Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Taste of San Francisco's Chinatown

(All photos will enlarge is clicked on once, and then again)

San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America.  Only sixteen square blocks in size, it is a vibrant, crowded and colorful place to visit, and no visit to San Francisco would be complete without seeing it. The Chinatown Gate, also known as the Dragon Gate, located on Grant Avenue at Bush Street, as seen in my photo above, was a gift from Taiwan in 1970, and was inspired by traditional Chinese village gates.

The city of San Francisco is a beautiful contrast between old and new, and this can be seen from this photo taken from Grant Street with the Transamerica Pyramid standing in the background.  Chinatown borders the Financial District of San Francisco on its eastern border. My husband and I stayed at a Hilton Hotel near the pyramid, as he was there to do a three day audit for the company he works for. We arrived a few days early to enjoy the city together, and then also traveled to the wine country in Sonoma and Napa County and on to Yosemite National Park as part of our vacation.

As you can see looking down this street towards the Financial District from Chinatown, San Francisco is a city built on many hills, and many of the streets are quite steep!  Thankfully all three existing lines of cable cars run through Chinatown -- the Powell-Hyde, the Powell-Mason and the California Line, along the steepest streets, so it is easy and fun to take them to visit Chinatown.

Another view of a street with an incline in Chinatown.  Walking up them can be a challenge if you are not used to walking uphill often, as I soon found out!  Notice how the cars have to turn their front wheels to prevent the vehicle from rolling down the hill.

An interesting alley to explore in Chinatown is Waverly, which runs parallel to Grant Avenue, between Washington and Sacramento Streets. It is full of picturesque buildings with colorful balconies.

Another interesting alley is Ross Alley, which is the location of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, a hole-in-the-wall storefront where over 20,000 fortune cookies are baked and folded by hand every day. It was so small and so crowded out front with tourists that I could not even get close enough to take a good photo, but I did find this Youtube of how the cookies are made.

Grant Avenue is the main tourist shopping street and is full of both kitschy souvenirs, to exquisite pieces of Asian artworks, for sale, plus many restaurants and dim sum shops.

A photo collage of some of the unique items for sale on Grant Avenue in Chinatown.

The House of Nanking Restaurant, located at 919 Kearny Street, came highly recommended to us to dine for lunch or dinner, so we stopped by one late afternoon to avoid the dinner rush.  Sometimes the line to get into this small unpretentious restaurant is an hour long, as it is always cited as one of the best places to get authentic Chinese cuisine at a good price in San Francisco publications. It is not fancy by any means, and my husband and I had a good chuckle when the hot and sour soup we ordered as part of our meal was served last!  We shared pork dumplings, fried calamari and sesame noodles, along with a bowl of soup each. Everything was good, but I have to admit the flavorings of the soup and sesame noodles were different from what we are used to when we order them in New York's Chinatown, which is probably just a matter of regional differences of the chefs.

Hop onto the cable car and we'll visit some other San Francisco sights and experiences in my next blog post!

I'm joining Susan at "Outdoor Wednesday "on her blog A Southern Daydreamer and Cathy's Wednesday Adventure Tour Express on her blog A Bit of the Blarney. Please visit their blogs on Wednesday and see all the other outdoor adventures!

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

San Francisco Mosaic

Did you miss me?

My husband and I were away on vacation for the past two weeks in Northern and Central California, seeing many wonderful sights in San Francisco, the wine country in Sonoma and Napa Valleys, and Yosemite National Park.
(This photo mosaic will enlarge if clicked once and then again when it reopens on a new page)

I know it's a bit of a cliché to say it,  but I really did leave my heart in San Francisco.  This was my second visit to this beautiful city by the bay and it was a pleasure to re-visit some favorite places I saw before and to enjoy many new experiences.

I thought a mosaic of some of our favorite sights in San Francisco would be a nice introduction to some of the many photos I am still in the process of downloading and editing since I returned home last evening.

  • From left to right on the top of the mosaic you can see the quaint Victorian houses on Alamo Square, a decorative house in Chinatown, a delicious Dungeness crab, a pagoda in the Japanese Garden of Golden Gate Park.
  • In the middle of the mosaic we see the sign for the popular Fishermans Wharf, a cable car, the Golden Gate Bridge, a distant shot of Lombard Street, which is the crookedest street in the world.
  • The last line in the mosaic shows Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, the sleeping seals on Pier 39, the pyramid shaped Transamerica skyscraper, and a loaf of famous San Francisco sourdough bread.
The sights, sounds, tastes and the delightful cool weather touch of San Francisco has truly stolen my heart and I will treasure all the memories of our visit.  I hope you will return to my blog to see more photos of this beautiful city, and also the other areas we visited, over the next few weeks.  Also make sure to visit Mary of The Little Red House blog where I am joining in her Mosaic Monday event today.

It will be a pleasure to now catch up with your blogs....it's good to be home again!

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Monday, August 23, 2010

I Love Governors Island - Part 2

No, I haven't been away on another cruise on the Queen Mary 2, but I am on a wonderful adventure I'll be telling you about soon!

 As promised, I wanted to show you more about Governors Island.  My part one post about the island can be read here.  The magnificent Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2 was docked at the new Brooklyn, New York Cruise terminal and was visible across Buttermilk Channel from Governor's island in New York Harbor.  Notice the size of the NYC Water Taxi passing by the ship! 

There are many plans to convert the former military base of Governors Island into park land and public spaces in the future, but right now a visit to the island is very enjoyable, just for the spectacular views!  My husband and I sat on a park bench like this one, in the north eastern section of the island, for quite a while enjoying this wonderful view of lower Manhattan.

It was so relaxing watching the sail boats....

....and the ferries.....

...and even a clipper ship passed by. 

 I enjoyed seeing the juxtaposition between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan bridge in this photo.

Walking a little further west on the northern area of Governors Island we passed a New York City Water Taxi Beach. It is a waterfront spot for great music all summer long from its concert stage, with food and drinks available for purchase, along with more spectacular views of lower Manhattan.

Walking further west on the 2.2 mile long perimeter promenade of the island we pass the historic Castle Williams, which is a circular fortification of red sandstone on the northwest point of Governors Island, part of a system of forts designed and constructed in the early 1800s to protect New York City from naval attack. It is a prominent landmark in New York Harbor. It is presently undergoing restoration

Walking further along you can see in the distance of the harbor the beginning of the Hudson River, which separates New Jersey and the island of Manhattan.

Walking further on the promenade, on its western side, we see the Statue of Liberty appear in the distance.

There is a little park in this vicinity with swings for children, and also some seat swings that fit two adults. Here I am swinging and enjoying the view of Lady Liberty in the harbor!

Here is the informational placard about the Statue of Liberty that was in the area, and a view of the swing I was on in the background.

This area is named "Picnic Point." This new eight acre space on Governors Island’s south western shore was developed after ten old, but not historic, former Coast Guard apartment buildings were demolished.

Picnic Point provides picnic tables, red Adirondack chairs and hammocks available for all to enjoy.

It is a nice place to enjoy the view of the Statue of Liberty and also watch all the assortments of bicycles pass by.

I can never tire looking at this beautiful lady!

Now we turn in our walk along the southern perimeter of the island. 

 It is this area where we first saw the Queen Mary 2.

Walking close to the south eastern part of the island we passed the Trapeze School New York (TSNY) and Big Apple Circus offers Flying Trapeze Lessons on the Parade Ground area on Governors Island. While not a permanent activity it is one of the many rotating fun events available on the island during the summer.

Governors Island is really a remarkable place to spend the day! The views, activities, picnic opportunities, music, art exhibits and more all add up to a family friendly public space and a wonderful addition to New York City Parks.  It is open to visitors this year on Fridays, Saturday and Sunday until early October, and it will re-open again in the Spring of 2011.  If you have the opportunity to visit it you won't be disappointed.  I know I'll be spending much more time on the island in the future!

I won't have much computer access in the next few days so please be patient with me.  I'll be reading all your comments and visiting your blogs as soon as I am able. I hope everyone is enjoying these last days of August!

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Love Governors Island!

My husband and I took the ferry to Governors Island a few weekends ago, and we had a wonderful time exploring the island that is now open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday through October 10, 2010. It will re-open again to visitors in the spring of 2011. The Governors Island ferry departs from the Battery Maritime Building located at 10 South Street, adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry in Lower Manhattan.  The ferry ride and nearly all events that take place on the Island are free!
(all photos can be enlarged by clicking on once, and then again when they open in a new window)

Governors Island is a 172-acre island in Upper New York Bay, approximately one-half mile from the southern tip of Manhattan Island and separated from Brooklyn by Buttermilk Channel. It is legally part of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. Because of its strategic location in the harbor, Governors Island has a long history of being used by the military, from the Continental Army during the American Revolution, to the U.S. Army from 1783 to 1966. From 1966 to 1996 the island served as a major the United States Coast Guard installation.  On January 31, 2003, control of most of the island was transferred to the State of New York for a symbolic $1, but 22 acres was transferred to the United States Department of the Interior as the Governors Island National Monument, administered by the National Park Service. The portion of the island not included in the National Monument is administered by the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC), a public corporation of the State of New York.

The ferry leaving the terminal.

A Governor's Island ferry, making a return trip to lower Manhattan, can be seen in this photo.

A map of the island and the current amenities.  The promenade around the island is easily walkable 2.2 miles. There are now future plans to convert the island into a park to be used for recreation, car-free biking, cultural programming, and relaxation. To see renditions of what the future may hold for Governors Island parks look at this web site.

More interesting facts about the island can be read on this informational placard that was on the island.  Click on to enlarge. 

The day we visited the island there were special Civil War reenactments taking place. 

Some examples of the various types of military housing that still stand on the island.

Visitors to Governors Island can bring their own bicycles.  Bicycles, quadricycles, and tandems can also be rented.

I was pleasantly surprised to see an Etsy store in one of the former residences.

The homemade goods for sale were creatively displayed among a few rooms of the house.

A nice idea to use vintage china, glued together, as display tiers.  Even I could make something as pretty and useful as this!

Across  Buttermilk Channel, in Brooklyn's new cruise terminal in Red Hook, the Queen Mary 2, Cunard's flagship luxury cruise ship was docked, ready to depart on a cruise later that evening.  Isn't she beautiful? The QM2 holds a special place in our hearts, as we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary on a fall foliage cruise to New England and Canada on board during her maiden year.

Come back to my next blog post with part two of Governors Island where I'll show some of the magnificent views that can be seen from its shores!

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dancing In the Streets

Do you feel that summer is slowly slipping away? I do.  It was so unusually hot and humid here in New York City this summer that many of my usual outdoor activities and plans did not materialize as I stayed inside in air conditioning instead.  I may have read more books than usual but I missed going on picnics, outdoor concerts, and taking more long walks.  One thing I happened to see recently this summer, however, which raised my spirits, was public displays of dancing!   
(all photos will enlarge when clicked on once and then again when it opens in a new page -- use the back arrow to return to the post)

The photo mosaic above is of the Canadian choreographer-dancer Paul-André Fortier, performing a 30-minute dance called “ Solo 30 x 30.” He performed at noon each day for 30 consecutive days, ending in August 14, in the open air at 1 New York Plaza in Lower Manhattan as part of the annual summer "River to River Festival." Rain or shine, and through oppressive heat, he danced in silence to his own internal sound track. Whirling, pantomiming, reckoning, and gesturing, his artistic contribution to the summer festival was a joy to watch!

Seeing one of his performances made me remember the 1964 Martha and The Vandellas song "Dancing In the Streets."

"Callin' out around the world
Are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer's here and the time is right
For dancin' in the streets...."

This photo mosaic is of an assortment of dances I saw while walking along the Coney Island boardwalk a week ago.  There were small groups of people having a good time dancing to live music all along the almost 3 mile long boardwalk. The small boy was an amazing break dancer for his age!

"... All we need is music, sweet music
There'll be music everywhere
There'll be swingin', swayin' and records playin'
And dancin' in the streets..."

The last group of dancers I saw that are in the photos above were dancing to the music in the New York Mets baseball team's beautiful Citi Field before the game. There is a restaurant and lively Fan Fest family entertainment area behind the scoreboard area of the stadium and many fans took the opportunity to dance to the music!

"Oh, it doesn't matter what you wear
Just as long as you are there
So come on, every guy grab a girl
Everywhere around the world
There'll be dancin'
They're dancin' in the street..."

If you'd like to hear the "Dancing In the Streets" song watch this video:

"This is an invitation
Across the nation
A chance for the folks to meet
There'll be laughin' and singin' and music swingin'
And dancin' in the streets."

I hope before this summer is over you have a chance to dance a little in the streets where you live!

I'll be adding this post to Mary's "Mosaic Monday" on her blog Little Red House. Please drop by her blog on Monday to see her beautiful photos mosaic and links to all the other blogs participating this week.

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