California Travel Articles
Scoutin' & Scootin' San FranBy Jane Cassie
Photos by Brent Cassie
For the past five years we've commemorated our anniversary by re-visiting the fun-filled city of San Francisco - and in our minds, there's no better place to help re-kindle our love! There are countless cozy cappuccino cafes, exquisite boutique-style hotels made with lovers in mind, and incredibly scenic views from every hilltop that your feet will take you - or in this year's case …our scooter! With our aging disposition, somehow those hills no longer seemed quite as alluring or enticing …or at least not on foot. American rentals offered us a number of alternate two-wheeled modes of transport in which to view the scenic sites. Motorcycles for those with an appropriate license (which we did not have); bicycles demanding self-propelled pedal-pushing power (and that seemed like more work than hoofing it!); Zap electric powered boards (which we could imagine our sixteen-year old loving)…. and the almighty scooter. Actually with both of us snuggled onto our 'Elite 150', almighty was hardly the appropriate descriptor - but it sure was a blast! Never being a Hell's Angel wanna-be, a Harley-Davidson hero, or for that matter, even much of a leather kind of gal, I felt somewhat naïve to the ins and outs of riding piggy-back on anything motorized. "You've got to lean into the turn…just follow me," Brent reassured, and after a couple of heart-thumping, saddle-swerving kilometers, this law of gravity became somewhat instinctive and we were off to the races - or should I say the beaches! En route, we passed through the Presidio Army Museum, revealing it's two hundred year history from 1776, when the first Mexican Spanish rulers set up post, to the departure of the US army in 1994. A gateway of towering evergreens bordered the scenic 'route forty-nine' and an onslaught of breezy gusts were our first clue that the California coastline was soon to come.
We, and at least a dozen other camera-clad first-comers, couldn't resist a Kodak moment, when those spectacular gabled towers of the world-renowned Golden Gate came into view. A five-kilometer promenade promised exhilarating views of the spectacular span while we meandered past wind-shaped cypress trees, eroding rocky bluffs, and never-ending vistas of the pounding Pacific.Motoring on, along the water's edge, we pondered the historical Cliff House where, although its current drab-like exterior was not even a mere resemblance of the original 1896 French Chateau, it's splendid site remained as dramatic as ever. We felt mesmerized by the tumultuous surf as it crashed beneath the craggy rock foundation and watched it set the stage for a few experienced surfers. Offshore, rendezvous rocks also set the stage - not for surfers but for stellar sea lions and hordes of gulls. Our venture continued into Golden Gate Park, where its one thousand acres offers all types of recreation amenities. Deciding to take a breather from our strenuous muscle-wrenching scooting machine, we soaked up a few glorious California rays and watched blading, biking, boarding and barbecuing enthusiasts enjoy this inner city chunk of greenery. The park also 'promises a rose garden' boasting six thousand plant species from all over the world.
Moving onward and upward (and I mean upward!) our Elite 150 chugged the steep and winding gateway to what appeared to be to San Francisco's heaven -Twin Peaks, and gazing out, we witnessed breathtaking panoramic vistas of the forty-seven square mile city. Unless site-seeing when sunrise watercolours are said to be 'more sensational than a vibrantly painted canvas,' the spectrum is predominantly pale gray, reflecting the city's abundant density of pastel-toned homes, where row on row corrugated bay windows bow in hopes of capturing a view.From the left-wing's Haight-Ashbury conglomerate neighbourhood, of modern day punks, left over hippies, and anti-war activists, we passed through to its nearby yet contrasting companion, Pacific Heights, where gothic arches and Corinthian pillars front palatial mansions for the nouveaux riches. Down Union Street, after putting into North Beach's little Italy, we snacked on an authentic pizzeria delectable while being enshrouded by the twin spires of St. Peter and Paul from our Washington Square bench rest-stop. Dragon lights ignited the bordering Grant Avenue leading into densely populated Chinatown, where fish swam in tanks, chickens awaited their slaughter and there was more bok choy than we could balk at. By ascending the nearby stairs at the head of Filbert to Telegraph Hill's Coit Tower, we witnessed it all -including panoramic views of the bay, the downtown core, and even the island of Alcatraz. Our homebound route took us past the plethora of souvenir shops, gift stores and varied Fisherman's Wharf seafood houses offering their daily catch. Crowds gathered around mimes, magicians, musicians - and others who entertain -in order to maintain their San Francisco lifestyle! Although tourist-packed, it can be an enjoyable afternoon visit, but don't forget your walking shoes, especially if you want to make the trek up to Ghiradelli Square, where serious chocoholics, like myself, will have a field day! Even though the only exercise my thighs endured all day was the scooter straddle squeeze, the resonance from a nearby cable car bell was music to my ears. Our retreat for the night was located on 'the other side of Russian hill,' and the idea of hiking its landscaped terrace to the sky, where the grade becomes too steep for anything but steps, did not particularly sound like a rushing experience! Despite the lengthy line-up, low gear via cable car offered the same sweeping city view with a lot less stress on my knees and Nikes. Our boutique hotel was located a short two blocks from Union Square where, from park benches, the less fortunate and flocks of greedy pigeons witness an ever-turning wheel of fashion. Powered by distinguished stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom's, the contrasting souvenir outlets, bookstores, and chic shops also lure a multitude of browsers and buyers to this city's hub. Hotel Vintage Court, our home sweet home, was a comforting and relaxing reprieve after our day of seeing the sites. Also home to the legendary Masa's Restaurant, endless gastronomical pleasures were offered here through Chef Julian Serrano's exquisite French cuisine. Arriving just in time for the evening wine reception, we mingled with other guests next to the lobby's flickering fire where round-the-clock, French-roasted coffee and an assortment of fine teas were also available during our stay. If visiting for business purposes you may want to make use of their richly appointed private boardroom or the complimentary morning transportation to the Financial District. If, as in our case, your visit is a celebration of romance, we highly recommend booking the grand suite where breathtaking city views, the wood-burning fireplace and an exquisite Jacuzzi tub will surely enhance your scoutin' and scootin' San Fran. adventure! How To Get There:
Address: 2715 Hyde Street (at Fisherman's Wharf)
Phone: 415-931-0234 To Stay:
Hotel Vintage Court
650 Bush Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Ph: 415-392-4666 or 1-800-654-1100
Website: http://www.vintagecourt.com Jane and Brent Cassie are a travel writer/photographer team. Follow their other adventures on their website - www.janecassie.com.
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