Wednesday, December 26, 2007

First Christmas Day in San Fran

Picture a wintry village or small town scene in the UK especially one of, say, thirty years ago. It is Christmas Day morning.

The roads are nearly deserted. The shops are closed except for a little corner shop. Some people are making their way to church, some are running behind excited children as they try out new bikes and rollar blades or walking to build up an appetite before Christmas lunch,
others are snug in their homes.

There is a predictability, a common thread binding the community.

Delete that picture from your mind. For Christmas in San Fran is an eclectic, cultural mix.

We began the morning in the Grand Hyatt behind Union Square. Nothing too different about Christmas there. No doubt people were relaxing and getting ready for Christmas dinner. If they were like us, they were trying to make phone calls to family, and a hint we can pass on is start early! By 10 am lines with the phone card company were engaged.

We decided to go for a walk. In the lobby we viewed the decorations, huge and bright of a kind we have come to expect here! A tall, baubled tree with large wooden toy train at its base, and model village snow scenes in glass casings.

In the street outside, people were milling. Traffic was low but the streets were not deserted. As we strolled the street we entered China Town...and suddenly Christmas had disappeared. Like stepping through the back of the wardrobe in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, we were blinking in another world.

The pavements were thronging. Shops and stalls were busy. It was business as usual. Even a hairdresser's was open and they had clients. Trays of cooked Chinese food sat behind glass windows. On the edge of the pavement a woman balanced small plastic boxes in which were baby terrapins swimming amongst tiny pebbles and plastic flowers.

We jostled and wove our way down the pavement and then, leaving China Town behind us, we were in the Italian quarter. Now, the Italians celebrate Christmas. Not a store or a restaurant was open. The Italians were home or perhaps some of them were in the crowed pouring out of the ornate Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral.

Down to Fisherman's Wharf and the area was quieter than usual but still had a respectable number of visitors. As you might expect, most of the tourist shops and restaurants were open. Only the ferries were quiet, moored and motionless, their pilots enjoying a day off however they were celebrating.

Through the financial district with silent office towers and back to the Grand Hyatt, people passing in and out of the glass swing doors.

Up to the Grandviews restaurant on the 36th floor where a magnificent buffet awaited. We sat at a table in the sun and gazed at the Golden Gate Bridge.

And to our surprise, there was turkey with orange and cranberry sauce!

Christmas, San Fran 2007 style!

No comments: