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Great Escapes for Lovers San Francisco 2002 -

Love in the Bay Area can be expensive. Fancy dinners out, weekend getaways, private investigators -- these things usually don't come cheap. But there are a few odd gems that couples can enjoy together for not a lot of money.

Chapel of the Chimes

4499 Piedmont (at Pleasant Valley),

Oakland, (510) 654-0123,

www.chapelofthechimes.com

The best refuge for smooching is in Oakland, a gorgeous castlelike structure built by Julia Morgan. It may seem creepy at first (or appealing) that the chapel is a columbarium -- it houses cremated remains -- but within seconds of entering its light- and fountain-filled interior, covered with mosaics and paintings, you'll forget its role. Wind your way through the maze of passages and find a high-ceilinged room filled with plants or a hallway covered in a deco fresco, then snuggle up on a bench. Few people venture in, so you'll doubtless remain undisturbed.

Audium

1616 Bush (at Franklin), 771-1616, www.audium.org

If bars and movies have become a dull way to ring in the weekend, take your sweetie to Audium, the best transition from work to play. This "theater of sound-sculptured space" is a room-within-a-room filled with 169 speakers, in which you sit in the pitch dark and listen to an hour of natural noises, trippy electronic music, and other aural odds and ends. It's like a laser light show without the lasers. The composition is created each night by Stan Shaff, who slips into a mixing booth after the lights go down (and back out before they go up). The look of the room and the style of the composition are rather '70s, but it's still worth the $12 visit. And if you're brave, you could have fun in the dark surrounded by strangers.

East Brother Light Station

117 Park Place (near the Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor), Point Molate, (510) 233-2385, www.ebls.org

Weekend getaways can be among the most expensive treats of a relationship, and one of the priciest -- but most gorgeous -- places to go nearby is the East Brother Light Station, on a tiny island near Point Richmond. Fortunately, the owners also offer day trips for just $15 (as opposed to the $290-410/night B&B). Meet the transport boat at the Galley Cafe and head out to this one-acre island, which houses an extraordinary Victorian lighthouse, for a four-hour excursion. You'll get a tour of the building, the lighthouse, and the island and the opportunity to enjoy a picnic lunch (BYO everything) while catching extraordinary views. Don't forget your camera.

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