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Last day already???

[San Francisco, CA]


It is hard to believe it is our last day in SF! How quickly it all went by, yet how long ago some of our experiences seem! It feels as if my graduation was ages ago! We still had a lot to see, so we got started just after breakfast.

Our first stop were the famous Painted Ladies – a row of Victorian houses in different colors just by Alamo square. When we got there, the sun was shining just behind them – the worst possible light for taking pictures. In all the guides and reviews we’ve read, nowhere did it say “don’t go in the morning, because the light is all wrong.” And it totally should!!!! Still, it was great to see them. They are one of those sights that are instantly recognizable.

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Next up we stopped by Mission Dolores. While the mission trail is very familiar to most Californians, my parents were oblivious about it, so I was glad to share that part of California history with them. The original church had been destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and rebuilt after, but the mission building itself was the original. We took a self-guided tour, which was very informative and was definitely worth it.

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Our next stop was the financial center. My mom had Embarcadero center in her notes and a fountain called Vaillancourt, which we searched for but couldn’t find. Instead, we found a fountain in front of the Hyatt hotel which we thought was the Vaillancourt at the time… so we took a ton of photos of it!

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We then got on the California cable car and went all the way up numerous hills to Grace Cathedral.

Grace Cathedral is beautiful Episcopal church also destroyed and rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake. We were offered a free 20-minute tour of the cathedral, which actually took about an hour but was very informative. Both sides of the church had murals that depicted important moments in SF history. One mural was dedicated to the United Nations, as it was in SF that the first draft of its charter was signed, just across from the cathedral at the Fairmont. Another mural depicted the original church before it was destroyed, and yet another one depicted SF at the time the city started growing, in mid-19th century as the result of all the people coming to the area for the gold rush. We also learned about the faceted glass windows adorning the church, as well as some of the other objects on display that were donated by various families, such as a 16th century tapestry from Belgium.

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We headed to the Fairmont across the street next, because we wanted to see where the UN charter was first drafted and signed. The room is now used as a conference room and nothing but a non-descript plaque on the wall indicates that it has a historical significance. But just down the hall, the walls were adorned with photographs of various important events or visit by high-profile people, and that’s where we found a few photos dedicated to that event. We also saw photos of British royalties, US presidents and others visiting the Fairmont. I am definitely staying there next time I visit (*wink wink*).

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Garden at the Fairmont

We walked through Chinatown next but were disappointed that it was all stores and not restaurants – we were getting hungry (and thirsty)!

So instead, we went down to Union Square and went to the top of Macy’s, where a Cheesecake Factory and its balcony overlooked the square from the 8th floor. You guessed it – it was beer stop time!

We enjoyed a few brews and nibbles, then took the Powell-Hyde cable car to Lombard st. We had seen it already on Saturday but from the top only, and I had a feeling that my parents needed to see it from the bottom to appreciate the crookedness of it all. And I was right! Once we walked down on the side and watched all the cars go down one by one, my parents were simply amazed. They said they’d tried to see it on Google Street View, but it looked nothing like it did in peson – in fact, they were wondering what the big deal was! But now they understood what the meaning of “crookedest street” and got a total kick out of it.

By the time we were done exploring Lombard St, it was already dinnertime, so we grabbed some food and went by the hotel for some R&R. Mom and dad were both tired and would have rather stayed in, but I wanted to take them to one more sight that seemed like an appropriate last hoorah before going home. Chris had recommended Twin Peaks – a set of hills somewhat in the middle of the city that provided an almost 360-degree view. We headed there by car and since our hotel was just 4 blocks from the crooked part of Lombard St, I decided to also drive that baby. That was a lot of fun! By then, almost all the tourists were gone, both the ones on foot and in cars, so it was great! We even snapped a few more photos now that the sun wasn’t in the way.

Twin Peaks itself was also great, although so windy we felt like we were in the middle of a hurricane. We got some great sunset photos but then the wind blew in that infamous SF fog, and by the end we couldn’t see the Golden Gate Bridge any more, and most skyscrapers were starting to disappear. Still, it was a great place to say goodbye to the city and to the US.

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I feel overwhelmed by the last 10 days, what with all the sights we’d seen and all the new experiences. I can’t imagine how my parents feel, having traveled for another 20 days before I joined them. I am very thankful to have had this time with them, and that they now know where I live and work. On top of it all they’ve seen places and cities they’ve heard about and seen on TV and in films for ages and ages.

Like they  like to say, this trip was their Swan Song 🙂

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