A Travellerspoint blog

Relaxing in Riverside, California.

2016.

snow

Tio's Tacos Restaurant - Riverside

Tio's Tacos Restaurant - Riverside

"Riverside."

We hit upon the idea of going to Riverside just to break up our journey to Las Vegas. That turned out not to be a very good idea as you will see if you read my greyhound bus tip. Neither of us knew anything about Riverside, but when I started to research it, it sounded like quite a nice place ­ which it most certainly was. We did not have a huge amount of time in Riverside as we arrived in the afternoon and were scheduled to leave early the next morning. In terms of sightseeing we stuck to the centre of town. I was very impressed with the art work, constructed out of rubbish at Tio's Tacos Restaurant. We strolled Main Street looking at the statues of famous people. We visited the Mission Inn which is probably Riverside's most famous sight. We admired several lovely churches. We noticed, but did not visit, several museums. We had a lovely meal in Heroes Restaurant and Brewery. After eating there we admired Riverside's splendid Christmas lights and were fortunate enough to catch the end of a Christmas horse drawn carriage procession.

Outside the museum. - Riverside

Outside the museum. - Riverside

Riverside is named Riverside due to its location next to the Santa Ana River. We did not see this river on our visit. Riverside is situated about 60 miles east of Los Angeles and has a population of almost 304,000. Riverside is the birthplace of the Californian citrus industry. In 1874 Riverside resident, Eliza Tibbetts, was given three Brazilian navel orange trees by her friend, William Saunders ­ a horticulturist. The trees came from Bahia, Brazil and they turned out to be perfect for California's climate. By 1882, just eight years later, there were around a quarter of a million citrus trees in Riverside.

Chinese pagoda, Riverside. - Riverside

Chinese pagoda, Riverside. - Riverside

A Work Of Art : Tio's Tacos.

We were staying in America's Best Quality Inn in Riverside. When we walked there, we passed the main bus station and I noticed some strange sculptures on a fence a bit further up. I decided once we had checked in I would go and investigate. Well, it turned out they were all around a restaurant called Tio's Tacos. I later googled it and found the restaurant was owned by a Mexican called Martin Sanchez. He is a self taught artist. He started out very poor during his childhood and made himself toys out of things he found lying around, such as batteries and bits of wood. This instilled in him both a sense of creativity and a reluctance to throw things away, so he uses everyday rubbish to create works of art. I wandered around his restaurant and found bicycles, garden gnomes and TV remotes, among other things, embedded in his pavings. Vast sculptures made of coiled wire filled with rubbish sat on top of every surface. The roof of his restaurant was covered in old bikes, sculptures of people and much much more. I found the whole place quite, quite amazing. In fact I would say for me this was Riverside's number one sight.

Tio's Tacos - Riverside

Tio's Tacos - Riverside

Tio's Tacos - Riverside

Tio's Tacos - Riverside

Tio's Tacos - Riverside

Tio's Tacos - Riverside

Tio's Tacos - Riverside

Tio's Tacos - Riverside

Tio's Tacos - Riverside

Tio's Tacos - Riverside

Statues Of Significant People.

If you walk along Main Street in Riverside, you will pass several statues of famous people. One of these depicts Martin Luther King ­ the best of the statues in my opinion. Mahatma Gandhi is also on display here. As is Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, a Korean who lived in Riverside between 1904 and 1913, and worked in the city’s citrus groves. The statue commemorates his lifelong commitment to Korean independence from Imperial Japan. Another statue represents Eliza Tibbets, who planted America’s first naval orange tree. There is also one of Cesar Chavez an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, co-­founded the National Farm Workers Association.

Martin Luther King - Riverside

Martin Luther King - Riverside

Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, - Riverside

Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, - Riverside

Eliza Tibbets - Riverside

Eliza Tibbets - Riverside

Cesar Chavez   - Riverside

Cesar Chavez - Riverside

Mahatma Gandh - Riverside

Mahatma Gandh - Riverside

Mission Inn.

When I read up on Riverside this sounded like the big sight and I was really looking forward to seeing it. However, without living there or taking the official tour, there is very little of it you can actually see, so it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment really. We looked at the grounds, then went inside and walked a short and very crowded stretch of corridor. All around the ways were blocked and it was necessary to show a room key to proceed. I suppose this is fair enough and paying guests may be glad of this, but it does make it fairly uninteresting for someone who just comes in to wander around. Mission Inn started out as a small hotel called the Glenwood Hotel. It was built in 1876 by engineer Christopher Columbus Miller. In 1902, Miller's son Frank Augustus Miller, renamed it Mission Inn and started building extensions to it, in a wide range of different styles.

Mission Inn - Riverside

Mission Inn - Riverside

Mission Inn - Riverside

Mission Inn - Riverside

Mission Inn - Riverside

Mission Inn - Riverside

Mission Inn - Riverside

Mission Inn - Riverside

Mission Inn - Riverside

Mission Inn - Riverside

Churches.

When we walked in to the centre of Riverside from the train station, we passed several lovely churches. I do not know anything about them; I only noted that they were in a wide variety of architectural styles and very attractive.

Churches - Riverside

Churches - Riverside

Churches - Riverside

Churches - Riverside

Churches - Riverside

Churches - Riverside

Churches - Riverside

Churches - Riverside

Churches - Riverside

Churches - Riverside

Festival Of Lights.

Festival of Lights is a free festival for the people of Riverside. It is provided by the owners of the The Mission Inn Hotel. It has been taking place in Riverside over Christmas and New Year for more than twenty years. It involves a spectacular array of Christmas lights, animatronic characters, horse drawn carriages and a Ferris wheel. We knew nothing about this festival, but were fortunate enough just by being in the right place at the right time, to see the Christmas lights and a procession of horse drawn carriages. My photos of the horses and carriages during the procession did not come out very well, but I have some of them taken earlier before the procession started.

Festival of Lights - Riverside

Festival of Lights - Riverside

Festival of Lights - Riverside

Festival of Lights - Riverside

Horse drawn carriage procession. - Riverside

Horse drawn carriage procession. - Riverside

Festival of Lights - Riverside

Festival of Lights - Riverside

Festival of Lights - Riverside

Festival of Lights - Riverside

Heroes Restaurant & Brewery: "An Excellent Meal."

I am generally not someone who pre-­plans where we eat. We just usually see what is available, but I had read about Heroes before coming to Riverside so decided to give it a go.We were there on Christmas Eve. It was very very busy. We waited for someone to show us to a seat and when no-­one did and there did not look like there was any room, we turned to leave. Then we noticed a free table near the bar and quickly sat down. We were then approached by staff and asked if we had been shown to that table by them. We said no and expected to be put out. Instead they brought us menus and drinks. The beer choice here is excellent. I had a chicken burger as my main course. My husband had beer cheese soup. Both dishes were tasty, fresh and excellent. Service was very good. We ended up having a very enjoyable evening here and would heartily recommend it, especially if you like your beer. Address: 3397 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, Riverside.

Heroes Restaurant - Riverside

Heroes Restaurant - Riverside

Heroes Restaurant - Riverside

Heroes Restaurant - Riverside

Heroes Restaurant - Riverside

Heroes Restaurant - Riverside

Public Transport To Riverside.

We went to Riverside on a Saturday which also happened to be Christmas Eve. We left Union Station on The Pacific Surfliner, an Amtrak train heading to San Diego. The train was very crowded but comfortable enough. It did not actually go to Riverside though. We had to get off at Fullerton and wait over an hour for an Amtrak through bus which took us to Riverside Station. Apparently there are better transport options on weekdays mainly for commuters to LA.

Public Transport to Riverside - Riverside

Public Transport to Riverside - Riverside

Public Transport to Riverside - Riverside

Public Transport to Riverside - Riverside

Public Transport to Riverside - Riverside

Public Transport to Riverside - Riverside

Scenery on route. - Riverside

Scenery on route. - Riverside

Scenery on route - Riverside

Scenery on route - Riverside

Scenery on route. - Riverside

Scenery on route. - Riverside

Scenery on route - Riverside

Scenery on route - Riverside

Miracle On Christmas Day:Greyhound Buses.

This was our first ever experience of Greyhound buses. We had booked our ticket well in advance and arrived in good time for departure. We were told by the bus driver: 'That's it, we are full up. You can't get on.' We pointed out we had valid tickets. We were told: 'So what everyone has valid tickets.' We spent some considerable time arguing with the driver only to be told: 'Too bad we are full; it's not my fault. I only drive. I don't book people on this bus.' We were left on a deserted bus station, which was closed for three days, in a temperature of 3 degrees Celsius with nowhere to
go; no other buses from Riverside to Las Vegas that day, no-­one to complain to. The only advice the driver had given us was: 'At some time, I don't know when, there will be a bus to San Bernadino, get on it and ask in the bus station there if anyone can help you. We stood in total despair for forty minutes waiting for that bus, worried sick we would not get on it, worried sick that even if we did get on we would still end up stranded in San Bernadino. We felt we would never reach our hotel in Las Vegas. We would miss our pre­-booked tour to the Grand Canyon, the reason for the whole trip. We would end up paying out a fortune for new accommodation and new transport. I can scarcely remember feeling more miserable in my life and all this on Christmas day. Well the San Bernadino bus came in, the driver let us on, but said: 'You'll have to sort it all out at San Bernadino yourselves. I cannot help you there." Suddenly another greyhound bus pulled in driven by the driver who would not let us on and who had dropped people in San Bernadino then driven all the way back for us. Of course we were amazed and very, very grateful. However, I cannot help feeling that none of this should have happened in the first place. We had a valid ticket; we arrived on time; our seats on that bus should have been certain. I doubt very very much we will ever use greyhound again after this experience.

Greyhound Buses - Riverside

Greyhound Buses - Riverside

On the bus - Riverside

On the bus - Riverside

Posted by irenevt 06:15 Archived in USA Comments (2)

San Francisco: Old Forts and Bridges.

Days Four and Five.

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Palace of Fine Arts.

We started the next day with a visit to the Civic Centre. The Civic Centre is odd because it is full of wonderful buildings and statues but is surrounded by a run down area with a homelessness problem. I would recommend visiting in the day rather than in the evening; by daylight it seemed perfectly safe. The most prominent building in the civic centre is the lovely city hall with its huge dome. We also passed the San Francisco Library, The Asian Art Museum, the pioneer monument and the Ashurbanipal Monument. The Pioneer Monument was created by F.H. Happersberger and dedicated to the city of San Francisco by James Lick in 1894. The Ashurbanipal Monument is a bronze sculpture by Fred Parhad, an artist of Assyrian descent. This monument depicts an Assyrian king.

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The Library.

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City Hall.

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Abraham Lincoln Statue.

There was a massive amount of activity going on at City Hall when we visited. I am guessing that most of it was linked to Chinese New Year as there were people in traditional Chinese clothes and Chinese bands. We watched for a while. I loved the beautiful Chinese outfits the ladies with the lanterns were wearing.

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Outside City Hall.

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Outside City Hall.

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Outside City Hall.

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Outside City Hall.

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Outside City Hall.

Then we headed off to Golden Gate Park. In the 1860s San Franciscans decided they wanted a park like Central Park in New York. Golden Gate Park was painstakingly developed on sand and shore dunes just outside the city limits. Engineer, William Hammond Hall, conducted a survey and made a topographic map of the park site in 1870. His assistant was Scotsman, John McLaren. McLaren devoted his life to building the park. He lived in McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park until 1943 when he died at the age of 96. There is a statue comemorating John McLaren in the park's lovely rhododendron garden.

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The only fog we saw in San Francisco.

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John McLaren.

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John McLaren Garden.

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John McLaren Garden.

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John McLaren Garden.

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John McLaren Garden.

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John McLaren Garden.

We got to Golden Gate Park by number 21 bus from Market and Powell Street. The driver was very friendly and asked us which part of the park we wanted. We said anywhere we are visiting all of it. He found that hilarious and said it would be impossible as the park was so long. In the end we easily walked the length of the park. We may not have seen absolutely everything but we saw a lot. We intended to pay to go into the Japanese Tea Garden, but it was way too busy, so we didn't. Everything we saw was free and it kept us busy for around four or five hours.

We started up at the Conservatory of Flowers end then had a look at the lily pond which was very pretty, but had no lilies in February.

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Conservatory of Flowers.

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Conservatory of Flowers.

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Golden Gate Park.

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Golden Gate Park.

Probably the most visited part of Golden Gate Park is the Music Concourse and its surrounding museums. The Music Concourse was built for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. It centres on the Spreckels Temple of Music. This area is filled with lots of statues, fountains and trees. The museums around it include the De Young Museum of Fine Art, the Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden and the Botanic Gardens. We did not visit the museums, though we had intended to go to the Japanese Tea Garden, but it was just too busy.

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Japanese Tea Garden.

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Lily Pond.

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De Young Museum.

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Japanese Tea Garden.

Stow Lake is a beautiful man made lake in Golden Gate Park. It dates from 1893. There is an island in the middle of the lake which you can access via a bridge. On the island you can visit a pretty little Chinese pagoda. This lake is very popular for boating and lots of people were rowing around it when we visited. There is a tragic story connected to Stow Lake. Legend states that a young mother pushed her infant to the lake in his pram. She then got deep into conversation with a stranger and failed to notice the pram roll into the lake. By the time she discovered what had happened it was too late and her baby had drowned. Her ghost all dressed in white wanders around the lake at night looking for her lost child.

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Stow Lake.

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Stow Lake.

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Stow Lake.

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Stow Lake.

A major road passes through the middle of Golden Gate Park and after the road you wander past greenery and a few scattered lakes. Eventually we reached a field of bison. They were far from the fence so my photos are taken with a zoom and may not be totally clear. A herd of American bison has lived in Golden Gate Park since 1892. Bison were close to extinction by the time Golden Gate Park’s herd was established. They are cared for by staff from the San Francisco zoo.

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Bison.

Right at the bottom of Golden Gate Park where it meets the ocean stand two windmills. One is known as Murphy's Windmill and the other as the Dutch Windmill. These windmills were once responsible for pumping as much as 1½ million gallons of water on a daily basis. Dutch windmill is surrounded by beautiful flowers in springtime. Murphy's windmill took its name from a local banker.

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Dutch Windmill.

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Dutch Windmill.

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Murphy's Windmill.

OK, Americans will not be impressed with this. To them it is probably an everyday occurence, but I have never ever seen a wild racoon before and suddenly there in Golden Gate Park I was face to face with one. I took some photos. I've heard racoons can be aggressive. This one seemed quite timid, but to me at least, oh so cute.

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Racoons.

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Racoons.

At the end of Golden Gate Park you will come to a busy road and if you cross it, you are at a long sandy beach stretching along the Pacific Ocean. It was very windy and really quite chilly when we reached here, but there were still lots of people on the beach. In the distance we could see Cliff House and Seal Rocks. The scenery was very beautiful; the ocean was powerful and rough with large breaking waves.

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Ocean Beach.

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Seal Rocks.

The Original Cliff House was built in 1863 as a fashionable resort for the wealthy. It was a one­ story wooden building which overlooked Seal Rocks. In 1881, Adolph Sutro, a self­made millionaire, who would one day become mayor of San Francisco, bought Cliff House and began to redevelop it as a family­-friendly venue. Unfortunately, on Christmas Day, 1894 fire destroyed the original wooden Cliff House building. Within six months of the fire, Sutro had plans for a new Cliff House which opened in 1896. It was eight­ stories tall and looked like a castle. This building survived the 1906 earthquake, but was destroyed by fire in September 1907.

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The Sutro Baths.

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Cliff House.

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Sutro Baths.

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Ocean Beach.

After Sutro's death in 1898, his properties passed to his daughter, Emma Sutro Merritt. She constructed a third Cliff House from fireproof steel­reinforced concrete. The Sutro family sold Cliff House in 1937. In 1977, the National Park Service bought the property and made it part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is now a restaurant. Adolph Sutro, also developed the Sutro Baths in 1894. He constructed an ocean pool aquarium in the rocks north of the Cliff House and a massive public bath house covering three acres nearby. At first the baths were very popular, but their popularity declined during the Great Depression and they are now just stunningly beautiful ruins.

We were fortunate enough to be up at Cliff House and the Sutro Baths just as the sun began to set. It was magical. The views over towards Seal Rocks in particular were spectacular. We got back to downtown easily from this area on the number 38 bus.

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Sunset Over Seal Rocks.

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Sunset over Ocean Beach.

That evening we ate in Sears Fine Foods again.

Next day we went to see the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. Amazing as it may seem when I planned out our trip to San Francisco, I did not include a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge in my plan. This was due to me assuming we would be really close to it when we visited Fisherman's Wharf. Of course, we could see the bridge from Fisherman's Wharf, but very, very far away. Well, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must do world famous site, so had to adjust our plans to fit it in. To get there we used two buses from downtown ­ the number 38 and then changed on Presidio Park Avenue to the number 28. The 28 dropped us at the parking lot right next to the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge linking San Francisco to Marin County across the Golden Gate Strait. It is 4,200 feet long. It opened in 1937 and until 1964 was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It is painted international orange. Golden Gate Bridge is extremely famous and extremely beautiful. It's another of my world famous sites done and is up there with the Great Wall of China, Sydney Opera House, Ayers Rock and many others. It looks wonderful when you are at the same height as its roadway and wonderful when you are at sea level below. We walked halfway across it and it was absolutely heaving with people doing the same. This was out of season, so I'm guessing that walk would be awful in summer. In short no trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit here. We even returned at night when it was lit up, but our photos of this were nothing great.

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Golden Gate Bridge.

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Golden Gate Bridge.

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View from the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Golden Gate Bridge.

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Golden Gate Bridge.

As well as walking on the bridge, I went under it to see Fort Point, which is interestingly located right underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Fort Point was built by the U.S. army around 1853, shortly before the American Civil War. Its purpose was to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile enemy warships. It is free to enter the fort. It has some old cannons and a few items of historical interest, but a lot of its appeal is its location ­below one of the most famous bridges in the world. Address: Marine Dr San Francisco, CA 94123.

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Fort Point.

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Fort Point and Bridge.

We got to the Palace of Fine Arts by number 28 bus. The Palace of Fine Arts was constructed for the 1915 Panama­ Pacific Exposition. Its purpose was, and indeed is, to house art exhibitions. It was designed by Bernard Maybeck, who was inspired by classical Roman and Greek architecture. It is located on a lagoon. When we visited, several brides were having their photos taken there. Address: 3601 Lyon Street.

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Palace of Fine Arts.

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Beautiful Bride.

After visiting the Palace of Fine Arts we walked to the presidio main post. This was the site of the first Spanish fort when Europeans arrived in this area. A Spanish garrison was established here in 1776. Then the area fell under Mexican control. It became an important U.S. Army post in 1847. We found this area quite interesting. It had some beautiful old wooden houses. We visited the former officers' club, the chapel and the military cemetery. The Presidio area is large. We did not manage to cover all of it. The Main Post is also home to a Walt Disney Museum which we did not visit.

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Presidio Main Post.

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Presidio .

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Presidio.

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Presidio.

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Presidio Main Post.

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Presidio Chapel.

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The National Cemetery.

We walked from the Main Post on the Presidio to a lovely old chapel, then visited the national cemetery. This is the final resting place for the nation's military veterans and their families. 30,000 Americans are laid to rest here including Civil War generals, Medal of Honor recipients, Buffalo Soldiers, and a Union spy. There's a good view towards the Golden Gate Bridge from here. Address: 50 Moraga Ave.

That evening we ate in Johnny Foley's Irish House which is on O'Farrell Street. We went here on a Friday night and it was very busy, so we were asked to wait to be seated. It actually only took a few minutes as the restaurant is very big with different rooms. We were in one of the back rooms. It was crowded and very noisy. Portions looked big so we decided to share a fish, chips and mushy peas. You can share a meal between two here by paying an extra $2, which we thought was quite a good idea. The fish and chips were excellent. The mushy peas tasted nothing like mushy peas as I know them and were a bit of a disappointment, but not a big deal as the rest was so good. Service was pleasant and efficient. Beer was good. We had the draught Sierra Nevada IPA and Anchor Steam Beer our favourites. Address: 243 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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Johnny Foley's.

Sadly next day we left San Francisco and flew back to Hong Kong. It had been a wonderful trip.

Posted by irenevt 05:22 Archived in USA Tagged san francisco Comments (4)

San Francisco. Hippies and Prisons.

Day Two and Three.

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Bay Bridge.

Next day we started by having a look at Union Square. This is right in the heart of San Francisco. Our hotel was just a couple of blocks from here. Union Square was built in 1850. It was named Union Square by San Francisco's first mayor, John Geary, because it was the gathering site for pro­-Union demonstrations on the eve of the American Civil War. In the centre of the square stands the Dewey Monument. This was named after Spanish–American War hero Admiral George Dewey and commemorates his victory over Spanish forces at Manila Bay, the Philippines, on May the 1st, 1898. At the time of our visit there was a lot of construction going on around the square. Macy's Department Store overlooks the square. I am so not a fan of shopping, in fact I hate it, but we had to take a look in Macy's department store as it was near our hotel and it is famous. There was a woman's and a man's Macy's Department Store on Union Square. We just went in the woman's one. It was beautifully decorated for Chinese New Year and there were great views over Union Square from the top floors.

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Union Square.

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Art Exhibits in Union Square.

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Art Exhibits in Union Square.

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Macy's, Union Square.

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Macy's, Union Square.

We then took bus number 21 from Market and Powell Street to Alamo Square. Alamo Square is a large grassy hill surrounded by beautiful old painted wooden houses known as Victorians. The most famous of these are a row of wooden houses on Steiner Street known as the painted ladies. We looked at these then took a walk round to see more Victorians.

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The Painted Ladies, Alamo Square.

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The Painted Ladies, Alamo Square.

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The Painted Ladies, Alamo Square.

At the top of the park there was a doggy play area brimming over with our faithful four legged friends.

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Doggy Play Area.

The painted ladies on Steiner Street are worth seeing but there are plenty of other beautiful old Victorians around Alamo Square and in other parts of the city. We also saw plenty later in Haight Ashbury, too. I would not mind living in one of these lovely houses.

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Other old houses.

Maybe it is just because in my head San Francisco and hippies are synonomous, but I really, really loved Haight Ashbury with its smoke shops and psychodelic murals and aged hippies shuffling around and off the wall stores. We spent much longer here than we expected to ­ well getting my husband out of the Amoeba Record Store was a challenge for a start. He's a bit of an aged hippy himself.

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Haight Ashbury.

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Haight Ashbury.

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Haight Ashbury.

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Haight Ashbury.

The Amoeba Record Store is a must see, ­ a wonderful voyage back into the world of vinyl. I grew up at a time of vinyl records. My husband had a large collection of vinyl records. Vinyl is making a come back and this place is helping it along. I doubt anyone could enter this shop and not be interested in at least something they have on offer. Address: 1855 Haight Street.

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Amoeba Music Shop.

Another great shop was called Decades of Fashion: Vintage Clothes Store. This shop is a must see for its displays. They are amazing. Unfortunately, there are signs up everywhere telling you not to take photos. Such a shame they would have been great.

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Decades of Fashion.

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Decades of Fashion.

We wandered off the main street of Haight Ashbury in pursuit of the homes of some famous people. Our criteria was simply that the homes were nearby and involved little effort on our part. Thus we saw where Janis Joplin's house was and the house of the Grateful Dead, the headquarters of Hells Angels and the house of notorious killer, Charles Manson. We were not alone in our wanderings. Several people were around taking photos of the houses we went to see.

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Janis Joplin's House

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Headquarters of Hells Angels.

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Janis Joplin's House.

The walls around Haight Ashbury are covered with murals depicting famous rock stars, the summer of love and other subjects. They were colourful and bright and interesting to look at. We enjoyed strolling around photographing them.

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Murals, Haight Ashbury.

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Murals, Haight Ashbury.

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Murals, Haight Ashbury.

We spent way more time in Haight Ashbury than we had intended, so we did not spend quite as much time in the Castro as we had planned to make up for it. We mainly stayed around the main street which is called Castro Street. The Castro is home to much of San Francisco's gay community. Many of the buildings on Castro Street are topped with rainbow flags. The rainbow flag is a symbol of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement. As well as rainbow flags, there are also rainbow street crossings. On the ground you will see Castro's Walk of Fame ­20 bronze plaques honouring famous members of the LGBT community.

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The Castro.

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Rainbow Crossing.

429 Castro Street is home to the Castro Theatre. This became San Francisco's Historic Landmark number one hundred in September 1976. The theatre was built in 1922 and its entrance way is quite ornate and worth a look. Also in the Castro you can visit the Harvey Milk Plaza which is dedicated to the memory of Harvey Milk.

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The Castro Theatre.

Harvey Milk was an American politician. He was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, were shot dead in San Francisco City Hall by former Supervisor Dan White on November 27th, 1978.

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Rainbow Flag.

Next we went to the Mission District. I love old buildings so when I found out that Mission Dolores was the oldest building in San Francisco I really wanted to see it. However, I messed up big time. I had planned a day that involved visiting the Mission District, the Castro, Alamo Square then Haight Ashbury, but for some reason I decided to change the order to Alamo Square, Haight Ashbury, the Castro, then the Mission. The result we arrived at Mission Dolores just as it closed, so we could only view it from the outside. Oh well! Such is life!

The Misión San Francisco de Asís was founded on June the 29th, 1776, under the leadership of Father Junipero Serra. It is the oldest original Mission in California. Nowadays Mission Dolores Parish is made up of both the Old Mission and a larger, newer basilica. They are next to each other. Address: 3321 Sixteenth Street.

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The Mission.

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The Mission.

After looking at Mission Dolores, we walked to Clarion Alley to look at the murals there. I had read that the Mission District was an area where you had to be careful and use street smarts. I must admit I did not feel too comfortable in that alleyway just as the sun was beginning to go down. There was a big group of young guys hanging around the centre of the alley. They were doing no harm, but we decided not to pass them and to get out of the area before darkness fell, so we looked at just some of the murals and left. The murals themselves were mainly political in nature and quite interesting. Some of them were really very beautiful.

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Clarion Alley.

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Clarion Alley.

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Clarion Alley.

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Clarion Alley.

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Clarion Alley.

We then travelled to the Ferry Building on the wonderful f­-line historical trams. Great fun! The Ferry Building first opened in 1898. However, for years it was neglected and hidden behind an elevated highway which cut off the waterfront from the rest of the San Francisco. In 1989 the Loma Prieta Earthquake severely damaged this elevated highway. It was decided to tear it down and revitalize the waterfront area. The Ferry Building was fully renovated and reopened in 2003. The Ferry Building was absolutely packed with people wandering around eating and drinking when we visited. There were also some live musicians and several people were up dancing. Apparently an excellent farmers' market is held here on Tuesdays and Saturdays. We visited on a Friday.

Step outside the Ferry Building on its waterfront side and you will be confronted with a magnificent view of the Bay Bridge. The San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, to give it its full name, is a group of bridges spanning San Francisco Bay. It forms part of the direct road between San Francisco and Oakland and carries around 240,000 vehicles a day. We especially enjoyed watching the bridge change as darkness fell. The Bay Bridge has one of the longest spans of any bridge in the United States.

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Ferry Building.

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Ferry Building.

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Ferry Building.

After that we went for dinner. We ate in The Last Drop Tavern, located at 550 Powell Street. We saw it as we passed on the cable car and decided to give it a try. It was a bit dark and noisy inside. Service was efficient and polite though. I had chicken tacos and my husband had fish and chips. My meal was tasty but quite small ­I guess it was meant more as a snack than a meal. The fish and chips were good. One thing we did like was there was a good selection of draught beer. We tried Anchor Steam, Scrimshaw Pilsner, Speakeasy Prohibition Ale and Lagunitas IPA. All were very nice. We arrived at the restaurant by cable car and did not realise how steep it was to walk back down to Post Street where we lived. My husband found getting down the hill without slipping really quite hard. Address: 550 Powell Street.

Next day we went to Alcatraz. Alcatraz is most famous for being the site of a federal prison from which escape was almost impossible. The price of your ticket to Alcatraz includes a 45 minute audio tour of the prison buildings. On the tour you will visit the main cell block, the library, the kitchens, the dining room, the prison officers' rooms. You will learn about the escape attempts from this island and the prison's most notorious inmates. I'd imagine the island is quite atmospheric and creepy at night. You can sit in or out on the boat. Inside there is a cafe selling soft drinks and snacks. It sells alcohol on the return journey. We sat outside to get views over San Francisco and views as we arrived at the island. The trip only takes 15 minutes. You book a set time for going and can take any boat back.

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Alcatraz Island.

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Ruins on Alcatraz Island.

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Alcatraz Island.

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The Recreation Yard.

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Over the rooftops.

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Looking up at the prison.

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The Guard House.

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The Parade Ground.

Alcatraz was originally named "La Isla de los Alcatraces," or "The Island of the Pelicans," by Spaniard Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775. It is located in San Francisco Bay ­ 1.5 miles offshore from the city of San Francisco. Alcatraz was home to the first lighthouse built on the American west coast and to an early U.S. built fort. It was used as a military prison from 1868 and as a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. In November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of North American Indians from San Francisco who wanted more rights for Aboriginal people. Alcatraz became a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

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The Dining Hall.

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The Kitchens.

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The Former Library.

The most notorious criminals ever to be imprisoned on Alcatraz include: gangster Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud ­ also known as the Birdman of Alcatraz, gangster Machine Gun Kelly, and gangster Alvin Creepy Karpis ­ who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate. In its twenty­-nine years as a prison a grand total of thirty­-six prisoners made fourteen escape attempts. Two inmates even tried twice. Of those who tried to escape twenty-­three were caught alive, six were shot and killed, two drowned, and five are missing, presumed drowned.

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Notorious Inmates.

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Inside a Prison Cell.

The most violent escape attempt occurred from May 2nd to May 4th, 1946 when a failed escape attempt by six prisoners resulted in the Battle of Alcatraz. Two guards and three inmates were killed in this battle. Eleven guards and one uninvolved convict were injured. Two of the would be escapees were later executed for their roles in the battle. On June 11th 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin carried out an escape attempt. They tucked papiermâché heads into their beds, broke out of the main prison building through an unused utility corridor, and sailed away an improvised raft. If they survived, their escape attempt was the only successful one ever, but their fate remains unknown.

Despite its rather gruesome history, Alcatraz is a surprisingly beautiful place with wonderful flower filled gardens and lots of sea­birds. When we finished the prison tour,we took a stroll around. On the introductory film we listened to in building 64 when we arrived, a woman who was the daughter of a former prison officer, recalled her idyllic childhood growing up on Alcatraz and playing on the parade ground almost unaware of the dangerous prison inmates living nearby.

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Alcatraz - the flowers.

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Alcatraz - the flowers.

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Alcatraz - the flowers.

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Alcatraz - the flowers.

Alcatraz is also a good place for views. You can enjoy looking back towards the skyline of San Francisco or towards the Golden Gate Bridge or the Bay Bridge. The best views of the island fortress that is Alcatraz are from the parade ground when you look at the prison and the lighthouse clinging to the edges of the rock up above you.

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Looking towards San Francisco.

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The Views.

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The Views.

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The Views.

On November 20th, 1969, eighty­-nine Native American Indians sailed from Sausalito on a five ­mile trip across San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island. When they landed, they declared the former prison Indian land “by right of discovery". Their aim was to gain funding from the U.S. government to turn it into a Native American cultural center and university. They occupied Alcatraz for more than 19 months before being finally removed in June 1971. Their demands were not met, but their actions gained a lot of publicity for the Native American cause. Wandering around the island you will see some reminders of their occupation. You can also learn about it in the museums in building 64.

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Native American Occupation.

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Native American Occupation.

We were lucky as the parade ground and Agave trail were open when we visited. These are closed at certain times of the year presumably as they can be dangerous in high seas. A lot of the piles of rubble covering the parade ground are probably the result of the pounding sea.

After our trip to Alcatraz we decided to walk along the waterfront as far as Fort Mason. It is a pleasant walk past the piers and then along a beach in front of the chocolate factory. To our surprise there were actually several people swimming in the sea here in February. Fort Mason is a former US army post. It served as an army post for about a hundred years. Fort Mason was the main port used in the Pacific Campaign in World War II.

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Fort Mason.

Domenico Ghirardelli was born in 1817 in Rapallo, Italy. He served as a confectioner’s apprentice in Genoa. Then, when he was twenty years old, he sailed to Peru where he became a coffee and chocolate merchant. Ghirardelli's friend, James Lick, went to San Francisco in 1848 just before the gold rush and told Ghirardelli it was a great place to set up a business, so Ghirardelli travelled to San Francisco a year later and opened a general store supplying mustard, coffee, spices and chocolate. Over the years his business was located at four different sites before he took over the Pioneer Woollen Mills on North Point Street. The business was sold in the 1960s, but fortunately the chocolate factory buildings were preserved and turned into a shopping centre. If you visit here nowadays you'll find shops selling delicious Ghirardelli chocolate, other high end shops, restaurants and pubs. When you visit the shop, you are normally given chocolate samples to try. The chocolate really is excellent. Address: 900 North Point Street at Larkin.

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Ghirardelli Square.

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Ghirardelli Square.

Posted by irenevt 22:13 Archived in USA Tagged san francisco Comments (2)

San Francisco: Tall Towers and Winding Roads.

Arrival and Day One.

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Golden Gate Bridge.

We visited San Francisco at the beginning of February 2016. It was our first ever trip to the USA. I would say that three things had put us off from visiting the USA before. One of the things was, that we had heard it was so difficult to get through immigration. We did not really find it that difficult, just time­ consuming as the lines were very long. We queued for about an hour and a half and had to answer quite a lot of questions about the purpose of our visit. Another thing that had put us off visiting was crime and indeed I had read lots of disturbing stories about crime in San Francisco before we went there. In reality I found it much the same as any European city; some areas are fine; others are more dodgy, don't wave valuables around, avoid lonely dark areas at night, use common sense. On the whole, we found people very friendly, welcoming and helpful. This visit has definitely left me with a desire to return and see more of the country. The third off­-putting thing we had heard was that there was no public transport. This may be true for some parts of the USA, but it definitely was not true of San Francisco. Public transport was excellent. We easily got everywhere we wanted to go.

I suppose our trip was a fairly typical tourist trip with us taking in the main sights. We had a half day on arrival and five full days. We visited Fisherman's Wharf; took a boat trip to Alcatraz; explored the sights of downtown such as Chinatown, North Beach, Nob Hill, Coit Tower, Lombard Street and Washington Square. We also explored our inner hippy in Haight Ashbury; visited the Castro; the Mission; the ferry building; the Civic Centre; Golden Gate Park; Ocean Beach; Cliff House and the Sutro Baths. On our last full day we visited the Golden Gate Bridge both by day and by night; the Palace of Fine Arts and the Presidio.

We had heard February was the wettest month of the year, but it was sunny every day of our stay. We only saw a little of the famous San Francisco fog on one day of our stay. We were delighted with the weather, but locals were not as they are experiencing a bit of a drought and desperately wanted some rain.

The original inhabitants of the San Francisco area were the Ohlone people. The first Europeans to settle there were the Spanish who built a series of Missions and a fort or presidio. The Spanish were replaced by the Mexicans and then San Francisco, together with the rest of California, became a state of the USA. Shortly after that gold was discovered near there and the population exploded overnight. San Francisco has experienced several dreadful earthquakes and fires, but has always managed to recover. We thought it was a beautiful place with wonderful natural scenery and would love to go there again. Maybe next time we would explore the surrounding areas, too.

We arrived in San Francisco at San Francisco International Airport which is located 13 miles south of San Francisco. It has flights throughout North America, Europe and Asia. SFO is the second busiest airport in California, after Los Angeles International Airport. SFO is a clean, efficient, well-organized airport. It took us a long time to get into San Francisco as queues at immigration were long and moved slowly. It was a lot easier getting back out, though security was thorough.

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San Francisco International Airport

We got into the city of San Francisco from the airport by BART train. BART is short for Bay Area Rapid Transit. I bought a ticket to Powell Street for $8.95 from the ticket machine. My husband is over 65 and bought a senior ticket from Airport Information. It is not possible to buy it from the machine or the BART Station. He paid $9 for $24 worth of travel on the BART. This is known as a BART green ticket. We only used the BART to get to and from the airport though we could have used it to get to several places we visited such as the Mission, the ferry building and the civic centre.

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The BART.

To get around we bought a MUNI 7 day visitor passport for $40. We got it from the airport information desk. This pass is valid on all MUNI buses, cable­cars, street­cars (I'd call them trams) and MUNI Metro lines. A day passport is $20, a 3 day pass is $31. We soon recouped the cost of this pass by using the cable cars which cost $7 a journey or $20 a day ticket. Buses are a much more reasonable $2.25 a journey; $1 for OAPs. We were very pleased with the pass as we were on and off transport all the time without needing to buy any further tickets or look for change or anything. The only transport it did not cover was the BART.

We stayed in the Andrews Hotel quite close to Union Square. Check in was friendly and efficient. We arrived an hour or so before official check-­in time, but were allowed in straight away. The receptionist gave us a free city map. The hotel is a historical one. At one time it used to be a bath house. It has been nicely restored. It has an old fashioned lift with a sliding gate type door. Our room was on the seventh floor. It was clean and comfortable. There was a large closet, a dressing table with drawers, a comfortable bed, TV. chairs. We did not have a fridge or a safe, though safety deposit boxes were available at reception. The bathroom had a bath with attached shower. For me it was not small like other reviewers said, just a strange shape. Breakfast was served to each floor of the hotel in the morning. It consisted of coffee, tea, orange juice, bread, cakes, butter, jam. You can either take it to the hotel lobby or to your room. We always ate in our room. The hotel provided free teas and coffees in the lobby all day. I really liked that. The hotel has an Italian Restaurant called Finos. Hotel guests can get a free glass of wine from there each evening. We were never back in time to get this, but it is a nice idea. We would have liked to try the restaurant, but it was always busy and we chose not to book it as we never knew when we would be back. There were lots of restaurants near the hotel. It was also in an excellent location for transport such as buses and cable cars. There were lots of shops nearby, too.

The only downside of the hotel was it was a bit noisy at night. I assume this would be true of any centrally located hotel. The noise was traffic and people going up and down the street. After a couple of nights I began to just sleep through it. Free wifi was provided at this hotel and the signal was consistently strong throughout our stay. Check out was quick, efficient and friendly. I would very happily stay here again.

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The Andrews Hotel.

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The Andrews Hotel.

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The Andrews Hotel.

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Fisherman's Wharf Marina.

On our arrival day we took a cable car to Fisherman's Wharf. This area gets a lot of criticism for being too touristy, but there are actually many, many things to do around this area and I would imagine there would easily be something suitable to everyone's tastes. I am only going to write about the parts of Fisherman's Wharf that I liked.

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Cable Cars.

We liked Hyde Park Street Pier. At one time, before the Golden Gate Bridge was built, Hyde Street Pier was the main ferry pier connecting San Francisco with Marin County. Nowadays, it is part of the San Francisco Maritime Historical Park. The pier is home to several historical vessels. One of these is a square ­rigger sailing ship called the Balclutha which dates from 1886. Another is the schooner C. A. Thayer which dates from 1895. There's also a steam ferryboat called the Eureka from 1890. A schooner called Alma from 1891, a steam tug, Hercules, from 1907 and a paddlewheel tug called Eppleton Hall from 1914. It is possible to pay to go around these vessels on a tour, but we didn't. We just viewed them from the pier. As well as looking at the boats, Hyde Street Pier is worth visiting for its views towards the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

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Hyde Street Pier.

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Hyde Street Pier.

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Hyde Street Pier.

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Hyde Street Pier.

Fisherman's Wharf has great views of steep streets, San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge. It was lovely to watch the sun go down over the water and I took a few sunset pictures.

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Sunset.

My favourite flowers are spring flowers. I was not expecting there to be too many around in February so was pleasantly surprised to find tulips, daffodils and spring blossom on several fruit trees. Beautiful!

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Spring blossom.

Near the waterfront there is a great bakery called Boudin's. It specializes in sour dough bread. It has a restaurant specializing in sour dough loaves used as soup bowls and filled with clam chowder and a sour dough bread shop. I enjoyed watching the bakers make sour dough loaves in the shape of various animals in the front window of the bakery. Address: Shoreline near Jefferson between Powell and Hyde

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Boudin's Bakery.

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Boudin's Bakery.

Pier 39 gets the most criticism of all of Fisherman's Wharf for being tacky and touristy, but it is also a highlight due to the colony of sealions that take up residence at the end of the pier. They are incredibly noisy and quarrelsome and great fun to watch. I am not sure if they are there all year round; there were certainly plenty of them around in February when we visited.

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Sunset over sealions.

Dotted around the waterfront at Fisherman's Wharf there are a few statues or symbols of the place such as the large Fisherman's Wharf statue, the sea­lion statue or the giant crab statue. There are also several murals. These are also good to photograph or pose with.

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Murals.

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Murals.

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Icons.

Musee Mechanique is located on Pier 45 at Fisherman's Wharf. The museum houses a collection of privately owned arcade machines from the past. These were collected by Edward Galland Zelinsky who started his collection when he was just eleven years old. I remember arcade machines like these from my youth. I used to like machines such as love machines or fortune telling machines. Entry to the Musee Mecanique is free and you use coins to operate the machines. Machines included an organ, Laughing Sal, the French execution, an arm wrestling machine and many, many more.

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Musee Mechanique.

Behind the Musee Mecanique at Pier 45 there are two warships which saw service in World War II. One of these is The SS Jeremiah O'Brien and the other is the submarine USS Pampanito. It is possible to board them for a fee but we just had a look from the outside. The SS Jeremiah O'Brien was named after the American Revolutionary War ship captain Jeremiah O'Brien who lived between 1744 and 1818. She was part of the 6,939­ ship armada that stormed Normandy on D­-Day, 1944. The submarine USS Pampanito completed six war patrols between 1944 and 1945. She also served as a Naval Reserve Training ship from 1960 to 1971.

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War ships.

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Views from Fisherman's Wharf.

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Views from Fisherman's Wharf.

Our first full day was very busy. We started it by exploring Chinatown. This is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. The first Chinese immigrants to San Francisco, two men and one woman, arrived in 1848. Many more arrived in 1849 hoping to strike it lucky when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill. Many other Chinese worked for the Central Pacific Company building the Transcontinental Railroad. I love Chinatowns. I suppose its because I live in Hong Kong and am interested in where the Chinese migrated to and what they did there.

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Chinatown.

One of the most attractive things about San Francisco's Chinatown was all the murals drawn on the walls of the buildings. These depicted dragons, lion dancing, goddesses, the animals of the Chinese zodiac, Chinese people and flowers among other things.

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Murals.

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Murals.

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Murals.

As well as lots of murals, Chinatown also has some colourful mosaics. These are entitled "Blooming on Fragrance Alley." They are located on Hang Ah Alley, a name which means sweet smelling. These garden­ themed mosaics were created as part of the Chinatown CDC’s Adopt An Alleyway Project. Around twelve local young people lead by artist Margarita Soyfertis explored the history of the alley and created mosaics to beautify it.

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Mosaics.

As with all Chinatowns, San Franciso's Chinatown was filled with lots of colourful shops and many restaurants. I took some photos of the interiors of several shops that caught my eye with their bright decorations.

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Shopping.

We also enjoyed visiting Old Saint Mary's Cathedral which was very peaceful inside. This church dates from 1853. On the outside of the cathedral there is a large clock with the inscription "Son, observe the time and fly from evil." Its from Ecclesiastes. Opposite the church, St Mary's Square is a pleasant place to sit. It has a statue of Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Republic of China.

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Old Saint Mary's Cathedral .

When we finished exploring Chinatown, we hopped on the California Street Cable Car and headed to Nob Hill. Nob Hill got its name when the nobs, also known as "The Big Four", built their mansions in this area."The Big Four" was the name given to the famous and influential businessmen who built the Central Pacific Railroad. "The Big Four" were Leland Stanford ­ founder of Stanford University (1824–1893), Collis Potter Huntington, (1821–1900), Mark Hopkins, (1813–1878), and Charles Crocker, (1822–1888). The neighborhood of Nob Hill was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, the mansion owners re­located elsewhere. Their mansions were replaced by posh hotels such as the Mark Hopkins Hotel, Huntington Hotel and Stanford Court Hotel.

Also gutted by the fires was the newly completed Fairmont Hotel which was rebuilt and the mansion of tycoon James Flood which was rebuilt as the headquarters of the exclusive Pacific ­Union Club. Grace Cathedral is an Episcopal cathedral located on Nob Hill. The cathedral's entrance has a beautiful set of doors. These are often called the "Ghiberti doors" as they are reproductions of the doors of the Florence Baptistry by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Grace Cathedral has several beautiful mosaics by Jan Henryk De Rosen, stained glass windows and the Keith Haring AIDS Chapel. We visited on Ash Wednesday when there was a service taking place inside, so we could not photograph the interior. Instead we joined in in listening to the moving service. Address: 1100 California St., San Francisco, CA 94108. Directions: Between Taylor St. & Jones St. in Nob Hill.

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Grace Cathedral.

Just in front of Grace Cathedral in Nob Hill stands Huntington Park. This was once the site of the mansion of Collis P. Huntington, who helped build the Central Pacific Railroad. The mansion was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. However, Mr. Huntington's widow donated the property to the city of San Francisco to set up a park in 1915. The park has a replica of the fountain, Fontana Delle Tartarughe or Fountain of the Turtles. This was bought by William and Ethel Crocker for their estate at Hillsborough, California. Later this fountain was given to the city of San Francisco by the Crockers' four children. It was installed in Huntington Park in 1954. The original fountain is in the Piazza Mattei, Rome. Also in Huntington Park there is a statue called Dancing Sprites by French sculptor, Henri Leon Greber. This statue was donated to the city by Mrs. James Flood in 1942. The Flood family amassed a fortune in the gold and silver fields.

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Huntington Park.

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Huntington Park.

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Huntington Park.

We walked down an extremely steep street from Nob Hill to the cable car museum. One of the must do things in San Francisco is to ride in its wonderful old cable cars. We rode on all three of the existing lines and we also paid a visit to the cable car museum. This museum is located at 1201 Mason Street. Entry is free. Its opening hours are 10 am ­to 6 pm April 1st to September 30th; and 10 am to­ 5 pm October 1st to March 31st. The Cable Car Museum was set up in 1974. It is located in the old Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse. The main floor of the museum overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. The museum is home to three antique cable cars from the 1870s. The Sutter Street Railway No. 46 grip car & No. 54 trailer and the only surviving car from the first cable car company, the Clay Street Hill Railroad No. 8 grip car. My favourite part of the museum was its historic black and white photographs showing early cable cars and San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. We also enjoyed watching a film about the history of the cable cars. The museum has a gift shop and clean toilets. Address: 1201 Mason Street.

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The Cable Car Museum.

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The Cable Car Museum.

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The Cable Car Museum.

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The Cable Car Museum.

Then we went to Washington Square. Washington Square is a pleasant park in the North Beach area. It was established in 1847. The park contains a memorial to San Francisco's firemen. It was designed by Haig Patigian and erected with funds left by Lillie Hitchcock Coit. Its inscription reads: To commemorate the Volunteer Fire Department of San Francisco 1819 -­1866 Erected 1933 By Bequest of Lillie Hitchcock Coit. The park is also home to a statue of Benjamin Franklin. On the edge of the park stands the lovely Saints Peter and Paul Church. Joe Di Maggio was married here. After his divorce, when he re-­married to Marilyn Monroe, they had their wedding photos taken outside the church. They could not be married in the church as being Catholic it did not recognise their divorce. The church is somewhat unfortunately located at number 666 Filbert Street.

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Saints Peter and Paul Church.

After that we walked to Coit Tower. This tower is 210 feet high and is located at the top of Telegraph Hill, so it has wonderful views over San Francisco. It was built in 1933 using money left to the city of San Francisco by Lillie Hitchcock Coit. The tower was designed by architects Arthur Brown Jr and Henry Howard. On the ground floor of the tower there are murals by twenty-seven different artists. It is possible to enter the tower for free and view the murals, visit the gift shop and the toilets. If you want to go up to the top of the tower by elevator, it costs $8 or $5 for seniors. We went up in the elevator. It was a clear day and the views were lovely.

There are reasonable views from the bottom of Coit Tower though some pesky trees get in the way. From the top of the tower there are fantastic views towards Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the ferry building. The viewing platform has several small windows; some open, some closed.

The ground floor of Coit Tower is decorated with a wonderful assortment of murals. They are certainly worth a visit.

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Coit Tower.

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Coit Tower.

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Coit Tower.

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Coit Tower.

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Coit Tower.

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Coit Tower.

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Coit Tower.

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Coit Tower.

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Coit Tower.

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Coit Tower.

From Coit Tower we explored some of the North Beach area. We started at the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi which is a beautiful church located in the North Beach area. There has been a church at this site since 1849, though the original church has had to be re­built a couple of times, most recently after the 1906 earthquake when its interior was gutted by fire. The church was needed to serve the Catholic community following the discovery of gold in California and the subsequent explosion in population. The nearest Catholic church prior to building this one was Mission Dolores over three miles away. This church is open from 10am to 5pm daily. The priest welcomed us into the church when we arrived.

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National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi.

We also had a look at the Transamerica Pyramid Building. This is the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco's skyline, so can be spotted from all over the city. It used to house the headquarters of the Transamerica Corporation before they moved to Baltimore, Maryland. This building was designed by architect William Pereira and built by Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company in 1972. Standing at 853 ft it was once the eighth tallest building in the world. It is an extremely easy building to spot due to its unusual shape. Address: 600 Montgomery St.

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Transamerica Pyramid Building.

We also took a look at City Lights Books - San Francisco's most famous book store. City Lights is a well ­known bookstore located at 261 Columbus Avenue in the North Beach area. It is an independent bookstore/publisher. It was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin. The store became famous following the obscenity trial of Ferlinghetti after he published Allen Ginsberg's influential collection 'Howl and Other Poems' in 1956. In 2001, City Lights was made an official historic landmark. City Lights specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. We enjoyed browsing in this shop. As well as the books, there were lots of photographs and posters to look at. Address: 261 Columbus Ave.

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City Lights Books .

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City Lights Books .

We also took a look at Cafe Vesuvio. We did not actually go in as we were trying to use up all our daylight hours on sightseeing. This is a place I would be happy to come back to and explore properly. Cafe Vesuvio is in North Beach next to the infamous City Lights Bookstore. It started out in1948 and is a historical monument to jazz, poetry, art and the Beat Generation. This cafe was frequented by Neal Cassady, the real life role model for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's novel 'On the Road'. It was also a regular hangout for Jack Kerouac himself and other famous Beat poets. Address: 255 Columbus Avenue

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Cafe Vesuvio .

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Cafe Vesuvio .

Finally now with aching legs we went to Lombard Street. San Francisco is built on several steep hills making both walking and driving a challenge. Lombard street counteracted its steepness by making its road twist and turn. The famous section of the street in the Russian Hill area has eight hairpin bends. It would be interesting to drive down. It is also interesting to watch others drive down. This section of the street has several lovely buildings and the road winds through gardens. These are filled with flowers in summer. On our visit they were not, but there was some lovely blossom.

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Lombard street.

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Lombard street.

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Lombard street .

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Lombard street.

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Lombard street .

One of the best things about Lombard Street is the fantastic view you get when you are standing at the top of it. You can see all the way to the Bay Bridge and the Coit Tower. The view is stunning by day and spectacular by night when it is all lit up. My camera is not great on night time shots, so I don't think they do it full justice.

That evening we ate in Sears Fine Food on Powell Street. We ate here twice during our stay. Both times the meals were absolutely excellent. I had the grilled chicken sandwich on both visits. My husband had the fish sandwich on his first visit and the fish and chips on his second. These were also excellent. Sandwiches come with a choice of fries, caesar salad or mixed greens. We had fries and caesar salad and shared them between us. Service was very attentive and efficient. This restaurant also did very good draught beer. I had the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and my husband had the Anchor Steam Beer. After our meal, we were given a token to try in the slot machine to see if we won any special offers on our return visit. We didn't, but it was a nice idea, I thought.

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Sears Fine Foods.

After dinner we were exhausted and walked home to bed.

Posted by irenevt 05:33 Archived in USA Comments (4)

Victoria

Capital of British Columbia.

sunny

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Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia. It is an absolutely beautiful city. It is sometimes known as the garden city. A very apt name, because everywhere we went we were surrounded by greenery, trees and flowers. Victoria is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. This area was originally home to several groups of Coast Salish First Nations people. Victoria is named after Queen Victoria and was founded by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1843 as a trading post and fort. In 1858 when gold was discovered in the Frazer River Valley, the population of Victoria rose greatly. Victoria decreased in importance when the Canada Pacific Railway chose Vancouver rather than Victoria to be its terminus city.

On the day we arrived in Victoria we looked at the provincial legislature building, Thunderbird Park, the Empress Hotel, Bastion Square, Market Square, Chinatown and City Hall.

On our full day we went to Craigdarroch Castle, the Governor's house and gardens, Ross Bay Cemetery, the absolutely stunning Abkhazi Gardens and Beacon Hill Park. On our last day we visited Fisherman's Wharf and fell in love with the wonderful wild seals there.

Many people get from Vancouver to Victoria using Pacific Coaches but it was much cheaper and really easy just to use public transport. We travelled on the Canada Line to Bridgeport Station then boarded bus 620 to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. This bus was pretty crowded but then it was a public holiday. When we arrived at Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, we bought our ticket and boarded a BC Ferry bound for Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal. The ferry was very comfortable and the Gulf Island scenery was lovely so the one and a half hour ferry ride passed very quickly. At Swartz Bay you can take bus 70, 71 or 72 to Downtown Victoria. We had a female driver and she could not have been more helpful. She provided information for everyone about how to reach their hotel, calling out their stops or telling them where and when to transit. The last stop of this bus was very close to the Provincial Legislature Building. Buses in Victoria cost $2.50 and its $5 for a day ticket

We travelled to Victoria on Good Friday and stayed there till Easter Sunday. To get there we took a bus, then a ferry through the Gulf Islands, then another bus.

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Ferry to Victoria.

One of the first sights we visited in Victoria was the Provincial Legislature Buildings. These ornate, green domed buildings are located next to Victoria's Inner Harbour. They are spectacular both by day and at night when they are lit up. The Provincial Legislature Buildings were designed by Francis Rattenbury and were completed in 1897, ­Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee year. They were officially opened in February 1898. Tours of the inside of the buildings are apparently available, but we only viewed them from the outside. On the grounds there is a huge totem pole, a statue of Queen Victoria, other statues and fountains. Francis Rattenbury designed several buildings in Victoria and Vancouver. He was later tragically murdered by his second wife and her young lover.

If you visit the Provincial legislature Building in Victoria, make sure you walk all the way around it. I liked the fountain on its right hand side. This fountain had statues of several local animals and information about local history.

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The Provincial Legislature

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The Provincial Legislature

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The Provincial Legislature

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The Provincial Legislature fountain.

The Inner Harbour of Victoria is quite pretty and is filled with a variety of different boats. If we had had more time, we would have taken a water taxi trip across it. As we walked along the waterfront, we encountered several naval monuments.

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The Inner Harbour.

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The Inner Harbour.

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The Inner Harbour.

Towering over one end of the Inner Harbour stands the impressive Fairmont Empress Hotel. This hotel was also designed by Francis Rattenbury as a Canadian Pacific Railway hotel. It was opened on 25th January 1908.

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The Fairmont Empress Hotel.

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The Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Near the Fairmont Empress Hotel stands Thunderbird Park. Its name comes from the mythological Thunderbird of many First Nations' legends. The thunderbird is a legendary creature that causes thunder when it beats its enormous wings. Lightning is the light flashing from its eyes. This park has a large number of totem poles. Totem poles were first erected on this site in 1940 and the site was opened as Thunderbird Park in 1941.

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Thunderbird Park.

Very close to Thunderbird Park stands Helmcken House. It is also near the Royal BC Museum. Helmcken House is an old wooden house that was the home of Dr John Sebastian Helmcken. He was the first doctor to work for the Hudson Bay Company in Victoria. Helmcken lived in this house from 1853 to 1920. There is a statue of him outside the house. When we visited, the house was closed, so we just viewed it from the outside.

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Helmcken House.

A bit further along the front is Bastion Square. This is located in an area that was originally established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1843 as Fort Victoria. From this Fort the Hudson Bay Company traded with First Nations people to acquire such things as furs, coal, salmon, gold and whale oil. Bastion Square was home to Burnes House which dates from 1886 and was one of Victoria's earliest hotels. It was also home to the first Supreme Court building dating from 1889. This building is now the Maritime Museum. The Board of Trade Building dating from 1892 and the Chancery Chambers dating from 1905 were also located here. At one time there was a jailhouse in Helmcken Alley. This area is believed to be haunted by the tormented souls of the poor people who were executed here. Nowadays as well as admiring the historic buildings you can find places to eat and drink here. In summer this square hosts a market, too.

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Bastion Square.

Victoria's Chinatown has the distinction of being the oldest Chinatown in Canada. It is the second oldest in North America after San Francisco. Victoria's Chinatown grew up to house the many Chinese miners who flocked there when gold was found in the Frazer River Valley. It increased in size again when Chinese workers arrived to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Victoria's Chinatown has a lovely traditional gate called the Gate of Harmonious Interest. Chinatown is also home to Victoria's narrowest street Fan Tan Alley. This alley was once home to many opium dens then when opium became illegal it became home to gambling dens. The alley is in fact called after a gambling game fan tan ­ that used to take place here. As gambling dens were illegal the alley had watchmen at both ends and the gambling dens had secret escape routes in case of raids. Sun Yat Sen the father of Modern China came to Victoria to build up support from the Chinese community here for the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty.

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Chinatown.

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Chinatown.

Market Square dates from the late 1800s. This was a time when Victoria was enjoying rapid growth and prosperity due to all the gold prospectors passing through on their way to seek their fortunes in the Frazer River Valley. This Square was once home to busy hotels, saloons, and shops. Nowadays it is home to shops and restaurants. There is a pretty fountain here, too.

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Market Square.

Victoria City Hall is located on Douglas Street and Pandora Avenue. It was completed in 1890 and was designed by architect John Teague. Outside there was a statue and a memorial to Victoria's firefighters who lost their lives saving others.

After visiting City Hall, we had a very pleasant dinner then went home for a much needed sleep.

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City Hall.

We were eager to see lots more next day. As soon as we said we were going to Victoria, everyone who had ever been there told we had to go to Butchart Gardens, but we did not. The reason for this was that I found so many things I wanted to do in Victoria itself that I did not want to devote a day to the Butchart Gardens. Maybe on a future visit.

The first stop on my full day itinerary was Craigdarroch Castle. We could have walked here, but as we had several sights to see that day we bought a day pass and took the bus. You can get there on bus 11, 14, 22 or 28 from Douglas Street. Each bus journey in Victoria costs $2.50 and a day pass costs $5, so you only need to do two journeys to break even. We asked the driver to tell us when to get off which he did and a passenger getting off at the same stop pointed us in the right direction.

When we reached the castle, the first thing I noticed was it was surrounded by trucks and looked a right mess. This turned out to be because there was a film crew in the castle to make a psychological thriller called "The Boy". Of course, that meant we could not go into the castle or even into the grounds, so we just had to make do with taking a photo from the street. Guess we'll have to watch the movie to see inside the castle.

Craigdarroch Castle was built by wealthy Scottish coal barron Robert Dunsmuir in the late 1800s. It was intended as a family home for him, his wife Joan, their two sons and eight daughters. Unfortunately, Robert Dunsmuir died in April 1889, 17 months before the castle was completed. After Robert Dunsmuir's death, a feud broke out between his widow Joan and her two sons over his will. He had verbally promised his businesses to his sons but actually left them to his wife. James Dunsmuir was on bad terms with his mother right up to her death. When she died, he unexpectedly turned up at her funeral and broke down with grief. James Dunsmuir later built Victoria's second and even bigger castle ­ Hatley Castle which we did not have time to visit. Craigdarroch Castle has thirty­-nine rooms. It is famous for its intricate woodwork and beautiful stained glass. Of course, it is haunted!!!! Admission costs $13.95. It is open from 10AM to 4.30PM daily.

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Craigdarroch Castle.

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Craigdarroch Castle.

A short walk from Craigdarroch Castle took us to Government House and Gardens. We could not go inside the house, so we explored the beautiful gardens instead. The gardens cover 36 acres. Some of them are formal gardens such as rose gardens, others are more natural. I especially loved the bluebell woods, the blossoming trees and the pond. There are beautiful views over Victoria from behind the governor's house. These gardens are amazingly beautiful and well worth seeing.

There is also a coach house and The Cary Castle Mews. As it was April when we visited nothing was open at the mews. The gardens are open every day of the year from dawn to dusk, free of charge. The Cary Castle Mews Interpretive Centre and Tea Room is open from May until September, Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 3pm.

Government House and Gardens are located in the Rocklands area of Victoria. This area has many stunning houses and beautiful gardens. Government House is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. You can only enter the house on a tour and that tour is only available one Saturday each month at 10am and 11am.

The present Government House is the third to be built at this location. The first was Cary Castle which was built in 1860. Unfortunately, this mansion was destroyed by fire in May 1899. The second house was designed by Francis Rattenbury and Samuel Maclure. This was completed in 1903, but also caught fire and was destroyed on 15th April 1957. The current Government House was begun soon after the fire and was completed on 19th May 1959. Outside Government House there is a statue of James Douglas the first governor of British Columbia. We saw him again later in Fort Langley.

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Government House.

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Government House.

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Sir James Douglas, Government House.

After visiting Government House and gardens we walked to Ross Bay Cemetery. (That bus pass was really coming in handy at this stage, though we did use it later.) Ross Bay Cemetery is a historic cemetery next to the sea. We had a look at the war graves and war memorial. We found the grave of Robert Dunsmuir ­ owner of Craigdarroch Castle. Other famous people buried there include Sir James Douglas ­ BC’s first governor, Emily Carr ­ world ­famous artist, Billy Barker ­ discoverer of gold at Barkerville and Nellie Chapman ­ the "Miners’ Angel" who was featured on a US postage stamp. It is possible to print off a map of the cemetery on­line which we should have done as it is too difficult to find famous graves without one. You can reach Ross Bay Cemetery on the number 7 bus.

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Ross Bay Cemetery.

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Ross Bay Cemetery.

We walked from the Ross Bay Cemetery to the Abkhazi Gardens. These are also on the number 7 bus route. The sign outside the Abkhazi Gardens describes them as the gardens that love built because of the story behind them.

Marjorie Peggy Pemberton­ Carter, usually referred to as Peggy, had a very sad childhood. She was orphaned when she was just three years old. At first she was sent to live with relatives, but they did not really want her and put her up for adoption. After some time a rich, childless couple adopted her. She grew up in a cold, loveless environment. Eventually her adoptive father died and Peggy became the constant travelling companion of her domineering adoptive mother. She was in Paris with her adoptive mother in the 1920s when she met Nicholas Abkhazi.

Nicholas had also had a tragic life. Together with his mother he had fled the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1919. His father was the hereditary ruling Prince of Abkhazia, in Georgia. Nicholas and his mother settled in Paris and waited for his father to join them. This never happened as Nicholas’ father was executed in 1923. With the death of Nicholas's father, the family lost everything.

Peggy and Nicholas became firm friends in Paris and when she left Paris, they continued to write to each other. Peggy's adoptive mother died in 1938 and Peggy returned to Shanghai­ the city of her birth. When the Second World War broke out, both Nicholas and Peggy were interned in prisoner of war camps: Nicholas in Germany and Peggy in a camp near Shanghai.

While she was interned in the Japanese prisoner of war camp, Peggy kept a secret diary of her war experiences. This was later published as 'A Curious Cage' in 1981. Peggy also hid travellers’ cheques in a tin of talcum powder. When she was freed at the end of the war, Peggy used these cheques to purchase a passage to San Francisco. From there in 1945 she made her way to Victoria where her closest friends, the Mackenzies, lived. Peggy used her money to buy the large rocky plot of land that would become Abkhazi Garden. The first building to be placed on her land was the little summerhouse.

Then in January 1946, Peggy received a letter from Nicholas. They had lost each other for the duration of the war and did not know that the other had even survived. They agreed to meet in New York. Their reunion, their first in 13 years, turned into an engagement. They returned to Victoria and were married in November 1946.

The Abkhazis devoted their married life to cultivating their beautiful garden. Nicholas died in 1987. Peggy died in 1994, at the age of 92.The garden still stands as a wonderful tribute to their lives and work.

I loved the Abkhazi Gardens because they were so beautiful, but I also loved the story. When you stand here, you know you are standing in the happiest part of two people's lives.

The Abkhazi Gardens is open daily from 11am to 5pm. Last entrance is at 4pm. The Abkhazis house is now a tearoom and a gift shop. There is also a washroom available there. Entry to the gardens was by voluntary donation.

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Abkhazi Gardens.

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Abkhazi Gardens.

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Abkhazi Gardens.

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Summer House, Abkhazi Gardens.

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The Pathway, Abkhazi Gardens.

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The House, Abkhazi Gardens.

After visiting the Abkhazi Gardens we took a bus back to the centre of Victoria; then later visited Beacon Hill Park. This park takes its name from the fact there were two beacons located on Beacon Hill overlooking the sea here. The park has many ponds, a children's play area, a petting zoo which had closed before we got there, a cricket field, lots of ducks, squirrels and peacocks. There was also a statue of Queen Elizabeth II and of Robert Burns.

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Beacon Hill Park.

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Peacocks, Beacon Hill Park.

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Rush Hour Beacon Hill Park.

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Peahens, Beacon Hill Park.

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Rabbie Burns Statue, Beacon Hill Park.

On our last day we spent the morning strolling along the waterfront to Fisherman's Wharf. Fisherman's Wharf is a great place to visit. It has restaurants, colourful houses on the water, boats and best of all wild seals which will come to the shore to be fed fish. I could have watched these adorable creatures for hours. We also watched seagulls fighting over a crab. You can go on whale watching trips from here or hire a kayak. It is well worth visiting.

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Fisherman's Wharf.

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Fisherman's Wharf.

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Fisherman's Wharf.

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Fisherman's Wharf.

I liked the look of The Church of Our Lord, I first passed this beautiful church on the bus then went back to see it, because it looked so lovely. The Church of Our Lord dates from 1876 making it the oldest church in Victoria. It is located on the corner of Humbolt and Blanshard Streets. It is a carpenter gothic church, meaning it has features of traditional gothic churches, but is made of wood. This church was founded by Reverend Edward Cridge, the first Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Canada. Next to the church stands the Edward Cridge Memorial Hall. At the side of the church there was historical information about this building. We had a quick look inside but there was a very well attended Easter Sunday service going on, so I could not take any photos.

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The Church of Our Lord.

We were sad to leave Victoria. We really loved visiting here.

Posted by irenevt 03:59 Archived in Canada Tagged victoria. Comments (2)

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