Trip to San Francisco

Robert had to be in San Francisco for the JOIM conference this March, like almost every March, so Marcus, Samantha, and I joined him at the Ritz on Nob Hill. The conference was Sunday to Tuesday, but we all flew in Saturday and out Wednesday night to extend our time.

We flew Virgin America out--it's great how they have their own security line, their own corner of a terminal, and their own little toy corner at Logan. Plus, their favorite color is purple, so Marcus got a pair of purple headphones and on the plane we sat under purple lights.

It was a very peaceful plane ride. We rented a car at the airport and drove straight to an L&L, since they don't have them in Boston, and got two Hawaiian plate lunches (garlic shrimp and beef ribs) to go, along with a boba drink from the place next door. Ah, California--boba in (almost) every stripmall! Our next stop was the Frontierland Playground in Pacifica, a really cool parent-built playground. Marcus had a fabulous time running around.

We drove into San Francisco, with both kids now sleeping in the car, and picked up my CityPass (unlimited Muni rides, and admission to some museums) before the place closed at 5:00. We were going to drive down Lombard Street for Marcus, but he was totally out of it, so we went straight to the hotel instead and checked in. Dinner was just a quick walk into Chinatown (down a hill on the way there, up on the way back) to Bund Shanghai for some shao lung bao (XLB), hand-drawn noodles, and other good fare.

The next morning everyone except Sam was up around 5:00 because of the three-hour time difference and the "spring ahead" hour, so Robert and Marcus took a very long shower, then a walk around the hotel for coffee and hot chocolate before we went out, back to Chinatown to get some take-out dim sum.

We ate our bao and spring rolls and dumplings in two playgrounds, one where we watched a senior citizen couple play badminton and one where we watched a gang of senior citizens exercise on the playground equipment. It felt like a zombie invasion--they moved so slowly, but suddenly they were everywhere! It was chilly, but Marcus had fun.

Then we rode the cable car down the hill to the Ferry Terminal to meet Mona, who was coming into the city for the day to see us.

Marcus loved watching the boats, bikes, skateboards, etc. With Mona, we got a second breakfast at the Cowgirl Sidekick (steel-cut oats for me, grilled cheese for Marcus, Robert, and Mona, and some steamed milks and coffees) and then took a Muni to the Civic Center farmers' market.

Marcus fell completely asleep on Robert's back on the way over, so we strolled around while he slept. Robert and Mona shared a crepe, and various strangers let us know when Marcus's feet relaxed so utterly that his shoes fell off ("Yo, you lost a Croc!" was not a sentence we had every heard before).

We walked over down Mission to the Children's Creativity Museum, and Marcus woke up just as we arrived. There were lots of things to play with, and there was also a carousel ($3 for two rides), and Mona got a chance to admire Sam while Marcus played.

We walked through the big mall (Mona knew the best path through Bloomies, of course) and had Jamba Juices and a Thai rice plate as a snack before browsing the Hello Kitty store and then saying goodbye to Mona. Then Robert went off to his conference, and Marcus, Samantha, and I met up with Sue (former small-group member from Boston), her husband, her beautiful little girl, and a friend for an Indian dinner. As a treat, after dinner we watched the cable cars turn around on Market and Powell for quite a long time before finally riding one back up the hill to our hotel.

On Monday morning, we joined Robert for breakfast at the conference and then hopped on a bus to Japantown to buy mochi at Benkyodo. Marcus loved the peanut-butter filled mochi, and just ate the mochi off the white and red bean ones. Then we went back to the Children's Creativity Museum, because even though it's closed Mondays (and Tuesdays), it has a nice playground on the grounds, and we met up with an online friend and her two little boys there.

Marcus called the five-year-old boy "the boy who wasn't ready to go down the big slide with me," because Marcus kept saying, "Heydoyouwanttogodowntheslidewithme?" in an excited rush, and the boy would shyly shake his head, and Marcus would then sigh very exaggeratedly and run down the slide himself, and then ask all over again in another minute.

We also rode the carousel again, of course.

Lunch in the foodcourt of the mall again--more of that good Thai food--was followed by a cable car ride back to the hotel and a nap for Marcus and Sam. Around 4:00, we went out again, to Pier 39, to go to the Aquarium of the Bay (the touch tank was a huge hit) and watch the sea lions on the pier. Then we took a Muni over to the Ferry Terminal for dinner (tacos and more grilled cheese) and met Robert and his father for the cable car ride back up the hill. We shared a cupcake in the lobby bar, and then it was off to bed.

Tuesday it was rainy, so Marcus and I took a bus to the Exploratorium in the Palace of Fine Arts. It's a gorgeous location, but the museum was really a) too old for preschoolers, even with help in a lot of places, b) in disrepair (they're moving to a new location next year, and I think they're not maintaining the exhibits very well), and c) insanely crowded because of the rain and various school groups.

Maria, Baby Davey, and a friend of theirs met us at the museum for some playtime, cousin time, and lunch in their cafe. It was great to get to see how Davey has grown!

In the late afternoon, we headed back to the hotel for a little rest and met up with Robert, whose conference was now over. We went out to a sushi boat place on Geary, but Marcus was a bit too energetic for that really to be a success, so we switched to a booth and ate udon instead. Back to the hotel, and then we took a sleepy boy out for a drizzly walk to Chinatown for an evening boba drink.

On Wednesday, our final day in San Francisco and our day of fun together, we got a Zipcar from a nearby garage and drove up to Fairfield to the JellyBelly jelly bean factory. There was a free tour which lasted over half an hour and featured lots of big yellow robots who move the boxes of jellybeans around the factory floor. There were also free samples and bags of the seconds (called "Belly Flops") to buy very inexpensively. We had a great time, and it was a good use of time on a very heavily raining day.

We drove back into the city around noon and got lunch from a food truck parked on Ritch Street just off the freeway--a fabulous BLT with really good bacon and cheddar cheese, and a fried chicken sandwich with amazing coleslaw on the bun, as well as a "kitchen sink" cookie (chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, potato chips) and a nectarine mint lemonade. We ate in the car driving across town to the California Academy of the Sciences, where we met up with Maria and Baby Davey again.

After Maria headed home, we stayed until the museum closed, and Robert tried to recreate the picture we took three years ago here, when Marcus was seven months old and we were in town for the same conference.

With Marcus getting sleepier by the minute in the car, we then drove to Humphry Slocombe for ice cream (Marcus had vanilla--we had Vietnamese coffee, tea, and brown butter in a sundae with their "frosted" peanuts, but we also tried and liked the Jesus juice, olive oil, and Thai chili-lime). I ran across the street to order pupusas to go (the benefit of having an ice cream store in the Mission), and we ended up eating those in the airport just before boarding our plane.

We drove back to the hotel, Robert returned the Zipcar, and we all hopped in a cab. Jetblue took us home swiftly, and both kids slept the entire flight. It was a great trip!

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Created: 3/15/12. Last Modified: 3/15/12.