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San Francisco and Marin CountyAuthor: soliteyah (More Trip Reviews by soliteyah)
Date of Trip: June 2009
After lunch we ducked into and out of a few stores, then walked to Golden Gate Park, which is big -- about three miles from end to end. We were offered drugs twice within our first five minutes in the park, and we tiptoed past what's known as "hippies' hill," where dozens of scruffy folks lolled on the grass and the smell of pot wafted on the breeze. The atmosphere changed a bit as we approached the Conservatory of Flowers, a huge greenhouse with various botanical exhibits. Admission was $5 -- definitely worth it if you love flowers, which we do!
Not far away was the Japanese Tea Garden (admission was $5 there too), which was pretty but swarming with tourists. Mom and I were so tired at that point that I don't think either of us really appreciated it as much as we could have, but there were some lovely temples, waterfalls, fish ponds, etc.
Our final stop in Golden Gate Park was a wonderful surprise: a rose garden in full, extravagant bloom. I was amazed by all the different shades -- white, dusky pink, purple, yellow, orange, deep crimson. At the end of a long day of walking and sightseeing, when we were very tired, stumbling upon this garden really lifted our spirits.
To get back to the hotel, we went out to Fulton Street (which runs along the northern end of the park) and caught the #21 bus, which took us downtown to the intersection of Market and Stockton -- maybe five or six blocks from our hotel. For the half-hour bus ride, the fare was only $1.50.
We ate dinner outside at the Metropol Cafe on Sutter Street. We each got the Metropol chicken salad (red cabbage, bell peppers, chicken, honey mustard dressing and a hint of cilantro) and shared the salmon chowder and a piece of cheesecake covered with berries. Mmm. Expensive but delicious.
Day Four: Grace Cathedral and SFMOMA
We started the day by walking uphill to Grace Cathedral in the Nob Hill area. Its gold front doors are taken from a cast of Brunelleschi's famous doors in Florence. Inside we found a treat: the cathedral's men and boys choir was practicing up in the front of the nave. I'm not sure what they were singing, but it was Latin and sounded lovely -- an atmospheric backdrop for our visit.
The cathedral has a beautiful rose window, two labyrinths (one indoor, one outdoor) and many colorful stained glass windows. But the highlight for me was the interfaith AIDS memorial chapel, where there's a unique and whimsical sculpture called "The Life of Christ" as well as several panels from the AIDS quilt. I hadn't realized that each of the blocks in the quilt was 3 feet by 6 feet -- the size of a coffin.
After leaving the cathedral, we walked to the SoMa (South of Market) area and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I expected to spend a couple of hours here, maybe three, but we ended up staying from 11:30 to 5:30. Fantastic place. Our visit started with a special exhibit called "Natural Affinities," highlighting the works of Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams. Then we took a spin through the paintings and sculpture on the second floor (Matisse, Kahlo, Magritte, etc.).
We ate lunch at the Caffe Museo, and it was delicious -- Mom got a spring orzo salad with watercress, while I had a grilled veggie sandwich with pesto. Yum.
Then it was on to the third floor for the best part of our day: an exhibit on Richard Frank's 1959 photography book "The Americans," a collection of 83 black and white images taken on a trip around the continental U.S. The photos themselves were incredible, capturing everything from loneliness and celebration to romance and racial tension, and the exhibit offered just the right amount of informative commentary.
We took another break in the museum's rooftop sculpture garden, where we stretched our legs and soaked up a little sunshine before looking through the contemporary exhibits on the same floor. Contemporary art is definitely hit or miss for me, but I found several innovative and thought-provoking pieces here. All in all a very rewarding day of art!
We ate dinner near our hotel at Gitane, which served Moroccan and Spanish dishes. Mom got a chicken tajine (a Moroccan stew) and I got a few veggie dishes. For dessert: mango and strawberry sorbet, mmm.
We hit Chinatown for one last souvenir run and then took the BART train to the San Francisco airport, where we caught a free shuttle to the nearby Super 8. Can't say it was the nicest place I've ever stayed -- the color scheme made the place look like it hadn't been renovated since the 70's, and the ratty blanket and duvet had definitely seen better days. But it was reasonably priced and only 10 minutes from the airport, so we couldn't complain.
All in all we had a great trip -- the city was gorgeous and the weather couldn't have been better. The high points: biking over the Golden Gate Bridge, the amazing cliff-top views of Point Reyes, the magnificently blooming rose garden in Golden Gate Park and the photography exhibit at SFMOMA. And of course, bonding with my mom for yet another year!
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