.
When Linda came by suggesting dessert – well, you know how it is. You don’t need dessert. But Cherie and I had been sugar-free all weekend. And hey, if you’re going to have dessert – why not indulge at Scoma’s, right? So we ordered one dessert with two spoons. Cherie ordered Coffee and I got Mint Tea. Yeah, I know. Tea again. It’s my thing.
The picture above doesn’t do our Apple-Blueberry Crisp with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream justice. By the time I snapped it, we already dug in and enjoyed a few bites. I’d totally forgotten to take a picture. In my estimation, it was perfect. I’ve had desserts combining blueberries with peaches – but never blueberries with apples. The healthy buggers are in our frig at home almost every week – they are known for reducing cholesterol. They’re also a yummy taste of my Michigan roots. This Crisp combined hot, cold, tart, sweet, smooth and crispy. What would be better?
If you want to experience San Francisco seafood, Scoma’s is certainly a legendary place to do it. Our lunch was relaxed and elegant and much of the food was very good. There was creativity in the Fire-Roasted Artichoke and the Blueberry-Apple Crisp. Next time I go to Scoma’s, I think I’ll get the most decadent meal ever for me: the artichoke, a bowl of Lobster Bisque and the Blueberry-Apple Crisp, all to myself.
We arrived in San Francisco on Friday afternoon. It was finally Monday and my sister and I had a few hours remaining before it was time to make our way back to the Hilton at Union Square where our bags were waiting and get a cab to the airport and our flights home. Cherie was shopped out. I was walked out. After a disappointing visit to Ghiradelli Square (most of the boutique-y shops are out of business now) we were
Suddenly Cherie said, “How ’bout we rent one of these for a couple hours.” I looked over and saw this screaming, taxi-cab yellow mini car called a “Go-Car.” They have three wheels and hold two adults. Barely. We had to watch a safety video and wear helmets for the ride. They also have a GPS-guided tour that tells you where to turn and a little bit about the history of certain landmarks and spots of interest. As you can see in the picture of Cherie on the right, you give the Go-Car gasoline like you would on a motorcycle. You’re warned not to drive over 30 miles per hour. Oh, and stay off all freeways and bridges.
The Go-Car putts along merrily. You’re sitting very close to the ground. The open “cabin” where we were seated is so tiny we had to put our purses in the even tinier trunk. A friend asked me, “Is it as small as a SmartCar?” I replied, “Take a SmartCar and cut the roof off and you just about have the size of the Go-Car.”
It doesn’t have a “reverse” gear. So, if you park somewhere to get out and look at the sights around you, you have to push the Go-Car out of your parking space, get back in, start it up (sometimes questionable) and get started ambling on down the road again.
The tour started out heading south, away from Fisherman’s Wharf and the Embarcadero. Soon we passed Ghiradelli Square again. Just a mile or two down the road we were away from the hustle-bustle of the city and along the waterfront. We saw lots of para-sailers on the East Beach. Apparently the endless wind blowing off the Pacific and the currents provide an almost constant opportunity for fun on the water.
The city is finally behind you. There are no skyscrapers. Soon, the iconic symbol of San Francisco, The Golden Gate Bridge, comes into view. As you look toward the water it’s almost as if you’re away from civilization except for the famous rusty-red bridge.
As we drove closer and closer, the bridge loomed larger and larger. You don’t realize what a massive structure The Golden Gate truly is until you get up close and personal.
We were right up next to the water’s edge. There’s a turn-off point just before going over the bridge where people can stop, take pictures and admire this engineering marvel. I think Cherie was a little afraid we’d end up driving on the bridge. In fact, there’s a little tunnel that actually burrows under the bridge and keeps heading south to some amazing places I’d never seen in previous visits to San Francisco.
We drove through The Presidio, and, as we drove we listened to the GPS Lady Guide fill us in on the highlights. I took a few pictures of Golden Gate Park as well. It’s a different world from the city nearby. Our handy-dandy GPS guide told us about the history of the place and how a man with a vision for a nature park at the city’s edge, a Scotsman named MacLaren was responsible for it’s development in the early 1900s. You can smell the fresh scent of pine trees. It’s lovely and green. There’s no other words to describe it except outrageously green, stunning, relaxed, Zen and a happy place.
One of the crazy things about the Go-Car was driving down hills. You would think that little putt-putt engine would have a challenge driving up hills. Not so. We would drive down a hill and and about a block or so from the bottom the Go-Car engine would peter out. A little scary at times with traffic around us, but Cherie stayed calm (no wonder – she and her husband are sailors and both certified sea captains). She always managed to get us started again while I was almost ready to bite my nails.
My guess is coming down the hills the Go-Car is running on gravity and there simply isn’t enough gasoline going through the fuel line to keep the engine going adequately. That’s just a guess.
Somewhere along the way we must’ve taken a wrong turn because the GPS Lady Guide went silent. There was a map on the tiny dashboard of the car. Cherie said, “Figure out where we’re at and how to get back to the Wharf area to return the Go-Car.” I didn’t want to tell her I’m pretty navigationally-challenged when it comes to maps. Even worse, my reading glasses were in my purse in the trunk so I couldn’t quite see what I was supposed to be figuring out.
If you look at the picture to the right (road and dashboard), in the lower right corner there’s a little orange box. It holds business cards. Okay, it wasn’t a smart move on my part, but I decided to wedge my cell phone in the box. It kept wanting to fall between my legs onto the floorboard and I thought it’d be safe. Again, my purse was in the trunk. We were less than a mile from the garage when Cherie hit a pothole. Before I could react my purple Blackberry went flying out of the box, banged onto the pavement and skittered under a parked car nearby.
“Cherie!” I screeched above the engine noise. “My cell phone!!” Quickly she pulled over and said, “I’ll drive around the block while you go find your phone.”
I unhinged the seatbelt, leaped out of the Go-Car and started jogging up the sidewalk, without a clue which car my phone landed beneath. Suddenly a man walked toward me with something outstretched in his hands. “Is this your cell phone?” he asked. In three separate pieces was my phone, the battery and the back cover. I thanked him profusely and then returned to the corner beaming as my sister picked me up. When I put the pieces back together again – it worked. Disaster averted!!
The Go-Car is a fun adventure to enjoy for a few hours in San Francisco. Just keep your helmet on, stay confident the engine will start again if it peters out, and, don’t put your cell phone (or anything else of value) in that little orange box on the dashboard. Have fun!
Postrio’s on Post Street was the perfect spot for my sister Cherie and I on Saturday evening. The picture to the right really doesn’t do it justice. We actually sat on a rather cozy mezzanine level looking down on the dining room you see in the picture.
Actually, we thought we were going to end up at a different restaurant that evening. However, when we got there – we saw almost no diners inside and so we decided to keep walking and find something else. A few doors away – we stumbled upon Postrio and walked in.
When we walked in my first thought was “expensive.” A sparkling bar, brass, red brick, white linens and gracious crown moldings. All add to a sense of cozy elegance. After all, it’s a Wolfgang Puck restaurant with a second location in The Venetian in Las Vegas. But as I discovered, it doesn’t have to be.
Our waiter, Ifal, pictured left was warm, friendly and knowledgeable. I haven’t visited the Postrio’s in Las Vegas – I will now after dining at the San Francisco location. I call the cuisine where we ate “California Southern.” Well, mostly.
Cherie and I shared a salad of arugula, peaches, red onion, rye croutons and chevre in a light lemon-poppy vinaigrette ($10). What you see is half a salad after a couple bites. Ifal had our salad divvied up onto two plates so we could both enjoy without picking at one plate. The sweet Georgia peaches made a piquant contrast to the tangy chevre (goat cheese). Just right.
I wanted something homey and not to horribly adventurous, honestly. I ordered the Roasted Eggplant Gratin ($14) for dinner because I love eggplant and it sounded somewhat similar to Eggplant Parmesan. Served up in a gratin dish this was a medley of eggplant, diced tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach.
The menu said the dish was topped with a Bechamel (white sauce) and Mozzarella. I only tasted the Mozzarella. Who’s arguing? If I was in my kitchen I’d top a dish like this with Mozzarella so I was happy with that part of the Roasted Eggplant Gratin.
Taste is such a subjective thing. I’m sure the chef feels this recipe is just right. It was tasty and homey, exactly what I was in the mood for, but for my taste – I would’ve liked more garlic in the Gratin. When I think about ingredients like these – my thoughts go to Italian food and in my humble opinion, you just gotta have garlic with Italian ingredients. If you’re not a big garlic lover, my Mom for example, you’ll love it as is.
Cherie, ordered the House Smoked Baby Back ribs ($17). On her plate were four meaty, tender ribs in a spicy, not at all sweet, sauce. The sauce wasn’t overly spicy but it did deliver a kick of pleasant heat at the back of your throat a minute later. Her plate also included Haricot Verts (French green beans) and a flavorful salad made with sweet potatoes and an acho-sherry vinaigrette. Never met a sweet potato I didn’t love. A great way to enjoy ribs without going hog wild.
There were also wood-fired pizzas available ($13-20.), a lobster club sandwich ($26), a braised lamb shank ($22) and several other selections.
I felt the prices at Postrio were very reasonable for the quality received. Especially when you consider we were dining in Union Square, a very pricey area. Heck, I can go to Chili’s in my neighborhood in Las Vegas and a half rack of ribs (4) is $17.99 (I know – I know, Puck would probably be offended and disturbed if he knew a writer was comparing one of his menu items with Chili’s.) Hey, I’m just being pragmatic here. Everything on our plates was of far better quality then that chain restaurant with the plastic chili pepper on the sign. Clearly, I’m not a fan of Chili’s - but I know somebody’s gotta eat there or they couldn’t keep the doors open. This is real food like your Mom or Grandma would make. It’s not jacked-up with a bunch of cloying, overly sweet sauces on top of deep-fried meat parts.
I’m just saying there is good food available at a moderate price point when you get away from the big chain restaurants and seek out something just a little different.
After we paid our modest check and walked out the door at Postrio, Cherie and I felt we made a good choice.
The food was honest and tasty in reasonable portion sizes – not huge platters. Although the menu is clearly American the portions are more European in scale, rather than the American massive that’s become the norm. We both appreciated that. Postrio’s is a great find as you walk up the hill away from Union Square toward Nob Hill. If you’re visiting San Francisco, or live there, it’s a lively, fun, enjoyable stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
545 Post St
San Francisco 94102
(In the picture above I’m wearing a couple of my Chinatown finds – the hot pink pashmina and the brooch. Fun!)
San Francisco is an amazing city with so much great shopping and restaurants. It actually rivals Paris for one of my favorite cities in the world. Not that I’ve visited ALL the great cities. But of the cities where I have experience – SanFran is definitely a big favorite.
We stayed at the Hilton because we wanted a home base with plenty of amenities that would feel accommodating and welcoming. The Hilton provided that and more. We arrived by taxi and there was Benny (see left) to open the door and welcome us with a smile.
Every person we encountered at the Hilton greeted us with a warm smile and a friendly word, even the woman who cleaned our room. Check in was fast, friendly and efficient. Despite the fact we arrived at a busy time of day (about 4:30 pm) at a busy time of year – we waited less than five minutes to get checked in.
The lobby at the Hilton is a big bustling space. There’s a Starbucks in the corner – a welcome sight. Free wifi in the lobby means there’s always a handful of people working away on their ‘puters.
Sunday morning my sister went to church while I brought my laptop down to the lobby, plugged it into an outlet and settled in with a Chai Latte to work. I enjoy working in lobbies of elegant hotels. Always have. The bustle of people nearby is like music and I seem to focus well in that environment.
The Hilton at Union Square has three towers. We stayed in the first one. We were on the 41st floor so it afforded us outstanding views of the city. When the fog finally cleared Sunday afternoon – we also had a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Our room was spacious, immaculate and bright. I expect no less from a Hilton. We had a nice desk with a true office chair – perfect spot for my laptop, iPad and recharging cell phones when needed. You can see the decor is traditional.
Hipsters can say what they will, when you’re running around all day sightseeing, or, on an uber-busy business trip coming home to a welcoming, comfortable room is pleasant indeed. The picture on the right is my sister Cherie and I on Saturday after our afternoon foray to Fisherman’s Wharf and massive crowds of people. We braved the crowds for awhile. Honestly, all I really wanted to do was get back to our room where we could relax in comfort and figure out what we wanted to do for dinner that evening (another blog post to come).
Our beds and pillows were super comfy. At home, my husband and I have a pillowtop mattress with a down feather topper and 600 thread count sheets – so I’m used to indulgent, cozy comfort at home. There’s nothing worse than scratchy sheets and a mattress that feels like you’re sleeping on a board all night. I slept like a rock all three nights in Hilton comfort.
The bathroom made my sister and I feel like stars with a marble vanity and a lovely framed mirror. Oh, and don’t forget the big, fluffy towels. One of the little niceties I really appreciated was the toiletry items by Peter Thomas Roth. That brand is a very expensive line sold on QVC (yes, the TV shopping channel) so it was even more luxurious to use shampoo, conditioner, bath gel, body lotion and other treats from an elegant line.
When we arrived, we decided to have breakfast at the hotel each day. I’m staying away from the white carbs like bread, potatoes and pancakes, so having a choice from the buffet works to put together a hearty, healthy breakfast the way I like it.
Since I live in the land of buffets – Las Vegas – I’ve learned over the years to scope out all the offerings available and find what you really enjoy, first. Far better than grabbing a plate and piling stuff on mindlessly. Yes, you can eat all you want. However, for me it’s all about selection and choice.
The restaurant at the hotel is called “The Urban Tavern” and it has a Nouveau Rustic charm that’s welcoming and casual while still retaining a degree of elegance. A difficult blend to achieve – however the Urban Tavern pulls it off.
I loved this wall in one room with rustic beams, primitive urns and softly glowing candles. Well, faux candles – but they still add a nice warmth. In another room there is a colorful sculpture of a horse done in brightly-painted metal. It’s huge – about the size of a real steed. It’s almost as if the restaurant is about an old-style tavern jacked up into 2011 sensibilities and modern flair.
What really counts is the food: many of the items on the Breakfast Buffet were staples you’d expect. The Pastries in a tempting array of the patisserie chef’s skill. The Omelettes to order, Scrambled Eggs, Sausage, Bacon, cut-up Fresh Fruit, a variety of Juices, Cereal, Oatmeal and more.
But there were little happy surprises that greeted us every morning as well. Smoked Trout to go with your Bagel, Tomato slices and Capers. I loved the Steamed Salmon served up from the buffet line in Asian bamboo steamers. Miso Soup, Congee (sort of an Asian porridge) with Chicken and shots of Mango Tango juice kept things interesting and fresh each morning. Oh, and the Urban Tavern offered tiny glasses of Baked Greek Yogurt (about three bites worth) which was almost as good as a silky Creme Brulee with breakfast.
The service was crisp and professional each day. However, on Sunday morning we got an exceptional server who gave us sightseeing ideas and tips. He seemed to genuinely care about us enjoying our entire day, not just our breakfast. In the picture left Cherie raises a glass of fresh orange juice before we head out for another day of experiencing all San Francisco offers.
In a city that’s often shrouded with fog and temps in July stay below 60 degrees you might think the pool would be overlooked. After all, I was more focused on packing sweaters and socks after checking the Weather Channel for San Fran a few times and didn’t give a thought to bringing a swimsuit.
While I’m accustomed to outrageous pool playgrounds with swim up bars, fake beaches and piped in party music in Las Vegas – if you want to go for a dip the Hilton’s pool is clean, inviting and kept at a perfect 84 degrees year round.
I wish I got a picture of the Health Club. It’s about double or triple the size of what you typically see at a hotel. There were six treadmills, elipticals, stair climbers, recumbent bikes and a variety of gym equipment where it looked like people were getting a pretty good workout. Walking around the city was my workout for our stay – but if I was attending a conference or business meetings, I would certainly make use of the facilities provided.
The picture above certainly isn’t my best work – but I wanted to show you the view from our room I snapped at about 10:15 pm. All day long you could look out the big picture window as the scenery keeps changing from hour to hour. The light in the upper left corner is the flash from my camera, of course.
One more little surprise I enjoyed at our hotel was a cozy area just adjacent to the bank of elevators that whisked us up to our room: I call it the library. Just a cozy, comfortable sitting area. A great place to read a book or how nice to bring your Venti Macchiato from Starbucks and have a quiet business meeting in this space. Most of the time no one was sitting there.
Our entire experience at the Hilton was one where we felt well taken care of. Things seem to work the way they’re supposed to. There were no unhappy surprises – just pleasant ones. Sparkling, clean rooms are great but they’re an expectation, not a surprise. Same with food that’s served hot – it’s supposed to be that way. However, Baked Greek Yogurt, an unexpectedly spacious Health Club, a perfectly heated pool, a library-like sitting area and a smiling Doorman named Benny are all little, happy surprises that seem to be the day-to-day experience of staying at the Hilton at Union Square.
333 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco,
California, United States 94102
Tomorrow’s post will be about our dinner at Postrios.
Gotta go to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 when you go to San Francisco. After the mass of humanity we experienced while there – you might question why. But the seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the delicious standards the city by the bay is known for and so, especially if it’s your first visit, you gotta go.
My suggestion: try not to go on the weekend, if possible. I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t take the pictures you see accompanying this post. I found them online. I’m not a big picture taker, I’d been taking pictures all day. But there were so many people – far more than you see here – I forgot to take my camera out of my purse.
I feel these pictures accurately depict what we experienced. However, they came from online.
We got to Fisherman’s Wharf at about 4:30 pm Saturday afternoon and it was mobbed with people. The Wharf is home to the fishing industry on the harbor and some famous seafood restaurants. Every time I’ve been to the Wharf and Pier 39 in the past I’ve loved it. This time I didn’t – because of the crowds. But if you can slip in on a weekday it’s a not-to-be-missed adventure.
Pier 39 is a festival marketplace. In 1979, a guy saw a vision of totally refurbishing this pier that was piled with junked cars and make it part of the Fisherman’s Wharf experience. It worked.
You know what it’s like when you’re tired, you’ve been going all day, and, you’re walking zombie-like through the mall or some other place? That’s how I felt. Time to go home. It’s probably not realistic to write a real review under these conditions. I’m just reporting on what it was like for me.
So, we went into “Pier Market” pictured right and were lucky to get a table right away. It has that fish house on the pier look, nice, but not particularly fancy or special. We were grateful to have a place to sit and relax after making our way through the crowds outside.
When you eat at a place like this you’re paying for location, location, location. It’s all about actually being on the famous pier enjoying seafood. Cherie got a Gin and Tonic. I got a five ounce glass of white wine. We ordered a Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and a
Crab Cakes appetizer. Our total tab with tax and tip came to: $52. I’m not an expert, but that seems high to me. Everything tasted fine – but there was nothing spectacular or special or intriguing about it. This is food for American palates – not too spicy – simple and uncomplicated. It’s not pretentious or high-falutin’.
One of the classic dishes in San Francisco and especially at Fisherman’s Wharf is Clam Chowder, especially served in a Sourdough bread bowl. Since Cherie and I were avoiding white carbs, we didn’t order it. But I’ve enjoyed it in the past. It’s darn good eating for about ten bucks anywhere on the Wharf. It’s probably your best bang for the buck in filling up inexpensively on an authentic San Francisco treat.
It’s amazing how despite the crowds and the high prices there’s such a uniquely American spirit of fun at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. It’s a family kind of place and really has a festival feel. We did enjoy ourselves there. We enjoyed looking out the big windows to the boats in the marina. Despite the madness of the crowds on the pier – looking out on the boats in the harbor is relaxing.
Once you’ve visited Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, pretty much everything else you see in San Francisco is based upon your interests – it’s all up for grabs and it’s all out there to enjoy. You can do the whole thing in a couple hours, or, if you’d like you can spend the entire day there. It’s all up to you.
Even the street performers like the Silver Man (left) you can watch for 30 seconds or watch his routine for 30 minutes. These guys painted in silver with robotic-like moves and sounds are a fixture on the wharf. I’ve never visited without seeing at least one of them doing their thing. Most of them are hilarious and I’m happy to throw a dollar in the kitty in exchange for being amused by their antics for a few minutes.
The whole idea at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 is to visit with a spirit of participation, curiousity and a sense that it’s an enjoyable way to see, smell, hear and taste new things. And isn’t that what an excellent adventure in travel is all about?