The Trip of a Lifetime ~ Exploring San Francisco and Seattle

In early June, my mom was incredibly generous and kept the kids for 6 days so that Curtis and I could get away to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. Jenny house-sat and watched the dogs. Because Curtis is now a shutterbug too, we planned a trip that would allow us some great photographic opportunities and some good quality time together. We left on a Sunday morning and returned the next Saturday afternoon. And we made the most of it!

Day One

We flew into San Jose, rented a car, then drove south to Santa Cruz. We drove into Santa Cruz and ended up at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk where we spent a couple of hours wandering around and got a bite to eat. It was jam-packed with people everywhere… on the beach, on the boardwalk, on the rides. What a colorful and vibrant place! Then we drove back north to San Francisco, checking into a hotel downtown, the Parc 55 Wyndham. After a short rest, we went out for a walk that took us around the old Mint, then through Chinatown which is where we ended up having dinner at the Empress of China. I swear those were the best eggrolls I’ve ever had in my entire life! We walked all around Chinatown, then headed back to the hotel. After another short rest, we took a taxi to Pier 39, visited the sea lions, and had some ice cream.

Day Two

We woke up to rain on day two which really disappointed us since we were planning our major whirlwind tour of the city. We got up early to catch the bus to the Ferry Building so that we could meet up with our Viator tour guide. We had breakfast at the Market Bar, walked around the Ferry Building, then we spent the next 9 hours touring San Francisco. On a bus with 2 dozen elderly couples, lol, we started our tour with the famous Lombard Street which twists and turns down a steep hill. We made a short stop in Chinatown, then went to the Cable Car Museum. My favorite stop of the day was the Grace Cathedral. I put on my wide angle, 11-16mm Tokina, to get some amazing images inside the church. We went to the Golden Gate Park for a quick stop at the Botanical Garden. The intermittent rain made for some beautiful macro opportunities. Our next stop was the Palace of Fine Arts, then we went to see the Golden Gate Bridge. It was so foggy that I was worried none of my shots would turn out, but I got a few good ones! Then we went to Sausalito for lunch… we ate at the Napa Valley Burger Company. Most of us then loaded up on a ferry for the trip back to San Francisco. We had an hour to kill while back at the Ferry Building, then we caught another ferry to Alcatraz. I didn’t expect to be super interested in the prison or its history, but listening to the audio tour, I was totally enchanted. We stayed until closing and I even got a few shots after the tourists cleared out. It was amazing. We were bushed though! After the tour concluded, we picked up the car, drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, and headed north. We stopped in Santa Rosa for the night at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country hotel where we proceeded to drink a lot of wine. It is wine country after all!

Day Three

After sleeping in (yes!), we started driving and visited the redwoods in Northern California. This was my favorite day! We found the oldest living redwood, The Grandfather Tree, then drove a 31-mile scenic road called Avenue of the Giants. We stopped off at the side of the road and went for a hike and I got some amazing photos. I felt so connected to the woods and the peace and quiet. What an amazing part of our country! As we drove, we drove through Eureka and had to stop for a photo since Curtis is a huge fan of the show. Then we found a wild elk preserve and got out to take some photos. We didn’t see the “don’t approach on foot” signs until Curtis was nearly charged by an elk, but we got back in the car speedy quick! The sunset along the coast was breathtakingly beautiful. We stopped for the night at the Lighthouse Inn in Crescent City. The hotel was kinda dumpy but it had the hugest tub I’ve ever seen. Curtis and I took a jacuzzi together, woot!

Day Four

We visited the beach in Crescent City in the morning, then backtracked a bit to go to a tourist attraction called Trees of Mystery. It included a nice hike through some gorgeous old trees and culminated with a canopy ride through the treetops, the Sky Trail. It was pretty cool! It took quite a while though, so we didn’t get on the road until after lunchtime. We drove through Oregon and it was just stunning scenery. We stopped in Portland for dinner at Sparky’s Pizza… it reminded me a lot of Austin and it was quite delicious! It was nearly 10:00 p.m. when we arrived in Seattle and we didn’t have a hotel booked. Big Mistake. It took us 2 hours to find a hotel. We ended up at the Warwick Hotel in downtown Seattle and were quite pleased with the accommodations.

Day Five

It was drizzling when we set out to explore the Pike Place Market Thursday morning. On our way over, we were approached several times by homeless people. They are bold in Seattle! We wandered the market, taking photos, grabbing some donut holes, and generally getting a little overwhelmed. We walked over to the wharf area and had lunch at Fisherman’s Restaurant on Pier 57. The seafood was amazing but we were disappointed to discover that the giant ferris wheel was still under construction. After lunch, we booked a short ferry tour which also included free admission to the local tourist attractions, then went back to the hotel for a siesta. Mid-afternoon found us back at the wharf to climb aboard another ferry. I got some amazing photos on this short tour and I’m really impressed with the beauty of Seattle. After the ferry tour was over, we did a quick jaunt through the Seattle Aquarium (they have the coolest orange squid there!), then went to see the Space Needle. What a view! After a quick change at the hotel, we had dinner at Wild Ginger… yummy Asian fusion food. We were done by then and went to bed.

Day Six

We had big plans for Friday in Seattle, but I was moving very slowly that morning. We went to the Woodland Park Zoo but had to hurry because I was meeting Monica and Kristin, fellow Clickin Moms, for lunch. But we did take our time in the Willawong Station where you could hand-feed all kinds of exotic birds. It was so cool to have them fly around you then land on your hand! Not anticipating the traffic, I was terribly late but they were very gracious about it. After lunch, Curtis and I drove out to Snoqualmie Falls. Unfortunately, it was a very wet, foggy, and overcast day, so we really couldn’t see the falls very well and had trouble juggling our cameras and umbrellas. We were completely soaked after that little hike. But it was worth it… what an amazing waterfall! The little town of Snoqualmie is charming… we had to stop for a Starbucks on our way back to Seattle. Getting back to the hotel took forever. Traffic is horrific in Seattle, I couldn’t imagine dealing with that everyday. Since we were leaving very early the next morning (5:30 a.m.!) we got packed when we got back to the Warwick. We were completely indecisive about dinner and wandered around downtown Seattle for an hour before deciding to eat at the hotel restaurant, the Margaux. It was fun seeing the movie-goers line up across the street to see a flick at the Cinerama, an old, restored theater with one screen.

Day Seven

I wasn’t planning on taking any photos once we left Seattle but the view from the plane was amazing. We got upgraded to first class (thank you, Curtis!) and I had a great view of the city once we left. Then once we got on top of the cloud layer, I looked out to see our plane’s shadow surrounded by a rainbow ring! Have you ever seen such a thing? I was astonished and tried to capture it with a photo. Wow!!! I also saw Mt. Ranier and the Rocky Mountains on our way home.

We had an amazing time and were so so tired by the time we got home. It was wonderful to see the kids and give them little trinkets from the trip. And I’m so incredibly grateful for my mother and Jenny who provided the opportunity for us to get away. Thank you both so much!

I hope that Curtis will be ready to share his photos soon and I’ll be sure to link you up when he does! He took some fantastic pictures, all in manual mode, while on vacation. I can’t wait to share them! All of my photos are on Flickr also, so if you’d like to see them individually, you can check them out in the set labeled: Exploring San Francisco and Seattle. Thanks for looking!

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