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28th August 2010

A Visit to Grace Cathedral, Coffee in Union Square, a Stroll in Yerba Buena Gardens, then a Flight Home

Grace Cathedral
    This morning was Dan's last before returning home. After a lengthy packing session, we walked across the city to Grace Cathedral. It was a bright sunny day with a cool wind.
    Grace Cathedral, based on Notre Dame in Paris, dominated the summit of the city's steepest hill, Nobb Hill. This Episcopal church had been rebuilt three times since the gold rush, and the current French-inspired Gothic cathedral took 40 years to reach its completion in 1964. Its entrance doors were cast from moulds of Ghiberti's "Doors of Paradise", made for the Baptistry in Florence. The 44 bells in the Carillon Tower were cast in England in 1938.
    The interior of the building was replete with marble, and took on a rather glum appearance. However, the light pouring through the beautiful stained glass windows onto interior surfaces more than made up for it, especially the Human Endeavour series showing Albert Einstein uplifted in a swirl of nuclear particles. Interesting murals decorated the walls depicting the area from when San Francisco was first discovered by Europeans, to present times, including events such as the 1906 earthquake and fire, and the formation of the United Nations in 1945.
    The cathedral served as an oasis, offering silence, peace and respite from the bustling city outside.
    At Dan's request, we headed afterwards down to Union Square, where we enjoyed a coffee and pastry each. Without paying attention, I asked the assistant for a nice coffee, which got translated as an iced coffee. Fortunately Dan was on hand to translate. As we sat sipping our coffee, a guy walked down the aisle between the tables, stood stock still staring straight ahead, and shouted, "I woke up this morning on a bench. Can anyone loan me a dollar in order for me to buy breakfast?". The character was too well dressed for a homeless person, and everyone ignored him. After 15 seconds he would proceed to the next set of tables and repeat the process. Heaven knows how many laps he did around the square.
Dan Relaxing in Yerba Buena Gardens
    Once fortified, we walked across to Yerba Buena Gardens to enjoy a relaxing stroll along the paths through flower beds and water features. I hadn't noticed the last time I was here that behind the cascading waterfalls of the Martin Luther King Memorial was a corridor, where words of peace were inscribed on the walls, as well as the words from his famous "I have a dream" speech.
    We were killing time really, filling that dead period when you know you have a journey to make, and don't have enough time to do anything useful before making it. The moment had come when we had to head back to the hotel to collect Dan's luggage and be picked up by an airport shuttle bus. Our intention was to take a cable car back across the city, but once we saw the queue, that option was out, so we took a cab instead.
    The shuttle bus had to pick up other passengers up on the way, and stopped at what appeared to be a seedy part of town, where three young women climbed aboard. One was returning back to Brighton. She too had spent the previous day up in Napa Valley on a wine tasting trip, and had been leisurely packing her bags this morning when urgent emails, texts and messages started bombarding her. The girl's family were at their wits end with worry trying to find out why she hadn't arrived on the 11:05 UK time flight that morning. The girl had completely forgotten that she should have been returning the day before.
    The drive to the airport was surprisingly quick, as was the check-in process. It gave me and Dan time to grab a coffee and spend some final moments together before he disappeared beyond the security barrier. It was saddening to see him go. I had been glad of his company over the last 16 days; we had covered a lot of ground and activities together. I also felt for him as he would be returning to a heavy workload that had probably been building up in his absence. He wasn't looking forward to that aspect at all. I took some comfort that I would be seeing him again soon on home territory.
    I caught the BART train back to Powell. It was too late to visit any museums, and I wasn't feeling particularly bright that day anyhow. I had acquired flu like symptoms. I walked back to the hotel, made my mind up that I was not going to venture out that night, and started the long process of catching up with my blog. Seven hours later I completed my fourth consecutive day of the blog, and I nodded off to sleep.
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Uploaded from Francisco Bay Inn, 1501 Lombard Street, San Francisco CA on 31/08/10 at 09:55

Last updated 31.8.2010