Exploring California - Our first time to the West Coast!

Updated: 5 days ago

San Francisco ----> San Diego on a budget.

We are a family who loves road trips. We had definitely perfected the art of getting in the car to go. And then one day I decided to fly across the Country and go to California!

The Backstory:

We were invited. Our cousins who lived in the San Francisco area have been trying to get us to come for years. I had actually gone when my oldest was a year and a half, and truly had a great visit! I was introduced to the trolley and Fisherman’s wharf, as well as the Haight Ashbury. We’d been to Alcatraz. My son took his first baby art class at the Golden Gate Park. I was broke. Everything we did was free or close to it. But just having that memory was perfect in my brain. Until my children got older and they saw the pictures in the photo albums of Baby Westley living his best baby life and wondered why we never went back.

Our cousin Nollie came to visit us every year whether we were living in New York or Florida. She has two children and so the cousins always got to play together and make some memories. Although she invited us out every year I knew five airline tickets was out of the budget. Until two of those kids had jobs and could afford to buy their own tickets, and I had completed my Masters degree and gotten a raise. And just then I decided to do something crazy. Take her up on her offer. She just caught me on the right day, "Melis, bring these kids to California they are going to love it" and I thought, "why not?"

The good thing here is Nollie has been a part of some of our day adventures and knows how we roll. Theme park? We are the first ones in the last ones out and we bring all our own food (when possible). City day? We are seeing it all. Beach day? Committed to our cooler and the fun at hand completely.

So here we go - to California. For one week in The Summer of 2017.

** Anything blue bold and underlined will link to that accompanying page. Click if you'd like more info on that specific place ***

Just the excitement of parking the car at the extended off site parking at the Orlando Airport and shuttling was exciting. Walking through the airport, each kid responsible for their own belongings was exciting. Boarding the flight was, you guessed it - exciting. We didn’t sit together because I was budgeting. Cheapest tickets don’t let you pick your seats. I did end up sitting next to a boy who was also traveling separate from his family and he had just come from Universal so we talked all about Harry Potter and his trip the whole flight (I was very impressed with his wand). That is until he fell asleep on my shoulder LOL. Good thing I am not a weirdo!!

When we landed our cousins were waiting outside and we met them at the curb.

Our first stop was an Italian restaurant family favorite: Giorgio’s Pizza. We had gained three hours in traveling and we were so excited to land at 2:30 in the afternoon with time to see the area. We were two carloads. We took up two huge tables in the middle of the place and just laughed and talked about everything making up for lost time. And the food was delicious too! We were starving.

Giogio's Pizza, San Francisco

Our next stop was Pier 39. We walked through the shopping area and boardwalk, strolling and enjoying the best of everything. Taking in the sights. There were some pretty framed gardens lining the walkways with great big sunflowers and lots of vegetables growing. I loved the sights and smells. I followed where they led us and the next thing I knew we were overlooking the water and a mountain of seals below who were all talking to each other while they played in the water! They were jumping on and off these huge docks and some were sunning. Prior to this I have never seen sea lions in the wild. It was truly impressive! I was super happy and of course I did not want to leave. Eventually the kids wanted ice cream and insisted so we keep walking. We looked across the bay at Alcatraz and the mountains. We knew we were fortunate to explore a new place, and so grateful to be there!

Pics from Pier 39:

We drove down the famous steepest street in America: Lombard Street. Actually the kids got out and walked down! Traffic is moving slowly enough that you have no problem walking as fast as you’re driving! The Crookedest Street in the World does not disappoint with its hair pin back and fourth switch turns.

Although I wanted to stay in the San Francisco area longer and explore more, our younger cousin had to go to work so we needed to get back home where we only needed one car. The drive to El Sobrino was a little more than an hour and we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge happy to see our living quarters for the week!

The next day we were off to Muir Woods! This National Monument is actually a Redwoods Forest you can wander through for miles. On our way we were joined by more cousins! Camie and her family drove behind us to make 3 cars full of people excited to see each other. We have never seen anything like the huge trees towering overhead. But that’s not all. Some of the trees have cave like entrances making you feel like you are at home. Others are roots up knocked down and the natural process becomes alive while you are a part of their world. To say the least: we were tree huggers that day! Trying to hug trees we could barely fit our arms around even as an entire family and laughing our way through the peacefulness of the forest while catching up was priceless. They were not many people there that day which was probably a good thing. We had seven kids between our three families and they were not quiet!

After Muir Woods, Camie suggested to head into San Francisco and get some Chinese food for dinner. We drove into Chinatown and Camie took us to a beautiful gourmet Chinese restaurant. Well the food was absolutely delicious - the portions were small and the bill was high! The people who live there were quite alright with that. I was a little shocked! But went with the flow. Appreciative and still wide eyed and looking at everything with magnificence.