Friday, August 8, 2014

Road Trip 2014 {San Francisco}

Road Trip 2014 {San Francisco}

We spent the day in San Francisco on June 17th. It's one of my favorite cities. We stayed north of the city in Corte Madera because we had a hard time finding a hotel that was affordable and in a neighborhood that we liked.  The area north of San Francisco ended up being one of our favorite places of the entire road trip.  It was the first time Mark and the boys had ever visited San Francisco.  Our plan was to spend one day in San Francisco and see as many things as possible.  We followed the Frommer's one day itinerary as a guide for what we should see and do.  The perfect place to start was Marin Headlands before we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. The view of the bridge and city was spectacular from this location.  The view along the road to get there was also impressive.  It's very hilly, and I was surprised at how many cyclists were on the road.  I might getting into cycling if I lived in that area, the views were breathtaking...well, now that I think about it I probably would not because of my fear of heights. Better not!

Panoramic from a scenic overlook at Marin Headlands. 

At the Marin Headlands Visitor Center we were able to get the National Park Passport stamp overload!  It is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is under the National Park Service.


On a side note: I've been to San Francisco 3 times before this visit and I had never ridden a cable car or visited Lombard Street. In the past I was much younger and I wanted to experience the city like a local who avoided touristy areas.  Being older and having a family changes your priorities, and I embraced being a tourist.  Everything on our sightseeing list was a famous place, nothing obscure for this adventure.

Once we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and made our way into the city, I used the Yelp app to help us find a parking garage that would be near the cable car turnaround at Market and Powell Streets near Union Square.  I purchased one day transit passes so we could ride the cable cars and any other public transportation available, which we ended up using the buses and streetcars as well.

The line was long for the Powell-Hyde Cable Car.

It was finally our turn to board. Since we had little ones, we were not allowed to ride in the open area where people stand and hang off the side.  That's the image that comes to mind when you think of San Francisco and cable cars.  We were stuck inside and the view of the city wasn't that great.

We got off at Lombard Street.  We started at the top of the block and walked down the famous, crooked street.  There are steps on the side of the street and we saw a sign that told us how many steps, but I forgot.  It would be crazy to live on this busy street, but we saw people going in and out and opening their gates and garage doors to exit their homes.  I was also surprised at how many people drove down the street.  There was a constant stream of traffic slowly making their way down the steep hill.

One example of the beautiful landscaping on Lombard Street.  Can you imagine the view of the city from these homes? Spectacular!

One of the stunning flowerbeds filled with hydrangeas.

We made it to the bottom of the street!  This is one of my favorite photos from the vacation.

After checking Lombard Street off our sightseeing list, we headed toward Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square.  We love Ghirardelli Chocolate so this was exciting for our family. 

Ice cream for lunch!!!
It was vacation and that was all the excuse we needed to have ice cream sundaes for lunch.
Can you tell the boys were excited?!?  I could barely keep them still long enough to take this photo.  They were ready to dig in, and I don't blame them.  The sundaes tasted as good as they looked. 

Just in case you didn't know where we were at, here's the sign.




Famous sourdough bread at Boudin.
 

Watching the bakers do their thing.

Alcatraz in the distance.  We didn't take a tour.  I thought the boys were too young.

We caught a street car and bus to get to the cable car stop that was supposed to take us to Chinatown.  We had a terrific view of the San Francisco architecture while we waited.

I like this view of Alcatraz, and you can also see a cable car approaching the hill.  I'm not sure if we got on this one or not.  At each stop they have a limited number of seats available so you have to wait in line and the operator asks how many in your group, and then you can board if there's room.  We saw several go by, until there was enough room for us.


We had a much better view from these seats.
We finally go to ride the cable car again, after a very long wait...

...only to ride it for a short distance before the cable car shut down (on a steep hill!).  We ended up getting off the cable car, and the nice operator explained in detail to the boys how the cable car operates.  She even took them to the front of the cable car and pointed out the cable in the street on which the cars run.  You can see them checking it out in the photo below.  Even if the cable car wasn't working at the moment, it was a neat experience for them to see it up close .

A broken down cable car was the perfect photo opportunity for our family since the boys aren't allowed to stand there when it really is in use. 

We decided to walk to Chinatown instead of waiting for the cable car to get back up and running.  You can see the cable car behind Mark and the boys.

One more photo from a random street corner in San Francisco.  I like the buildings behind us.

We finally made it to Chinatown.  I've never been to China, but I feel like this would be the closest thing we have to it in America.  I'll be honest and tell you that I thought this was a cool experience, but Mark and the boys did not.  Will didn't like the signs not being in English, Ben thought that it didn't smell good, and Mark didn't like the crowds.  I really enjoyed it, and even purchased some fruit from a street vendor.  Even if it wasn't as touristy as our other stops in the city, it was something the boys still remember and talk about.

Will and Ben looking at the fish for sale.

Mark took a photo of me taking a photo of him.

Our last stop before going back to Corte Madera was Vista Point.  The views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco are incredible from this vantage point.  We walked for a short distance on the bridge.  Even though it's safe, it's a little unsettling having cars go by you so fast.  Of course you know I'm anxious when I'm on a bridge or anything high up to begin with.   This was the perfect place to complete our day in San Francisco.

My three favorite people to have with me wherever I go.

I love these two little explorers who love a good adventure.  They were really good the entire day and made the most of our time exploring the city.  I'm thankful they enjoy new experiences with a good attitude and make traveling fun.  

If you are interested in my tips and advice on taking a road trip with young children, you can check it out at Unexpected Elegance {here}.

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