san francisco

San Francisco’s Pier 39

With three children a visit to San Francisco’s Pier 39 wasn’t something we could skip on. We’d been to San Francisco before and the attractions on the pier were quite the highlight of their last visit. The moment we told them we were accompanying Daddy, on another business trip to San Francisco, they were amped about visiting the pier. The older children love the thrill of the 7D Experience and were particularly excited to hear that a LaZer Challenge had opened there (which they ended up topping the leader board on).

Young Miss 4 loves the Carousel – as do the older girls; especially as there’s a self-spinning tea-cup – which they love to spin as wildly as possible, with the chief aim of making Mummy and Daddy feel icky (delightful daughters we have!).

As well as the beautiful Carousel, the pier itself has a wonderful ambiance. There are always street performers and buskers. The choice of places to dine, or simply grab a snack and people watch, is abundant. The physical setting of the pier is also what makes it so special – overlooking the beautiful bays of San Francisco, out toward the Golden Gate bridge, with Alcatraz making an unmissable feature on the sweeping vista.

And a visit to Pier 39 would be incomplete without saying a quick ‘Hello’ to the resident population of Sea Lions that call the waters around the pier their home.

There is also a lovely ‘Aquarium of the Bay’, which we enjoyed a great visit to. It’s not spectacular, like the incredible Monterey Aquarium, a few hours drive south of San Francisco, but it’s very well laid out, with excellent exhibits. Definitely a perfect place to spend an hour or two.

Miss 4 absolutely delighted in all the exhibits, particularly loving the touch pools. We timed our visit perfectly for Miss 10 too – as a Californian King Snake was out of its exhibit for visitors to stroke! It was beautiful. Miss 10 wishes she could have one as a pet – but, for obvious reasons, snakes aren’t allowed in New Zealand (there’s enough invasive introduced predators as it is!).

The sea otters at the end of the aquarium were very delightful too, which populate the coastline of the Californian coastline – and are easy to see in the waters around Monterey.

Finally, Pier 39 was the spot where hubbie and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage – along with our three energetic daughters. We dined in a sports bar, by the carousel, where the children could play the arcade, whilst we enjoyed a quick drink in peace. Happy children, happy parents. Win, win!

It wasn’t the most decadent of places to celebrate – but we knew we had a weekend lined up in beautiful Monterey, staying at the superb Intercontinental, to look forward to. Feeling very blessed indeed!

Things I’m Loving | Catching some air in San Francisco!

The children discovered there was a ‘House of Air‘, in an old airplane hanger, in Crissy Field Park, San Francisco…

House of Air in Crissy Field Park

Our first visit was in the evening, when the older girls could play an exciting game of ball tag on a dozen trampolines, but our youngest had missed out on the younger children’s bounce session, so had to catch some air in another way… So I happily spent an hour kite flying in the park opposite (luckily I’d had the forethought to bring a kite with me!), whilst the man of the house got hot and sweaty with Miss 8 and 10 on the trampolines.

It was one of the most picturesque places I’ve flown a kite; overlooking the majestic Golden Gate Bridge. There were some kite surfers in the harbour having their own fun with the wind, whilst Miss 4 ran up and down catching the wind.

Miss 4 catching air in Crissy Field Park, San Francisco

The next day, after such a wonderful evening, there was only one place all the girls wanted to go – ‘The House of Air’ – again! They knew it opened at 2pm and they opted to walk from our hotel, near Fisherman’s Wharf, along the scenic waterfront of San Francisco. The walk was around 4 miles long, but they were up for it and we part jogged, part walked, pushing Miss 4 along in the buggy (to her delight).

The scenery is beautiful. I love San Francisco. It reminds me of our home city, Wellington, in New Zealand, with its hilly terrain and ever changing views dropping down into bays. The air has a freshness to it that is refreshing; and the temperatures, in northern California, are much more to my personal liking – than the often dry heat of Southern California (though it’s nice to have the choice!).

Once at the ‘House of Air’ the girls booked in for a couple of hours of fun. I was in awe of their energy (and the friendly, fun and energetic staff). There was a great cafe in the old airplane hanger too – which did a Latte to take me back to my Wellington, coffee loving, days. Miss 4 was so thrilled that a bounce house was open for her to go on – and she had a turn on the big trampolines too. What a great place! I loved it – and the setting over looking the Golden Gate Bridge made it all the more perfect.

Here’s a little video of love for San Francisco that hubbie discovered on Vimeo. We saw most of these sights in our week’s stay and I definitely left a little piece of my heart in San Francisco. A very special place indeed.

“I Left My Heart” SF Timelapse Project from Marc Donahue on Vimeo.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Memorial Day in San Francisco

San Francisco is a beautiful city and all the more so basked in sunshine, as it was on Memorial Day. Its hilly landscape is very reminiscent of Wellington, our New Zealand home (all be it on a much larger scale!). There was a welcome familiarity to driving up and down roads at 45 degree angles.The cable cars reminded us of the trolley buses that negotiate Wellington’s hilly terrain. The sweeping vistas of bays reaching down to the sea reminded us of the bays that we call home in Wellington.

We took the girls on a drive up Hyde Street and down the well known, and tourist frequented, Lombard Street, recounting stories from the Herbie movie and how we’d walked down Lombard Street when Miss 4 was but a babe, Miss 10 was 4; and our current Miss 4 was just a thought in our minds. There’s an old blog post of our visit – back in 2007 – over on our ‘Catching the Magic‘ blog.

Hilly streets of San Francisco

Our plan for the day was a visit to the incredible California Academy of Sciences, set in the beautiful Golden Gate Park.

California Academy of Sciences

This is a spectacular place to visit. The building itself is a work of art and science, with amazing natural lighting and a ‘living roof’!

Our visit was one of awe from beginning to end, with something to fascinate all of us.

Inside the California Academy of Sciences

The spectacular aquarium had our youngest daughter moving from one exhibition to the next with a running dialogue of exclamation.

Aquarium

We all delighted in seeing a New Zealand ‘Kiwi’, alongside other large-egg laying birds and under a huge skeleton of a blue whale.

Exhibition at the California Academy of Sciences

The collection of skulls was quite something and the earthquake simulator, and history of San Francisco’s shaky past, again reminded us of our Wellington home.

The white alligator left us mesmerised with its statuesque presence and the natural magnificence of the ‘Rainforests of the World’ exhibit in a 90-foot diameter glass dome had to be experienced.

White alligator

The visit was definitely well worth it!

We left the museum late afternoon, and took a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge for a scenic view back over the city of San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge

A great way to end a lovely day together.

Magic Sunday visiting Santa Cruz

After driving up from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz on Saturday evening, we woke on Sunday morning ready for some fun at the beautifully set Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

We spent a morning enjoying the sunshine, rides and thrills of the fun-fair.

Couldn’t believe Miss 4 wanted to go on the Haunted House ride! She spotted it as we rode the ‘Sky Ride’ over the boardwalk and insisted we go on it. She really surprises me sometimes. Her older sisters joined us and it was actually quite entertaining, rather than frightening – though I had my hand ready to hide her eyes if anything was too much!

Santa Cruz boardwalk

The funnest children’s ride was ‘The Speedway’. It didn’t look much at first, but once the engines roared it sped off, slow and gentle on the straight, but taking the corners at a great pace. Great entertainment and amusement for the parents watching on!

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

After a couple of hours well spent we hit the road again, heading up to San Francisco. We made a pit-stop at a place called ‘Dave & Busters‘ in Milpitas, to rendezvous with a friend of our older daughters – a friend they’d met online via Minecraft!

Dave and Busters

It was a fun meet-up and her parents were so lovely. We ended up heading to their place afterwards for a quick splash in the pool, where all the children had such a great time together – as us ‘old folk’ enjoyed a good chatter.

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We arrived in San Francisco as the sunset, looking forward to Monday being a holiday, thanks to Memorial Weekend here in the USA and not having to bid farewell to the man of the house.

Arriving in SF at sunset

Great to have a change of scene from Santa Barbara – as lovely as it is there – it’s a little ‘quiet’ for us and we do love a bit of action!

Things I’m Loving – This week away in San Francisco

Love that inspiration comes in all forms and life is never quite how it looks…

Not everything is as it seems!!

Enjoyed a visit to The Exploratorium in San Francisco this week, where life definitely wasn’t all it seemed to be!

We could have spent days there. The highlight for all three girls was playing with their shadows…

Love this quote from Charlotte Mason:

“If knowledge means so much to us, “What is knowledge?” the reader asks. We can give only a negative answer. Knowledge is not instruction, information, scholarship, a well-stored memory. It is passed, like the light of a torch, from mind to mind, and the flame can be kindled at original minds only. Thought, we know, breeds thought; it is as vital thought touches our minds that our ideas are vitalized, and out of our ideas comes our conduct of life.”

–Charlotte Mason {Vol. 6, p. 303}

The Exploratorium was a marvellous place for hands on learning, discoveries, experimenting and being aware of the senses in every way.

The Exploratorium San Francisco

City life itself is an awakening to the senses for the girls and I – needing to be ‘street wise’ and alert in a different way to being in the country.

It’s been quite an effort for me to traverse the city streets with three children (particularly a three year old that tends to get constipated whenever we travel anywhere new – thankfully she had a good ‘motion’ on about day four and making her much easier to travel with… also doesn’t help that she has developed a phobia of a public toilets – ever since a particularly smelly one made her gag and puke!).

The girls have all done me proud though and supported me when I’ve had a few wobbles.

The man of the house has been working hard and as much as we’d all love to be together, the work has to get done. Thankfully the evenings have given us some time together and we have a weekend to look forward to, taking our time driving back down the Pacific coast to Santa Barbara, with a couple of nights staying in Monterey.

San Francisco Bay

We all loved our visit to Santa Cruz Amusement Park on the drive up here last weekend. Seeing young Alice go on rides by herself, with such absolute delight, was one of those parenting ‘special moments’ for Dan and I – that warm fuzzy feeling, cheesy grins from the heart, and laughter at seeing a child’s sheer delight of having fun.

Alice at Santa Cruz Pier

Of course the older girls were keen to go all out on the thrill rides and were tall enough to enjoy them. Needless to say, they loved it.

Santa Cruz Amusement Park

There hasn’t been so much formal learning this week, but the girls are learning so much just absorbing everything around them. I love seeing interconnections made in their minds – for example our eldest delighted in seeing a species at the ‘Californian Academy of Sciences‘ that she’d watched a nature documentary on. They are learning all the time, without it feeling like ‘learning’ – it is just a natural part of their lives.

Californian Academy of Sciences

Of course there’s been a good dose of fun too – shared in the evenings with the man of the house – at Pier 39. The older girls can’t get enough of the 7D Experience. I love their faces, as well as Dan’s, in this snapshot I took of them from outside!

7D Experience on Pier 39

Finally, I’ve loved staying in lush accommodation that is generous with chocolates, wine and cheese! The five o’clock wine and cheese in the lobby for guests is very welcome for this Mumma!

Wine, cheese and pool

Joining in with the lovely Meghan, of ‘The Adventures of MNMs’, with ‘Things I’m Loving’, who is about to go travelling from New Zealand to Europe with her gorgeous family!

Prose for Thought – Over the rooftops of San Francisco in Fall

Inspiration for this poem is from a week staying in San Francisco. A beautiful, sunshine week in early Fall, but the beauty marred by the number of people sleeping rough on the streets; and the answers I sometimes struggle to give to the questions my children ask.

A poem of San Francisco in the Fall

Linking up with others that like to write and read poetry here…

Prose for Thought