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Monday 1 September 2014

Visitors from Home

The last few weeks have been pretty busy for our family. We had our trip to Seattle and Portland, Ava went back to school this week and our good friends Marta and Mark visited from Australia.

I have lots of posts about our trip coming up soon so for now lets have a look at the fun we had with Marta and Mark.

As Marta and Mark had previously visited San Francisco and seen most of the major sights we decided to keep their visit low key. We headed across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods and Muir Beach one day, and headed into the city another. The rest of the time we spent in Berkeley. We were pretty exhausted from our week away (and suffering from colds) and Marta and Mark were at the end of their trip so taking it quiet was good for everyone. Plus half way through their visit Ava started back at school which made getting out and about a little trickier.

We started off our time together with a visit to Muir Woods and Muir Beach. The girls and I actually spent a day at Muir Woods about a month ago but I'm getting pretty behind with my blog posts and haven't written about it yet. That one's coming soon too, I promise! Anyway, this time around we decided to visit Muir Woods on a Monday. It's always super busy on weekends and we figured that it would be less crowded (and easier to find a parking space) on a week day. What we didn't count on was last Monday being free entry day! That meant no available parking spaces in the parking lot and no on-street parking for miles. No problem. Instead we headed to nearby Muir Beach to check out the coast. The girls loved playing in the water and were pretty excited to find "By-the-wind-sailor" jellyfish like creatures dotted along the beach. We had seen reports of these little guys popping up all over beaches around San Francisco but hadn't seen any ourselves until now. Unlike jellies these ones don't sting so they were perfectly safe to pick up. (Note: I did actually hear of someone being stung by one today but we were all perfectly fine. Best to take caution when picking them up.)

Notice that Lola looks like she's puckering up for a kiss in the photo below? Well, she recently discovered "duck face" - you know, that look that all the young girls do in their Instagram selfies - and it's her latest go-to pose for photos. Expect to see a lot more of it! Now if only I could work out how to make her stop...

We ate lunch at the quaint, English countryside inspired Pelican Inn and checked out the nearby horses and a long row of letterboxes. Look, there's even a duck face letterbox for Lola!

Later in the afternoon the parking lot at Muir Woods had cleared out a little so we dropped by for a quick walk among the redwoods, lots of silly poses and more duck faces!

We headed back home via a detour to the Marin Headlands for spectacular views over the Golden Gate Bridge. I think I could live here a life time and still never tire of seeing that bridge. I'm still in awe every time it pops into view (even though we can see it from our roof deck) and I'm stunned every time we drive across it.

We stopped at two look out points for photos. The spot in the photo below we'd been to plenty of times but the one closer to the bridge we'd always missed. Can you believe that? It's the best spot for photos of the bridge and we'd never been there. The ruins of Battery Spencer sit atop the hill as well but as it was getting dark and cold (and Ava stepped on a piece of glass) we didn't really explore the old fortifications. Although we did pretend to lock Marta and Ava in jail! We'll definitely have to head back another time.

I figured it was about time my Bay Area baby had a few snaps with the Golden Gate Bridge too!

The following day we headed into the city to explore North Beach and Coit Tower.  We stopped by the Wells Fargo Museum on our way. The girls enjoyed playing with the old technology and pretending to ride the stagecoach, Kim and Mark focused on the historical banknotes and Marta and I discovered just how bad we are at playing Pong! You can see our last visit to the Wells Fargo Museum here

The highlight of our visit to North Beach was lunch at famed garlic restaurant The Stinking Rose. Good thing we all like garlic! We just had to give the garlic ice cream a try for dessert. It's a good thing I ordered one to share as it was huge. It actually tasted pretty good but we were all so full from our main courses that we couldn't finish it, even between six of us! 

We hiked off all that garlicky cuisine with a trek up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. The queue for the elevator to the top of the tower was pretty long and not moving particularly fast so we decided to give that a miss and just checked out the views from the bottom. Being a beautiful, clear day (no fog in sight) we could see really far so the views from the bottom were still pretty amazing.

We had planned on walking back down the Filbert Street Stairs but in an absent-minded moment I had brought Mathilde's stroller with me. Oops! Carrying her stroller down a few stairs isn't so bad but the Filbert Street Stairs would've been a nightmare. Instead we headed back down the North Beach side of Telegraph Hill where there were much fewer stairs. We made our way down Broadway to the Embarcadero and Ferry Building for a much needed stop at Blue Bottle Coffee. Oh, and chocolate covered mealworms for the girls!

The ferry to Alameda and Oakland arrived just as we were leaving the ferry building so we decided to hop on board and cruise across the bay instead of taking BART. I had never been on the ferry before but Kim used to take it regularly when he worked in the city. On this particular occasion the ferry was absolutely packed and there was nowhere left to sit. The views over the Bay Bridge and city were pretty spectacular although I couldn't really get to the back the ferry to take decent shots given how busy it was. I'll definitely have to take the girls on a ferry trip another time - when it's not rush hour!

Ava started back at school the following day so the rest of our time with Marta and Mark was pretty quiet. We mostly hung around Berkeley catching up on old times. It was lovely to just spend time with good friends without rushing around visiting touristy places.

Thanks for your visit Marta and Mark. We miss you already!


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