Friday, June 17, 2011

The Solomon's visit & adventures in California!

Napa Valley
Alcatraz Island
Muir Woods
Golden Gate Bridge
Santa Cruz
My parents flew in for their first visit to California on Friday June 10th for a long weekend! We were so excited to have them here and to get to share California with them! There was so much to see and we did our best to share ALL of it with them! My dad's birthday was May 28th so since I had to miss it I fixed a make-up birthday dinner Friday night with homemade lasagna and dirt pudding for dessert! We hit the road early Saturday morning and drove to Napa Valley. We toured and tasted at 3 wineries - Mumm Estates (sparkling wines), Rubicon Estates, and Castello di Amorosa (aka The Castle.) At Rubicon and The Castle we got to do our tastings in private VIP type tasting rooms since Andrew and I are wine club members which really made the experience more enjoyable rather than crowding around the wine bar with everyone else! We had hoped to fit in another winery before leaving for San Francisco but we ran over a bit at our last stop and decided we would rather check-in to our hotel than try to cram one more winery in. Thank goodness for that, we hit crazy stand-still traffic going in to San Francisco and found ourselves rushing to Pier 33 to catch our ferry to Alcatraz for the creepy night time tour! The view from the ferry was stunning (but we were very cold! I stayed huddled against Andrew when I wasn't snapping pictures (the bay was incredible - a photographers dream for such perfect light!) For my dad's birthday he got two Alcatraz books and he was as good as the guides and was able to share tons of history and facts with us on the ferry! Turns out, we were visiting on the anniversary of the successful break-out of the supposedly "inescapeable" island, which I thought was really cool! We took the audio guided tour and had former inmates and guards narrating and explaining the prison's history which made the experience even more fascinating! We ferried back to San Francisco and finally made it to the Marine Memorial Hotel late - too exhausted to go anywhere we ordered pizza to be delivered to our room (it arrived at 11:50pm...) before we finally crashed for the night. My mom wanted to go see the Redwoods at Muir Woods National Park early the next morning so we could beat the crowds. We reluctantly consented, thinking we would go and see to appease her, have a "hi tree... bye tree" experience and maybe sneak in a nap before exploring the rest of San Francisco. What we didn't anticipate was how amazing it was going to be - I kicked into photographer mode, thrilled with the unbelieveable light and vivid colors filling the forest, and we stayed for a couple hours (my camera snapping the whole time...) On the way back to the hotel we decided to stop and walk over the Golden Gate Bridge - it was really croweded and really cold (but definitely neat!) We decided walking half-way across and coming back counted as walking the bridge! We managed to make the tail-end of breakfast at our hotel and ate looking out over the impressive San Francisco sky line. After brunch we headed out to explore San Francisco - we walked through China Town (which was quite scary, not gonna lie), Fisherman's Wharf, and Ghiradelli Square before catching a Cable Car back to Union Square where we were staying and heading off to Santa Cruz! When we got to Santa Cruz we checked into our hotel and relaxed on the balcony enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean, the wharf, and the Boardwalk! We walked down to the wharf for dinner and stopped to see the sea lions that had perched up on the wharf! I've been to Santa Cruz many times but this is the first that I've gotten to see the sea lions! They were so cute! My dad imparticular loved them (mom's theory is that its because he identifies with them with their loud snoring!) We had a delicious dinner at Fire Fish Grill on the wharf while we watched the sun set over the ocean and then the moon glitter on the water before heading back to our room to crash for the night! The next morning we lazed around and enjoyed the ocean before heading to Kelly's French Bakery for breakfast and then to "our" lighthouse - I call it our lighthouse because Andrew took me there for our first Valentines Day together and I fell in love with it, then he proposed in front of it, which only furthered my "claim" to the lighthouse! We walked the beach, soaked up the sun, watched the sea lions play in the waves, spotted star fish and crabs scuttling across the ocean rocks, and had a blast. We met Ashley, Andrew's biological mom, and his half-sister Brittany for lunch at a restaurant on the beach before we walked the Boardwalk (got mom some cotton candy for the genuine Boardwalk experience) and paid one more visit to the sea lions on the wharf! We drove back to our home in Marysville and I took my parents for the consumate California experience - In'N'Out Burger! Andrew had to work Tuesday morning so my parents and I spent some time in Yuba City before I took them to the airport. I was really bummed to see them go but we had an incredible time with them and can't wait for them to come back (if we stay in California long enough for them to get the chance!) 

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