Winter Day at Yerba Buena Gardens

On a Sunday afternoon, when the whole city is shrouded in a blanket of thick surreal fog, there’s nothing like a hike to the Yerba Buena Gardens. Why?
First the cultural aspects. Just across from the gardens, you can start by visiting all the floors at the SFMOMA. Currently on show are two particularly fun exhibitions. The fifth floor gets the choice award if you’re going with the playground crowd. Olafur Eliasson is a Danish artist whose installations play with light, color and movement, a sure-pleaser for little ones.

Ours were thrilled when they started jumping on a wooden floor and saw the resulting movement waves reproduced on a big screen on the wall. The next room was dark and empty and tall but a fine curtain of mist trickled down from the ceiling. Irresistible for a 4-year-old, who started going through it while giggling. The mirror corridor was also a fun one, perched high above the entrance hall, with its colored diamond-cut mirrors that change color depending on your position in the corridor.

My next favorite exhibit included the odddly Victorian curiosity boxes of American artist Joseph Cornell. As much as my girls did not care much for the hidden Dada meaning of dancing lobsters in a box, I loved the Romantic feel of the tiny manors with mirrored windows in glittery frames, the “scientific experiment” boxes with tiny bottles filled with stuff or the”naturalist” box with a stuffed bird in a burrow. Actually, I am intending to make a box of my own for my girls’ Christmas as a present from Santa. We’ll see.

Now we get to the gastronomic part of the pilgrimage. After the museum of modern art, a hop to the Yerba Buena Gardens and on the upper terrace, you can take a well-deserved rest in a very civilized tea lounge. Ever since I learned that Samovar Tea had opened a lounge in the Yerba Buena Gardens, I was looking for a good excuse to try it out. There it was.

It’s different from their store on 18th and Sanchez, not quite as intimate I’d say. I miss the big end table where you can sit down on the floor. It was a good hangout place with small kids. But this location is one of the rare upscale tea experiences in SOMA so I not going to be too grouchy.

We settled for a high table with high stools which our girls enjoyed a lot. As usual, the pastries were scrumptious and the (small) selection of teas delicious. As I went for a bottomless cup of Russian tea, my hubby chose an earthy Pu-Ehr. Unfortunately, Samovar does not offer any child-friendly drinks, not even a cup of milk or a nice hot chocolate. So my girls each drank a glass of water instead. But when the sweets landed on our table, it totally made up for the absence of hot chocolate. My girls tasted it all: the Cardamom rice pudding, the brownie with green tea mousse and shavings of dark chocolate, the fruity bread pudding on honey, the tea cookies. They were a happy bunch.

Good things never last and around 5pm it was meltdown time. We headed home. I insisted on walking in front of the ice-skating rink next to the ZEUM. It was a big comfort (to me) to see how few ice skaters seem to come from Sweden. No, not every skater is born with blades as an extension of their feet. Phew, I’ll probably give it a try this winter.
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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

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