Last week the girls and I took a ferry trip from Oakland to San Francisco with friends. Despite the fact that we've lived in the Bay Area for almost five years now, this was only the second time I'd taken the ferry, and the first time in this direction. But I can tell you, after this little trip, it won't be the last! There just really is something special about travelling by boat.
When we lived in Sydney I would catch the ferry from our apartment on the lower north shore to my office near Darling Harbour every now and then and it would always make for a great start to the day. It wasn't the most practical way for me to get to work, but it was certainly the most scenic. And the most fun! The same goes for taking the ferry to San Francisco for us now. It certainly requires a lot of planning as the ferry doesn't come all that often, plus we have to take BART to Downtown Oakland and then walk to Jack London Square to get to the ferry in the first place, but it is definitely more fun than taking the train under the Bay!
We started our ferry trip sitting on the side of the boat, with views over the cranes, container ships and the Bay Bridges, but once we got out of Oakland's port area and into open water, the ferry picked up speed and oh boy did it get windy and cold! So we made our way to the back of the ferry where we still had amazing views, but were a little more protected from the wind! There was no seating at the back of the ferry so we had to stand, but the trip is not that long so this was fine. Oh, and that bike rack at the back of the ferry may look like the perfect place to sit, but apparently sitting on it is a no-no. We got told off just after I snapped the photo of Lola below. Oops!
One of my favorite things about taking the ferry was seeing Oakland's iconic cranes up close. I'm always in awe of the cranes along the waterfront. They look like giant horses. Or giraffes. Or maybe even dinosaurs. Or, if you're a Star Wars fan, AT-AT Walkers - although George Lucas has debunked the myth that he was inspired by the cranes when designing them. No matter what you think they look like, they're pretty amazing to see up close and they're so much bigger than I could've possibly imagined. Just look how little they make the trucks at the base look!
As well as the cranes, I quite enjoyed seeing the container ships. I love how colorful the stacked containers are. I wonder what is inside of them?
The girls enjoyed standing right at the back of the ferry taking in the view. Poor Mathilde couldn't see over the railing and tried to climb up for a better view. Eek! As you can imagine, I put my camera down and pulled her away from the back of the boat pretty damn quickly once I spotted her antics. This little one. I've got to tell you; she definitely keeps me on my toes!
Once we got a little further out into the Bay our view changed from being one of cranes, ships and containers, to one of the three (or rather, two and a half!) Bay Bridges, Treasure Island and, eventually, San Francisco. The old East Bay Bridge is still being dismantled and you can see in the photo below that they're almost done. It has been interesting watching the process of it being taken down over the past year or so. It's kind of weird to think that it won't there anymore in not too long. I've got to say that I'm glad we don't have to go over that bridge anymore. Knowing that it wouldn't survive a big earthquake freaked me out when we drove over it. But at the same time I'm kind of sad that soon we won't be able to see it as part of our Bay view anymore. It wasn't a safe bridge but it was a part of the iconic East Bay view.
Going underneath the Bay Bridge was exciting for the kids. Ok, and me too! It's always fun to see structures like this from such a different view point. It brought back memories of our boat ride under the Golden Gate Bridge when my parents visited a few years back. You can see that boat ride here.
Before too long the sky scrapers of San Francisco's downtown loomed before us and we made our arrival at the beautiful Ferry Building.
After disembarking the girls had fun running around in front of the empty ferry gate. They were a little worked up from the excitement of the ferry trip - or possibly from staying in one spot for too long - and danced around like crazy. Lola seemed to be a little confused about our location and at one point jumped in the air while yelling "Sydney Harbour! Yeah!". Umm... wrong city Lola! Well, I guess the last time she caught a ferry was in Sydney, after all.
We made our way into the Ferry Building where we checked out a few of the more interesting food stores before stopping for lunch. Lola's favorite thing in the Ferry Building is visiting the tiny store La Cocina to buy edible bugs! I know what you're thinking - eww! But the chocolate covered bugs are actually pretty tasty. Just like chocolate with a little crunch! The chocolate covered meal worms are always Lola's favorite, and this time we tried chocolate covered crickets as well. The girls couldn't convince their friends to give them a try though. More for us!
The Ferry Building is a great place to find something tasty to eat, but it gets pretty busy in there and the girls needed to run around. So we headed directly across the Embarcadero to the playground in Sue Bierman Park where the girls played on slides, spinning things and climbing structures for quite some time. I just love the sky scrapers in the background of that shot of Ava on the slide. Such a different sight to what we normally see while at a playground.
By now the mamas were needing coffee so we headed back across the Embarcadero for a caffeine hit and one more look at the Ferry Building and the Bay before heading home. While it would've been fun to catch the ferry home as well, we decided to take BART instead. The Friday afternoon rush had already started and the ferry queues were pretty long. The other time we had taken the ferry was during the Friday afternoon rush, and it was crazy busy. With a group of kids (and two strollers) in tow we wanted to give that a miss. Had we gone into the city earlier we definitely would've taken the ferry home as well.
Our ferry trip to the city was such a fun adventure. The kids loved it and we can't wait to take the ferry again soon. I love going on little local adventures like this. It's always fun to explore your own backyard in different ways. Going to the city was nothing new for us, but going by ferry made it an adventure.
What sorts of local adventures do you like to take with your kids? Do you go on ferries, trains or even just walks? I'd love to hear.