A Long Weekend in Cali: Day 1 – The Bay Area

7 May

smiles

One day we’ll actually plan a relaxing vacation. This was not that vacation*, but we wouldn’t have changed a thing. We packed in four cities, and the drive of a lifetime, to see as many friends and family as possible in a long weekend we’re calling our favorite vacation together to date. We’ll break the trip down a day at a time, starting with Friday’s exhausting kick-off. 6 a.m. flights are never fun, but when your 12:30-4:45 am sleep plan turns into an accidental all-nighter it’s an especially rough start to a relaxing vacation**. We dragged our tired selves to the airport, made the most of two delays, and got to San Jose before 2 p.m. local time. We had reserved a luxury car from Alamo, but when we got to pick it out, the weekend took a turn for the awesome.

*We were well-intentioned about it, hoping that by removing any music festival activities from our weekend, it would somehow automatically be far more easy-going. Apparently traveling every single day of the vacation didn’t quiiiite do the trick.

**Poor Zack. This was his plight; I was happily in dreamland when he got home from work past midnight.

carr

When we were told they were out of convertibles, we had to choose between this boat-sized Dodge Charger or a boring Nissan. I was pretty psyched to drive the beastly Charger we later re-named “Big Sir,*” but we almost left it on the lot**. Once we figured out how to tame the beast, we cruised over to downtown Mountain View to grab a bite to eat while we waited for my darling cousin Ellie to wake up from her afternoon nap. After a long morning of airplane snacking, we decided to split a salad and small fro-yo to get something nourishing in us***.

*Also known by its proper name, “Shamu.”

**It was a game-time decision. We were getting really frustrated with not being able to figure out how to turn the damn thing on (it’s one of those new-fangled button-starters, and as we learned, you have to press the brake in to get the button to react). I drove the boat off the lot, but after managing to get us semi-safely to Mountain View, I was a passenger only in Shamu from then on.

***This may have been the first time in my entire life when someone suggested a fro-yo-only lunch that I turned them down. I knew I needed something that wasn’t sugar as a base if I was going to make it through the rest of the day.

ellieplay

After a quick walk around charming downtown Mountain View, we headed to my cousin Torrey’s house and got to catch up with her while Ellie finished up her nap. It was great to have some alone time with Torrey, who’s usually so locked into being super mom that we don’t get her just to ourselves, so that was a nice treat. Once El woke up, she was a little groggy, but she woke up quickly once we reminded her about the gift she had to open. This little explorer is super into Curious George and is awesome at puzzles, so we got her a Curious George matching game that she instantly loved*. After a few rounds we took a short walk back downtown for a lovely dinner and drinks at Scratch.

*And, was BRILLIANT at. Seriously. This little one is the smartest kid I’ve ever known. She remembers and retains information really well, can already read letters, and pays attention to conversations outside of the ones people have with her so that she can reiterate bits and pieces at later times. It’s madness. (Coming from two brilliant and very caring parents, it’s not very surprising, though.) 

eltable

Dinner was absolutely delicious. The adults had some adult drinks* while Ellie enjoyed her sippy cup. I ended up with the “Scratch Pizza” which was essentially a Pizza Margherita, and it was honestly the best I’ve ever had of that type. Best of all was the continued conversation with the fam, and observing Ellie peek over at other restaurant-goers and go on an explore with her dad, Dave. We walked back to the house to grab Big Sir, and got to wind through gorgeous neighborhoods nestled in breathtaking mountains on the journey. Mountain View is a truly beautiful little town.

*Well, you and Dave did. Me and Torrey had lemonade and a weird ginger ale she sent back for Sprite. 

union_square_plaza_hotel_exterior_san_francisco_california_unitedstates

After grabbing the car, we had an hour drive over to San Francisco and our hotel for the night. The hotel left something to be desired — the location was incredible and the price was right*, but it was super funky for my apparently prissy tastes (which I didn’t know I had until I walked in and found no air conditioning, an icky, smelly bathroom whose shower curtain was stained and would cling to you like some ghost nightmare when you showered, and wires in the wall where a fire alarm should be). No continental breakfast here, folks**. Just a hipster working the desk by night, and an old-man hipster working the desk by day. Luckily we just dropped our stuff off, changed into non-airplane clothes, and headed out to the subway to meet our friends Brian and Allie for some SF adventuring.

*$135 and right downtown, but not a place I’d recommend. 

**The only thing that bothered me was it was an especially hot night and with no air conditioning, we had to leave the windows open and it was a very loud downtown Friday night street below.

bi-rite

One of the main things I noticed about San Francisco in our short time there was that there are tons of homeless people. Really, so many that it is depressing and probably a bit dangerous. Brian told us tales of seeing drug deals done on the street, practically in front of police who just passed it by. Not awesome. However, once we shifted to the area of town with Bi-Rite Creamery, the famous San Fran ice cream joint, things got nicer and I saw, for the first time in my life, a line at 10PM for ice cream*. My kind of people. We waited behind ropes like we were waiting to get into a club, and when we finally made it in I opted for the very simple standard of which I choose to judge my ice cream, a scoop of vanilla bean with a scoop of cookies ‘n’ cream. It was tasty ice cream, very clean with a good texture, but hardly something I’d wait in line for again**. Maybe I should have gone with their famous salted caramel, but nobody in our party seemed all that impressed.

*Not a five or six person in line for a scoop of Amy’s, a 50+ person line that had a multi-section rope that stretched around the corner. 

**I went all out with a brownie sundae with two scoops of crazy flavors I can’t even remember. It was fine, but the brownies were not fresh and I’ve had far better brownie sundaes at Kerby Lane and many other places. The consensus about this place from the locals is it’s really good, but definitely overrated. Still glad we went. 

After some ice cream, we wandered the streets of San Fran for all of 10 minutes before Zack and I decided we needed to head back to the hotel and collapse. We were sad we didn’t get more time with our SF friends, but they were kind enough to prepare us for the next day with instructions* on a wonderful hike in Limekiln, along our path on the California One. Plus they trudged all the way into the city to host our tired butts for just an hour and a half, so you know that’s true friendship. Zack and I jumped into bed and watched far too many episodes of Friends and got to bed way too late** for what we had on the docket the next day, but between picking out Big Sir/Shamu, hanging with Torrey/Ellie/Dave in Mountain View, and enjoying one small corner of San Francisco with Brian and Allie, we agreed that this day was a total win, despite an 11 hour travel day to kick it off.

*Janosch really delivered on the hike instructions, giving us a good, thorough walk through how to find the hike, but also leaving notes like: “Again, you can spend maybe just 10 minutes or whatever saying “there’s the ocean.” “pretty giant and trippy, huh?” “Yup.” “Cool waves.” “Yup.” “We’re all pretty small aren’t we when you really think about it. The fact that something this massive exists, unchanging over centuries of time, turning earth to rocks to sand over entire generations and ages of humanity.” “Yup.” Yup, good to have friends like that.

**We were not looking forward to that 7 a.m. wake-up call the next morning before our drive. It was a make or break point in the trip, honestly. Tensions were running high after the long day and now we were uncomfortable in our odd hotel with a short night sleep ahead of us.

Check here for Day 2: The PCH 1 Drive to LA

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2 Responses to “A Long Weekend in Cali: Day 1 – The Bay Area”

  1. DB May 7, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    You guys MUST come back when we’re in town, we’ll show you how gorgeous SF is in daylight and a place to stay away from nasty Union Square. A/C is funny in the city, in that it doesn’t exist, so the 5 days/year that it’s necessary can be miserable. Biggest concentration of homeless people anywhere in the US, and an interesting history behind it that we can chat about in Austin in June!

    • Caitlin May 8, 2013 at 7:20 am #

      We’ll definitely visit again, and we cannot wait to see y’all in June!Thanks so much for reading:) -Caitlin

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