While we were away this past week, Deb commented on how much planning a getaway has changed. It used to be, you sent away for brochures from the city/state’s tourism bureau then you could order guidebooks and triptiks from AAA. Then came the Internet and suddenly you could plan a variety of visits in advance, make reservations, and schedule things fairly tight, maximizing your time.
We have always wanted to go to the Pacific Northwest so decided to start in Seattle. Saturday started with the amazing Central Branch of their public library which is 10 stories and has interesting design within. From there we walked down to the docks, strolling and browsing shops and eating fish by the water. We then wandered into town, stopping in Pioneer Square which is a nice area with funky shops for browsing. Then we met up with our old friends Mike and Liz Flynn for the tour of underground Seattle. I had always been fascinated with the concept since seeing it in The Night Strangler and while good, I had hoped to see more. While on the tour, we walked past friends from Fairfield so had enough time to hug hello and run off. After the tour we went to the other side of the area, Alki Beach, where we had dinner at the funky Luna Park Diner then walked the beach, watching the sun go down.
On Sunday, we continued our multimodal visit by taking the monorail to the arts center where the Space Needle and EMP museum reside. The Fantasy and Icons of SF exhibits were impressively designed, splitting time between literary and media so I was pleased. From there we took the ferry to Bainbridge Island and wandered the shops there for a few hours. Back on the main land, we used a bike rickshaw to head towards dinner along the wharf.
Monday was all about food. We wandered all through the famous Pike Place Market, which had an impressive comics shop among the many other stores. But the highlight was the Gourmet Seattle Tour which, for three hours, meant we were eating. Our guide, Nick, took us to eight different locations, telling us all about the rise of foodie culture in Seattle. At each stop, we were giving tastings along with comments from either the owner or the host. So, there were cupcakes, pizza, chowder, fish, mushrooms, beer, beer sausage, and gelato. Not being a drinker, they arranged alternative drinks so I loved my virgin cranberry mojito. We were stuffed and quite happy.
We then took Amtrak on Tuesday, riding through the countryside and coast towards San Francisco. For this 24 hour journey, we had a sleeper and mostly hung out in the parlor car watching the scenery. We wound up befriending a couple from New Zealand and their delightful 15 month old daughter.
Once in San Francisco, we continued to take other modes of transit from trolley car to bus to ferry. Wednesday saw us wandering all around Chinatown and Telegraph Hill where we visited the COIT Tower and its majestic view. On Thursday, we returned to the Wharf area where we found a really cool Arcade Museum with items dating back to the 19th century. I reverted into old habits, dropping quarters into the original Star Wars video game and having a ball. We then found the U.S.S. Jeremiah O’Hare, one of the last remain liberty class ships from World War II so we took the self-guided tour and found it fascinating. That afternoon we took a walking tour of Fort Mason. As a part of the public library system, they have a non-profit group of volunteers who give upward of 95 different walking tours of the city and we selected this one almost at random but were pleased with our guide’s knowledge and what we managed to see. Once done, we treated ourselves to Ghirardelli ice cream sundaes before hiking back to the hotel.
Friday saw us taking an early ferry over to Sausalito, which had been recommended by several on the previous day’s tour. Similar to Bainbridge, it was a mix of shops and restaurants but was relatively unimpressive and perhaps the low point of the trip. As a result, we took an earlier-than-planned ferry back and wound up deciding to have a few hours of downtime since, after all, this was a vacation.
Thanks to modern technology, when it was time to eat, Yelp! Or Open Table provided us with plentiful choices and reviews. We wound up with tasty Mexican, French, and Italian dinners that we would otherwise have missed.
Our final day was spent walking in a different section of the city, taking a walking tour of mansions where we heard some great stories and saw a wide variety of styles. Once done, we wandered down by the water, intending to hit the Presidio but stopped at the impressive Palace of Fine Arts, the last major relic of the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition. We were stunned at its magnificence and from there hit the beach for a walk then took the bus back to the room.
Thankfully, the flight home was uneventful and we returned at a reasonable enough hour allowing us to pick up milk, some dinner, and unpack before collapsing. And now it’s back to summer work and the remaining weeks of my time off.