Sunday (27th): Picked up my parents at the motel, then drove to San Francisco. My Google Maps directions had something screwed up, and then we discovered much ridiculousness trying to get turned around. The problem wasn't only one-way streets, but lots of intersections where left turns were only legal for taxis and buses! Following my imagination of how blocks are laid out, I ended up going up and down this massive hill just to go around the block. My parents' Tom Tom eventually saved us. If we had only been planning on doing the city and not anything in the surrounding area, it definitely would have been worth it to take the train. Anyway, we found the parking lot that we were looking for, then walked into Golden Gate Park. There were a lot of bums and/or hippies in the west end of the park. I wonder if this is what Dan referred to as Hippy Hill. It's the kind of place where I was uncomfortable but wanted to become comfortable. Maybe not with my parents. We all just walked through that part silently.
Then we went into the Conservatory of Flowers. Hot and steamy in there. Lots of interesting plants to look at, and some temporary bonzai-ish artwork. Ate a lunch of sausages. Lots of people were biking and rollerskating. Some people had these rental four-wheel bicycle contraptions that sat two or four people. Those looked like so much fun, although I'm guessing you can't just park them and leave them if you want to stop and see some of the nifty things in the park.
Went to the Japanese Tea Garden. Very pretty. Would have been nice if they'd had more benches, because it seems like a good environment for just chilling out.
Then we wandered down Haight to try to get a feel of the Haight-Ashbury district. Mom didn't understand why I wasn't enthused about taking photos at that intersection. It's the kind of place where I'd much rather blend in and not look like a tourist. And of course, my dad did not like it at all and thought we were just going through there to get somewhere else. Be fun to go back, maybe, with people my age.
Checked in to our hotel. Rode a street car and met people from Michigan and Maine. Got dinner at this famous Vietnamese place, The Slanted Door. The meal was ~$100 for the three of us, but it was proportionately tasty. Imperial roles, elderberry spritzer, glass noodles with tofu skins, abalone, and lamb, I think. Took a long, pleasant walk back so we could estimate the time needed to get to Alcatraz. Fisherman's Wharf is kitschy by day, and still kitschy but a little more interesting by night. There was a guy spinning fire and two or three people doing spray paint art. (The kind where they make some sort of surreal landscape on a piece of paper.)
Monday: Went to the hotel cafe for breakfast, but walked out when we found out that it was $9 and there was nothing sufficiently fibrous and portable for Mom. Found Starbucks. Went to Alcatraz. ZOMG beautiful. I don't get the whole "depressing and inhospitable" thing. I guess it is colder there in the summer. The views of San Francisco and nearby islands and whatnot are beautiful. You can see the fog move around the Golden Gate Bridge. There are lots of very colorful plants, and there are gulls and other birds. And something just tickles me about all the old, falling apart buildings. I want to be a little kid running around, exploring, and discovering little lost things that are decades older than me. We didn't do the audio tour. Didn't need the structure, after the previous day.
Before lunch, we trekked onward to other things in the area. On Saturday, we'd gone right by the very twisty part of Lombard St. We walked back to where we could see it from a distance. Mom had wanted to walk back there and take a picture of it, but plans changed and we grabbed a bus that was going up to Coit Tower. Some very nice views from up there was well. Dad lured me into the gift shop (which is impressively cramped), where I fortuitously found a patch that said "San Francisco" and had a dragon on it. I don't know if it was supposed to be a Chinatown souvenir. It looks kind of like a combination of a Western and Eastern dragon. Then we went to In-N-Out Burger (an essential part of the California experience) and headed out of the city.
We followed the insane windiness of the Panoramic Highway to Stinson Beach. Sat and relaxed there for a while. Went back to Mill Valley via Shoreline Highway. Were a little confused about how we had gotten onto a different road going back. The Tom Tom was more confused. It told us we had reached our hotel when we were driving along a cliff with no developed land in sight. Made it back, went to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, against Dad's protests. He started talking about how you can get any kind of food you want there, to which we asked "So what's the problem???" His best answer is that it's just kind of a weird place. Dad is mysterious ;)
Tuesday: Did Muir Woods first. It wasn't quite the intense redwood experience that I was expecting, but was still a good time. Mom almost stepped on a banana slug. We ate lunch at the cafe, which had this very eco-friendly thing going on. I got socks in the gift shop. We went to Sonoma, looked at the Mission but didn't pay to go in, did some chocolate tasting. I bought a really pretty and comfy dress. If it's hot this weekend for Whole Earth, it will be a fun thing to wear. Bought gourmet dog snacks for Lilly, went to a coffee shop. Then we went back to Davis and got dinner at Sophia's.
Wednesday morning my car wouldn't start. My parents got the bus to my house and Dad and I messed with it while Mom hung out with Cara and Lilly. We ended up getting it towed to the dealership that I've gone to before. $450 later, I have a new starter assembly... My parents want to send money to help with that although there isn't much reason for them to, as I see. It sucks but it's mine, eh? Now that I'm in the bicycle Mecca that is Davis, I find myself fantasizing about cars ceasing to exist soon, with the energy crisis. Anyway, we ate lunch at the Pita Pit, wandered in the arboretum, got the car back, and went to the Farmer's Market.
Thursday morning I took them to the airport and went back to school. Very good visit overall.