Archive for April 6th, 2007

Day 5: Tea Garden, Richmond

The cafes in Hayes Valley are some of the best in the city – not necessarily because the coffee is the best, but because of the sleepy air of urban harmony that wisps through the neighborhood in the morning. There’s nothing better than sitting on a quiet, sunny street while sipping espresso and munching on a pastry, watching as people open up shop, walk the dog, smoke the first cigarette, or read the morning headlines.

The city buzzes and roars around you, tingling back to life – but everyone in Hayes is still respecting the morning peace.

Such was Tuesday morning at Cafe La Vie, a tiny coffee shop on Octavia with garage doors that fly open on beautiful mornings to blur the lines between cafe and street. The coffee was excellent, as was my blueberry danish, and sitting outside in the warm spring air brought a moment of stillness to our quickly-evaporating trip.

The first time we visted Golden Gate Park we rented bicycles, which kept us from entering the Japanese Tea Garden (mind that if you make a trip and only have limited time). But we had heard that the place was amazing, an absolutely must-see, so we made another trip up that way.

The entrance fee was $4, but well worth it. We were lucky enough to come when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, and the garden was lush and green – loose pink petals floated in the air and trickled down small waterfalls as visitors sipped tea in the teahouse. Even though it was a weekday, the garden was pretty busy, but not so much that we couldn’t steal away to a quiet corner and savor the wafting scent of wildflowers.

Feeling rejuvinated, we decided to bus it to Chinatown for lunch – but without a particular place in mind. For future reference, this is not something I would recommend doing; Chinatown booms with a plethora of restaurants, and finding a particularly mind-blowing place is difficult to do without prior knowledge. Reader, learn from my mistake and consult a local.

We did wind up at a so-so place called The Pot Sticker that had particularly good sesame chicken, but nothing to write home about. The more remarkable thing about the restaurant was the group of Chinese women earnestly praying at the middle table following their meal – after about 10 minutes of ceaseless whispered prayer and random “amens,” they all stopped, stood up and said smiling goodbyes …

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