April 21, 2009 - San Francisco

I was up early, primarily to get something to wear since San Francisco was having the heat wave of all heat waves. It had set a record at 93 the day before and I was sweating profusely in jeans and a sweater. Fortunately we were only a block from Union Square (and the lovely St. Francis hotel), so a quick stop into Macy's and I was set.
I like Union Square because the lovely park sits in the middle of both fancy shops like Saks and smaller boutique shops.
As I wandered back to the hotel I captured this shot of the Hotel Diva sign in case you want to stay here - notice it's sort of lost in the other signage along this street, but it's worth seeking out for the low rates, great service and incredible location.
I gathered everyone up so we could begin our trek into Chinatown, which was high on our list primarily to eat. We cut through the park on the way and were just blown away by the blossoms on these trees. I couldn't find anyone to tell me what they are, so if you know please email me!
The gates of Chinatown seem such a contrast to the more modern buildings of San Francisco, but there's no mistaking how to enter the neighborhood.
I usually do a better job of planning for trips like this such that I have a restaurant or two in mind as I wander around, but I had been so busy the weeks leading up to this trip, that I was flying blind. the first several streets just looked like one shop full of junk next to another, and the few places serving food seemed a bit shady.
I like seeing authentic foods like these black bean cakes in storefronts, but it still wasn't guiding me to where to eat.
Fortunately we stumbled upon the Oriental Pearl Restaurant with this ad in the window. Those of who know me and my cooking story know that one of the very first people I watched on food TV when I was getting the cooking bug was Rachel Ray. I loved $30 a Day because you could do some armchair travel while watching and salivating about food. So any restaurant that she recommended was OK by me!And fortunately it didn't disappoint. We chose the Happy Family type of meal for the four of us and continued to stuff ourselves. First with shrimp, pork, and beef dumplings...
...followed by a really good hot and sour soup.
For the entrees we had a selection of almond chicken...
...the best fried rice I've ever had...
...sweet and sour pork...
...and beef with scallions.
The food and service were outstanding - thanks Rachel! - even if the ambiance was a bit austere (very white with bright lights). On the way out of the restaurant as we wandered through Chinatown we peeked in an herbal shop - really unbelievable what they stock, and more unbelievable what the guy was putting together for his clients.
We exited the Chinatown neighborhood at the perfect place to hop on the Powell & Mason cable car to ride down to Fisherman's Wharf...
...where we saw the most unbelievably clean and white seagulls I've ever encountered.
We spent about 30 minutes watching the sea lions bask in the sun, wrestle with each other, knock each other off the platforms, and bark up a storm while we were waiting to get on a harbor tour ferry.
A one hour harbor tour is the perfect way to see San Francisco from the water without spending all day on a boat. It took us past the wharf area...
...out to where we could see Telegraph Hill...
...and under the Golden Gate Bridge.
...passing the famous Ghiradelli Chocolate place on the way.
These photos are the first ones that I've played around with color saturation on Photoshop. Since it was rather hazy in the bay, the bridge had almost no color in the photos, but by increasing the saturation I captured the true red color.
Cool huh? On the way back to the dock we circle Alcatraz and with a zoom I was able to capture the sign. I can't imagine what it was like being imprisoned out here.

After our tour we cleaned up, had a cocktail at the little pub down the street from our hotel that we had found, and then made our way to Little Italy. Because of the record heat, it was about 90 in the restaurant and we ate quickly to get out of there, so I didn't capture a single food photo. But trust me, it was good!

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