Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On the first day, there was Francisco

My fear of someone tracking down my address and breaking into my house to steal my bags and bags full of yarn prevented me from being too specific about our vacation plans before we left last week, but now that we're home I'll share. The first leg of our trip was a trip to San Francisco with the monkeys, Sunday and Monday of last week.

The plan was to go over early on Sunday (Mothers' Day) and visit at least the Exploratorium, then to head over to the California Academy of Sciences on Monday. Originally we'd thought about going to the SF Zoo, but when we heard about the Academy, it seemed like the Zoo could wait. We'll just have to go back. I have to say, it took me by surprise that E wanted to go to SF in the first place. He hates SF, or so I thought. When I asked him what he wanted to do, his only response was "I don't want to do a lot of shopping or touristy stuff." ::deflation:: Okay. Cross those things off the list. We settled on indulging Ad's museum love, which ended up being pretty fun for us too. We're going to try as hard as we can to raise two happy little nerds. It's nerds that run the world, you know.

As we were driving over the bridge into the city, Henry asks, "Mom, do they have a Target in Francisco's?" Because, you see, Target is the pinnacle of his little four-year-old universe. Target has Transformers. Yet another great reason to get out and see the world--to realize there's more to it than Target. We drove into the city, stopping for lunch at Mel's. Yum. Fun too. Awkward moment for me: there was a French family behind us and a waitress that primarily spoke Spanish, and between the two of them nobody could figure out the word for scrambled eggs. I could completely understand the French side of the conversation, but my vocabulary and confidence are pretty poor. I couldn't remember what the word was, either. I wanted to jump in and help, but I choked. Ah, nervousness. They ended up figuring it out, but it was a bit like an SNL sketch. Lots of drawing, linguistic near-misses... but at least everyone was polite.

From Mel's we headed over to the Presidio. I know you just read that and you're like okay, no big whoop, but let me back up a little bit for a minute. Let's rewind a few years to me and E, at about age 21, trying to find his Aunt Jul's house, driving around SF at night, lost (with directions and a map, mind you), frustrated beyond belief, ending up in an area with nudie bars and hobos galore. I thought that was pretty much the nail in the SF vacation coffin. So the fact that we found our destination with ease and mutual adoration was nothing short of a water-to-wine miracle. I present to you: Apple GPS on my iPhone, in the form of the Google Maps App. How could something so simple improve my marriage so much? I love E, but the dude has no internal compass. I mean NONE. Nada. Mine's pretty good, but the amount of times we've bickered/fought/warred over being lost is infinite. Ah GPS. I pledge my love for you for all of eternity. So easy. We got there and we still wanted to get married again. We missed one turn because a tree was blocking the sign for the Palace of Fine Arts; no problemo, mon frere, we just rerouted and decided to stop at Fort Point before we made our way back.

I handed my camera to some guy to take this pic--I really thought for a few seconds that he was going to take it and sprint up the hill with it. Glad that worked out okay.

The kids loved Fort Point. They've never seen the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, the Bay, any of it. It's been a long time since I've seen it on a clear day. The scent of Eucalyptus filled the air, and we could see for miles. It was an energizing start to the trip. Hank was fascinated with Alcatraz, or as he likes to say "that jail over there." We had a little drive through the Presidio... How much do I love all those crisp, formal buildings? And the cemetery. Geez. I love cemeteries. Is that weird? I love the Marina district too. To the monkeys' delight, there were tons of kites dancing in the sky. We wound through the side streets and back the museum, grabbed some fruit snacks, water bottles, and Excedrin (headache time) and went inside.

E waited in a short line to pay, but to our surprise, it was free day. Not to our surprise once we discovered this, it was PACKED. Ugh. I don't mind most people as long as they keep their distance and mind their children. Imagine how that went for me. Yeah. My other problem? It seemed as though there was no air conditioning and/or circulation in there. Maybe they turn it off on free days. Or maybe it's SF so it's not PC to be um, un-green. I don't know. It was nasty. It smelled like the cross between an old egg and a foot in there. I'm also all for teaching my kids to take turns, but that means they get the short end of the stick in these kind of situations. I won't let them butt in and grab at things, so they lose out to kids who do. Oh well.

All my griping aside, it was fun. It doesn't really matter where you are when you enjoy your kids as much as we do. Ad was so proud that she could read the displays and directions on each exhibit to Bud. We steered them away from a couple of things--bird and bee related--but they ran around and set their hands and eyes on everything else in that place. Highlights: the dead rat case showing decomposition, the echo tube, the pitch machine, and the big rainbow on the floor.

After about two hours of Exploratory goodness, Mom and Dad were ready for a nap. Thinking I was nearing the end of being sick (ha!) I was needing some serious down time. E too, since he was on his second round of antibiotics at that point. We could tell the kids were getting a little cranky, so we hopped back in the car and typed in: Current destination to the Westin Market Street. I'll say it again. E would not have gone near Market street before. No way we would have found our way back across town. We checked in, bummed around the hotel room for a few hours. By "bummed," I mean E and I lay on beds trying to relax while the kiddos ran and bounced off the walls. We then hit up California Pizza Kitchen across the street. I know, Haute Cuisine. We have two kids, okay? It was great. After dinner we settled in and watched the finale of The Apprentice. By "watched," I mean that I watched it and everyone else in the room fell asleep by about 8:30. The kids haven't really stayed in a nice hotel before, so they hit the wall soon after a bath out of pure adreinaline letdown.

The next morning was a mix of walking the streets to find everyone something they could eat for breakfast... I needed Starbucks, E couldn't eat anything there, kids wanted cereal... once everyone was happy we set out for the Academy of Sciences. (PDawg, gazing longingly at one of the world's greatest shopping Meccas and knowing there was no shopping. Not mine.) We purchased our tickets online for the Academy ahead of time. I recommend that. We talked to several people who said they couldn't get in because it's still so busy. Going on a Monday was not a problem--the docent we talked to said that weekends and Wednesdays (free days) were the most crowded. Cut to me, breathing a sigh of relief that we didn't hit another free day.

The Academy of Sciences is separated into several areas, each with its own "theme," for lack of a better word. We went straight to Africa Hall because the penguins were being fed right then. They were cute, and there was a docent speaking about them as she fed them. We hung out in there and looked at all the stuffed (Ad says: dead) animals. They've done a really nice job of redesigning all these exhibits. The kids liked being able to get up close to each animal. From there we went through an area that talked about Galapagos, Darwin, bugs, and as far as I can remember, Madagascar. Needless to say, I don't recall what that part was called. Lots of stuff that works on different levels--good for me and E, good for the kids, and probably good for much older kids too. In teaching we call it differentiated instruction. Don't know the museum term for it.

Other areas of note: the swamp, with the white alligator, and the aquarium, with all kinds of interactive displays and touch tidepool. Side note: I hate eels. They win the prize for animal I'd least like to see whilst scuba diving. Yes, they outrank sharks. Ew. ::Squirm:: We headed back upstairs after the aquarium for an expensive--COUGH COUGH--I mean lovely lunch out on the fffffreeeezing cold patio. Everyone else in the place was eating too. Wish we'd brought a lunch, but the food wasn't bad. In fact, it was delish. It just cost us more than $40 for the four of us, and that was with Hank and Ad splitting something. At least they had pickles. By God, there were pickles.

The Planetarium was up next and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I don't know why I thought I wouldn't enjoy it--probably just too tired by then--but all of the sudden I was back in third grade, reenacting a lunar mission with tin foil on my head and clothes, sitting in a sideways desk saying "Houston, we are go for launch." Space is so freaking cool. And apparently my kids liked it too. Bonus: reclining chairs, air conditioning like there's no tomorrow, and a host with a soothing movie-man voice. The program(?) was about a half hour and completely fascinating. Somewhere, Mrs. Kissinger, my third grade teacher, is smiling.

This is exactly how excited we get about Space.

I have to admit, my energy was waning after the Planetarium, but we went up to the living roof. You guys, the roof is ALIVE. Pretty cool, but these are not what you'd call sexy plants. It's a lot of green flatness. But you could see really far and it was a nice view of Golden Gate park that day. From there, dinosaur bones, whale bones, and the four-story Rainforest. Coolest thing about any rainforest is the butterflies, IMHO. (Mom, that means in my humble opinion.) Butterflies as big as birds. Bats? Anyway, cool ones. We hit up the museum store, and then it was back on the road.

Two days, and it wasn't that expensive or that much trouble. This was great for our family. And (as we realized about a day and a half in, NO STROLLERS!) We live so close and we've seen so little of the city. We can't wait to go back. Like I said, Ad wants to move there. Henry said that he liked Francisco's, and that it was "ginoomous-normous." Yes.

1 comment:

  1. That is great. You guys did a lot of stuff in just 2 days. I also have that fear someone will take my camera. I usually set the self timer and make sure no one is around! I also don't usually tell people of my plans, but I only have two balls of yarn :). I just started learning how to crochet. You Tube is helpful