Our travels have been a relatively solitary affair. While we see friends and family from time to time and speak with strangers most places we go, the vast majority of our time is spent just the three of us. Then…BAM…everything changed. But just for a week. Over the course of six days, we had plans with six different sets of friends! It was so much fun and such a great change of pace. It also gave us the opportunity to see the San Francisco area through the eyes of locals. This was, without a doubt, my favorite city of the trip thus far.
We began our visit with a visit to Napa (no wine tasting for us, just grape peeping) and a delicious dinner in Petaluma with Alan’s college friend, Dan. Thanks, Dan, for the fanciest meal we’ve eaten on the entire trip!
The next morning, Dan took us on a tour of San Francisco, complete with a visit to the roof of his office building with superb views of the city.
Van’s favorite was clapping in the middle of the dome at the Palace of Fine Arts and listening to its amplification. Although he did also bust quite a move to some house music on the street. Budding dancer?
We capped off our relaxing Sunday with a delicious dinner at the Marin Brewing Company with my former colleague, Jane, and her family. We had an excellent time! So excellent, in fact, that I forgot to capture any of it on film. Van was particularly enamored by Jane’s daughter Sarah, who happens to be fantastic with younger children. I see great babysitting potential in her future… Thank you Jane, Jason, and Sarah for a great dinner out and for putting up with Van’s keyboard accompaniment to dessert!
We decided to head back into wine country on Monday and check out Sonoma. We were just about to stop and taste some wine, when Van fell fast asleep. Instead of enjoying some crushed grapes, we spent another few hours driving through the gorgeous countryside. Based on appearances alone, Sonoma has Napa beat by a long shot in my book. The area is so much more pastoral and intimate. More grit and less shine. More blue jeans, less heels. Our favorite was the area up and around Healdsburg. This would be a great place to return to when Alan and I have the chance to get away without the little one in tow.
Van woke up just in time to run around the playground in the center of Sonoma before we headed off to Santa Rosa to spend the evening with my friend Jess and her son, Brayden. The boys had some more playground fun while Jess and I caught up. We hadn’t seen each other in over five years, but it felt just like yesterday. After the boys had exhausted some of their energy, we headed out for some real California Mexican food. Much to my embarrassment, Van has been the welcome recipient of Taco Bell, which he refers to as Ding Ding, several times during this trip. As soon as he heard Jess tell him that he was going to have rice and beans for dinner, his face lit up and he said, “Ding Ding?!?!” And this, my friends, is when I knew that we had led him far astray. Jess, you’ll be happy to know that we haven’t been to a Ding Ding since we’ve seen you. We have, however, had some more terrific Mexican food. At this point, I think (or at least, I hope) Van would revolt if we took him back to Ding Ding after experiencing the real deal. Thanks, Jess and Brayden, for a fantastic night and for food that was much, much better than Ding Ding!
Trying to set a trip record for most days in a row that we ate a meal out, we headed into San Francisco on Tuesday to have lunch with my friend, Bryna and her lovely girlfriend, Sarah. The company, the food, the atmosphere…it was all perfect. Sarah had to skip out after lunch to finish studying for an exam, but that meant we had Bryna all to ourselves that afternoon. We spent a perfect afternoon sprawled out on a blanket on the grass while Van played for hours on a playground in Golden Gate Park. Heavenly! Again, it was a case of feeling as if no time had gone by since we’d last seen each other. Now if all of these wonderful people in my life weren’t so scattered across the country… Oh well, that’s what travel is for! Thanks for a great San Francisco day, Bryna. We miss you!
After five nights of camping in a KOA in Petaluma, which we learned is populated on the weekends mainly by people from….Petaluma (what?!?!), we packed up and headed off to spend the day and night with my friend Mahea in rural Sonoma county. We spent the day eating delicious food, drinking beer in the sun, wandering around Mahea and Alea’s lush gardens, feeding donkeys, moving mulch, and picking dinner. This is my definition of a perfect day. Spending it with Mahea made it even more magical. Alan, I hope you were taking notes! Alea, thanks for sharing Mahea with us for the day. We were sorry to miss you! Thank you, Mahea, for a truly refreshing day and night.
Mahea made a huge impact on Van. Almost a month after we had seen her, Van asked us over dinner one night if he could see Mahea and travel with her to Oregon and Washington. So cute! If you’re planning a trip up there any time soon, Mahea, your traveling companion is set.Van asking to travel with Mahea is a big deal. He rarely asks for anyone by name except for family members. There are three other exceptions to this rule – Liam (his friend from home), Radar (our friend Elizabeth’s dog), and Bobby (Elizabeth’s boyfriend). We had met Bobby when we were in Seattle, but he happens to live in San Francisco. Given that Van had not stopped asking to see him, we knew we couldn’t leave the city without seeing Bobby. If anything, spending the evening in the Mission with Bobby just cemented his super-cool status in Van’s book. He introduced Van to Delores Park and its awesome, new playground, took him (and us) to see Clarion Alley, an alley of large, brightly colored, and definitely not G-rated murals, ate lots of yummy tacos, and played “tunnel” over and over again on the darkened streets. The latter of these largely consisted of Van and Bobby being silly while Van ran through Bobby’s legs, yelling TUNNEL! Thanks, Bobby, for a perfect end to our stay in the San Francisco area! Where will we see you next?