Posts Tagged ‘National Historic Landmark’

The Inn at The Presidio is different. Set outside San Francisco’s city bustle, it’s not only a pleasurable place to stay, it holds a significant piece of the region’s history. The stately red brick building used to be headquarters for U.S. Army officers fortunate enough to be stationed at this military outpost. Now the entire 1,491-acre Presidio is a National Historic Landmark District, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  Pershing Hall, the single officers’ quarters, was remodeled and opened as a hotel in 2012. And here I am, admiring the view over the Presidio’s red-roofed buildings and green fields to the bay beyond and, of course, the always compelling Golden Gate Bridge.

I’m in one of 22 rooms on three floors that have been painstakingly restored to preserve the old Georgian Revival style and military memorabilia while providing modern comforts—downy duvets on firm beds, sizable bathrooms, flat screen TVs, internet access, mini-bars. (The best views are from the third floor.)  The service is top-notch. There’s no elevator, in keeping with the historic status, but guests who can’t climb stairs can book a room on the ground floor. Some SF visitors want to be closer to the action of downtown, but I don’t mind being this far away because it’s quiet–no sirens, traffic, or late-night party crowds. That doesn’t mean I’m alone. Five million people a year visit the Presidio, but I’m  happy to share this huge park of rolling green hills, wooded trails,  a beach, picnic areas, and a couple of restaurants (the Presidio Social Club is a good choice, though so popular it’s wise to book a table early).  The Walt Disney Museum is here, along with a number of commercial sites in former military buildings. If I want to go to the heart of the city, Inn at the Presidio offers free shuttle service on weekdays, as well as a shuttle around the Presidio itself. The Visitor Center tells of the site’s long, richly dramatic history,  It’s a pleasure just to wander among spicy-scented eucalyptus trees and over grassy slopes.

At the hotel, a feature I particularly like is its commitment to the environment. LEED-certified, it uses organic-based paints, insulation from recycled cotton denim (who knew?), USA-made wool rugs, water conservation, and no mini-soaps or shampoo bottles. Room and suite rates are $195 to $350 per night, which includes an excellent buffet breakfast, taken indoors or out, and afternoon wine and cheese. Parking is $6 a day. Inn at The Presidio is a fine addition to the San Francisco lodging scene.



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Stairs Bishop Victorian Hotel Port Townsend WashingtonWere people tougher 150 years ago? I’m contemplating the flight of stairs up to the second floor in the Bishop Victorian Hotel in Port Townsend, Washington, and I’m thinking of those heavy trunks they traveled with. Plus, for the ladies, long skirts and big hats to get in the way. My little weekender, with wheels, would be nothing to them. I trot on up and consider it good exercise. And at the top I get a lovely suiteBishop Victorian Hotel Port Townsend Washington with antique furnishings, a comfy bed, a modern bathroom, and even a mini-kitchen. This brick, late-1800s hotel is a piece of history with free wi-fi in the lobby.

I could have breakfast brought to my room but opt for the Undertown Cafe, known for its excellent coffee and pastries. It’s in the warren of tunnels Pastries Undertown Cafe Port Townsend Washingtonthat were once, so they say, used to shanghai unknowing (or drunk) sailors. Just one of Port Townsend’s many intriguing details.

Port T., on Puget Sound, is 50 miles and a ferry ride from Seattle. It’s studded with Victorian mansions, built in the 19th century when boom times were expected. History had other plans, however, and the little town slumbered for a long time. Now those homes, restored to their gingerbread-encrusted finery, are tourist attractions and many are B&Bs. One, Manresa Castle, is a hotel and restaurant. Traditional architecture is so valued here that downtown is  a National Historic Landmark and the whole place is designated a National Victorian Seaport, one of only three in the country.  Guides in period costumes give tours.

But I’m finding more than history. I browse through art galleries and shops on Water Street, watch boats and ferries come and go, tour the new Northwest Maritimeboatbuilding NW Maritime Center Port Townsend Center. The Center has a chandlery (in case you’ve forgotten your maritime lingo, that’s a store selling nautical gear), coffee shop, meeting rooms, and a huge space for making and restoring wooden boats. I don’t know much about boating, but I can definitely appreciate the craftsmanship involved.

Boat shows, regattas, a Wooden Boat Festival, and lots of water recreation are bigboat building Port Townsend draws in this waterfront town, where maritime trades are right behind tourism in economic importance. Of course every menu offers serves seafood, and I find splendid choices at T’s restaurant on the edge of town near the water. The smoked salmon soup and sea scallops are fabulous.

Another thing I like is the small-town atmosphere. Where else am I going to find a Kinetic Sculpture Race, a Blues & Jazz Festival, homemade ice cream reputed to be the best in the U.S., a Fiddle Music Festival, and a museum that treasures a jail where Jack London once spent a night? Victorian lady Port TownsendThe old-time jail is in the Jefferson County Museum, another historic building. It’s filled with artifacts that are both fascinating and well displayed. I’m already planning a return trip.

That top-quality ice cream, by the way, is sold at Elevated Ice Cream, on Water Street. The odd name comes from the shop’s start in 1977, in a courtyard Victorian elevator cage. On that return trip I’ll taste Brandied Apricot, one of 30 flavors. Also Amaretto Hazelnut, and maybe Swiss Orange Chocolate Chip, and . . . well, others.

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