Life's a beach

Or is it? Today I lodged my Australian tax return. This morning we went to the supermarket and did the big shop. On my mental to-do list I just added that I need to take the three dead AAA batteries I took out of remote control Thomas to Walgreens the next time we're near one to recycle them (it's illegal to throw them in the bin here - right on, SF). We still have general "life" stuff going on, stuff which one doesn't normally do on holiday (it still feels like one big holiday) - but I get to do all of these things in San Francisco! When we rode the trolley last week (more below) and my son learned we weren't getting off at the first stop but rather were riding it all the way to the end of the line, he exclaimed (to the carriage's amusement), "It's my lucky day!" That's how I feel every day, kiddo. Every day.

Because, in between tax admin, phone repairs and buying bananas by the dozen, life really is a beach. We all get to spend each day doing exactly what we want to do. Mr H found a running club a few days ago. I got my hair done and picked up some fun new sports clothes in the Lorna Jane sale (we happen to live one block away from the only LJ store in San Francisco - what luck! Now I just need to go running. Hmm....). The kids ask to go to a park practically every day and we have three within a few blocks of our place, so we do. Sometimes one of us takes them so the other can do their own thing, but sometimes we all go and enjoy the luxury of having a second pair of hands at a playground with two toddlers! Mr H and I are extremely mindful of how fortunate we are to be able to take this time out of working to have this experience. If it beckons for you, dear reader, I urge you to take it. Live on the metaphorical beach for a while - I promise you, the water's glorious.

Anyway, enough musings: time for some photos, I hear you cry! Well, we've had a lovely run of fairly un-foggy weather of late, so while the water is still a bit too cool for anything more than a paddle, we've started exploring California's famous beaches (hence the inspiration for this post's title), and have happened upon some very pretty places. First up, probably our closest beach at just a ten-minute drive away is China Beach, a small but sweet wee spot:

china-beach

china-beach

china-beach

Next up, we ventured further afield and visited a gorgeous big sandy expanse known as Half Moon Bay. A word of warning: you have to pay to use the official car parks as it seems to be a bit of a campsite, so we just parked along the road a bit and took a wander down to the beach. There is a pretty wee street with shops and cafes just before you come to the beach which we didn't have time to visit, but we'll definitely plan a longer stay the next time we go so that we can.

half-moon-bay

half-moon-bay

We combined our visit to Half Moon Bay with a short hike at Thornewood Preserve (with a great lunch stop at Alice's Restaurant in between - super friendly staff and a surprisingly big menu). We took the Schilling Lake Trail, a short, easy walk through the woods which is just over a mile out and back. The walk itself was pleasant enough, with plenty of leaves and twigs to examine (important) and logs to jump off (very important), but I must say the poor, dank lake at the end was quite the disappointment following Canada's beauties. Still, it was nice to get out of the city and let the little legs go a-rambling again.

thornewood-preservethornewood-preserve

We find it works well to pepper out-of-town days here and there over our stay, given there is SO much to do here in San Francisco itself, so having had a few days out of the city we then spent some time experiencing the fun San Francisco has to offer, starting with the famous trolleys! We're fortunate that our apartment is in a brilliant area (Pacific Heights) which is about a 20-minute, relatively flat, walk to the trolley stop at Ghirardelli Square, so we ambitiously left the buggy at home and took our time toddling / carrying whining children down to the tracks. Eventually the sight of the trolley perked everyone up, and we boarded and set off on a fun ride into the city (which looks SO much nicer in the sunshine!).

sf-trolley


sf-trolleysf-trolley


san-francisco-cbd

san-francisco-cbd

The next day Mr H found a fab family afternoon out for us all - at the baseball! The local team is the San Francisco Giants, and we had a great time at their ballpark watching a game, soaking up the atmosphere and exploring all the fun things they have for kids like slides, first game certificates and even an entertainer with a bubble machine out the front. Being a midweek game the seats weren't full so young Master H got a great view, while Miss H thought the flip-up seats were quite possibly the best thing about the whole day.

giants-ballpark

giants-ballpark

giants-ballpark

Then I really got my tourist hat on when my dear old schoolfriend Alison and her lovely hubby David came to visit for a long weekend from Virginia. They hadn't seen the sights of San Francisco before, so the first stop had to be the infamous prison island of Alcatraz:

alcatraz-cellalcatraz-cell


alcatraz-warden-office

I'm a bit of a fan of visiting prisons and Alcatraz in particular, with this being my third visit (though my first on this trip), but I did find the audio tour a little rushed this time, which I hadn't noticed on previous visits. If you're going to Alcatraz, my advice would be to pause the tour a few times and take a moment to absorb the atmosphere and have a proper look in the cells. Still, we all very much enjoyed the experience, and of course the gorgeous views back over the bay to San Francisco:

san-fran-from-alcatraz

On day two we took a drive up to Napa Valley to visit some wineries. We stumbled across a great one called Laird Family Estate which had a very relaxed atmosphere, so we lingered there awhile with our five-wine tasting (leaving with one bottle of white and one red) before heading on to Gott's Roadside for lunch and then Beringer in the afternoon. We ended the day with a stop at Henhouse Brewing Company, where the descriptions made excellent reading material even for a non-beer-drinker like me. Unfortunately I don't have any good photos of the day because I either had a glass in one hand or was trying to stop toddlers from running into other people who did!

On our friends' final day they accompanied Mr H on his bay run and then headed over to the wiggly part of Lombard Street on their own as I assured them they'd be able to do much more sightseeing without the rest of us accompanying them at toddler pace. We all got together for dinner back at our place and spent the evening furiously thanking each other for the visit. It was a real treat to be able to share our little life out here with other people, and an even bigger treat to spend a good few days with one of my very best friends (whom I don't see often as we normally abide on separate continents), as well as get to know her life partner better (isn't it odd when you know someone really well but feel you hardly know the most important person in the world to them?). I'm still riding the wave of their visit - and they were just the first as we have two more sets of visitors next month. Yippee!

Some final photos to leave you with, those of you who've stayed with me this far (it was going to be a short and snappy update about us going to a few beaches etc but then I had to go and get all introspective on y'all, #sorrynotsorry), are from our trip yesterday to Muir Beach and Muir Woods. This is a stunning beach about forty-five minutes north of our place, over the famous Golden Gate Bridge and beyond, though the caveat is that dogs can run loose here so it wasn't the best for our little two who wanted to either run away from or run towards the dogs respectively. Also, the sea has a funny smell to it - Mr H says it's a bit like what he used to feed his fish - so we didn't stay quite as long as the scene invited.

golden-gate-bridge

muir-beach

muir-beach

muir-beach

Muir Woods, on the other hand, is a magnificent place where we'll definitely return. In amongst redwoods of epic grandeur, and with stroller-friendly boardwalks for the most part, it was the perfect place to play on the hottest day we've had so far (28 degrees).

muir-woodsmuir-woods

muir-woodsmuir-woods

muir-woods


muir-woods

Thanks for reading!

Coming up: it's about time we hired some bikes again...

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