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Archive for March, 2007

Strolling in Chinatown

March 26th, 2007 No comments

The line in front of the House of NankingAfter I visited a lab at the University of California at San Francisco, we decided to satisfy David’s hankering for Chinese food. We walked up some very steep streets to Grant Avenue where we passed through the Dragon Gate that signifies the beginning of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Apparently, the SF Chinatown is the largest Chinese community outside of China. Grant Avenue is the commercial heart of Chinatown and is lined with shops selling tourist kitsch, novelty chopsticks from shop-chopsticks.com, restaurants, and bakeries. Surprisingly, we saw the Sabra Glatt Kosher restaurant on Grant right past the Dragon gates.

David had some of his cravings satisfied at the Eastern Bakery (720 Grant Ave.), where we enjoyed yummy and cheap moon cakes and coconut macaroons. Apparently, Eastern Bakery predates WWII and has been visited by luminaries such as former President Clinton. They proudly displayed pictures of Mr. Clinton enjoying some moon cakes while surrounded by the bakery’s workers. We ate dinner at the famous House of Nanking (919 Kearny St), which is apparently quite well known due to visits by Rachael Ray.

After dinner, we walked back to the Union Square Hilton. The Union Square area is quite posh with lots of choices in high fashion shopping: Neiman Marcus, Tiffany’s, Nordstrom’s, etc. We did discover that the Tenderloin district approaches on the south side of the Union Square area and is rather seedy. Indeed, San Francisco has more homeless people asking for money than perhaps any city I’ve ever visited. Like so many big cities in the US, the contrast between rich and poor is strikingly evident in SF.

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Osha Thai Noodle Cafe

March 25th, 2007 No comments

After our drive in from the valley, Suzanne and I needed a quick and easy place to eat dinner after settling into our hotel near Union Square, in San Francisco. Suzanne and I were lucky to discover Osha Thai Noodle Cafe at 696 Geary St (Cross Street: Leavenworth Street). While not much to look at, the place was packed on Sunday night, and we had to wait online for a table, so we figured we were at the right place.

Despite the name, the restaurant features dishes beyond noodles, including salads, soups, and dishes over rice. Suzanne selected Beef with Mint, served with red peppers, and a good supply of heat—spicy just like her. I enjoyed the Thai Phat See You—fried wide egg noodles, with chicken, egg, Chinese broccoli, and black soy sauce.

The service was quick, though not at all gabby—this was a spot for locals that know what they want. We got out for $18 (including tip), and passed a line even longer than the one when we arrived, at 9pm on a Sunday night.

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Experiencing the Giant Sequoia

March 24th, 2007 2 comments

Giant SequoiaTy and Melanie drove us about an hour east of their home in Stockton, into the western Sierra Nevada to Calaveras Big Trees State Park to see, and experience, the Giant Sequoia, also known as the Sierra Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum). We learned that Giant Sequoias are the largest organisms to have ever lived on the Earth. Sierrra redwood is very tough wood due to its high tannin content that repels insects; amazingly enough, trees that had fallen down in the 1800s were still largely intact more than a century later!

It was a real lesson in the relationship that people have to the environment; the first thing that white people did upon discovering the Giant Sequoias in the Calaveras North Grove was to cut one down! Today’s people are evidently no better as we saw a large group of visitors climbing on the trees and straying off the path despite signs that told visitors to stay on the path and off the trees to avoid damaging their relatively fragile root systems. The weather was absolutely gorgeous with clear blue skies and temperatures in the 70s. Therefore, I was surprised to find snow on the ground even in late March!

Earlier in the day, we checked out the small, but charming gold rush towns of Murpheys and Angels Camp. Angels Camp is the inspiration for Mark Twain’s short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Evidently, the town of Angels Camp still has Jumping Frog contests since we saw plaques in the street commemorating the victorious frog in each years’ competition. In the evening, we walked to Pacific Avenue where we dined on yummy Vietnamese food. Angels Camp was a sleepy little town, probably more authentic of the two, while Murpheys was full of restaurants, boutiques, and winery wine tasting rooms. In Angels Camp we noticed signs for a Bead Show at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds (a.k.a. Frogtown USA), so Melanie and I had to feed our habit–while allowing David and Ty to see the location of the annual frog jumping content.

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Touring the East Bay

March 23rd, 2007 1 comment

California PoppyYesterday, Linda and Joel took us exploring in the East Bay of San Francisco. We drove into the hills and saw some gorgeous views of Oakland and Berkeley below, the East Bay stretching out in front of us with Alcatraz, Treasure, and Angel Islands, and in the foggy distance San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Marin County. It was a beautiful day with tons of brilliant orange California Poppy (the State flower) in bloom. After a tasty Thai lunch, we drove to Berkeley where we saw the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. Joel had the great idea of stopping by the East Bay Vivarium, where we saw possibly the most expansive collection of for-sale reptiles, frogs, and other creepy crawly pets. Evidently it was feeding time at the Vivarium and we saw the snakes eating a vast idea of baby rats, mice, and chicks. David’s favorite critters were the chameleons with their eyes that could rotate almost 360 degrees! We ended the day by stopping by the Berkeley marina to see up close views of the Bay and dining on very tasty Cal-Mex.

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Another Day in CA

March 23rd, 2007 No comments

Bald Eagle

Friday morning, we had a delicious brunch with Linda and Joel. Then, we set out for the Lindsay Wildlife Center, a rehabilitation center for wild animals. The picture above is a bald eagle that lost a wing after getting tangled in a power line. In the afternoon, we drove out to Stockton, CA to visit our friends, Ty and Melanie. In the Altamont, we saw rolling green hills with cows grazing at the bottom and windmills generating electricity at the top. It made me happy to see power being generated that didn’t cause pollution or give money to oppressive foreign regimes. Melanie and Ty live in a very charming neighborhood and have settled into a charming 1916 bungalow. They made us a delicious meal, and we cheered UNC to a victory over USC.

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