Day one, in the city which captures my heart, opened up with what some might call ‘gloom’, but I do not. The ‘overcast’ is an ocean fog that rolls over the hills, falling in to the city at the end of the day, and lingers many nights, burning off late morning. To me, it is vastly different from the mid-western, overcast, big sky gloom that is oppressive at best, depressing at worst.
We headed out into the cool, damp mist, walked to a little diner around the corner, grabbed a hearty breakfast and then we were off and walking. The girls wanted to check out Sak’s 5th Ave, which we did. I feel blessed to have two girls who learned excellent frugality and money management skills from their father. They were totally turned off by the $1,000 t-shirts and price tags. Phew! Since I hate clothes shopping (shocking, I know), I gazed out the window at Union Square.
Next stop: Chinatown.
By this time, the marine layer had burned off and my children were appreciative for my ‘advice’ (read: nag) to dress in layers. When traveling to San Francisco, pack layers. The weather changes quickly, and it is not uncommon to be chilly in the foggy morning, sweating by 1-2pm when the sun breaks through, then chilled again near dusk as that fog rolls in again. My motherly advice is this: layers… and good sturdy, comfortable walking shoes. A mistake tourists make when visiting SFO is they dress fashionable. Feel free to bring a pair of cute fashion shoes to wear out to dinner, but pack comfortable walking shoes for sight seeing. I wear a FitBit to monitor my activity and we were averaging 6-8 miles per day. This is hill walking, not flat. Trust me, travel is no fun if you get blisters the first day.
Back to Chinatown.
It’s awesome and it’s a must see! Yes, it’s crowded. Yes, it’s a magnet for the beggars and the bums. Yes, some of the bums are out of their mind crazy. But the experience is worth it and the food amazing! Here are the highlights of Chinatown for us:
Shopping: This is window shopping heaven. Don’t stick to the main drag, check the little shops out on the side streets. I walked by a meat shop that had peking ducks hanging in the window. I would have taken a picture, (and I wanted to) but there was a very crazy, kind of aggressive, homeless beggar standing right in front and it just wasn’t worth the hassle. But, they WERE beautifully delicious looking, and it’s not something I’d see here on the streets of Minneapolis/St Paul. We wandered in to one of the shops and found beautiful silk robes for the girls. Another store had beautiful faux jewelry for a fraction of the cost in a Department Store. Yet another was the Ten Ren Tea store where we found a ‘tummy tea’ for my daughter who still suffers from an unsettled stomach once in awhile.
The petite woman behind the counter, with broken english, was extremely helpful and we found a leaf that is well known among the chinese to help with digestion and ease any discomfort. I remember a bigger Ten Ren store, but I couldn’t recall exactly where it was. This was a smaller satellite location, but I highly recommend a stop in.
We found a cute little christian store that had wonderful little treasures, I grabbed a picture of a couple that caught my eye!
Food: When trying to decide where to grab a bite to eat, hubby recalled a previous visit in to Chinatown where he enjoyed delicious Dim Sum. We thought, what the heck, we can at least ask if they can accommodate gluten free, and they did. I highly recommend The Oriental Pearl.
They have a dim sum menu that my oldest and I shared.
The waiter was extremely helpful in selecting a chicken dish in a ‘white sauce’ for my daughter, which she shared with my husband, along with an order of the shrimp dumplings (Har Gaw) which was gluten free.
The food was simply amazing. My family tolerates my camera at the table only so much, so I was able to snap only a couple of pictures, one of the glutinous rice wrapped in rice leaves and one of the dessert of the day – sweet sesame sticky rice balls that were filled with leeche puree. Oh man, so good I’d eat there every day if I could! My next trip to SFO will include a trip to this small hole in the wall.
Next up: A walk through parts of North Beach. It was very quiet there. The most remarkable thing we stumbled upon was this teeny tiny, itty bitty music store that was absolutely PACKED TO THE RAFTERS with ‘stuff’. We carefully navigated our way to the basement and was overwhelmed by a sea of crates, filled with vinyl records. While it was cool, it was unnerving all the same. There was barely space for a child to navigate the so called ‘aisles’, and on one side the crates were stacked to the ceiling.
The first thought I had was “how in the WORLD does anyone find anything in here?”, my immediate second was “if there was a fire, how the heck do I get OUT of here?”. It will come as no surprise that we didn’t stay long down there.
(check out the cool menu, with a leather cover)
They were also very helpful in selecting gluten free options for my daughter, and all the food was stunningly good. Most of the menu was able to be modified, but these two were gluten free right off the menu:
Once again, I apologize for the lack of great photos, my daughters are asked not to have phones at the table and get annoyed with mine always being present to take pictures! We had a sampling of amazingly creative appetizers that were all gluten free, unique and perfectly portioned for 4 to share, but not get too full for a meal. While we waited for each course, I got to gaze out the window at yet another beautiful view.
A tummy full of yummy food and lots of walking to make enjoying it guilt free. That wraps up day 2 of SFO.