5 posts categorized "San Francisco"

May 20, 2010

Redwoods Revisited

Here's the problem with this state:  there are just too darn many places to visit.  Two years is not enough time to do it all.  I am happy to say that along with many of the 'biggies' (Tahoe, Muir Woods & Yosemite), we have also visited many other parks and areas that might be lesser-known.  The second issue I have with there being so much to do in so little time?

One visit is never enough.

While some may feel one visit to a local attraction (say, Muir Woods) is enough, I often feel that I need at least two or three visits to really get a feel for the place and soak in all that it has to offer.  In fact, we may feel required to 'join' some of the organizations, as we feel we will be there quite frequently.  Suffice it to say, I could not say no to our second meet-up at the Redwoods today.  Even more exciting?  I technically got part of the way there without using the GPS (after I was GPS-ed, of course).

I thought it was odd that it had directed me take 680 vs. Crow Canyon to 580, but it is an easier drive in some respects.  I realized that I have been so many places lately, that I wasn't sure that landmarks I saw were actually from our recent visit to the Redwoods (remember, we carpooled and my friend drove) or from a visit to another Oakland site.  After the GPS told me twice that the park was in the middle of someone's front lawn, I pulled over, cleared my mind, really thought about it, quit fretting about being lost and late, and realized I knew where I was.  Once I hit the next main road, I turned left and there was a tiny sign indicating that the park was straight ahead.

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We missed most of our playtime with his buddy, Cy, due to our late arrival, but not with the rest of the group.  We had a long, leisurely walk through trees and enjoyed stopping at the water-go (again of the creek sort).  We reveled in the wildflowers, decided trucks were not meant for water-gos, and found more walking sticks* than Nicholas knew what to do with. After a good 20 minutes, we met up with the rest of the group at Trail's End. The boys ran around, the parents chatted, and we eventually headed back for some playground time. 

IMG_4567 IMG_4566 I've said it before and I'll say it again: this truly is the place to be on a warm day.  It was fairly breezy when we arrived, but the sun was blazing down by the time we left.  There easily had to be a 10-15 degree difference between the shadier woods, and the playground in the middle of the sunny field.  Despite the fact that we had to get going at some point, it was very hard to gather our lunch bags and hats and be on our way.  Each time we leave a park or museum, I wonder if it's the last time we will visit before we depart for good.  Then again, it's only a 20 minute drive and the movers don't come until next Thursday....

Note:  Like many places in Northern CA, you can be fanning yourself in the sun then freezing in the shade.  Don't forget your light jacket, snack, water, sunscreen and hats.  I don't think the walk from the parking lot is more than a mile round-trip, but if your toddler tires easily, an Ergo or stroller wouldn't hurt.

May 12, 2010

OMCA!

Which stands for the Oakland Museum of California.  We had a rather impromptu visit on Sunday, after our best-laid plans to take a Mother's Day hike in Las Trampas were derailed by rain.

I know this doesn't usually stop us, but we have hiked muddy areas of Las Trampas before, and while Nicholas would adore it, it would be a lot more 'stopping to pull hiking boots out of ground every five minutes while gloppy mud tries to hold onto shoe and massive sucking sounds emanate from said ground' than hiking. For that reason, and that reason only, we decided to find a semi-indoor activity.

I recently heard of the Oakland Museum of California, though I constantly screwed up the name and kept calling it the California Museum of Oakland.  Really not much of a difference, and Peter had no idea what I was talking about, so really a moot point.  It's a museum (I know, shocking!) in Oakland about California (honestly!).  I read about the 2 year, $58 million renovation, and decided it was worth seeing that afternoon. 

Apparently the rest of California read the very same article and had the same reaction, as the line was out the door when we arrived.  We contemplated buying a membership, but since they only charge for ages 9 and above, we would have to go several times to make it worth it.  As soon as the kids found a place to play (waiting areas with rocks for piling get two thumbs up), the line started moving quickly.  I freaked out and thought perhaps OMCA was part of the reciprocity deal with the science centers and museums, but no such luck.  This turned out to be a good thing, since my Lindsay Wildlife Card (and free pass) were sitting safely in a drawer at home. 

We ended up only having an hour, and decided to start with the history hall.  We were stopped by a Welcome to California sign, and I took the first of many bad pictures.  I will blame it on the banning of flash photos and poor lighting.  I  completely understand why such rules are necessary, but it doesn't change the fact that the pictures* are terrible.  However, not a good enough reason for me to not torture my readers with several!

After we took the requisite photo with the sign, we hit the map of the world.  There had been an assortment of red dot stickers on the table and each person/family was supposed to put one on the map to indicate where they came from.  As usual, we went with Iceland (we did move from there....).  Sadly, all of the stickers appeared to have been used.  I was happy to find an extra dangling on the wall above the map (sorry if someone really came from northern Greenland) and plopped it down around Reykjavik.

The dad-like guy of the family standing next to us wondered where I found a sticker, and I mentioned it was just lolling about on the wall, so I put it to better use.  He then gave me my favorite quote of the day (maybe the weekend),

"You Icelanders certainly are resourceful!"

I explained the situation, and the father agreed with me that "where you hail from" could encompass many different areas for many people.  We helped him find another wayward sticker, and moved on to view the rest of the History section.

To say the area was jam-packed with information is an understatement.  I won't detail every little thing, as I think it is definitely worth seeing and don't want to spoil any surprises.  I will say that active toddlers may not find it as enchanting as older children.  

Nicholas enjoyed the museum (especially the airplane seats), but it is not a "please touch" children's museum by any stretch of the imagination.  While there were certain items that could be touched, most were "eyes only". He didn't have a hard time, but I would have completely understood if he had.  Realistically, this is probably more for the 5 and up set, though I would plan on interspersing outdoor breaks if we were there for a longer visit.

I thought we dawdled quite a bit, but even so managed to depart the history area within an hour.  We checked on the Science section (yes, it really is closed until 2012 due to renovations) and had a brief tour of the gardens before departing.

Overall review?  Best for older kids, and I would allot at least 2-3 hours.  We didn't get to view the art collection, and possible that could be more extensive than I imagine.  Once the science section reopens, I would think this would be at least half a day or maybe something you revisit.  If we had any plans to be here when the science hall opens again,  I would consider joining.  I think not only would we enjoy a few visits, but out of town folks might like to take a look, too.

*Don't worry, pictures will be coming soon.  Our internet is barely chugging along these days, so all I could do to eke out this post.  Oh, and *technically* I am supposed to be tidying the garage right now so that the movers doing the pre-pack out survey tomorrow don't freak and think we are trying to move the entire state.  I exaggerate, though, it really isn't that bad.  I have de-cluttered quite a bit over the years, so I am hoping we will be pleasantly surprised by their estimate.

May 03, 2010

One of my goals

IMG_4409 since we moved to California has been to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Honestly, I didn't even care if I  walked across the entire structure, but at least wanted to step up there, walk out, look down at the water, and embrace the 360 degree views.  I finally did that today.

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Yesterday was Kelsey's First Communion and it's pretty hard to top the excitement of that day (posting still under construction).  We realized we probably needed a bit of a break today, especially since yesterday's celebration turned into a sleepover, and we were just all drained (in a good way).  We talked briefly about things to do and bandied about local hikes.  I realized that was also something we could do during the week, and I had promised the girls that we absolutely, positively would make it back to Crissy Field before we left.  I realized this was the time to do it: Dad was in town, Crissy Field is smack next to the bridge, and let's face it, we are really running low on time.

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Am I upset about the last statement?  No.  I know I have probably come off as ridiculously over-worried about certain aspects of the move recently, and for that, I should know better.  I should just count my blessings and get over myself:  Peter has a decent job, we aren't homeless, we can afford to eat (well, at that), and things will fall into place one way or the other.  Oh, and we *might* have orders, but I am not going to stress it one way or the other anymore.


 
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We tried to get an early start this morning, but the Gods conspired against us, and I owe them one for that.  Turns out today was Escape from Alcatraz.  We wondered why parking at Crissy Field seemed to be at a premium, and then Pete reminded me (well, told me) that one of our friends was participating in said event.  I don't remember any discussion about this, but between the race, and the gorgeous, sunny day...there was not a parking spot to be had in the East Beach area.

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We realized this might be a sign we should just head to Fort Point.  Peter started driving there, but Kelsey needed a bathroom break as we approached the Warming Hut.  This was not the inconvenience we thought it was, as we finally figured out the Battery East Trail (to the Bridge) was just yards away from the Hut.  We were literally 100 steps and then a short walk away from the bridge.


  
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I had not bothered with either the stroller or the Ergo, and I am grateful for that thought. Little Guy enjoyed the hike almost as much as we did.  Most of the trail was very toddler-friendly and I hate the thought of him not expending that energy as he should.  Fifteen minutes after we started, with only a few stops for photo ops, we made it.

IMG_4421 We only walked about a third of the way across, but that was enough for me.  For a few moments, we had an incredible vantage point that we shared with just a handful of other folks.  And, if you are wondering, I just realized that none of us were bothered by the height.  The bridge vibrated a bit due to the incredible amount of traffic, but nothing that worried any of us. The views had us mesmerized and awestruck.

It was not climbing Mount Everest or even Escape from Alcatraz.  It was, however, something else we can check off our list and, if I am correct, a day the girls won't forget for a very long time.

April 27, 2010

Wicked Awesome!

IMG_4352 Our dear friends, Shannon and Mark, came up with a splendid idea last summer: instead of trying to figure out three separate birthday gifts for the Dinoia gals, they would splurge on one large combined present. If you haven't guessed from the title, they cleverly thought up the idea of tickets to Wicked!

Now, I was lazy at first.  I kept putting off giving Shannon dates, as each weekend seemed full, and I feared purchasing them only to find out we had some unforeseen event that couldn't be missed.  Our kids are not in an overwhelming number of activities, but the niggling fear remained.  Then we found out we were likely moving, and I decided to stress about that instead of just shoving that worry away and planning an adventure.

Fast forward a few months, and I had likely driven Shannon nuts by not committing to a date.  I realized if I didn't commit, we would never go and I would be the worst mother in the world for life.  I buckled down, looked at dates, looked at them again, and picked the emptiest Sunday out there.  I didn't want a chance of anything else interfering, and more importantly, wanted to make a day of it in the city.  I went back and forth on what to do, and finally settled on lunch and the show. 

IMG_1791   Believe it or not, I ended up planning the day to the minute (I know, what did the body-snatchers do with Jen?).  I realized the last thing I wanted to do was drive into the city, since our our lunch choice was not exactly next door to the Orpheum.  I found that not only does BART have online schedules, but one can plan their trip from door to door.  I entered our start address, and the tea room's address, and the BART quick trip planner gave me station options, departure times, and follow-up directions from the BART station to the tea room (over half a mile away).  Seriously, how incredibly cool is that?

(For those of you who knew about this capability for years and years, and are now laughing at me...well, hush...we all learn something new each day!)

The distance from the tea room to the Orpheum, however, was a good 3 miles.  I didn't see us hoofing that in our Sunday best (well, close to it, no jeans allowed!), especially if lunch ran even slightly over.  Enter Google Maps.  When getting directions from the restaurant to the Orpheum, I realized it offered options such as driving, local transportation or walking.  Sure enough, the site pointed out how the J line on Muni was just two blocks up from the tea room.  For $3.50, that 45 minute walk would become a 10 minute walk and a 20 minute ride on the light rail....and the station ended right at the Civic Center.  Walk out of the station, and voila, one has arrived at the theater.

IMG_4338 IMG_4340 So, at the wee hour of 9:55 a.m., we stepped onto the Bart train and rode comfortably into the city.  It was a fairly quiet, clean ride on upholstered seats, no less!  The one way ride cost us a mere $14.70 and we had to do nothing more than relax.  There was a bit of conversation I could have done without (person in front of us on his cell phone, need I say more?), but other than that, a fast and easy trip.

We walked up the steps at 24th and Mission, and what a gorgeous day!  I thought I would be freezing, but no, sunny, little wind, just a beautiful, clear day.  We had good hike uphill, and arrived at the Lovejoy's Tea Room by 11:03 a.m. for an 11:00 a.m. reservation.

IMG_4342 IMG_4347 I must admit, the girls were a bit iffy at first.  A bit whiny, a bit "I don't know if I like this...".   However, I think it was a combination of not enough breakfast, and being a bit overtired.  By the time the tea and hot cocoa arrived (in an Alice in Wonderland tea kettle, as part of Kelsey's "Wee Tea"), our moods had significantly lifted. 

IMG_4343 Two pots of tea, many sandwiches, salad, tea cookies, scones, jam, cream, and several petit fours (or PAST-rees, as Kelsey called them) later, we were sated and ready for our next journey.  We couldn't help but stop at the shop operated by the proprietors of the tea room to procure a bit of tea for home. We made our purchase, and then realized we should probably head towards the theater.

IMG_4348 I had thought ahead (twice in a day, who knew it could happen?!) and  had correct change for the Muni (pick that jaw up, please).  We hopped on the rail after a 10 minute wait, and enjoyed the winding trip through the backyards of San Francisco.  I am sure the homeowners are used to it, but I still wondered if they see the little trains barreling between the backyards or just ignore them out of habit?  I enjoyed watching one man prune his roses, and could tell others were just stepping outside of their back doors into the sunshine for the first time that day.

Halfway through the trip, we stopped by a large park (note to self: look up name, it looked awesome for kids, dogs, parents...).  Kelsey looked a wee bit envious of the families hopping off to spend the afternoon swinging and picnicking.  However, given how much time we spend at parks and given where we were headed, I knew she would soon forget her regret.

I must admit, though, I was a bit envious of the city-dwellers.  Whether I was standing on the light rail, hand on that metallic bar, or whistling through the tunnels on the Bart, I realized I missed my days of living in the city.  I remember knowing the Metro like the back of my hand, and we used to traverse DC back and forth, and up and down. Reykjavik wasn't quite as big as DC, but we could walk everywhere.  Peter had a 5 minute commute to work, and Tjornin, a tourist hot-spot, was "our" pond.  Whether playing on the ice in the winter, or Cait spending hours riding her scooter on the path around the pond...and having restaurants and shops within shouting distance..definitely something that we miss.  Not that the suburbs don't have their benefits, especially if one's employment is nearby...but, today I felt that pull of the city more strongly than usual. 

We arrived at the Civic Center station with a whopping 45 minutes before show time.  Even better, it was the Farmers Market.  Well, honestly, we were a bit sad, as we couldn't really purchase anything.  My spirits lifted a bit, though, when I recognized several vendors from our Farmers Market (currently in Danville, San Ramon opens this Saturday!) and realized I wasn't missing as much as I thought.

IMG_1793 We headed to the Orpheum and went inside, looked at the offerings (um, $39 for a t-shirt??).and eventually found our seats after arguing over candy purchases.  A farmers market around the corner and the only thing the Orpheum vendor has is grocery store candy.  I know, I know, food/junk food snob, but it's messy, sugary, and after such a healthy brunch...I acquiesced to one Kit-Kat that we all split, though apparently not fairly enough.  Note to self: always bring hand wipes to the theater for cleaning up of melted Kit-Kat off hands.

We were in our seats 20 minutes before showtime, and I was thrilled that no one was seated in front of the girls.  We had balcony seats, so a bit of a distance, and I didn't want their views obstructed anymore.  Cue two terribly tall people popping into said seats 2 minutes before the show started.  Even more annoying, though?  The 5 adults who showed up 5 minutes AFTER it started and blocked everyone's view while they stumbled into their seats...if we can show up not only on time, but 45 minutes early....

And?

The reviews by each girl:

Kelsey: "I didn't just like it, I loved it!  I can't wait to see it again!  My favorite part was the whole thing!"

Caitlin:  "I more than loved it, when can we see it again? My favorite part... the whole show!"

So, one can probably tell that it was a hit with them.  I agree with their assessments wholeheartedly, and we all concurred that Elphaba was our favorite character.  Now, just two questions remain:  who gets to read the book first and when will we get to see the show again?

A huge thank you to Auntie Dr. Shannon, Uncle Mark, Baby Nate & Cousin Sandy for sending us to Wicked!  I have a feeling we will see it again and again and again...

March 21, 2010

Reunion

It seems like just yesterday I was lamenting our impending departure, feeling torn about choosing between the possibilities that are in our future.  Somehow in the past 48 hours, I have come to terms with the fact that I while I am not thrilled by having to make tough choices, we need to move forward with our original plans.  I may never be 100% sure, but after a brief reunion we had today, I remembered that all is not lost by moving forward, as there are always future opportunities.

 IMG_1613 A friend from Iceland,IMG_1614 who worked at the Embassy with Peter, (I will call her "Mary") came to visit San Francisco this weekend.  She was in town to see The Little Mermaid performed by the San Francisco Ballet, and was able to carve out a generous amount of time to spend with us today.  Having not seen her in almost two years (Nicholas was not even 4 months when we left Iceland), we were thrilled to be able to catch up in the city.  Kelsey had been aching to visit San Francisco as a pre-birthday treat, and we could not miss the chance for the girls to entertain Mary with hours of pre-teen bickering.

One might say, "Oh, it wasn't that bad."  Oh, yes, it was. They insisted on displaying their sisterly love, and bickered through a good portion of the morning.  Sigh.  Nothing like showing off your maturing, growing, hair-pulling, and name-calling sweethearts.  Where did I go wrong again?  We pushed through though, and realized perhaps the ole blood sugar might be a bit low, and that a bit of lunch might be in order.

No, we did not end up at the vegetarian restaurant, but thought the menu (given the name of the establishment) to be immensely amusing.  We let Kelsey choose the place du jour, and, yes, Nan-King is now officially an old haunt.  The girls were separated, Mary and I caught up for a good hour, and Peter and Nicholas had nice father and son quality time.  After lunch, we thought a few minutes at the park might release a bit of energy, and this appeared to be the magic that reignited the real sisterly love.  The girls ran around, played with their brother, watched endless games of Chinese checkers, and enjoyed the unique decorations of this playground in Chinatown.  Nothing like pagodas and cherry blossoms in a park surrounded by hotels, apartments, restaurants, and many gray concrete buildings to feel as though you are in an oasis of sorts.

IMG_4091 IMG_4092 Given that Mary had the ballet (no, I didn't repeat that because I am jealous...okay, it looks amazing!), and we had to get back for Kelsey to participate in her troop's cookie sale (it's almost over...), we had to skip Crissy Field (Kelsey's last request for the afternoon), and nosh on ice cream at Ghirardelli Square instead.  Nicholas chose this area to have his pre-nap breakdown, though the free chocolates being handed out calmed him down a tiny bit (until the sugar kicked in). 

Our final event was a ride down Lombard Street (Kelsey's favorite), which helped Nicholas conk out completely, and then we had to bid Mary adieu (or bless, bless as it should be) and return to our corner of the East Bay.  It's hard to believe it has been almost two years since we last said good-bye at the Embassy, and yet after 5 minutes, it seemed that no time had passed at all.  I realized on the way home, that I needed to worry less and simply enjoy more during our last few months here.  Nor do we have to say good-bye, but rather just, "see you later."