San Francisco Anglophiles mourn death of Queen Elizabeth, celebrate her memory
SAN FRANCISCO -- Bay Area residents reacted in disbelief to the news Thursday that Queen Elizabeth II had died at the age of 96, and in San Francisco - from high tea on Nob Hill to a British goods shop in the Inner Sunset - the city was an oasis of Anglophilia.
Shortly after news of her passing reached our shores, the bells at Grace Cathedral rang 96 times - once for every year of her life.
The InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel lowered the UK flag to half-staff in honor of the queen Thursday. The newly-renovated Peacock Court Ballroom was unveiled with afternoon high tea, which was a planned event.
To mark the occasion, people came in their best tea party attire and enjoyed scones, finger sandwiches and plenty of sweets. The experience was based on the royal afternoon tea hosted by the InterContinental London Park Lane.
"Not many people know, but the location of that hotel is actually on the site where her Majesty Queen Elizabeth actually grew up, her home was there. Unfortunately, it was demolished during World War II," said General Manager Michael Pace. "It's interesting unfortunately with her passing, we're looking at the theme of this afternoon tea being a nod to the queen and our royal connections."
Pace led a toast with the greatest respect to the queen. He is Maltese and grew up as a British citizen.
"I've always had a great sense of pride in being part of the culture and the folklore of the royal family," he said. "So I was obviously like everybody else very saddened."
At the British Consulate on Sansome Street in San Francisco, people brought flowers to pay their respects during the day.
Willow on the Green in the Inner Sunset, a shop that sells specialty British goods, put up a photo of the queen and King Charles. Founder and CEO Alex Sinclair said he's seen more customers than usual in the hours following her death.
He opened the relatively new shop to help showcase a taste of Britain, including hard-to-find items like British cheeses.
"It's bittersweet you know the queen has had a long and very beautiful life. She's part of our nation and she's been the backbone of our culture," said Sinclair. "On the one hand, it's sad that she's passed but i think the way that she has left our country is for the better."
"Just like shock that it happened and it happened so quick," said Donita Murphy, the longtime owner of Lovejoy's Tea Room in San Francisco's Noe Valley.
She heard the news over the phone Thursday morning. Murphy, who's from Nottingham, has admired Queen Elizabeth for decades. The queen is a centerpiece of one of Lovejoy's biggest events of the year.
"On Mother's Day, we actually have a cut out of the queen and everybody takes their picture with her," Murphy explained.
Jodi Hayes and friend Debra Mulledy Greenberg stopped into Lovejoy's by chance, a few hours after the news broke.
"I've followed the queen my whole entire life, you know?" Hayes said. " As a kid. I've always thought she was spectacular. And I've been to England a few times."
Greenberg said she too was shocked to hear news of Elizabeth's passing.
"I actually started crying, believe it or not. It's just so sad," she said. "I'm leaving for England on Friday, so it's kind of like, what kind of timing is that?"
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