Cultural Learnings in San Francisco

Posted on April 24, 2009 by Holly Hayes
Part of: San Francisco Road Trip

We've spent the last two days exploring a whole lot of world cultures without leaving the city. San Francisco is extremely diverse, which makes it very interesting. Fortunately, in our limited experience at least, everybody seems to get along fairly well despite their differences.

Yesterday's highlight was a visit to the magnificent Asian Art Museum, which I believe is the largest of its kind in the USA. It was even better than I'd hoped, with wonderful Indian sculptures and Buddhist statues and Chinese pottery from 1000+ BCE to the modern day. The museum is slick and modern and everything is beautifully displayed. David said it was like being back at the Louvre. Here are a few of our favorite things:

ancient chinese rhino
A very cute bronze rhino from c. 1100 BCE.

persian bronze
This weird little fella looks comical and modern, but it's actually part of a bronze horse bridle made in ancient Persia between 1000 and 650 BCE.

a special chinese buddha
This Buddha is very special because it's the earliest dated Buddhist statue in China: 338 CE. Buddhism arrived in China on the Silk Road from India 200 years earlier.

yaki udon
My yaki udon in Cafe Asia inside the museum was quite delicious. David had Korean Pork that was also very nice.

After lunch, David waited for me on the steps out in the sun while I finished up in Bhutan.

Also yesterday, we visited the Castro, known for its gay culture, and the Mission District, with its ancient Spanish mission.

The Mission District is named for the interesting Mission Dolores, which combines Spanish and Native American cultures. It was completed by Spanish missionaries on June 29, 1776 (five days before the Declaration of Independence) and is the oldest building in San Francisco. It is from this mission, which is dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, that the city gets its name.

mission dolores mission dolores interior mission ceiling detail
Most of the chapel was decorated by Native American converts, including the ceiling painted with traditional designs.

The Castro wasn't quite as interesting as we expected, although there were plenty of rainbow flags fluttering picturesquely in the wind, lots of hair salons, and several off-color shops. We had some of the best cookies ever in a place called "Hot Cookie," where we tried to avert our eyes from the photos on the wall.

the castro the castro the castro
The Castro theater was playing the movie Milk and advertising an upcoming appearance from Joan Rivers.

And on our way back to the hotel, I found myself in San Francisco.

Today, we started the day in Chinatown, which was seriously awesome and like taking a little trip to China, then moved on to Japantown (one of the few in the US) and the Fillmore District, known for its African-American population and jazz heritage. We even visited the Church of St. John Coltrane! Photos of today's adventures to come later.

Tomorrow we leave San Francisco to head for home. We are tentatively planning on spending tomorrow night in Mt. Shasta, then stopping in Bend and/or Crater Lake for another night. The weather has been beautiful, but very cold in the wind - hopefully that will change as we leave the coast.