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Writings of a Wanderer: Tea With My Mummy

I recently took a day trip to San Francisco to satisfy my craving for art, history and culture.

My mom, sister and I drove to Golden Gate Park – a place I hadn’t visited since childhood – to see the “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” exhibition at the de Young Museum. It’s on display through March 28.

While waiting to see the exhibit, I felt like I was standing in line for a popular ride at Disneyland.

Once inside, we – along with hundreds of other people – viewed dozens of Egyptian artifacts, including: funerary figurines, decorated chests, a gold dagger, a board game, a child’s chair, and a golden sarcophagus. The exhibit featured relics from King Tut’s tomb and those of his relatives. I left with a greater appreciation for an ancient civilization and for smaller, less-crowded museums.

After touring the exhibit, we walked next door to the Japanese Tea Garden. This quiet garden provided us with a much needed respite. We sipped tea and munched on crackers and cookies at an outdoor table. We meandered through the garden, stopping to take photos of blossoms, bridges and pagodas. A large Buddha statue and a Zen garden also caught our attention.

Outside the garden’s gift shop, I saw a young man feeding a ground squirrel. I crouched to take a picture. The squirrel mistook my intentions and scampered toward me looking for food, which I lacked. Another man saw my dilemma and threw me a chip, which I handed to the hungry squirrel, lest it eat my camera. As my reward for placating the curious critter, I earned a cute picture.

There’s so much to see in San Francisco.

While we were in the city, we drove down Lombard Street, often billed as America’s “crookedest street.” The hilly road, lined with beautiful townhouses, provided a great view of Coit Tower and the city below.

Our next destination provided us with a look at my family history.

My great-grandfather, Walter Brooks, and his brothers designed and built their own non-standard homes in San Francisco. The three lots, connected with a central courtyard, were sold decades ago. The three neighboring brick houses on Vallejo Street are reminiscent of a small castle, complete with a turret and narrow windows for archers. My great-grandfather’s handiwork was evident through several arched windows and intricate wood carvings.

One of the current homeowners graciously allowed us to go through a gate and into the courtyard. She said the houses still attract tourists. The courtyard reminded me of a secret garden blooming with family history. My grandfather had grown up there.

At Fisherman’s Wharf we enjoyed clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls, and walked along the pier admiring the view of the bay at sunset. We could see Alcatraz in the distance. Further down the pier, sea lions lounged on floating docks while seagulls perched on posts. Three brown pelicans flew past, and a cool breeze reminded us of the coming darkness. It was time to return home.

I left the city knowing that in one day I had seen a bit of Egypt’s art, a bit of San Francisco’s culture and, perhaps most importantly, a bit of family history.

If you left your heart (or canopic jars) in San Francisco …

To learn more about the King Tut exhibit and the de Young Museum, visit http://www.tutsanfrancisco.org/ and http://www.famsf.org/. If you’re planning a visit to Golden Gate Park, here’s a map of the area: http://www.parks.sfgov.org/site/recpark_page.asp?id=17796. For information on the Japanese Tea Garden, visit http://www.parks.sfgov.org/site/recpark_index.asp?id=89034. For details on Fisherman’s Wharf, go to http://www.visitfishermanswharf.com/.

Here are some of my photos of San Francisco.

Journalist Lauren Brooks lives in Chico. She is the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record’s weekly entertainment guide, The Buzz. She is a CSU, Chico alumna who graduated with a B.A. in journalism in spring 2006. She can be reached at lmbrooks.work@gmail.com.