Friday, July 28, 2017

California, Part II: Northern California

Southern California was all about amusement parks, entertainment, and things that were manufactured.  Northern California was about slowing down and appreciating nature and its beauty.

We flew up to San Jose airport on Friday afternoon. We flew Southwest, and they were so friendly (as advertised!).  Charlotte got to go into the cockpit, and even got invited to try out the pilot's seat.
With the pilot and co-pilot

Totally ready to fly this thing
By this, our 3rd flight of the trip, the kids were old hands at flying. They settled right in to reading, and deciding which sugary carbonated beverage they would order when the drink cart came.

After landing and renting our car, we drove out to Big Basin Redwoods State Park to check out the trees.  The kids were exhausted and fell asleep on our way out there, despite the road being narrow and winding and Eric getting nearly carsick just driving there.  Benjamin threw a tantrum when we told him we were getting out and going on a hike (0.6 miles total, nothing strenuous), but he quickly warmed up and then enjoyed climbing on trees and looking at nature.
Benjamin at the top of the fallen tree trunk

In the tree hollow

3 peanuts in the woods
After our little outdoor outing, we had dinner at a burger place on our way back to Mountain View. We were staying at a hotel that seemed perfect in pictures and amenities... but we arrived at bed time to find that we had a small room that slept 4.  At that point, we didn't have much choice but to make it work; but after panicking, searching for rooms on and priceline, I went down to the lobby to make a deal with the guy working at the desk.  I threw Eric under the bus (since he had booked the room and hadn't said we were 5!) and hoped the the guy would take pity on me.  I then mentioned that I had twins, and he asked if they had been spontaneous or medically assisted.  I told him we had done IVF because I had trouble getting pregnant, and he told me that he and his wife were having trouble having a baby.  After talking him through treatments and how to search for a reproductive endocrinologist, he let me book a second room at the wedding rate.  For the following 2 nights we split up, girls in one room and boys in the other.

On Saturday, we attended the wedding rehearsal and then drove south to Monterey Bay.  We made 2 pit-stops on our way: 1 for me to buy a bag of cherries at a roadside stand, and 1 for lunch at In-N-Out burger.  It turns out that Asher likes hamburgers!  Charlotte had French fries and soda for lunch.

The aquarium was amazing.  We saw the sea otters and admired their cuteness. We could have been there for hours and hours more, but we had to get back to Los Altos for my cousin's rehearsal dinner.
The family at Monterey Bay
Sunday was wedding day! We had to be ready by around 2 pm, so we stayed around.  My mom and I went to the Mountain View Farmers Market, where I continued to plot my move to California. The fruits and vegetables were to die for!  The possibility of eating like that year-round is quite enticing. After the Farmers Market, another friend from high school who now lives in California came and met us at the hotel for swimming and snacks.  We hadn't seen each other since 2002, and we are now both married with twins, so there was a lot to catch up on.  

We got beautified in a hurry, and went off to the wedding, which took place at the most beautiful wedding site I have ever seen.  The ceremony site was in a glen surrounded by redwood trees, and the rest of the location was indescribable.  There was a little train circling the property, a fairy cottage, a gigantic chess board, and beautiful surprises around every corner.  My cousin had hired babysitters to take the kids after the ceremony, so we were free to enjoy ourselves. The kids ran around and explored and didn't even talk to us.
The kids were part of the procession
Charlotte wore the same dress our flower girl wore at our wedding
Unfortunately in motion, but Benjamin was adorable
Asher on the stairs away from the ceremony site
On the throne at the edge of the chess board
With Meema and Papa Nick
I don't know if we planned to leave the wedding early, but we didn't- we stayed til the end and didn't get the kids in bed until 11 pm! They had certainly adjusted to west coast time.  I was awake before everyone in the morning and got in a run.  

We went to the after-wedding brunch on Monday, and then drove up to Berkeley to see my mom's cousin and his wife- my mom's cousin was at work, but we spent time with his wife, and played Old Maid, but no one remembered the rules.  I love Berkeley, but it seemed like Eric was having anxiety from the height of the hills.  The views are unbelievable- another city I would love to live in.

San Francisco and the bay from the Berkeley hills
A stop for ice cream before we left
From Berkeley we went back to San Jose to return our rental car and begin the trek home. Whatever great travel karma we had, we'd used up, apparently.  Nothing disastrous, but our flight out of San Jose was to LAX, where we would get on a red-eye home to Philadelphia. We had a short layover, and then they started delaying our flight.  I went up to a gate agent and said, "We have a short layover in LA... are we going to be ok?" and she said, "Let me route you through Phoenix."  So instead of a short flight and then a long flight, we had two shorter flights.  The good part was that our flight from Phoenix was fairly empty and we had space to stretch out and sleep. All 3 kids slept the whole flight.  We arrived in Philadelphia and rushed to get our bags in the hopes of getting home for a couple of hours of sleep before I took the kids to a half day of camp and myself to a full day of work.  3 of our 4 bags arrived, and then the belt stopped and... no 4th bag.  I marched off to the lost luggage office, and we waited around for an additional 45 minutes in order to be told it had jammed the belt and they'd deliver it later.  We got in a cab just in time to sit in rush our traffic going home.  We had to go to my parents' house because in our absence work had begun on our master bath.  We did get there in time for a couple of hours of rest, and then we were off and running- vacation was over.

It's now 3 weeks later and I can't stop thinking about what a great trip we had.  It was worth every dollar we spent, and we made memories that will stay with us forever.  I loved the time with my family of 5.  All 3 kids were wonderful travelers and good company. We are fortunate to have children who are flexible and adaptable and comfortable wherever we go- it makes me want to keep up the exploring.  

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