A Mother-Daughter Trip to San Francisco

Last month, I surprised my mom with a three-day trip to San Francisco for her 70th birthday. My grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from China, passing through San Fran before settling in Minnesota, and my mom was the first in her family to be born in the States. (My grandpa actually came here first and served in World War II, before my grandmother sailed over.) My mom is also the only one of her siblings who was born in San Francisco, which I think is pretty cool. After hearing her mention several times how much she would love to revisit the hospital where she was born and explore the area (which she hadn’t visited since she was a little girl), I decided to hook it up for her milestone birthday, complete with a stay in a deluxe suite at the fabulous and historic Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel. I have to admit, no matter how many swanky cities around the world I may have traveled to, there was something extra special about taking a trip to discover my heritage and seeing where part of my family story began. (Tonga, I’mma hit you up someday.) I’ll have some detailed posts coming up later, but here’s some of the highlights from our mother-daughter trip to San Francisco.

Checking into the Clift

I wanted to treat my mom to a stylish travel experience, and we were surrounded by style and character as soon as we checked into the Clift. The hotel, which was taken over by Royal Sonesta Hotels earlier this year, boasts a rich history and an eclectic style that especially appeals to art lovers. The lobby even has furniture created by Salvador Dali, and the Living Room was designed by Ralph Lauren. Across from the elevators, you’ll also find the last remaining chair from when the Clift opened back in 1915. Our first day was pretty low key, but my mom and I made sure to enjoy several rounds of cocktails in the hotel’s Redwood Room – an historic event space paneled with lumber from a single redwood tree.

P.S. I LOVED our suite. And it took every ounce of self-control not to raid the mini bar.

Dim Sum at City View Restaurant

Our second day in San Fran was packed with sightseeing, but there was only one way to begin our Chinatown excursion – dim sum at City View Restaurant. The only bad thing about this place was that I didn’t have room to scarf down as many dishes as I wanted. But I managed to indulge in all my favorites like cha siu bao, shrimp and pork siu mai, shrimp and chive dumplings, xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), custard buns, and mango pudding. The service was wonderful and the manager came over to chat with us as well. There was also a celebrity chef sitting behind us, who I’ve seen on Food Network, but I can’t remember his name. Total foodie fail on my part.

All Around Chinatown

After dim sum, we stopped by the Chinese Historical Society of America museum to learn more about the history of Chinese immigrants arriving through San Francisco. Not gonna lie – a lot of it was sad as hell, and it sucked to see exactly how the Chinese were treated back in the day. (You’re welcome for all the railroads, America.) My grandparents were originally separated by border patrol, as they segregated the women from the men, and it was creepy to see the type of barracks where the women were housed. It was no different from the jail cells I see on MSNBC’s Lockup. When you’re hit with the reality of what immigrants go through just to make a better life for their family… particularly, when it’s YOUR family… it’s pretty humbling. On a positive note, the guy working there thought I was a college student. Yay for Asian genes.

The Hospital and Apartment

My mom was born at the Chinese Hospital, which is a nonprofit organization in San Francisco’s Chinatown. There was some flooding going on that day, so we weren’t able to go inside. But it was cool to see the building and for my mom to revisit the place where she was born 70 years ago.

The best part of the trip for me was hunting down the address on my mom’s birth certificate, which was where my grandparents lived before moving to the Midwest. I couldn’t believe the apartment was still standing. And it was a bit eerie to think of my family living there during the 1940s.

The Painted Ladies

I grew up watching Full House, so duh… I HAD to see the Painted Ladies, featured in the show’s opening credits. The row of Victorian-style houses is beautiful, and I loved the neighborhood. The actual Full House house and the house from Mrs. Doubtfire were in the same nabe, but I couldn’t be bothered to scale any more hills by that point. Maybe next time.

Ghiradelli Square

I normally despise touristy things, but yo… we were tourists. So my mom and I stopped by Ghiradelli Square for some souvenir shopping. We also enjoyed a wine tasting at Wattle Creek Winery, where I discovered a Cabernet Sauvignon that I actually liked (it had hints of dark chocolate). And, because I’m an ice cream freak, I had to order myself a signature Ghiradelli ice cream sundae. It was bomb.

Alcatraz Island

Since we’re both history freaks, we spent our last day touring Alcatraz Island and wandering around the world-famous prison. I’ll be posting a separate blog with more details soon, but seriously… I can’t wait to go back and take the nighttime tour.

Stay tuned for more!