California - A Great Place to Visit
The Swimming Pool
A Trip to California
I love to travel but having four kids always put a crimp in our budget and limited our travel. When I got the invitation to our good friend's daughter's wedding I was thrilled. A chance to go to California and now our kids were grown! A real trip to visit California? We weren't out of the woods financially but the bride and groom graciously offered us their house while they were on their honeymoon. We didn't want to take advantage so we planned a four day stay. If you're careful and get tickets ahead of time you can sometimes find cheap airline tickets to San Francisco.
I was so excited. I was finally going to get to go to California. Specifically to San Francisco! Do you have any idea of the San Francisco attractions? We had no real travel plans but again our friends stepped in and helped guide us to some great spots. The night before the wedding was spent with the bride and groom's family at the groom's sister's lovely home. I was especially taken with their swimming pool as I'd never seen anything like it back East.
This was just the beginning! The wedding was held at a lovely little church. After that we drove up a mountain to attend the reception at a really beautiful mountain-top lodge!
Wedding Related Photos
Cable Car Photo
San Francisco - Our Visit
The day after the wedding our California/San Francisco treat began. No trip to San Francisco is complete without a a ride on a cable car, so naturally we waited for one to come along for our first ride. Cable cars are also known as the San Francisco trolley. The cable cars have three routes in operation and you can buy a one day pass, three day pass or seven day pass. Cable car prices were $13.00 for the one day pass, $20.00 for the two day pass and $26.00 for the seven day pass. You can get on and off anywhere and as many times as you would like during your paid time period.
I was amazed at how hilly the streets really are. You see it movies and TV but until you've been there you really can't believe it. Of course the ride was lots of fun.
Our destination was Chinatown. What a mix of sights, sounds and smells. I would bet that California's Chinatown is a tad more authentic than New York's but don't tell that to the residents of either one! Naturally we had to eat there. Our friend's son recommended a truly authentic restaurant and of course we were game. We got to the restaurant and realized as we were standing on the street we were looking into the kitchen. Yup! We had to walk through the kitchen and up a flight of stairs to get to the dining room. I use that term lightly. When we got upstairs the ceiling was very low and the 'table and chairs' was actually a picnic table style table with benches. Nothing fancy at all, but I do have to say the food was excellent!
We had so much more to see. Next we went to Coit Tower. Coit Tower is in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood. It was paid for with money left by Lillian Coit, a wealthy socialite. It's really an interesting structure. The view from Coit tower's perch is amazing.
This 210 foot tower was built using money left to the city by Lillian Coit in 1933. The tower is built of concrete and took five years to construct.
Coit Tower Photos
Fisherman's Wharf Wildlife
No trip to the San Francisco area would be complete without a trip to Fisherman's Wharf, the waterfront community. In addition to the boats and restaurants there are sea lions basking in the sun! It is the northern waterfront area of San Francisco, from Ghirardelli Square east to Pier 35. It's still the home base of San Francisco's fishing fleet and where the crabs come in!
Fisherman's Wharf offers a host of things to see and do. There are retail stores and shopping centers. Between Jefferson and Jones Street you'll find Anchorage Square filled with shops and entertainment. You can even stay at the Courtyard Marriott right in Anchorage Square.
There's an aquarium at Fisherman's Wharf, National Liberty Ship Memorial (SS. Jeremiah O'Brien) located at Pier 45, oh, did I mention Pier 39? a two story marketplace with one hundred and ten shops! Now we're talking shopping. You can catch the cruise ship to Alcatraz at Pier 39 as well as 2-hour California Sunset Cruise. There's so much more to see there isn't room here to write about it.
What about Alcatraz? Alcatraz Island is now a National Park but think of what it was. Referred to as "The Rock", Alcatraz was originally used to protect the Bay Area from invaders. Due to its isolation it was used to house Civil War prisoners in 1866. It became a Federal Prison in 1934. I'm sure most of you have heard of "the Birdman of Alcatraz" (Robert Franklin Stroud) but Alcatraz was home to a variety of criminals including Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and more. It also provided housing for the Bureau of Prison employees and their families.
Because the prison cost more to operate than any other prison it was closed in March of 1963. In 1969 it was occupied by Native Americans protesting Federal policies relating to American Indians. The protest/occupation stayed on Alcatraz for nineteen months. In 2011 a multimedia exhibition was opened which remains as a cultural center for the Native American occupiers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcatraz_Island)
You can tour Alcatraz but you need to buy Alcatraz tickets in advance, actually a minimum of 14 days in advance is suggested. We couldn't get tickets because we didn't know that. There are a variety of tour packages available so check them out before you even go to San Francisco.
The Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge. Need I say more? Actually, yes. The Golden Gate Straight is the entrance to the San Francisco Bay, hence the name Gold Gate Bridge. I was stunned to see that big red bridge! It took just over four years to build and opened in 1937. It had the longest span of any bridge until New York built the Verrazano Bridge in 1964.
Muir Woods Photos
What do you think of when someone says "redwood"? California of course. We headed to Muir Woods to encounter our first redwood. I have to tell you just the drive there was incredible. We passed a eucalyptus grove and the smell was out of this world.
I've seen redwoods in magazines and in movies and on TV but nothing prepares you for the sheer majesty of these trees. It is understandable why they are considered a National Monument. Located in the midst of a metropolitan area, just eight miles out of San Francisco. That in itself is amazing. Thank goodness President Roosevelt had the foresight to mark this our tenth National Monument. I can just imagine some clutz clearing it out to build a new Mac Donald's. Seriously, it is just unbelievable.
Its proximity to the coast keeps a fog over the forest and promotes growth because of the wet environment. Moisture from the fog is especially beneficial during dry summers. Daytime temperatures range between 40 and 70 degrees. There are over 50 species of birds and a variety of mammals living in Muir Woods. (Wikipedia)
Hard Rock Cafe San Francisco Photo
San Francisco's Hard Rock Cafe
We weren't finished with our tour yet. We visited our first Hard Rock Cafe at the entrance of Pier 39. You can take a cable car to the Wharf and/or to the Hard Rock. Did you know there are 150 Hard Rock Cafes in 50 countries and that the Seminole Tribe now owns all Hard Rocks except for the one in Vegas? I didn't but found it out on Wikipedia.
This particular Hard Rock houses the most extensive collection of memorabilia of its type in the world. Supposedly it all started with an Eric Clapton guitar.
Along the Pacific Coast Highway
Photos Along Highway 1
The Pacific Coast Highway
State Route 1, Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway is probably one of the most famous highways in the world. It runs along the California Coast from top to bottom and is a beautifully scenic highway. Since we didn't have a lot of time we thought the best way to see the California Coast would be to take a ride along Highway 1, the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. So off we went. We only went as far as Santa Cruz but it was incredible. You have to realize, I'm an ocean person, so I was totally in my glory.
I had never been this far west and though I've been in the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of times I'd never been in the Pacific. I told my husband I had to go in the water. Though my picture shows me smiling you need to know the water was freezing and I kept telling him to hurry up and take the picture before I lost all feeling in my feet. However, now I can say I've bee in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans!
Monterey is a waterfront community with wonderfully moderate temperature -- I'm told it's like that all year long. This is a place I could live. We didn't get to tour the city as we were limited on time but we stopped and had lunch in a beautiful little waterfront restaurant. Unfortunately we didn't get to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Cannery Row Photo
Santa Cruz Amusement Park Photo
Did I tell you we got to go to Cannery Row? Not a long visit of course, on our whirlwind tour. Made famous by John Steinbeck, it's become a popular destination on California's Central Coast. Hotels, restaurants, shopping, you name it, it's on Cannery Row. Cannery Row is in Monterey. Another great tourist attraction but also very popular among sport fishermen.
Our stop at Santa Cruz was short and sweet. We got out of the car to walk along the Wharf and watch the fishermen for a while. Another town with moderate climate all year. Can we do some kind of climate exchange with New York? Really lovely.
From all our years of going to amusements parks with our kids, we still can't resist a good one! Santa Cruz's beachfront amusement park was a delight.
San Francisco Fog Photo
All good things must come to end and so did our four days in California. The night before we left for the airport we saw the fog rolling in over the mountains. A perfect end to our perfect trip in California.
The photos I've shared are a portion of what I took. These were taken fourteen years ago and were on film. They had to be scanned in so a bit of quality was lost but I think you'll be able to enjoy in spite of it.
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