Monday, 23 December 2013

Not a moment wasted in San Francisco!

Arriving late afternoon Saturday in SF
via the Bay Bridge
Well, three days into our winter holiday and I'm exhausted! When I think about it, though, it's really no different than any other Bruntlett family vacation. In fact, since our first vacation together, Chris and I have made a point of doing as much as possible in a very short amount of time. So it is inevitable that this trip would be no different. After spending about eighteen hours on the road, we rolled into San Francisco with enough time to unpack the car, check into our apartment and quickly freshen up before heading out to meet with some new bike friends. We then spent the next several hours hanging out at a super cool bike shop on Market Street called Huckleberry Bikes, where Chris screened the first four Vancouver Cycle Chic Films from last summer, as well as premiering two new ones (releasing in the new year on the web). It's always fun to meet new people who are into bikes as much as we are, and I was very happy to connect with Kristin from Velo Vogue and Melissa from Bike Pretty to get a bit of the female perspective on riding bikes in San Francisco. All the while, our kids got to play Mario Bros. on an original NES, who were subsequently blown away when their mother, of all people, smoked level after level. That's right, for a brief moment, I was the coolest mom ever!

No Bruntlett family trip is complete without using almost
every form of transit available. First up, the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit)
How To Keep Tired Kids Happy At An Adult Function 101: Bring out the gaming system, no matter how retro!
After some much needed rest, we woke up the next day ready for many touristy adventures, starting with an obligatory trip to Alcatraz. Chris and I generally don't go in for the real tourist type excursions, but we were told it was worth the trip. It was pretty cool to visit the historic prison, and the kids got a kick out of it, but amongst so many people wandering aimlessly with headphones on, and kids still recuperating from a day of travel, we were heading back on the ferry home before lunch. We then went to Golden Gate Park to meet once again with our new friend Kristin, who gave us a great tour through the Academy of Sciences which the kids thoroughly enjoyed. There is really a ton to explore there, and I can see why people visit it again and again. From the aquarium, the rainforest, and the earthquake house, the kids didn't stop moving, but if think the highlight for Coralie was seeing live reindeer, even if it wasn't Rudolph.
 Having some fun with perspective on Alcatraz
Transit Option #2: The Trolly, followed shortly after by the tram
All set to help Santa with his sleigh
Coralie and I ready to ride. This is the day
she learned why she doesn't like mountain bikes
For our third and final day, we opted to do what we do best, and ride some bikes. Our mission, ride across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. From the bike rental shop at the Ferry building we travelled west along The Embarcadero in the green painted bike lane, Coralie and I on our own bikes and Chris hauling Etienne, who was feeling a little under the weather, on a tag-a-long bike. It was nice to travel alongside the Piers, but I have to admit I missed out separated Seawall, as cars raced past my family. I was very grateful after our lunch stop at Fishermans Wharf to connect to a proper bike path that took us almost all the way to the bridge without having to share the road with cars. Along the way we came to the Palace Of Fine Arts, a beautiful rotunda of massive Greek columns surrounding a spectacular dome. Framed by a beautiful blue sky, it was such a a great place to rest, and take many, many photos. I believe it may have been the highlight of my day, but I'm a sucker for enjoying parks within cities.

Inside the dome at the Palace of Fine Arts
Chris having a quiet moment at the centre of the dome
(He's actually waiting for me to give over the camera)
Just about to take off across the
Golden Gate Bridge
Now it was time to conquer the bridge, which meant hauling our butts uphill from the waterfront to the start of the bridge path, which included a winding road shared with cars. Not too pleasant, but the drivers seemed pretty used to seeing bikes and gave us room. Once at the top, after a quick stop to refill our water bottles and to take a couple of before shots, it was time to cross. As can be expected, crossing the bridge is a popular activity by both foot and bike. It wasn't too bad, but you did have to be sure you were paying attention at all times in case an unsuspecting photographer stepped into the path of our bikes. I will happily admit that even though it was crowded, I was pretty stoked when we reached the halfway mark, feeling a big sense of accomplishment, and we hadn't even finished the trip! Sadly, my enthusiasm once we had crossed was marred as we tried to figure out just how to get to Sausalito and the ferry back to the city. As awesome as it was to bike as far as we did, I do think that a lot can be done to make that trip a little more bike friendly, as our trek from the end of the bridge down to the bike path along the water involved negotiating amongst fast moving cars on narrow roads, which, when travelled with children, makes parents more than a little on edge. I found consolation when a fellow traveller on the ferry back congratulated Coralie for making the trip, being one of the only young children I saw on the trip across and down to the ferry. She really is quite the trooper.

A windy "Cheese" moment on the bridge
The narrow road that took us into Saucalito.
Sharrows do not a safe bikeway make
The sun setting on yet another busy day
for the Bruntletts
All told, I think we'll be leaving San Francisco feeling that there still so much to do. We barely got to enjoy the neighbourhood we stayed in, the Mission District, so full of life and character. We also missed out on taking a cable car, and Coralie didn't get to visit Lombard Road, the winding street she's seen in many a film set in this city. There are countless things still to do, and we know we'll have to plan a trip back in the near future. But for now, I look forward to the days ahead spent in Venice Beach, and Christmas morning riding along the ocean. It's a hard life for the Velo Family...

An early Christmas present for Chris and I, two exhausted children!

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