California Part 5–San Francisco! China Town, Coit Tower and Grace Cathedral

TGIF! Between new recipes and my trip to Charleston it’s been a while since my last California recap. In case you need a refresher, check out the first leg of San Francisco HERE.

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I last left you at Fisherman’s Wharf on our way to China Town for lunch. I couldn’t wait to check it out and see how similar it was to actually being in China after my trip there a few years back. Dear Robert didn’t quite know what to expect but was open to some new dining experiences. Have I mentioned he scores quite low on the adventurous eating scale? Burgers and fries every day if he had his way.

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As we entered China Town I immediately felt like I was back in Shanghai! Almost everyone was speaking mandarin and the open air shops were haphazardly, jam packed with traditional foods and goods, just like I remembered.

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Also worth noting, check out the laundry hanging out to dry. I remember from my trip to China that the people there did not like to use clothes dryers as they believe they are bad for your health…looks like this tradition has carried over here as well!

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We enjoyed browsing as we walked the busy streets in search of the Great Eastern Restaurant. I had read several reviews about how great their dim sum was and thought it sounded like the perfect lunch spot. We were seated rather quickly despite the fact that they were busy, and I was happy to see the menu came with pictures. The restaurant looked a little dated but the servers in their cute green jackets were prompt, if not the most helpful. Dim Sum is small plates that are either ordered from a menu or chosen from a rolling cart pushed around the restaurant. I choose a variety of dishes that I thought Robert would enjoy and the food came out fast! We had stuffed mushrooms, steamed dumplings and fried crab balls with the claw still sticking out.

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We also ordered some soft shrimp dumplings that had a unique (re totally weird) presentation. They came out in a big pile on the plate and our waitress proceeded to cut them up with a pair of kitchen shears before she handed them over. Robert and I both shot each other the “Let’s hope those are clean” look before tucking in….when in Rome!

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The food was tasty and we both agreed the steamed pork buns were our favorite. I was proud of my somewhat picky husband for trying everything with an open mind.

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After lunch we headed up the street to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. It was tucked away down an alley and surprisingly tiny for being such a well known spot.

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There were several varieties of fortune cookies for sale, all different flavors and shapes, and of course free samples!

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Four little ladies worked assembly line style, catching the warm cookies off the press and stuffing and folding them into their traditional shape. I assume the free samples came from their discard bins full of the cookies that didn’t quite make the cut.

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After we had had our fill of China Town we walked to Telegraph Hill to find Coit Tower where we had heard we could find some spectacular views of the city.

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The 210 f00t tall concrete tower (don’t worry, there is an elevator) was built in the 30’s to beautify the city. It is filled with fresco murals painted by a variety of local artists. The views were lovely but the wind was howling which was a little eerie to listen to from such a height.

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We left Coit Tower and headed towards Grace Cathedral just as the sun was setting. Grace Cathedral is a massive, beautiful Episcopalian church in Nob Hill. The doors outside of the church are a replica of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise at the Florence Baptistry in Italy, which I visited with my sister a few years ago.

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When we entered the church, I immediately felt like it was one of the most peaceful, welcoming places I had ever been.

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Upon entering the church I saw a lovely Christmas tree decorated with hundreds of paper cranes. The cranes were folded from pictures of “Peace” drawn by local school children. This is when my heart began to melt.

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Red paper cranes were crafted into a giant AIDS ribbon which sat outside the Interfaith AIDS Memorial Chapel. The Chapel honors and remembers those who have lost their lives to AIDS as well as the caregivers and families who continue the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Aids Ribbon Origami cranes  Interfaith aids memorial chapel

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As I looked around the sanctuary at the beautiful stained glass, I also noticed a large labyrinth on the floor. A nearby sign informed visitors that this particular labyrinth pattern was created in 1201 for a Cathedral in France. Walking the labyrinth represents a holy pilgrimage or journey within life’s larger spiritual quest. They are also open for anyone to walk as a non-denominational, cross-cultural practice for well being. You can walk the labyrinth to clear your mind, find balance, encourage meditation or even for celebration. I love this sentiment. So peaceful, so beautiful, so quietly spiritual and welcoming.

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If I ever have a large, beautiful garden (life goals) I want to include a labyrinth. I can’t think of a more peaceful way to begin each day.

Above the labyrinth, all the way to the alter hung thousands of colorful ribbons, a breathtaking art instillation called “Graced with Light”. Community members wrote their prayers, hopes and dreams on the 20 miles of ribbon before they were hung from the ceiling of the church. It was impossible to capture the beauty of the ribbons in a photo, but I did my best.

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Art. Prayer. Unity. Love. I couldn’t love this church anymore. It was the perfect quiet end to a long day of sight seeing.

As we made our way back to the hotel we stopped at the Ghirardelli factory for an obligatory sundae…the first of several we would enjoy throughout the trip. If you love ice cream as much as I do, DO NOT SKIP THIS WHEN VISITING! Mmm.

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We headed to bed at a decent hour, excited for the next morning when we planned to ride our first cable car and check out Alcatraz!

2 thoughts on “California Part 5–San Francisco! China Town, Coit Tower and Grace Cathedral

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