Thursday, October 27, 2011

California Vacation

Jeremy and I took our first long vacation without Emily from September 24th-29th this year--five nights away from our little girl. I was hoping to talk Jeremy into six nights, but he only wanted to be away four nights, so we compromised. I knew that it took me 33 years to visit California for the first time and I didn't know how long it would take us to get back so I really wanted to see and do as much as possible. We briefly though about taking a trip to an all-inclusive resort like we did on our honeymoon, but decided instead to visit a new part of the country (for us). I'm glad we did this trip, but I will say that I probably planned too much into a short trip, but I don't regret any of it!

First Day in SF. Fisherman's Wharf. Alcatrez in background.

Alamo Square (The Full House Intro. shows them having a picnic here.)

Day 2 of exploring San Francisco included riding another cable car (SO FUN!) This time, we knew what we were doing and didn't wait in line at the end of the line. We caught a cable car really fast just a few blocks away from our hotel. We rented bikes for most of the morning/afternoon--probably the best bike ride of my life. This is a great way to see the city. We biked all over the water front and Presidio district. We had lovely views of the Golden Gate Bridge for most of the time. We were amazed at how close Alcatrez is to the city, yet how treacherous it would be to swim it! My only regret is that I didn't book Alcatrez tour tickets sooner because it was booked the day we wanted to go and we didn't want to rearrange our trip schedule just for that one tour. I hear it is awesome, so we will have to do it one day. We enjoyed a leisurely day of sightseeing and then turned our bike in and headed back to the hotel. We had Giants tickets for that night! Jeremy scored awesome tickets that were two rows back right by 3rd base. We literally could look to our right and see inside the the Giants dug-out. Too bad I wasn't a Giants fan and didn't know any of the players. I think I would have been very starstruck if it had been the Cardinals, Yankees, or Red Sox! The game was fun and my baseball loving husband was in heaven. (I actually think he took more photos of the game than he did of Big Sur!) We walked all the back from the game to our hotel which was two miles! Luckily, we were dressed comfortably and had good walking shoes. We took a bus to the game and would have taken a taxi home, but there were so many people leaving the game that we just started walking and next thing we knew, we were too close to hail a cab.

A view looking back at the city during our bike ride.

The Iconic Golden Gate

Chrissy Beach

This was the view to the right of our seats. We were that close.

Here we are steps away from our seats! Had to watch out for foul balls!

Day 3 was supposed to have been wine country day, but I also really wanted to go see Muir Woods National Monument redwood forest. Everyone had told me that it was awesome and we should go. It was only about 12 miles from San Francisco. The plan was to do that in the morning and go to 1-2 wineries in the afternoon. We got a little bit of a late start due to needing to pick up a rental car. Also, the road to Muir Woods, while close to San Francisco, was incredibly curvy. I didn't think we would ever get there. We enjoyed a beautiful, crisp morning walk in the quiet of the trees. I could have stayed there all day and hiked a longer trail, but we also wanted to check out wine country while we were so close. It is hard to describe Muir Woods. The trees were not quite as wide as I had imagined, but they were so tall! I think I lost all sense of "normal" tree proportions because I was surrounded by massive trees. The woods felt quiet--kind of mystical--like a fairy tale. W found it interesting that world leaders had once gathered there for a peace conference (United Nations 1945 after 2nd World War.) It wasn't hard to understand why that site was chosen. I felt thankful that someone had the foresight to save these ancient forests and also felt a bit worried that they would all be gone one day.

Smile Jer! :) I promise he had fun.

After spending time at Muir Woods that morning, we headed to Glen Ellen in Sonoma County to tour the Benziger Family Winery. My guide book said it was supposed to be a well rounded tour and it is interesting that is family run and they pride themselves on using organic, sustainable farming practices. We lucked out and made it in time for the last tour of the day. The tour was very thorough taking us through the vineyards for a taste of the grapes right off the vine, to the areas where they crush and ferment the grapes, through the wine caves where they store hundreds of barrels, and ended with several wine tastings. I bought two bottles to take home with us. It was a great tour and I'm so glad we were able to visit a winery. After our tour, we decided to drive through Sonoma and Napa on our way to Yountville for dinner. While we saw some beautiful scenery, I often thought, "this isn't any prettier than Kentucky." I guess vineyards are just classier and sexier than wheat and corn, but I honestly think that farm land can be beautiful no mater the crop. Yountville is a charming town in Napa county and we enjoyed our dinner at Hurley's. The atmosphere was very nice without being too stuffy or fancy (still expensive of course.) I loved that our table was outside on the courtyard. Our time in wine country was entirely too short. That evening we drove back to San Fran which was a little over an hour away. However, we took a LONG detour home when we veered the wrong direction after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. It took us forever to figure out how to get back to Union Square because it was impossible to make a simple turn around (e.g. construction, tunnels, etc.) We were so happy to get back to our hotel that night!

Getting ready to walk into the wine caves that were drilled into the hillside.
Constant temperatures year round without paying for the energy bills.

We checked out of our San Fran hotel the next morning and headed south to Monterey. We stayed at the Clement Intercontinental that was right on Monterey Bay and in the heart of Cannery Row. We loved this hotel. I was pretty proud of myself for scoring a room upgrade for no extra charge. We spent the whole afternoon driving down the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur. It was just one breathtaking view after another. We rented a convertible for the day because we knew the views would be fabulous. We got a little scared as we saw the fog rolling ing, but it cleared for most of the day. Thank God! It was odd how the fog would come and go. I could easily have spent another day in this part of the state. (Jeremy should have listened to me!) I would love to come back and see Yosemite, drive down more of the Pacific Coast HIghways, and hike in Big Sur. I hope we get to do it one day. Maybe we will even take Emily with us next time.

We met some Southerners (and SEC fans) that gladly took this photo for us!

Bixby Bridge

Our ride.

The walk down to Pfeiffer Beach (2 miles from Highway 1) Temperature dropped like 20 deg.!

Pfeiffer Beach is known for its purple sand. You can see it just under the surface sand.

Another ridiculous view.

One of the fun things we did thanks to our i-phone technology was send Emily video messages while we were gone. We sent one to her with Golden Gate Bridge in the background, one with a vineyard in the background, and one with ocean/cliff views behind us. We loved telling her what we were doing and that we loved her and missed her. Mom said that she liked our messages and would try to talk back to us like we could hear her. Emily was a good girl and she slept, napped, and ate well for Nan and Pop. Mom said that she would play with her dolls to act out her feelings. She would have her dolls say, "I miss my Mommy, I miss Daddy." I thought that this was sweet and also kind of sad! But, I didn't feel too bad because Emily had a great week with her extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and great grands! She played with cousins Hunter and Cooper a lot, visited a farm and petting zoo, and took a trip to the library. Every time we called to check in, she was busy doing something and I think that made the week go well for her. We feel so blessed to have been able to take an amazing trip and rest every night in full confidence that she was well taken care of by my parents.

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