I left my heart in San Francisco, the beginning.

I left my heart in San Francisco, the beginning.

Our first trip to San Francisco together was many years ago.  The summer after Chris’ sister, Rebecca, graduated from high school.  She’s now a married, nearly 30 y.o., with two children.

Our second trip to San Francisco was three years ago, shortly after we moved to Virginia.  Buds spoke at a conference (and received third-highest speaker honors), and the children, my mom, and I tagged along.  This is what we looked like then:

Waiting for our first-ever, family ride on the trolley cars.

Grandma Vermont had brought Zoe authentic clothing from China, and she’d outgrown some, so a trip to Chinatown was high on our list of must-do’s.  And, The Buster’s feet had grown so much, I had to run out to a Payless and buy him a pair of shoes.  Can you tell what his favorite movie was at the time?  (Not the Peter Pan DVD he is holding.)

This was when Yessa was still in her “Always Have My Tongue Out” stage.  It was so cute.

No caption necessary.

Mr. Blue Eyes

So happy at the Exploratorium, watching everyone else’s fun.

Fascinated by an exhibit at the Exploratorium.

In addition to Buddy’s outstanding presentation, we all had a fantastic time.  Mom and I trekked all over the city with the children.  We loved the Exploratorium, the Aquarium, taking the trolley cars all over.  It was great.

This latest visit, in May of 2010, was no exception.

We rented an apartment through VRBO.com, which has become our standard practice now.

Here’s how it looked:

The children were thrilled because there was the sweetest, rickiest, old elevator for us to use to get to our second floor apartment.

It was a good omen because this was my dorm room number my freshman year in college, too!

You walked in the door, directly into the dining room/kitchen.  The entire apartment was totally redone and lovely.  These are the same IKEA cupboards we                                                                               chose for the basement kitchen in the Big Yellow House in Iowa.  Another good omen.

You walked down a little hallway to the living room, which quickly became the Children’s room when we got the beds pulled out.

The French doors from the children’s room led to the Master Bedroom.  Huge tv and old windows.

Grand walk in closet, which we briefly considered making a bedroom.

And totally remodeled bathroom completed the home-away-from-home.  The window above the mirror led to a ventilation “chute” that went from the roof to the basement of the apartment building.  You could hear other people’s conversations, which reminded me a great deal of that feeling from A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.

We were in town from Tuesday to early, early Saturday morning.  Wednesday and Thursday, Buds headed off each morning to represent Juice at the Google I/O Conference.

That’s Jon standing by the Juice display.  Buds and Jon talked themselves hoarse over the two days, though they were gratified by people’s interest in the amazing things Juice is doing.

So, while Buds headed out early those days, the children and I discovered a Diner down the street where we went every day:

The kids loved it for the mini Jukebox at each table, and for the car, which the Diner was built around:

You can just see the scary mannequin driving the car.  Didn’t bother the kids at all.

As a break from the avalanche of pictures, I want to write down a couple stories that struck me about San Francisco.

1)  I had the three children by myself most of the time when we were there.  Noa was generally riding in the stroller, and the two big ones and I worked out a system for them to hang on to each side of the stroller when we were in busy areas or crossing streets.  Still, at times, our system didn’t exactly work.  The Buster, by nature, is a mosier.  He’s often looking, strolling, thinking, humming, just generally doing his own thing.  We were crossing a busy street. (Our apartment was about 8 blocks from Union Square and the trolley car roundabout, so always very busy once we walked down to the main street.)  The girls were right with me, and I looked back to check on the Buster.  There had been a large clump of people crossing at the same time we did, but, not surprisingly, we ended up at the back of the pack.  Zachary was the very last person crossing, except–and this brings tears to my eyes to even write it–a young man, about 26 y.o., or so, stayed behind Zachary to be sure he crossed safely.  He didn’t try to rush or encourage Zachy.  He let him take his time, but he was truly caring for him.  He could easily, and understandably, have zoomed past us as others did.  He chose a different path.  He took the 45 extra seconds to make San Francisco feel like it was part of the village that was helping me care for our children.

After we had all crossed, our eyes met, and I gave him a heartfelt thank you.  He gave me a simple nod, and went on his way.  An angel without wings.

2)  It has been a long time since I have seen so many smokers.  Probably because we were walking so much, rather than driving, and probably because smoking is not allowed anywhere indoors in San Francisco, so people “have” to smoke as they are making their way from place to place.

3)  Our trip home was to be in two parts:  A quick hop to Los Angeles, then a 2-hour layover, then the long leg home.  We flew Virgin American, and I casually mentioned to Chanler, our ticket agent, that we’d love a direct flight.  There was one leaving within 30 minutes of our flight.  He switched us over as if it was no big deal.  It has been so long since it has been a pleasure to fly.  This trip was a pleasure all the way around.  I’m so tired of the adversarial relationship it feels like airlines are willing to be in with customers.  If Chanler had said it would cost us a $100/ticket to switch flights, I would not have been surprised.  We wouldn’t have done it, and the trip would have been fine.  But he didn’t, he looked at us with our three young children, and he made our lives easier.  It gave us 4 extra hours at home, and got us home before dark, and just made the end of the trip that much more lovely.  Virgin American has won some huge fans.  Price will still determine our loyalty, but I will sing their praises whenever I can.

Thank you for that detour, now back to our trip.

We purchased City passes for the kids and me.  The first day, we attempted a treck to see the California Academy of Sciences, only to discover everyone gets in free on Wednesdays, so the line stttreeetttccchhheeeddd clear out and around and down the sidewalk.  We didn’t realize it was a free day, and I hoped if we took our time, and attempted to enter the Academy after lunch, the line would have evaporated.  To pass the time, we went to the Japanese Tea Garden which is also in Golden Gate Park.   It was a soothing and wonderful place to visit.

Once we realized the line was not going to disappear from the Academy of Sciences, we hopped on a bus and headed to the Exploratorium.  After a quick stop at a Diner to fuel our energy, we walked around the pond which lives on one side of the Exploratorium.  It is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, which is an impressive piece of architecture.  Every trip to San Francisco for us has included this amazing museum/science play space, and this time was just as wonderful as the others.  Monkey and Buster are old enough that I don’t have to be with them all the time, and they loved walking around and trying out all the different exhibits.  Yessa wanted to stick close to me, but she also was intrigued by so much here.  We didn’t get to even explore half the place, and we loved every second of our time.

After our very full day, we headed back to our San Francisco home, and everyone, including me, was asleep by 8:30.

Conclusion of first full San Francisco Day.