Friday, July 29, 2011

Road Trip: California (Part 2)

From Muir Woods, we drove back to San Francisco ($6 lighter). Who knew it could be that expensive to cross a bridge? We headed back to Fisherman's Wharf to eat some chowder, see some seals, and see what the buzz was all about. It was mostly stores that cater tourists and WAY too many people milling around. There was a pretty fantastic left handed store that I was VERY tempted to buy some left handed cooking utensils from. Josh and I are both south paws and I'm hoping Gray is too because he is going to really put a kink in dinner time if he isn't. 

Side note: We (left handed people) are totally discriminated against. It was the desks in elementary school (and all the way into college if we are being honest). Notebooks hurt our hands with those metal spines. Pens that have advertisements don't advertise to us (the writing is upside down). Scissors, cooking utensils, etc. Totally discriminated against, see?

Gray did find the two-story carousel that he thought was fantastic. Two months ago, he hated the carousel at the Wild Animal Park. We get to San Fran, and he totally changes his mind. Crazy kid. He laughed and loved it. Josh thought it was great too. 
Carousel at Fisherman's Wharf
He also loved the view from our (8th floor) hotel room. He would climb onto the air conditioning unit and watch cars and people as often as we would let him. We had a pretty great view of the Golden Gate bridge from our room, but naturally it was lost on the Monkey. Josh was worried he was going to kill himself. I was worried the 'big' one was going to hit while we were in San Francisco. :)
Checking out the city from our hotel window (the bridge is just under his right hand). 
Alcatraz was maybe our favorite part of the whole trip. The prison has such a rich, interesting history and it was pretty cool to see the quarters and learn about the prisoner's day to day lives while at Alcatraz. I've never actually been in a jail, so it was kind of wild to go into a solitary cell. Talk about an unfriendly place. The solitary cells were small rooms with no beds, chairs, or anything else. They had metal walls, floor, and ceiling. They also had metal bars (like a typical jail cell) with a metal wall with another door and a small window. Does that make sense? Basically a metal box with an extra row of bars so the guard could open the door and then unlock the bars. I was glad that the doors were permanently opened, because I would hate to freak out and scream (like a little girl and like I was actually being locked up) if Josh decided it would be cute to close me in. 

The whole tour was pretty fantastic. Josh and I both loved it. Gray thought the head phones for the audio tour were pretty great, so we were actually able to listen to it and walk through instead of worrying about chasing Gray. I'll admit that I was looking for places where Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery might have been filming The Rock back in the 90s. I found none. I guess I should have re-watched the movie before going to San Francisco. 
Alcatraz. Awesome. 
Gray loved running around at Alcatraz. 
Josh, Gray, and I also got tickets for some of the tourist buses that run around the city, so we wouldn't have to worry about paying for parking, or actually finding parking. It worked out pretty well, as we saw practically everything on my list. (Similar to the list I made the weekend we got engaged in Washington, DC. We actually marked more things off in San Francisco. That's a whole 'nuther story. Engagement wasn't on the list, in case you were wondering. I was quite shocked!)

We were able to see Chinatown. It was stinky and way overcrowded. There were a lot of Asian people, and it was pretty much like the one in NYC (maybe smaller). Not a big shock on either front.
China Town. 
We also got to see the Painted Ladies. The park in front of them is a lot smaller than the people who filmed Full House would have the rest of America believe. It would have been a pretty nice place for a picnic though.
Painted Ladies
Naturally we hit up the Golden Gate Bridge. I think it's great and all, but why does every one ignore the Bay Bridge
The fam with the Golden Gate. Thanks random guy for the family portrait! 
I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to ride the cable cars, but the wait was 2+ hours just to get on one. Gray isn't really into two hours of waiting in line, so we passed. I'm a little bitter but it would have been a really bad two hours for a pretty glorious 15 minutes. I hope I don't regret this decision for the rest of my life. I'm only kidding.    

Ding! Ding!
Our last stop in San Francisco on the way out of town, was at the Palace of Fine Arts. I wanted to hang out there all day. It's beautiful. If you are ever in San Francisco, I would recommend making time to see it. It has an interesting history. It was originally built in 1915, but it was not built to last. The city loved it so much they rebuilt many of the structures later. You may have seen it in So I Married an Axe Murder.
Palace of Fine Arts
From San Francisco, we drove north to the Napa Valley. We had to stop in Calistoga at the Petrified Forest. It was pretty neat, but good Lord was it hot. Josh and I have this strange way of always stopping at places that sell rocks. We normally buy something small to remember the trip (it's been some form of rock at least 2 other times), so this place was actually perfect for that since they had a pretty large gift shop. We got a small slice of petrified wood from the gift shop and Gray got a small bag of polished rocks that he got to pick out of a bin. He thinks that those rocks are the most fantastic souvenir of all time. It's cute until he puts 4 of them in his mouth at once...
Petrified Forest in Calistoga 
We were going to stop at some wineries (actually did stop but they were closing) on the way to Napa.  We decided to drive to a few the next morning instead, so we could get to the hotel and get in the pool. He had so much fun swimming with his Dada. I love watching them play together, so I just relaxed pool side with a book (that I never even opened). 

Gray thought the pool was the best idea ever. The worst idea ever? Getting out of the pool. 
Pool time in Napa, CA. 
We did a tour of the Robert Mondavi Winery after doing at least an hour of Internet searches for days and times the surrounding wineries were open, availability of tours, distance to travel, and if children were welcome. You would think that kids could at least tour most of the wineries, but there were quite a few that did not allow kids (or kids Gray's age). I didn't want to buy Gray his own flight of reds or anything, but come on Napa. Can he not walk through the tour like the rest of us or be carried by his parents? Several wineries had caves and/or other neat features that would have been pretty cool to see BUT Gray wasn't welcome. That seriously limited our visitation, so we only stopped at 3 different wineries. It wasn't a main focus of the trip for Josh and I, so we saw it and enjoyed the scenery. If we were ever to go back, we would fly in and spend several days winery hopping. Don't hold your breath for that vacation, because we weren't that impressed. Can't we just buy the bottles at the grocery store and try them at home? 
Mondavi Winery.
Then we were off to Sonoma Train Town. Gray loves trains almost more than his parents, so we thought he would be pretty excited. It was so hot and muggy I thought we had somehow passed thorough a location continuum and ended up at home in mid-July. We rode the scale train around the land, got out mid-ride to feed/pet some animals and hopped back on the train for the rest of the trip. There were several rides that Gray could ride, so we hit those up before deciding it was entirely too close to nap time and entirely too hot to stay at Train Town. 
Sonoma Train Town
Petting Zoo
We decided to basically head back home from there instead of stopping at Yosemite, as we had originally planned. We were all tired from the large amounts of fun (and traveling) so we got on the road and headed south. The drive south on I-5 was much less scenic than the drive north along the coast. I kept thinking I was in the area where they filmed the movie Seven. It was strange. 

I-5 looks like just like this north of LA. 

Overall, this was one of the best vacations Josh and I have ever been on together. Our Hawaiian honeymoon was amazing (as was Mexico), but it was a very different kind of vacation. Gray was pretty well behaved and travels well, so that made the whole trip easier. Josh and I also got to see a lot of new things for the first time together. We both really just enjoyed time away from everyone to do our own thing and not have to worry about work or whatever. I know I had such an amazing time, I could seriously do it all over again. Mom and I are discussing a trip with some of the same stops sometime this fall, so I may be able to do just that. I now thing I'm the resident expert on many things California so if you are planning a trip out West, I'm your gal! 

I hope this doesn't have a million errors, but I'm too tired to proof read it now. Good night blog world!

1 comment:

  1. What a great post! Your pictures are really great, Lynda. Loved the one of Gray looking out of the window with the Golden Gate in the background. Y'all planned an amazing trip! Thank you for sharing.