Fenton & White Go From The Sutro Baths To The Tonga Room

The landscape changes drastically as you cross Ocean Boulevard and come out on the beaches of the Pacific Ocean.  The surf is incredible, as are the miles of sand.

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THE BEACH STRETCHES FOR MILES ALONG OCEAN BOULEVARD BESIDE THE WATERS OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN.

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WE TOOK OUR SHOES OFF AND STROLLED CLOSER TO THE WATER’ S EDGE

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THE SURF IS POWERFUL ALONG THIS SECTION OF THE COAST

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AT THE RIGHT SIDE OF THIS PHOTO IN THE MIDDLE IS THE CLIFF HOUSE, A STOP WE MADE LATER IN THE DAY.

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JUSTIN TRUDEAU, OR JUST A LOCAL FELLOW HAVING FUN TOSSING A STICK FOR HIS DOG?

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Our destination was the Sutro Baths, the ruins of a bathing pavilion that was opened in 1896 and billed as the largest indoor swimming complex in the world.  During high tides, water would flow directly into the pools from the ocean, recycling the two million gallons of water for the pools in an hour. During low tides, a powerful turbine water pump, built inside a cave at sea level, could be switched on from a control room and could fill the pools, recycling all the water in five hours.  There were 6 saltwater pools, 1 fresh water pool, and a 2700 seat ampitheatre.  The facility closed in 1966 and soon after that a fire (which was proven to be arson) burned the facility to the ground. The National Parks Service took over the site, and has installed interpretive plaques that explain the history of the area. Trails meander around the ruins and cliffs where the buildings used to stand.

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THIS IS A PICTURE OF WHAT THE SUTRO BATHS LOOKED LIKE IN THE EARLY 1900’s.

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THIS IS WHAT THE SUTRO BATHS SITE LOOKS LIKE NOW

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PATHS TAKE YOU FROM THE CLIFF’S EDGE DOWN TO THE RUINS

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THE TURBINE CAVE CAN STILL BE ACCESSED FROM ONE END OF THE SITE

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THE VIEWS AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL ARE STUNNING

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PETE ENJOYS THE SUN AND THE SURF

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We wandered around the Sutro Baths site for about 45 minutes, scrambling among the ruins and up and down the paths.  All that walking had made us thirsty.  It was time for a drink at The Cliff House.

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WE SET OUR SIGHTS ON A DRINK AT THE CLIFF HOUSE

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The original Cliff House was built in 1885, and there have been 5 versions of the building since that time.  The present version was acquired by the National Parks Service in 1977 and has two restaurants with great views!  On the terrace below the Cliff House is a Giant Camera.  It is a camera obscura,based on a 15th century design by Leonardo da Vinci. It produces 360 degrees of spectacular live images of the seal rock area (which is the coastal waters below the terrace) by using reflected light.  It was closing when we arrived, but apparently it only costs $3 to enter, and it looked pretty cool.

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THE GIANT CAMERA IS BASED ON A DESIGN FOR A CAMERA OBSCURA CREATED BY LEONARDO DIVINCI

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LOOKING DOWN FROM THE UPPER LOUNGE INTO THE CLIFF HOUSE RESTAURANT

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THE VIEW BESIDE OUR TABLE FROM THE CLIFF HOUSE LOUNGE

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SCOTT IN SILHOUETTE AGAINST THE WINDOWS

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The Cliff House lounge is casual and the staff are very friendly.  We managed to snag a table right near the windows without a reservation and I ordered a Long Island Iced Tea while Pete favoured a cool beer. It was a fine way to celebrate a great day of walking and exploring.  But our day wasn’t done … we still had a dinner reservation for 8:15.  We had over an hour of transit to take back to our hotel to freshen up. On the way we were reminded that San Francisco is in the Tsunami Zone.  San Francisco is close to the open Pacific waters and is an earthquake zone, making this a place that could some day see damage from a catastrophic wave.

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TSUNAMI EVACUATION ROUTES ARE IN PLACE IN SAN FRANCISCO

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Our evening reservation was for a special dinner at the Fairmount Hotel in The Tonga Room.  The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar opened in 1945 and is situated on the 2nd floor of the hotel. The former pool area has been converted into a tropical Polynesian world complete with grass huts, thunder and lightening and rain storms, and a floating barge with a live band.  The room was designed by MGM head designer Mel Melvin and it is pretty spectacular.  Reservations are a must if you want to eat a meal here and the prices are steep.  We decided to treat ourselves to a grand meal out.

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THE TONGA ROOM IS SUMPTUOUS AND FILLED WITH POLYNESIAN FLAIR

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THIS IS A HURRICANE PUNCH … TONGA SIZED. IN FRONT OF IT IS MY SINGAPORE SLING

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THE BAND FLOATS OUT ON A BOAT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RESTAURANT.

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While the atmosphere was FANTASTIC, the food was pricey, and to be truthful, it looked great, but it all tasted bland and salty.  This is definitely worth a stop if you are in San Francisco, but instead of paying the price for dinner, just go to the bar instead.  There is a $7 cover charge, but the band is really good.  They only take reservations for the restaurant and the bar gets lined up early, so check the hours and arrive near opening.  You get the same great view from the bar as from a table in the restaurant and there is a large dance floor in front of the pool where you can sway to the music of the band.

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THE FOOD LOOKS GOOD, BUT IT WAS PRETTY FLAVOURLESS

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All in all, it had been a terrific day.  By the time we finished dinner, it was closing on 11. We grabbed a cable car and rode up and down the hills to our hotel to get a good rest.   The following day we were going to visit one of San Francisco’s most famous attractions … Alcatraz.  Until then, a toast to you from

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Fenton & White

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