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.
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!
From Union Square you walk uphill on Grant Street, and before you know it – about six blocks away – you’re at the gate of Chinatown. (There’s a Starbucks right outside the entrance. We stopped there to reload on bottles of water.)
There’s a bustling Chinatown in New York, and, there’s even a sort of strip mall version of Chinatown in Las Vegas where I live.
However, I always think of the “real Chinatown” as the one one in San Francisco. After all, the Chinese people started coming to the USA in the 1850′s to work on the railroads built to connect the east with the western frontier. Many worked for very low wages or even as slave laborers. So they’ve been a part of this country and particularly this city for over 150 years.
If you’ve never been to Chinatown and think it’s just another tourist trap part of town, think again. The Chinese population has always been an vibrant part of the culture. There are more than just Chinese restaurants and trinket shops. Although there are plenty of those. There are large Chinese-owned hotels and banks. Chinese and other Asian names pepper the election ballots.
A slight diversion: I loved this sculpture of a street bench with the three monkeys, “Say no evil. See no evil. Hear no evil.” Just one of the little surprises you see here and there in San Francisco. Cause for a smile in unexpected places.
Interesting thing I learned about my sister while in Chinatown, “Wow! Can she ever shop!!” It wasn’t all just for her, of course. Cherie was thoughtfully, happily purchasing gifts for birthdays and Christmas for her grown kids, her daughter-in-law and her new grandson, less than a year old.
Kidding I asked, “I know you want to keep the economy going here in America – do you have to do it single-handedly?” She laughed, full of fun.
Cherie has a special connection with Asia. Both her adopted children were born in Korea. Okay, it’s not China, but it’s Asia. One item she bought for her grandson (half-Korean) is a little tiny black satin jacket with gold emroidery and pants. “I want a picture of him in it,” she said.
You still find Mao jackets, jade jewelry and iron teapots. But I also saw clever items like purses in Chinese brocade fabric – shaped like a Chinese food carry out container for under 20 bucks. Very cute. Lovely tea cups with built in tea strainers (for people into loose leaf teas) for just $5.
Plenty of other surprises made me feel Chinatown is stepping up and looking at their customers and making their merchandise a better fit for who buys in their shops. Far better then what I recall in the past. I remember these shops offering cheap T-shirts and silly souveniers that collect dust in the back of a cabinet until they’re re-gifted.
As a marketing mentor, I thought one area where Chinatown is behind is how merchandise is displayed and shown off. They could take a few tips from successful retailers. You often see untidy piles of merchandise. Not arranged neatly – just piled up. Some shelves look like they haven’t been dusted in months. All the stores try to compete by having the best prices.
In my humble opinion, they must not understand marketing. When you only compete on price – it’s a race to the bottom and business owners’ suffer as a result. But as a customer if you’re willing to sift and sort through the stacks and piles – you can find wonderful deals.
In one store they had these really pretty bracelets in many colors all piled up for only six dollars each. I got one in a pale pink – looks like rose quartz. The other is a magenta color. Okay, I’ve told the world on my blog about my inexpensive bracelets – but who cares. I like they way they look. No one who sees me wearing ‘em will know they were in a massive pile of bracelets rather than on an upscale display fixture.
The shops all have signs in them that say, “No pictures” but I did something against the rules and shot a picture of this display of Buddhas and statues. I thought even if they were all piled up together, it still had a loveliness that I found pleasing and almost like a little shrine tucked into the back of this shop.
I subscribe to the rule I don’t buy new things unless I’m willing to get rid of something old. Or, if I really have a space for something without crowding other things – I’ll buy something new. So, I bought the two bracelets. I got a hot pink silk/wool blend scarf for four dollars. And a lovely cloisonne pen for just twelve dollars. Oh, I also bought a pretty brooch at a jewelry shop that offered some very unique and reasonably priced merchandise. I love brooches and wear them more than necklaces – just part of my style.
Simply don’t have room for a single Buddha statue or even an iron tea pot. I enjoy shopping as much as the next woman – but when it makes sense. At this stage of my life my home is full of stuff. I believe in buying beautiful things so I always enjoy using them. Even the mixing bowls in my small kitchen are lovely. That way I’m never pining for trinkets or dust collectors to pretty up a corner of my home. A little sumpthin’ sumpthin’ I learned many years ago.
Even though I didn’t buy a lot in Chinatown, I could still enjoy the adventure of strolling around in the shops and enjoying the buzz of people and riot of colorful items I COULD have if I wanted.
Next post: my review of Samovar Tea Lounge.
You eat food in the airport you KNOW you shouldn’t have – because you’re captive. You pay, pay, pay for it afterward.
Suddenly, you leave the airport, the tide turns and life is wonderful again. It doesn’t take much. A friendly, informative cabbie. A great meal served up by a friendly waitress who seems to care.
Sustenance is joyful when it tastes like the experience my sister Cherie and I enjoyed here in San Francisco our first evening at dinner.
We walked from our hotel to Union Square. She hadn’t been to SanFran in decades, so she started snapping pictures. We stopped in Williams Sonoma, then Neiman Marcus.
Yes, we have NM in Las Vegas, but here in the City by the Bay they have a stunning stained glass window at the top of a rotunda I wanted her to see. It’s truly magnificent as you can see above.
Oh, and we had to see the Loubotin shoes. Only $995 for one pair of staggering pumps with trademark fire-engine red soles. I knew they were expensive, but wow, that’s about a mortgage payment for Ernie and I.
Then Cherie exclaimed, “Geez, it’s after seven o’clock. We need to figure out what to do about dinner.”
I figured we’d find someplace on the walk back to our hotel. We did: Santorini Mediterranean Cuisine. The menu is mostly Greek with some Middle Eastern specialties in-between.
We walked past a two-piece combo playing soft, easy jazz. The tables were set with creamy white linens and the wood chairs looked like they were shipped in from an Athens bistro.
Now, I gotta digress: A few months before meeting my husband Ernie, I took the trip of a lifetime and visited some of the Greek isles, including Santorini. The place is heart-achingly gorgeous. You never want to leave. So anything with the name “Santorini” is starting right out of the gate with an emotional advantage for me.
Our server Lara was friendly and helpful. First we were brought a saucer with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped walnuts and a little mint. On another plate was freshly baked pita bread. Cherie said the bread was soft and tender, perfect for sopping up the olive oil blend.
Since we’re both trying to stay away from white carbs (we’re not perfect at this by any means) we asked Lara if there was anything she could bring us from the kitchen to enjoy the olive oil combination without bread. Out she came with a plate of peeled cucumber chunks and slices of tomato. Perfect!
We both ordered an entrée salad ($17) that featured mixed field greens, toasted walnuts, crumbled Feta cheese, roasted beets, carrots and a pomegranate vinaigrette. You have a choice of topping the salad with grilled chicken, salmon or prawns. I thought I’d order the salmon.
Then I noticed a plate of Gyros meat float by. Gyros is that spicy, savory, uniquely-Greek combination of ground lamb and beef sliced off a vertically spinning spit and usually enjoyed in a Gyros sandwich. We asked Lara if we could have our salad topped with Gyros meat instead. She was happy to oblige.
So many amazing flavors in one pairing: the tart-sweet of the dressing, the hominess of beets, the crunch of walnuts, the sharp, creamy tang of Feta and the bite of red onions. Top with Gyros meat, and, for my sister and I, it was the tastiest, comforting, yet moderately healthy meal (in a low-carb kind of way) I could imagine for a first dinner on an excellent adventure.
After our meal, Cherie got a scoop of Pomegranate Sorbet while I ordered mint tea. Being a good sister, she let me take a bite. It tasted like cold, crushed berries with a touch of ginger. Fresh and authentic.
We left Santorini’s and walked back to the Hilton a few blocks away. The elevator whisked us back up to our room. Once there we couldn’t stop remarking about what a good choice we made – just by stumbling into a little bistro kind of spot along the way. In fact, we liked it so much we went back on Sunday evening for dinner and had a second terrific experience with a different server. Love it when that happens.
Santorini Mediterranean Cuisine is located at:
242 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone number: 415-402-0060
Website: click here
Watch for my next post all about our shopping trip into Chinatown, San Francisco, CA.
In about ten days I’m going to San Francisco. My sister, Cherie, will be flying out from Denver to join me. We’re going to spend four days and three nights in the City by the Bay, as Tony Bennett crooned many years ago. Our plans are pretty loosey-goosey. I’m sure we’ll do some sight-seeing, it’ll be about sister time and retail therapy, too.
I remember the first time I went to SanFran I didn’t want to return home. My then-boyfriend literally had to drag me back on the plane back to Detroit. I just loved the culture, the diversity, the architecture, the hills, the cable cars and the bay. I was blown away by it all. In a good way.
I went for high tea at Neiman Marcus in Union Square. It’s the most elegant and relaxed event. The restaurant clings to an oval shaped balcony perched several floors above the shoppers. On the ceiling is the most spectacular, oval stained glass window. I remember that from my first trip many years ago.
Eight years ago I surprised my husband with a trip to San Francisco at Christmas. We flew there on December 27th and flew home New Years day. Ernie’s a train buff, and, I thought what better city for him to enjoy trains, cable cars, trolleys, etc.
Unfortunately I came down with a cold on Christmas day. So I’d go sightseeing with him in the morning. He’d go out exploring on the various forms of mass transit in the afternoon while I relaxed in our hotel room and nursed my cold. In the evening we’d go out to dinner.
On that trip, we stayed at the Sheraton close to Fisherman’s Wharf. The room was compact but elegant. This trip, sis and I will stay at the Hilton in Union Square. I’ll be sure to post a video blog about it. Gotta remember to bring my flipcam.
I’ve been checking the weather reports (here) and I can’t wait to get out of the Las Vegas desert heat for a few days. We’ve been baking in 110F. degree temps the last three days. San Francisco is supposed to be about 75F degrees for the high temps on the days we’ll be there.
On my last trip to San Francisco, since it was over the holidays, I thought it was an appropriate time to write my goals. I remember going to the opulent Fairmont Hotel at the top of Nob Hill and sat in a comfortable chair in the lobby and wrote and wrote. A crisply-uniformed waiter brought me fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice as I wrote. I hope I get time for something like that this trip. We’ll see.
There’s something about an adventure to a dynamic, diverse, vibrant city like San Francisco that makes life wonderful. I can’t wait.