Port of Call: San Francisco




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San Francisco was the first port of call on the very first cruise Janis and I ever took, a repositioning cruise from San Diego to Vancouver. We had driven through San Francisco before, taking one of the highways over the Golden Gate on our first trip to California together. But we never actually stopped to take in the city. This was our first time seeing some of its famous venues.

Our cruise ship, the Radiance of the Seas, seen as we walked up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower
Our cruise ship, the Radiance of the Seas, seen as we walked up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower

The city is famous for a number of tourist attractions and we had no idea which we would see on our stay. We were surprised to find that many of them were within walking distance of the cruise ship’s pier.  In fact, the pier was only about four and a half miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.

The closest landmark to our ship was Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. The tower was named after Lillie Hitchcock Coit, an eccentric woman who smoked cigars, wore pants and loved to frequent San Francisco’s gambling halls. She helped a short-handed fire crew on her way from school when she was fifteen and was made an honorary mascot of Knickerbocker Engine Co. No. 5.

Coit Tower
Coit Tower

When she passed away she left a third of her ample estate to the city she loved and the city built Coit Tower in her honour. The 210 foot tower was built in 1933. An apocryphal story says the art deco tower is shaped like the nozzle of a fireman’s hose because of Coit’s fondness for firefighters, but the resemblance is actually coincidental.

The Financial District seen from Coit Tower
The Financial District seen from the top of Coit Tower

We climbed to the top where you get an excellent view of the city. One of the sites we could see, even from the garden by the parking lot, was the famous zig-zag street, a short section of Lombard Street which has been used in movie chase scenes, notably The Love Bug (1968) and What’s Up Doc? (1972). The clip below has Herbie racing down the zig-zag street early in the scene.

It looked to be walking distance so we hoofed it. It is only a mile away, about a twenty minute walk. And it is worth seeing, a fascinating piece of history. The zig-zaggy part is only a block long and has eight switchbacks traversing to navigate the 27 degree slope.

At the foot of the switchbacks on Lombard Street
At the foot of the switchbacks on Lombard Street

A block further we came to Hyde Street where some of the famous cable cars ply up and down the hills. Naturally we had to take a ride. We went up the hill and soon found ourselves at another interesting venue, the power  house. Here you can learn about the history of the cable cars and see the huge wheels that move the cables in action.

Janis and I hop aboard a cable car
Janis and I hop aboard a cable car
The Power House, the core of the San Francisco cable car network
The Power House, the core of the San Francisco cable car network

We took a cable car back down the hill to Fisherman’s Wharf. We cjecked out the famous Ghirdelli Chocolate Factory at the west end of the strip and then headed east. We stopped for lunch at one of the many restaurants along the way.

Many of the restaurants along Fisherman's Wharf command an excellent view of the bay
Many of the restaurants along Fisherman’s Wharf command an excellent view of the bay. That’s Alcatraz in the left background.

After lunch we walked along the road taking in the sights when all of a sudden a piece of shrubbery jumped up and roared at me as I approached. I jumped about two feet in the air and my wife and friends had a good laugh. The shrubbery was the world famous Bushman.

David Johnson, the Bushman
David Johnson, the Bushman

Some humourless local businesses have tried to shut him down and the city has occasionally charged him with a misdemeanour (he always gets acquitted by a jury). We thought he was a hoot. We crossed the street to watch unobtrusively as he startled a few more tourists. A good laugh.

Further along we cam to Pier 39 where a lot of large floating platforms are home to a herd of sea lions. Noisy, smelly sea lions! Entertaining to watch.

Dozens of sea lions lounging around Pier 39
Dozens of sea lions lounging around Pier 39

After Fisherman’s Wharf we still had lots of time before our ship departed so we hoofed it to Chinatown which is just over a mile from there, a 25 minute walk. The old buildings of Chinatown are a sharp contrast to the soaring towers of the nearby Financial District.

Chinatown with the Transamerica Building in the background
Chinatown with the Transamerica Building in the background

On the way back to the ship we came across two more interesting sights. One was a Chinese restaurant featuring a huge mural of a jazz club. The Sun

The New Sun Hong Kong Restaurant on the outskirts of Chinatown
The New Sun Hong Kong Restaurant on the outskirts of Chinatown and its amazing mural

And we passed an area on Broadway that looked to be San Francisco’s sin city strip – adult book stores, strip bars, etc. featuring colorful names like Big Al’s, the Roaring 20s and the Hungry I Club.

Colorful strip bars and adult book stores along Broadway
Colorful strip bars and adult book stores along Broadway

We made it back to the ship for our late sailing and caught the vibrant evening skyline as we left. All in all, a fun time in San Francisco.

San Francisco at night from our cruise ship
San Francisco at night from our cruise ship. The Coit Tower and the Transamerica Building are prominent landmarks.

Here are a few more photos of our visit.

Janis and I at the foot of the zig-zag part of Lombard Street
Janis and I at the foot of the zig-zag part of Lombard Street
At the top of the zig-zag block
At the top of the zig-zag block, Coit Tower in the distance. The bridge in the distance is the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
A sea lion hoists itself onto a floating wharf at Pier 39
A sea lion hoists itself onto a floating wharf at Pier 39
More sea lions at Pier 39
More sea lions at Pier 39
Chinatown
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest Chinese community outside Asia
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Alcatraz, once a notorious prison, now a major tourist attraction. We did not see it on this trip. Maybe next time.

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Busselton Jetty




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Although Margaret River is actually a small town located on a broad spur sticking out from the southwestern end of Western Australia, that whole region is widely known as Margaret River. It is wine country. It’s also an area of rolling hills, farms, forests and some great surfing beaches.

On the north end of this spur is the town of Busselton which has a claim to fame all its own. It is the home of the Busselton Jetty, the second longest wooden pile jetty in the world and the longest in the southern hemisphere. Built in 1865, it celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015.

 

The Busselton Jetty
The Busselton Jetty. This picture captures only a part of its length as it angles off at around 15 degrees at the end.

Originally entirely made of wood, it consists of a long pier into Geographe Bay and then extends twice as far again at a fifteen degree angle. Geographe Bay is quite shallow so the pier had to be long so deep sea vessels could tie up there.

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You can see the extension angling off at fifteen degrees from the main pier here.

The pier is a staggering 1.841 kilometres long. And it is well worth the visit. We first visited in May of 2015 and again in March of 2016. A comfortable walk on a nice day, although there is a train that runs the length of it with a stop at the elbow as well as the end. There is a $3 admission to the jetty and an additional fee for the train.

The little choo choo train.
The little choo choo train.

The pier was only 176 meters long when first opened in 1865 and it was continuously added to, reaching its final length of 1841 meters in the 1960s. It was in commercial use until the last ship docked there on October 17, 1971. The jetty was then closed and fell into disrepair. Cyclone Alby in 1978 destroyed the shore end of the pier.

Part of the original jetty is still standing.
Part of the original jetty is still standing. Much of this end of the pier was destroyed in a hurricane in 1978.

In 1987, the Jetty Preservation Society was formed. Battling more storms and fires over the years, it managed to raise both public and private funds to rebuild the pier, culminating in its declaration as a heritage site. The $27 million project was completed in 2011 and it is now a popular tourist destination.

It features a small museum and interpretive center close to shore and an underwater observatory and gift shop near the end. The observatory opened in 2003.

Along the way there is a long line of plaques commemorating people whose ashes have been scattered from the pier. They contain messages like “In memory of so and so whose ashes were scattered by his family from the 300, his favorite spot. Gone fishing.”

A number of people have had their ashes scattered from the pier.
A number of people have had their ashes scattered from the pier.

You’ll also see a number of large signs along the way detailing some of the history of the pier as well as featuring some poems and interesting facts.

There are also a number of platforms off to the side along the way. Stairs take you down to a lower level for different view. And these platforms are popular with fishermen.

A fisherman pulls in a catch.
A fisherman pulls in a catch.

We did not go down to the underwater observatory – there is a fee to do so, but we walked beyond the gift shop to the last 140 meters of pier. This is the very end of the pier – 1.841 kilometres out. Daughter Sarah and her fiancé Jamie, both yoga enthusiasts, struck a few poses with the Indian Ocean as a backdrop.

Striking a pose.
Striking a pose.

When we came out ten months later, more additions had been made at this end. A sign showing the distance from various city centers among them.

Signposts to the far corners of the planet.
Signposts to the far corners of the planet.

Also new were some large murals of whales on the floor of the pier. Created by local artist Ian Mutch, these drawings were life-sized. Mutch’s website includes an aerial video of his amazing renderings of these denizens of the deep.

Busselton Jetty whale mural from Ian Mutch on Vimeo.

Another striking difference between our May visit and our March visit was the great increase in the amount of wildlife we saw. We hit the jackpot with many bird sightings and a pod of dolphins.

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The dolphins swam around and under the pier not far from the swimming area. There are two in this picture.
Here's one close up.
Here’s one close up.

On the shore there is a visitor’s center as well as a nice park, a swimming area, a waterslide and a penned off swimming area. We saw wild cockatoos on both our visits but a lot more in March than the previous May.

A wild cockatoo enlarged from a wider shot of a flock of these noisy but colorful bids.
A wild cockatoo enlarged from a wider shot of a flock of these noisy but colorful birds.

So if you’re ever out visiting the Margaret River area, do check out the Busselton Jetty. It’s a colorful venue steeped in history.

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Photo Gallery: Busselton Jetty




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Here are some additional photos from the Busselton Jetty.

The Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre
From just beyond the bend on the Busselton Jetty.
From just beyond the bend on the Busselton Jetty.
One of many signs along the way relating the colorful history of the jetty.
One of many signs along the way relating the colorful history of the jetty.
Janis and I on one of the fishing platforms.
Janis and I on one of the fishing platforms.
About half way out on the jetty.
About half way out on the jetty.
Some of the plaques honoring people whose ashes were scattered here.
Some of the plaques honoring people whose ashes were scattered here.
The train runs the length of the jetty for those who may find the trek too much.
The train runs the length of the jetty for those who may find the trek too much.
Looking back from the very end of the pier.
Looking back from the very end of the pier.
Yoga at the pier
Yoga at the pier
More yoga at the pier.
More yoga at the pier.
The whale murals
The whale murals
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Whales by Ian Mutch
The signposts
The signposts
Heading back
Heading back
Bird on the remnant of the old pier.
Birds on the remnant of the old pier.
Looks a bit like a penguin.
Looks a bit like a penguin.
Another interesting bird.
Another interesting bird.
A dolphin swims near the pier.
A dolphin swims near the pier.
And a flock of cockatoos
And a flock of cockatoos

Below is a somewhat shaky video of a flock of cockatoos near the jetty.

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Hillarys Boat Harbour




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There are a number of small harbours up and down the coast of the Greater Perth region. The largest, of course, is Fremantle which is a major port. The smaller ones mainly serve pleasure craft and a number of those are tourist destinations as well. That’s the case with Hillarys Boat Harbour, about 23 kilometres from downtown Perth or a 35-40 minute drive. The easiest way to get there is to take the Mitchell Freeway (Highway # 2) and turn left onto Hepburn Avenue which takes you all the way to the marina.

The map above is an earth view of Hillarys. Click on the View Larger Map button and you’ll see it on a full page. There you can use CTL and your mouse to rotate the map any which way you choose.

The Breakwater complex has a fine dining restaurant upstairs and a more casual rendez-vous below.
The Breakwater complex has a fine dining restaurant upstairs and a more casual rendez-vous below. The large boat moored there is the Rottnest Island Ferry.

A couple of breakwaters enclose the marina. where many private boats are moored. One of the Rottnest Ferries docks here. The other’s home port is Fremantle. But for visitors, it’s the shopping mall and restaurants that are the big attraction. Formally called Sorrento Quay, it features wide boardwalks and a concert staging area completed in mid-2016.

Reataurants abound here. You can find casual fare like Grill’d or Dome to the the classy Breakwater which has four facilities, the casual Lower Deck to the upscale Ishka Restaurant and adjacent Reid’s Lounge. You can also reserve the Akoya Suite for corporate functions and even weddings.

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Zeno’s Cafe and fro-yo are among the many food service outlets at Hillarys. Much of the quay and boardwalk is on stilts above the water.

There are specialty food places like Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Belissimo Gelato, La Chocolateria and more. Or fast food like Subway or Little C’s Pizza. Scrolling through eateries on their website, I counted 34 of them. There are also a lot of specialty shops. Everything from clothing stores to souvenir shops to a barber shop and a candy shop. Around 30 different shops.

Art Affaire Gallery
Art Affaire Gallery, one of many gift shops at Hillarys

While the mall is open air, it does have a skylighted roof over the passageways.

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The quay and boardwalk wraps around an inner bay with beach and waterpark.

The complex of restaurants and shops wraps around an inner bay which includes some shallow beaches for swimming. And on the shore is a large children’s complex called The Great Escape which includes a waterslide park. Unfortunately the lease ran out for The Great Escape and it is currently closed until a new tenant can be found. But it is scheduled to partially reopen for the Australian summer starting November 26th.

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Cockatoos like to hang out near the waterslide park.

When we first visited Hillarys in May 2015, the waterpark was a popular hangout for wild cockatoos.

At the other end of the complex you’ll find the Aquarium of Western Australia. We never got around to visiting it so I can’t rate it. And there is an apartment hotel complex, an exciting alternative to staying in a large hotel.

A bridge and walkway over the harbour connects the mall and the shore. There you’ll find another restaurant, the Hillarys Yacht Club, the Department of Fisheries building and some commercial buildings. You’ll also run across the Three Dolphins statue and fountain.

Sarah and her friend Natasha with the Three Dolphins.
Sarah and her friend Natasha with the Three Dolphins.

A short walk takes you past a couple of shallow beaches and back to the other end of the quay. Here are a few more restaurants and still more shops.

Hillarys Boat Harvour at night.
Hillarys Boat Harvour at night.

We happened to visit Hillarys one Friday evening and the quay is beautiful lit up in the evening. For some entertainment, Perth’s Northern Ukulele Group meets here every Friday from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. I never would have guessed there were so many ukulele players in Perth. And that’s just one club. There’s a website that lists ten different groups of enthusiasts. Who knew?

If you’re there on a hot sunny summer day, you may want to spend some time at Sorrento Beach which is just a short walk away. Like most Western Australian beaches, this one has pristine sandy beaches, a grassy park area and barbecue areas for family picnics or group outings.

The boardwalk from Hillarys to Sorrento Beach.
The boardwalk from Hillarys to Sorrento Beach.
Sorrento Beach
Sorrento Beach

Since opening in 1988, Hillarys Boat Harbour has continued to be a popular venue for both locals and visitors. Do check it out. And if you are arriving or leaving around 5:00 to 5:30, you can catch a glimpse of kangaroos in the wild at Pinnaroo Valley Cemetery. I know that sounds odd, but check out the article I wrote about it a while back. We’ve been back several times. One of the best places for kangaroo watching in my opinion.

Below is a link to an additional photo gallery as well as to some Hillarys Boat Harbour attractions.

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Photo Gallery: Hillarys Boat Harbour




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Here are some additional photos of Hillarys Boat Harbour. Above – Hillarys Boat Harbour seen from Sorrento Beach.

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Hillarys Boat Harbour
Clothing stores to souvenir shops. There's lots to keep you interested.
Clothing stores to souvenir shops. There’s lots to keep you interested.
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The British Lolly Shop – everything for the sweet tooth!
The Boardwalk beside the Breakwater
The Boardwalk beside the Breakwater. Many of the restaurants have outside patio seating available.
The Rottnest Fast Ferry
The Rottnest Fast Ferry
Beaches and canoe rentals - two of the activities available at Hillarys.
Beaches and canoe rentals – two of the activities available at Hillarys.
The Breakwater
The Breakwater
Wild cockatoos roosting on the trees near the waterslides.
Wild cockatoos roosting on the trees near the waterslides.
Hillarys Boat Harbour
Hillarys Boat Harbour showing the bridge and walkway from the end of the quay to the shore.
Sorrento Quay at night
Sorrento Quay at night
The Northern Ukulele Group
The Northern Ukulele Group
Another pic of the ukulele group
Another pic of the ukulele group
The breakwaters. There is open water between the end of the light beacon and the distant breakwater.
The breakwaters. There is open water between the end of the light beacon and the distant breakwater.

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A Snug Little Harbor




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Chania, Crete was our fourth and final port of call on our Mediterranean cruise in 2011. As is always the case with cruises, there were a variety of excursions available, but we opted to explore on our own. We do this in about half of our ports of call and always come away with a satisfying experience.

In this case, a complimentary bus took us from the cruise ship terminal to the old town of Chania. It is Crete’s second largest city. Along with its Greek influence, there are elements of Venetian and Turkish heritage in Chania, most notably in its cozy little harbor.

A moderate sized bay is partly enclosed by a long breakwater which is covered by stone wall and a walkway. At the end of the breakwater is the famous Venetian styled Chania Lighthouse.

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The iconic Chania Lighthouse

The bus drops you off at a few streets away from the harbor and you first make your way through a lively area filled with shops selling local wares and souvenirs.

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Bustling shops in Chania

Heading towards the waterfront, we passed an old church. And then we arrived at the bay. A broad walkway edges the semi-circular bay, with colorful shops and restaurants everywhere.

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Shops and restaurants line the bay.

We walked along the path to our left taking us to the one end of the bay. Across the narrow gap of water stood the lighthouse. Behind us were the remnants of an ancient Venetian fort and a large red brick building, the Nautical Museum.

The bay is accessed by a narrow gap between the western end of the bay and the lighthouse.
The bay is accessed by a narrow gap between the western end of the bay and the lighthouse. The red brick building is the Nautical Museum.

We didn’t visit the museum but walked around the corner and back and then circled the the bay to the harbor and marina. We passed many restaurants and later had lunch at one. A great variety of food is offered and we were amused to see a sign advertising one restaurant’s fare as “cheap and chic”.

Along the way we passed an ancient mosque, a remnant of the Byzantine era. The Mosque of the Janissaries is, in fact, the oldest remaining building on Crete from the Turkish era. It dates from 1645 and stopped being use as a mosque in 1923. Its minaret was destroyed in World War II.

The Mosque of the Janissaries
The Mosque of the Janissaries

We also passed an attractive horse and buggy for hire before we came to the end of the harbor. There we found another maritime museum of sorts, the Chania Sailing Club where they had some artifacts on display and were recreating an ancient ship. I have a pamphlet from this place but it is back in Canada. (I’m in Australia right now) I’ll add additional info if needed when I return in September.

Hania Sailing Club. The building dates from 1607, built during the Venetian era, and was restored in the early 2000s.
Chania Sailing Club. The building dates from 1607, built during the Venetian era, and was restored in the early 2000s. It used to be an arsenal.
Recreation of an ancient sailing ship at the Hania Sailing Club.
Recreation of an ancient sailing ship at the Chania Sailing Club.

We then headed out along the breakwater to the lighthouse, about half a kilometre.

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It’s a half kilometre, a five minute walk, to get to the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. The marina is on the left.

About two-thirds of the way to the lighthouse is an elevated rampart that gives an excellent view of the bay as well as the light house with the Nautical Museum in the background.

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A view of the bay from the rampart two-third of the way along the breakwater to the lighthouse.
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The lighthouse is about 135 yards away with the museum in the background across the water.

Eventually we made our way to the bus stop and the trip back to the cruise ship. We enjoyed our visit to the old town of Chania, a snug little harbor steeped in history and picture perfect. Be sure to check out the additional photos in the gallery linked below. Or scroll on down if you are on the main page.




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Photo Gallery: Chania, Crete




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Here are some additional photos of our visit to Chania, Crete.

Looking down the street toward the bay and harbor of Chania.
Looking down the street toward the bay and harbor of Chania.
Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Greek Orthodox Cathedral
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A statue of some famous Cretan.  The most famous person to hail from Chania is probably world-renowned folk singer Nana Mouskouri.
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The marina on the left with the lighthouse in the distance.
You can rent this horse and buggy for a ride around the scenic old town of Chania.
You can rent this horse and buggy for a ride around the scenic old town of Chania.
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Many restaurants line the walk around the bay.
Did I mention you can get food here that is both cheap and chic?
Did I mention you can get food here that is both cheap and chic?
Inside the Chania Sailing Club
Inside the Chania Sailing Club. A number of artifacts are on display here, including the refracting cover of an old lighthouse lamp.
Janis through the lighthouse lens.
Janis through the lighthouse lens.
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The other side of the Venetian fort at the west end of the bay.
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The lighthouse seen from the west side of the bay.
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The marina and harbor seen from the breakwater
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Looking back at the harbor from the lighthouse.
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The lighthouse at Chania.



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