The one place I had heard was really interesting happened to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The place is a Forestiere Underground Gardens. A Sicilian immigrant built it to avoid the brutal heat of the desert-like climate in central valley area of California. He started it with 3 cellar rooms and expanded from there over 40 years. But I wasn’t going to see this supposed gem.
So here it is a Monday and it also happened to be Columbus Day. What was a girl supposed to do that was interesting in Fresno and didn’t involve shopping? I did manage to find a National Landmarks Historical driving tour on-line. I thought I would give that a try. It was touting all of this unique architectural in the area.
|Photos- The beautifully landscaped boutique hotel of San Joaquin Hotel.|
I went down to the front desk of the adorable boutique hotel (San Joaquin Hotel) that I was staying in; a real gem in landscaping. I asked the gal about what else might be interesting in or unique to Fresno in the area. OMG! I got the deer in the headlights look. I started to laugh a little bit and said I guess you usually don’t get a great deal of tourists at this hotel. No, most of them were business clientele and generally stayed extended time. I could see that. The room I had, which was one of the unrenovated suites, had a living room, a hallway with closet, a bedroom, and a bathroom with a separate shower – tub area. It was like a mini apartment. Some of the renovated rooms had kitchenettes in part of the living room area and were themed.
The gal at the front desk then continued on by saying there was a lot of great shopping in the area, especially the Fig Garden Village. I almost rolled my eyes but I held my tongue and thanked her. She had been nice enough to print me up the National Historic driving tour. I then asked for directions downtown to which she looked blank. I was starting to feel sorry for this girl. Thank goodness there was another older lady that worked at the hotel that knew where downtown was. I got directions and headed downtown.
Actually as I got downtown Fresno I could kind of see why the girl had reacted when I asked her where downtown was. The Fresno downtown is not like most downtowns where everything is centrally located and the city goes out from there. Yes, there were the courthouses and a few city buildings but it was kind of hap- hazard type of layout. The lay out of this Fresno had never been fully planned; it just happened and it was very confusing finding anything. I found the water tower which is the symbol used for the city and totally gave up on the driving historic tour because I wasn’t getting very far in the 20 minutes of driving around the Fresno area. In fact, I was getting frustrated because some of the town street were one way and I couldn't figure out how to turn around to go the other way very easily.
|Photo- The water tower which serves as the smybol of Fresno.|
I went back to the water tower which is the visitor’s center for Fresno where I found a very well informed gentleman on duty. The inside of the water tower was very cool and they had local artists’ works on display; along with brochures and information pamphlets. He talked about the history of the water tower and then after I mentioned the historic drive tour he started giving me all kinds of brochures and pamphlets about the history in the area; my mind got inundated with information and I felt like my head was going to explode because he was giving me SO much information. I’m sure my eyes started to glaze over but he continued on. He was very enthusiastic; I’ll give him that.
|Photo- The outdoor downtown Fulton Mall which still holds on to some of its beauty.|
Next, he directed me to the courthouse square and the Fulton Mall Art District which were both within walking distance. That seemed like a good plan for me because I needed a break from driving around in the area. So I walked the three blocks over to the Fulton Mall which had been the height of outdoor walking malls in the 1960’s when it was built. It still had some remnants left but the past beauty was gone. The Fulton Mall did have some of the original landscaping on display and there were several pieces of public artwork to be seen.
|Photo- A local artist painting boarded up windows in the Fulton Mall.|
But the rest of the Fulton Mall had changed from when it was conceived. There were quite a few homeless occupying the bench areas or walking along through it. Most of the shops were Latino where one of each item was on display in the front windows. As I walked along I watched one Latino man yelled in the door about a pair of boots and whether they had any in a certain size. A local artist was painting a boarded up windows of another store. There were a lot of store windows that were boarded up or else they had metal grids on the outside of them that were ready to be pulled shut for the night. I walked through its 6 block area of the Fulton Mall.
|Photo- One of several statues on the Courthouse Square in downtown Fresno.|
Next, I walked back towards my car and through the courthouse complex where there were several different statues on display around the 1960’s Fresno County Courthouse Complex. I imagine that in the 1960’s that Fresno’s downtown area was quite the place but since then it had been forgotten about. There was the Fresno Occupy area on the square which was a very small group of the protestors in evidence. But past that there wasn’t much going on except for a bus station stop on one of the corner areas. But then again, it was Columbus Day. It was nice that I didn’t have to worry about feeding a meter to park my car.
I felt like I had enough of downtown when I got back to my car. I had a map from the informing gentleman at the tower and he had pointed out another shopping district that I might think as nice too. It was the Tower District. I drove around a bit and think I might have drove through part of the Tower District but I couldn’t say for sure because it seemed like the map and the roads weren’t matching up. I decided to drive back to my hotel. Worse come to worse I could just sit out in the courtyard area of the hotel and read a book.
But first I decided to go to the Fig Garden Village and grab a late lunch. I ended up going to a place called Elbow Room. It’s one of those bar/restaurants that have a lot of sport memorabilia on the walls but this one was definitely more upscale than most. The sign just inside the door mentioned that men must have short sleeves; no sleeveless shirts allowed. I sat down at an available booth and was brought a menu. Paper contracts were being go over by people in suits at one booth nearby and another booth there was three guys dressed in polo’s and blue jeans that were enjoying beers and throwing terms like value added around the table. Meanwhile, the bar tender was talking with an older businesswoman who was drinking white chardonnay about spiritual enlightenment. It was fascinating just watching and it felt like a mecca of the power business luncheon because there were several others coming and going with portfolios and brief cases. No one even gave me sitting in the booth alone a second glance.
Next, I went back to the hotel and just enjoyed the property by going down and reading in the courtyard and watching TV later in my room. Of course, I had to have the front desk come up to show me how to operate the TV. It was a very old set that had a universal remote set up with a box. The TV had a push on and off button and wasn’t originally set up for a remote if that tells you how old it was. But once the front desk attendant showed me how to use it, the TV worked just fine. So basically I was a bum for the rest of the afternoon and night.