20 December 2012

Hotels - El Encanto arises

There is only one hotel with which I have had an emotional connection since I was a very small child: the El Encanto in Santa Barbara.  To say it is a special place for me, would be an immense understatement.

Though I'm not certain of the exact years, I figure my association with the El Encanto began around 1957 or 1958.   My mother took me and my brother on the train (Southern Pacific's Coast Daylight) from San Jose to Santa Barbara, where we would spend a week at the El Encanto with Aunt Minna.  (This also was the beginning of my fondness for trains.)

Aunt Minna and me at the El Encanto, circa 1958

You see, my mother's Aunt Minna lived in Los Angeles and every summer she would come up to Santa Barbara to spend several weeks at the El Encanto.

My brother Ken, nine years older than I, came with us until he was around 14 or 15.  At his age, he got more liberty to roam Santa Barbara on his own.  (He remembers catching the city bus that stops right below the hotel - and still does - to get down to Stearns Wharf and go fishing.)

My guess is that this week away from responsibility for my mother (other than keeping an eye on me) was a gift from Minna to my mother.

We would either take the train back to San Jose, or if my father could get off work, he would come down for a day or two and then we would drive back.

How my Aunt Minna became familiar with the El Encanto I don't know, but I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that at that time it seemed to be popular with Germans.  My recollection is that hearing German there during this period was not uncommon.  Minna's English was heavily accented, and she occasionally switched from German to English midsentence.  No problem for my mother who was also German, but it could leave my father, my brother, and me scratching our heads.

1950s postcard (this pool no longer exists)
I'm pretty sure that our last trip to Santa Barbara and the El Encanto was in the summer of 1963. Aunt Minna died in the spring of 1965, and the connections with the hotel then became sporadic. I remember staying there once in September 1975 prior to attending UC Santa Barbara, and then bringing my partner Keith there for a tour of the grounds and a drink in early 1998. It's always been a place to come back to and reminisce about.

Let's skip a few decades to the 2000s. Ownership of the hotel changed hands numerous times over the years, but in 2003 then current owner, local resident Eric Friden, died in a polo accident.  El Encanto was acquired by Orient-Express, the owner of luxury rail services and hotels mostly outside of North America.

After operating El Encanto for two years, Orient-Express closed it in 2006 to embark on a what would become a major project of renovations more extensive than even they foresaw initially. It turned into a saga involving disputes between the hotel's owner and the neighbors over the extent and nature of the renovations, and then financing issues. After an injection of capital late in 2011, the project was back on track, and construction has been proceeding rapidly ever since.  (A note about nomenclature.  Orient-Express dropped use of "the" prior to "El Encanto" so from here on out I am doing the same.  It makes sense considering that "el" means "the" in Spanish.)

Because I have mostly worked in the travel industry, and because I love Santa Barbara, and this hotel for its own sake and for its personal memories, I have kept a close eye on it for many years including during the long period of its closure.  I was excited to read earlier this year that the hotel was at last planning to reopen in 2013.

Me about 54 years later on my hard-hat tour
Ellen Thornton, director of sales for El Encanto, was kind enough to give me a very extensive inside/outside hard hat tour of the property when I visited Santa Barbara in mid-October.  In many ways, the hotel will be brand new when it reopens, but nearly all of the buildings - both the bungalows and larger buildings - will be intact.

The interiors of the rooms and bungalows will be stunning in a way that is technologically contemporary, yet in keeping with the classic period when El Encanto was constructed.  It will not be not over the top and trendy, and thus consequently out of date in fifteen years.

One thing that so impressed me about the project is how Orient-Express addressed the main building.  One of the first buildings of the original El Encanto, the intention was to simply renovate it along with the other buildings.  They quickly realized that the bones of the building just would not permit them to do what they needed to do to bring it up to current standards.  What they did is design and erect a new main building that from the outside looks identical to the original.

17 November 2012

Destinations - Santa Barbara: West Beach and East Beach hotels

Santa Barbara, like most California beach cities, can be a challenging place to find reasonably priced accommodations.  However if you pick your dates carefully, and consider some of the less splashy properties in the West Beach and East Beach areas, you may be surprised.

Cabrillo Boulevard runs along the beach in Santa Barbara.  It's a beautiful, palm lined promenade.  State Street, downtown Santa Barbara's main drag ends at Cabrillo, though in a sense it continues over the water to become Stearns Wharf.

To the west of State Street is the area known as West Beach.  To the east of State Street is East Beach.

The greater number of hotels is found in the West Beach area, both along Cabrillo Boulevard and on the side streets behind Cabrillo.  But two of the largest are found in East Beach: Fess Parker's DoubleTree and the Hyatt Santa Barbara (known for decades and up until recently as the Hotel Mar Monte).

East Beach Grill
Prices run the gamut, but in general those on Cabrillo Boulevard (and therefore facing the beach) are more expensive, than the ones on the side streets behind Cabrillo.  For example, the original Motel 6 (which I wrote about in my previous post) is a tidy affair located one short block behind the Hyatt Santa Barbara.

Here are links to two Google Maps I created that plot the locations of most of the hotels and motels:

West Beach
East Beach

Now reasonable prices are a relative thing in Santa Barbara.  Even the Motel 6 on a summer weekend can set you back $200 per night.  But weekday nights (Sunday-Thursday) are nearly always less expensive than Friday and Saturday nights, and the non-summer months will be lower priced than peak season.

What many people forget, even Californians, is that the weather on the coast is at its best in autumn, yet prices can drop sharply after Labor Day.  If you want to keep costs in check yet enjoy lovely weather, you should think about a midweek visit in September or October.

Franciscan Inn
On my mid-October trip I paid about $100 per night at the Franciscan Inn for a small but very nice room in an exceptionally quiet area.  All of the other motels on Bath Street where the Franciscan Inn is situated, are similarly attractive.  Even the Days Inn on adjacent (and busier) Castillo Street is well-kept.

For visitors coming to Santa Barbara by train, the West Beach area is walking distance close to the Amtrak station.  If you have just one wheely-type suitcase per person, you can easily walk from the depot to any of the West Beach hotels in 5 minutes, 10 at most.  (To East Beach hotels you'll need to take a taxi.)

Train 777 leaving Santa Barbara headed north
Speaking of transportation, Santa Barbara is a city that is pretty easy to get around without a car, and they promote it at the Santa Barbara Car Free website.  And if you arrive car-less like I did, but want to rent a car just for a day or two it's easy: Avis is located close to the train station, and Hertz (which I used) has an agency at the DoubleTree Hotel.

There aren't a lot of restaurants in the immediate area but the lower part of State Street (on the other side of 101) has plenty, or if you have a car you can drive a short distance up to the residential Mesa area for a good selection of non-tourist eats.  And two blocks staggering distance from the Franciscan Inn is the Brewhouse Santa Barbara with a large selection of its own brews and pub food.  (I enjoyed a tasty IPA during their happy hour.)

Santa Barbara is justly renowned for its high-end hotels.  And in fact, my next post will be about one of those that is soon to reopen after years of closure.  But if you pick your dates and hotel wisely, you can visit this most beautiful of California destinations without spending a fortune.

What follows is a selection of photos of some of the West and East Beach hotels.

Casa del Mar Inn (West Beach)
Hotel Oceana (West Beach)

Beach House Inn (West Beach)

Blue Sands Motel (East Beach)
Santa Barbara Inn (East Beach)
The East Beach Cottages (vrbo.com property # 79543)

Harbor House (West Beach)

Hyatt Santa Barbara (East Beach)


29 October 2012

Destinations - Santa Barbara: one thing well known and two things obscure

A trip this past week to Santa Barbara will provide fodder for a few blog posts.  It was a mix of transportation: train from Chico to Santa Barbara, Hertz car rental while in Santa Barbara, and then United Airlines (well, United Express) from Santa Barbara back to Chico via SFO.  Everything went smoothly.

The reason for the trip - if one really needs a reason to visit Santa Barbara - was to get a tour of a grand hotel that is in the latter stages of renovation; I'll address that in a subsequent post.

But as the title of this post sets forth, I'm going to write about one feature of Santa Barbara that is quite well known, and then two other less known things.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

The courthouse competes with the Mission for the title of most photographed landmark in Santa Barbara.  Completed in 1929, it replaced an earlier courthouse destroyed in the devastating earthquake that took place in June 1925 and leveled most of downtown Santa Barbara.  In the aftermath of the earthquake, the city intentionally rebuilt in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.

Not unlike Yosemite where you can just point your camera and shoot, knowing that any shot will be spectacular because of the subject, the same is true of this manmade structure landscaped in a commensurately beautful way.  I never tire of this building and its surroundings.

Here is a selection of exterior and interior photos I took.  Is it Spain or is it California? - you decide.

From the El Mirador tower looking to the Santa Ynez Mountains

An interior stairway

Two obscure things about Santa Barbara

From the sublime courthouse we'll switch the light on to illuminate two major enterprises that began in Santa Barbara.  One of them is no longer major, but the other one remains so and continues to grow.  Both of these are American commercial cultural touchstones.


Coming of age in the mid-1970s, my crowd's hangout in late high school and early college years was the Sambo's in Los Gatos, Calif.  I remember little about the food, but I do know that the 10¢ coffee was the big draw.  (Yes, younger readers, even in the 70s ten cents wasn't much money.)  Most of the waitresses were around our age, and familiar in dealing with vexatious, loudmouthed teens.  It was a fun place.

Sambo's began modestly in Santa Barbara at one beachfront location in 1957.
Drawing on the Sambo's website, I learned that by 1981 the chain had expanded to 47 states with 1117 restaurants.  But a year later, all but the original location in Santa Barbara had closed.  (A Wikipedia article gives background on the chain's demise.)  Thirty years later, the first and last Sambo's is going strong under the ownership of the grandson of one of the original Sambo's founders.
Located on Cabrillo Boulevard in the West Beach area of Santa Barbara, it is the last surviving outpost of what once was a huge chain of restaurants.
Motel 6
Santa Barbara is known for its upscale hotels.  The Four Seasons Biltmore and the San Ysidro Ranch quickly come to mind.  Even modest to midscale motels and hotels in this town go for higher rates than in other locales.  So it will come as a surprise to learn that the nation's best known budget chain, Motel 6, began in Santa Barbara in 1962.
The original Motel 6 was built in the East Beach area of Santa Barbara.  While not on oceanfront Cabrillo Boulevard, it is set back only one short block from the beach.  Its original $6 per night rate (and reason for the chain's name) is history, victim of inflation and high-demand.
For many years the headquarters of the Motel 6 chain was in Santa Barbara.  It was acquired by the French hotel giant Accor in 1990, but sold this year to The Blackstone Group.  It is now run by G6 Hospitality based in Carrollton, Tex.  Fifty years after the chain's founding, it consists of about 1100 properties in the U.S. and Canada. 

The original property has held up well over the years, and sports a kind of Polynesian effect what with its palm trees.  Quite appropriate for a motel that opened in 1962.
Wikipedia's entry includes a good history of Motel 6's development and ownership changes over the years.

20 September 2012

Destinations - San Antonio's River Walk and a margarita recipe

I'm finally getting around to writing a post about a trip to Texas taken back in May.  As was the case in '09, this was a trip to meet up with the Glass family, whom my partner Keith has known since his Dallas boyhood.  The '09 trip was to Austin, but this one was primarily to San Antonio, where the youngest Glass, Robby (son of Keith's childhood friend Rob), was graduating from St. Mary's law school.

Keith and I stayed in downtown San Antonio at the Omni La Mansion del Rio.  This hotel backs up to the River Walk - more about that later - but in fact bears a connection with our visit to the city: the hotel was adapted in the 1960s from what was the original St. Mary's School of Law.  It's an attractive downtown hotel with a strong Spanish/Southwest feel to it.
San Antonio is a huge city and its outer suburban areas are as unmemorable as any other American city, but the downtown core is outstanding.  Perhaps because of some great art deco architecture and the fact that the San Antonio River winds through it, I kept thinking of Chicago.

The Alamo, a justly famous place in Texan, American, and Mexican history was just a few short blocks away from the hotel. As I'd read before, it is a surprisingly small building considering its fame. Time did not allow for us to do this landmark justice.
Most of what we saw was on our morning powerwalks largely along the River Walk both south and north from the core downtown where most visitors stay.
Go north and you will reach the San Antonio Art Museum (located in a former Lone Star Brewery) and the former Pearl Brewery complex with shops and restaurants.  (A place I'd really like to go back to is a Mexican restaurant called La Gloria just above the River Walk and on the Pearl Brewery property.)  There are numerous locations where you can cross the river.
If you don't want to walk, an effortless and cool way to explore the north end of the River Walk is use the water taxi that runs as far north as the Pearl Brewery complex with many stops.  You can buy single ride tickets, or 1 or 3 day passes.
Go south and you'll pass by the King William neighborhood, the Guenther House Restaurant (at the historic and very much still active Pioneer Flour Mill owned by the C.H. Guenther & Son Co.), and further along the Blue Star Brewery and Blue Star Contemporary Art Center.
Every single one of these I've mentioned deserves a longer exploration.  The King William neighborhood is noteworthy.  It was originally settled by Germans (as in C.H. Guenther) and named for King Wilhelm I of Prussia.  (Wilhelm became anglicized into William.)
Most visitors to San Antonio probably don't leave the downtown area of the River Walk, and that's a shame considering how much else there is to see, but understandable.  Downtown offers a wealth of history and architecture, not to mention restaurants and bars of all sorts.
Shilo's German Delicatessen
Which brings me to the margarita part of the post.
The Omni La Mansion del Rio is renowned for its housemade margaritas.  (No mixes, please.)  The picture below is of Keith conducting research on these famous margaritas on the outside bar of Las Canarias Restaurant at the hotel overlooking the River Walk.
The following evening after we returned to the hotel, we stopped at the small, poolside bar and chatted up the young bartender as she concocted our drinks.  While she didn't provide the amounts of each component, she told us what went in while we watched.  For safety's sake, the pool bar margarita went into a plastic cup instead of a festive cocktail glass, but it tasted just as good.
Here's the margarita recipe inspired by the hotel, which I developed after I got home.  This makes drinks for 2 persons.  The ingredients are expensive so you might not care to make this your everyday margarita!
good standard tequila such as Sauza: 1.5 oz
better quality reposado tequila: 1.5 oz
fresh squeezed lime juice: 1.5 oz
Cointreau: 1 oz
Grand Marnier: 1 oz
agave nectar: 1/2 teaspoon
I found that this makes a fairly sweet margarita and if you, like I, prefer your margarita a little more on the tart, limey side, then you might reduce the agave nectar by half and increase the lime juice by 1/3.  (In the recipe for 2 drinks above, this adjusted dosage would be a 1/4 teaspoon of agave nectar, and 2 oz of lime juice.)  Play around with the measurements and see what you think.
A final libation-related note about San Antonio.  Though not originally from San Antonio (the original is in Fort Worth, Tex.), Flying Saucer is a Texas-sized emporium of good beer.  Around 200 - yes, 200 - beers at any one time are on tap.  Robby Glass, the newly minted law school graduate, took Keith and me to the incredibly popular San Antonio outpost while we were there.  (This is not located in the downtown area.)
They have their own loyalty program ("UFO Club") that rewards regular customers who try lots of different beers.  Flying Saucer hasn't currently been spotted anywhere near California, but UFO sightings have been reported from Texas to the Carolinas across the southern midwest and upper south.

14 September 2012

Amtrak Service and Fares - # 17 - Passenger type discounts

Here and there during the fares part of this series, I've included an example or two of applying a passenger type discount.

In this chapter I'll go through the various discounts systematically.

To start with, let me briefly repeat a point I've made numerous times.

Passenger type discounts only apply to the coach fare, also known as the rail fare.

When passengers occupy upgraded accommodations such as business class, first class, or sleeping accommodations, the passenger type discount is applied to the underlying rail fare, but the extra charge for accommodations is almost never discounted by passenger type.

I wrote almost in the last sentence.  Some years ago I saw a AAA member discount for sleeping accommodations.  And there probably have been a few other isolated instances over the years where a passenger type discount was permitted during a promotional period, but these are the rare exceptions to an otherwise ironclad rule.

Another limitation is that none of the passenger type discounts currently apply for weekday travel on Acela Express.  This is Amtrak's solid gold service for business travelers so all passengers regardless of age or affiliation pay the full adult fare.  Amtrak does offer discounts for government travelers and high-volume corporate travelers, however.

In this post I will cover the most commonly used passenger type discounts.

Children, ages 2 through 15.  Discount: 50%.  Two children per adult passenger are entitled to the discount.  (If one adult were traveling with three children, the third child would have to pay the adult fare.)  Children traveling alone do not receive the discount.  Children under 2 not occupying a seat travel free.

Seniors, age 62 and above.  Discount: 15%.

AAA members, adults and children receive a 10% discount.  This is the one instance where there is a double discount.  Children of AAA members pay 50% of the already discounted AAA adult fare.  There is no AAA senior fare, so AAA members who are 62 or above do better using the senior discount.  One important restriction that applies for the AAA discount but not for the senior or regular children's discount is that reservations and ticketing must be done at least 3 days prior to departure.  A AAA member making reservations less than three days prior to departure would pay the regular adult fare.

Military, adult and children is identical to the AAA discount but without the 3-day advance reservation restriction.

Various other less common membership discounts also apply.  See the page at Amtrak.com that covers passenger type discounts.

Let's look at how Amtrak applies the discounts.  In the first example, which we'll play with in several different ways, two passengers are traveling one-way from Portland, Ore. (PDX) to Whitefish, Mont. (WFH).  We'll look at the results that Amtrak.com would serve up.

The lowest available fare for coach travel is the BOF1, at $115 one-way, sold in YB inventory.

Two regular adults: (2 x $115 = $230)

Here's the same example, but in this case it is one adult and one child: (1 x $115 + $57.50 = $172.50)

Now it's one senior and one adult: (1 x $97.75 + $115 = $212.75)


And now it's two AAA adults: (2 x $103.50 = $207)

One AAA adult and one AAA child: (1 x $103.50 + $51.75 = $155.25)

Let's look at one final example that shows the passenger type discount and how it does not apply to sleeping accommodations. 

In this last example we'll imagine that a senior is taking a grandchild from Sacramento (SAC) to Glenwood Springs, Colo. (GSC) and occupying a roomette.  Do you remember how in Chapter 16 you learned that when passengers are in sleepers, they always pay the lowest rail fare, regardless of whether the applicable coach inventory (YD) is available?

In this example, Amtrak applies the lowest rail fare (DOF1, $120 one-way per person, full fare), discounts it by the applicable passengers type(s), and then adds the accommodation charge.  In this instance, the lowest level charge available for the roomette is the EC inventory at $226 one-way.

Here's what it looks like from the consumer perspective at Amtrak.com:

The total of $388 is broken down as follows:

Note: the full fare DOF1 coach rail fare is the underlying fare per person before the passenger type discounts are applied.

Senior discount of 15% = $102   ($120 less $18)
Children's discount of 50% = $60   ($120 less $60)
Accommodation charge for EC inventory = $226   (not discounted by passenger type)

Total = $388  ($102 + $60 + $226)

Amtrak Service and Fares - navigational links
Backward to # 16 - Fares, sleeping accommodations

22 August 2012

Destinations - East River Ferry (New York)

This is the last post inspired by the trip that Keith and I took to New York at the end of June/beginning of July.

Originally I was going to title it with something involving Brooklyn, but the more I thought of that, the more I was inclined to focus on the East River Ferry since we really saw so little of Brooklyn.

On the same day that we went to the High Line park, we met a friend for lunch in Chelsea (at a fun, inexpensive, delicious, Cuban restaurant called Coppelia), and from there we set out to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn.

The walk was pleasant, but quite crowded, and at times the views were blocked entirely by plywood sheeting on either side of the walkway due to a large-scale renovation taking place.

Here's a view of Keith (Brooklyn in the background) in an unobstructed part of the walk.  (His Cubs cab earned him friendly jibes from several folks in New York.)

Below you see another view of Brooklyn taken from the bridge.  Brooklyn very much has its own skyline and this photo does not do it justice.

Once we landed in Brooklyn we walked around a little bit of the area referred to as "DUMBO" - "down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass".  (Read here to find out how it got its nickname.)  Note that the Manhattan Bridge is not the same as the Brooklyn Bridge.

The two bridges come to earth in Brooklyn close to each other (like spokes in a wheel) but the landing spot of the Manhattan Bridge in Manhattan is considerably north of where the Brooklyn Bridge is anchored.  The DUMBO area is a mostly former industrial zone similar to the area around Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco or Jack London Square in Oakland consisting of brick industrial warehouses being redeveloped for residential, offices, and retail.

Keith had heard somewhere about a great place for chocolate called Jacques Torres in DUMBO, which we sought and found.  For me the weather was too hot and muggy for anything other than an iced coffee and a phenomenal chocolate chip cookie.  Keith would not be deterred by the weather, and ordered a hot chocolate, which he declared the best he had ever had.

Now fueled by caffeine and sugar, we walked away from DUMBO toward a dock and a park I'd spotted from the Brooklyn Bridge.  The dock turned out be where the East River Ferry lands near downtown Brooklyn.  If it's on water and it moves people (meant for residents that is, not for tourists) then I want to ride it.  This would be way more fun than taking a subway or simply walking back across the bridge.

The ferry operates every 20-30 minutes daily and actually begins and ends on Manhattan: on the lower east side at Wall Street/Pier 11 and then at East 34th Street/Midown.  The rest of the stops are on the East River in Brooklyn and Long Island City (Queens).  A summer season extension also operates from Pier 11 to Governors Island.  What's more, a free Midtown shuttle bus connects from the East 34th Street terminal and covers a big chunk of Midtown.

From the ferry dock looking north - Brookly Bridge
in the foreground, Manhattan Bridge behind it
The fare - hold on, this is going to be expensive - was a whopping....four dollars per person.  A bargain for what would turn out to be a wonderful ride.

Even if you don't care to visit Brooklyn, you can ride between Wall Street and Midtown on the water and get some great views of the Manhattan skyline and the entire East River.  And even on a hot humid day like the day we rode it, the fast moving ferry makes for a pleasant, breezy ride.

Here are some photos taken while on the quick ride from the Brooklyn Bridge Park/DUMBO terminal to East 34th Street/Midtown.

Vroom!  Looking south toward the Brooklyn Bridge
at lower Manhattan.  Freedom Towers rising to the right.

Approaching the Williamsburg Bridge

The United Nations.  East 34th Street/Midtown
terminal is slightly to the left (south) from the U.N.

14 August 2012

Destinations - a quick look at Staten Island (New York)

On the second full day of our trip to New York, Keith and I rendezvoused with an old college friend of his, Karen, and her husband Michael.  (Karen and Michael live near Philadelphia.)  We met them at the Staten Island ferry terminal, at the southernmost end of Manhattan.

At one time a nominal fare of 25¢ applied on the ferry, but no longer.  Perhaps it became more expensive to collect that small amount, than the revenue it actually generated.  At any rate it's one of the best free rides you can enjoy anywhere as you sail across New York harbor.  Though on the map Staten Island looks like it ought to be part of New Jersey, in fact the large island with 470,000 residents is part of New York state and one of the five boroughs of New York City.

You head south from Manhattan to Staten Island with Ellis Island and Liberty Island (home of the Statue of Liberty) to the west, and the much larger but less known Governors Island to the east.  (Google Map of route.)

These photos aren't good, but they are of Ellis and Liberty islands along the way.

Karen had thoughtfully arranged for her friend Marian, who lives on Staten Island, to pick us up at the ferry terminal and provide a tour of the island.  Marian proved to be an excellent ambassador for the island.

Here are some of the things we saw.

A short distance from the ferry terminal is Staten Island's own memorial to the 9/11 attacks.  (Many Staten Islanders were among the victims, including a large number of firefighters and police officers.)

The memorial looks north across the harbor toward Manhattan, with the new Freedom Towers visible.

Between the 9/11 memorial and the ferry terminal is the stadium for Staten Island's very own minor league baseball team, the Staten Island Yankees.  The photo below shows the back side of the stadium, with the crown like structure on the left in the distance being part of the ferry terminal.

From there Marian drove us to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.  Snug Harbor was originally built as a retirement home for sailors in the first half of the 19th century.  By the 1970s it was no longer viable for its original purpose and (severely telescoping the story) it became what it is today: a cultural center and garden.  (For a better, yet still concise treatment of its history, take a look at this page from the New York City Parks Department.)

Below are a few photos from our stroll around Snug Harbor.

Chinese Scholar's Garden

Tuscan Garden

Michael, Marian, and Karen seeking refuge from the heat
in a shady arboreal tunnel

As Marian was taking us back to the ferry terminal, she stopped by the Alice Austen House on the north side of Staten Island.  Alice Austen is a now famous photographer who lived between 1866 and 1952.  Marian explained that she was a renowned photographer, who really was discovered only near the end of her life.  Doing research for this post and reading about her life, I discovered what a singular individual she was.  The Alice Austen House could easily be an all-day destination on a future visit to New York.

Below is a picture I took looking across the lawn of the Alice Austen House toward the Verrazano Narrows bridge that connects Staten Island with Queens.  Runners who have run the New York Marathon are well-acquainted with this bridge, as the race begins on the Staten Island side of the bridge as it loops through all five boroughts (Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan) to finish in Central Park.

Time to return to Manhattan.  Thanks for the fine tour of your island, Marian.  You left us wanting to come back.  Tell the borough president that!

As we headed back to Manhattan on the ferry, the not quite yet finished Freedom Towers of the World Trade Center come into view.