San Francisco 2012

Note to readers: This post is exceptionally long. I purposefully did this in order to document our trip. Feel free to ignore all my jibber jabber and simply view the magnificent photos that I did not take.

San Francisco is a wonderfully eclectic city, but the number one reason we love it so much is that Joe’s Mom has made it her home with Eric. We had a fantastic time visiting with them and exploring a little more of northern California.

It was no small fete getting the three of us half-way across the country. We started the packing process about 10 days prior to actually leaving.  Between the three of us we packed upwards of 200+ items which included 3 suitcases, 1 camera bag, 1 laptop bag, 1 duffel bag, 1 car seat and 1 stroller.

I did a lot of research prior to our vacation on how to pack, what to pack and surviving a 4+ hour plane ride with a 16 month old. I packed way too much, but honestly technology saved us. Joe downloaded a few of Caden’s favorite shows and he was quite content.

Day 1: Travel, 2.5 hour wait to obtain rental car & grocery shopping

Exhausting and I would not recommend Fox Rental Car Company.

Day 2: Petaluma

Petaluma is an adorable town located in Sonoma County California. Petaluma is also where TWiT is taped each and every Sunday at the TWiT Brickhouse. This Week in Tech (AKA: TWiT) is hosted by Leo Laporte and discuss all thing technology. It was a pretty cool experience to see a taping of the show, take a tour of the Brickhouse and meet Leo along with John C. Dvorak.

While in Petaluma we witnessed an elderly gentleman driving an over-the-top decorated golf cart which said it was solar-powered, but could not have been and strapped to the passenger seat was a 5 foot stuffed bear.  We logged this in our top 5 of strange things we have ever witnessed.

Food Notes: We ate at Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery in Petaluma. Yelp gave this restaurant 3 ½ stars and we tend to agree and think that rating may even be on the high-end. Quality of food wasn’t great for the price.

Day 3: Twin Peaks, Fisherman’s Wharf, UC Berkeley

Twin Peaks offers amazing views of the city and don’t let these photos fool you…the funny was never in danger. The angles of the pictures are deceiving…I promise.

Fisherman’s Wharf was so unbelievably crowded that it became unenjoyable pretty quickly.

After Caden went to bed Joe and I ventured out to UC Berkeley for a few cocktails and were able to spend some time just the two of us. Thank you Yaya!

Food Notes: We ate at a restaurant named Squat & Gobble for breakfast. This restaurant is different, because you order upon walking in and once seated the food is brought to your table. Although slightly overpriced the food was tasty and the coffee strong. For dinner we had takeout burritos from Taco Libre and they were fantastic. I am craving a burrito from Taco Libre. I was not hungry and neither was Joe, but while at Berkeley we went to Rudy’s Can’t Fail in Emeryville. This restaurant has been featured on the Food Network quite a few times and if you’re hungry late night…or anytime, it is the place to go.

Day 4: State Park & Santa Cruz

I have wanted to see the redwood trees for quite some time, so when I knew that we were planning on going to Santa Cruz for the day I thought it would be great to stop at the Henry Cowell State Park in Scotts Valley, CA. At first, I think I was the only person who was so excited to see these beauties up close, but we were all very happy that we made this stop. These trees were absolutely majestic and if you ever have the opportunity to see the redwood trees, do not pass it up.

On our way to the state park we visited 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014 or otherwise known as Apple Headquarters. It was pretty awesome!

We then went out to lunch and Joe lost/ forgot about Caden! Yep, you heard me right. This particular pizzeria in Santa Cruz had an outdoor seating section where we were eating and when we got up to leave I grabbed the bags and Joe had Caden. Next thing I know I am walking towards the car and Joe leaves the restaurant without Caden. He turned white as a ghost when he realized I was not joking when I asked, “Where is Caden?” and he quickly ran back into the restaurant where our son was observing other patrons filling up their cups at the fountain machine. Someone had actually let Caden into the restaurant from the outdoor seating area and nobody seemed alarmed. This 20 second fiasco aged me approximately 5 years. I am still recovering.

Okay…getting back on track. The rest of the afternoon we spent in Santa Cruz on the beach. This was Caden’s first experience at a real beach and he seemed to enjoy himself. Just as we began to leave the beach we started realizing that thousands upon thousands of birds were flying over the ocean and landing in the water. At first we had no idea what was actually going on until someone told us that the tide had turned and all the anchovies had come “in”. I despise birds, but this was a pretty incredible thing to witness.

On our way back to San Francisco we took a trip around the Google Complex. Google seems like an incredible place to work. I really wanted to ride one of their really cool Google Bikes, but it’s for Google employees only, shucks!

Day 5: Sausalito, Rodeo Beach, Stinson Beach

Sausalito is located right over the Golden Gate Bridge and is an adorable little town that looked like it had fantastic shopping opportunities that I did not indulge in, but will surely be doing so in the future.

Rodeo Beach was a wee bit chilly, but beautiful. Yaya and Caden stayed in the car while Joe and I did a little exploring and climbed the Coastal Trail. The view was absolutely breathtaking, but then I looked down and realized that there were quite a few snake holes around us. I quickly proceeded to book my butt down the trail while Joe lollygagged behind me. On Joe’s return down the mountain he came across one of those snakes! The sand at Rodeo Beach is actually rainbow-colored tiny rocks that feel like sand and this is due to all the rock formations which surround the beach.

After Rodeo Beach we went to Stinson Beach, CA. This town is so strange in a very great way. Stinson Beach is about a 45 minute drive from the Golden Gate Bridge and in order to get there you must drive on 19 miles of S-shaped roads on California’s Highway 1. The view is unlike anything I have ever seen. The town is made up of approximately 630 people and has an absolutely gorgeously clean beachfront that is quite large. The town of Stinson Beach is calm and peaceful. The town boasts a few shops that are meant to connect you to your zen. It was quite a remarkable place and I definitely could have spent a weekend there. Caden loved the beach and would have stayed forever if we let him. As much as Joe and I love the beach it is nice to know that Caden also enjoys the laziness that comes with a little bit of sand and the sound of waves coming onto shore. As long as he has a bucket and a shovel, he will chill at the beach for hours.

Another little gem we found at Stinson Beach was a perfect little park for Caden to play at and he sure needed to stretch his legs so timing could not have been more perfect.  The park was made even better when a sign posted said that absolutely no pesticides were ever used in or around this park. Fantastic! I think the people of Stinson Beach speak my language.

Food Notes: When in Sausalito you MUST go to Anchorage 5 for breakfast. This restaurant is located in a very strange location in the middle of an industrial park; however, the breakfast is absolutely amazing and they had the very best omelet I have ever had in my life and the breakfast potatoes were fantastic. For dinner we went to Parkside Café in Stinson Beach. There were a few great things about this place and definitely worth a try if you are ever fortunate enough to enjoy this town for the afternoon: (1) the restaurant uses organic ingredients and tells you where it gets those ingredients which is a local farm (2) the service was good (3) there is an outdoor seating section which is always a bonus (4) I really enjoyed the fish tacos and part of the reason is that their ingredients are so fresh and (5) they have trees, flowers, and a small garden by the outdoor seating section that attract beautiful humming birds.

Day 6: Napa Valley

Beautiful! We visited two wineries, Luna Vineyards and Hagafen Cellars each located along the Silverado Trail. Both places were beautiful and different in their own ways.

Luna Vineyards shows you what you expect to see in Napa Valley. It has an old world feel to it with large expensive furniture, dimmed lights, a gorgeous building that looks modern yet it could be 100 years old. Luna specializes in sangiovese wines and while their wines were very good I am on a Riesling kick lately so we were off to Hagafen Cellars which is known for their Riesling.

Hagafen Cellars is the first kosher winery in California. The place is beautiful, but completely laid back and I didn’t feel like I had to whisper. Our experience here was fun and we even got to play a game of bags. We purchased two bottles of wine from Hagafen and both made it home in one piece.

I would definitely like to go back to Napa and spend more time driving all the way up through Silverado Trail and see a little more of the countryside. Napa was ½ what I expected and ½ what I did not. I suppose I thought I was going to be transported to a winery in Italy, but this is America and of course, even in Napa, there was a McDonald’s.

Food Notes: We ate lunch at Fume Bistro & Bar. I will state that when I saw this place I was not impressed by its appearance (other than it had outdoor seating) or its location, but I couldn’t be happier that we decided to give it a try. For an appetizer we had the macaroni and cheese and I was not a big fan, because I do not like foods that have a creamy texture, but Joe loved it. For my main course I had this amazing Cajun spiced fettuccine with shrimp, smoked andouille sausage, grilled onions, garlic and jalapeno, red pepper cream sauce with asiago cheese. I dream of this dish. It was out of this world fantastic and had quite the spicy kick. Joe enjoyed their grilled tri-tip sandwich and he absolutely loved his dish as well. For dessert (yep, we went there) we tried their trio of crème brulee which was made up of chocolate hazelnut, white chocolate and peach. If I would have known how fantastic dessert was going to be I may have had that first.

Day 7: Full House, Haight & Ashbury & Golden Gate Park

Whatever happened to predictability?

The milkman, the paperboy, evening TV.

The Haight-Ashbury area is known for its role as a center of the 1960’s hippie movement and not much appears to have changed. The area may appear to be slightly shady, but the people are kind and area is rich with culture and history. The actual word “hippie” originated in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district and those that flocked to this area popularized the hippie culture around the world.

Golden Gate Park is fabulous. Like any park in a large city you have your hippies, hipsters, working professionals on their lunch break, families, and elderlies, runners, walkers, music players and tourists with cameras around their necks. You have those speaking English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean. You have the man working the hotdog stand and the man who is throwing a ball to his dog who appears to be the most well-trained dog in the world until he takes a crap on the perfectly planted petunias. You have your mothers, fathers and nannies. You have homeless alongside of what appears to be wealthy individuals who come to the park to talk on their cell phones. You have kids crying, kids laughing, kids sleeping and adults acting like kids. The park is a magnificent place to observe people and take in all that this melting pot of a country has to offer. Oh, and the weather was perfect for doing all this observing.

The park also had stairs and stairs are a magnet for Caden. He has mastered climbing up stairs at a rapid pace and refuses to come down the stairs on his stomach while preferring to hold onto the handrail and walk down. This scares me.

Food Notes: We had breakfast on Haight Street at the Pork Store Café. The breakfast good and it is reasonably priced. The place is tiny, but it seems to move quickly and the food is made on an open grill.

Day 8: Fort Funston, Stern Grove & Travel.

Fort Funston is beautiful and what is really cool about this place, other than its beauty, is that it is popular with hang gliders due to its strong and steady winds. We witnessed a few hang gliders launching from Fort Funston and we were able to take in all the beauty of the ocean, beach and cliffs.

We then took Caden to Stern Grove Park to let him get some energy out of his system before we left San Francisco that evening for our journey back home.

Our flight left at 11 pm PST and we arrived in Chicago at 5 am CT (thanks Mom for getting us so early!). Caden cried for about 5 minutes before takeoff, but who can blame the poor kid he was so exhausted and then he proceeded to sleep the entire flight.


Food Notes: We ate dinner at Bullshead Restaurant. We enjoyed their blue cheese and mozzarella burger. Joe loved his and I thought mine was pretty good. I don’t eat red meat very often so for a burger it was good. Definitely worth checking out if you are looking for nothing fancy, but enjoy a good burger.

Our vacation was fantastic, company was exceptional and we sure enjoyed exploring the state of California further.

While on vacation Caden turned 16 months! At 16 months our funny is running, loves to play ball, climbing down from furniture, loves his belly button, says a few words clearly, follows instructions (although sometimes does so against his will), imitates our laughter, is beginning to exert his independence, shows more signs of separation anxiety, uses a spoon and fork, plays make-believe and enjoys scribbling with crayons and chalk. Caden is set in his schedule and not a fan of being taken off that schedule. He made us keenly aware of that while on vacation. He seems to be getting teeth at a rapid pace and his favorite foods have not changed, but getting him to eat veggies is become more and more challenging.

Again, 99.9% of these pictures were taken by Joe and I agree that they are incredible! xoxo

All our l♥ve to San Francisco!


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