California Here We Come, Right Back Where We Started From

The first week of May, Parker and I tagged along on Max's business trip to California. I'm not exaggerating when I say Max was on travel for all of April (poor guy doesn't even know what month it is right now), so we figured this was the only way to see him (#kiddingnotkidding).

If you noticed the McDonalds bag in the first photo, yes, that's our dinner of choice on a quick layover 😂 We joke that we've never been to a McDonalds in Huntsville (or really any we can think of that didn't involve a cross-country road trip), but it's our jam at the airport when we have half an hour in between flights and also need to change terminals. I always opt for the "All Day Breakfast Menu" - Sausage McMuffins for the win! I also brought this book with me for our trip (look for a review later this month). 

Stepping off the plane at SJC I always get hit with a big wave of nostalgia. I was born in San Jose, and spent my first "adult" years there after grad school. The Bay Area is where I met my husband, and SJC is where we took off on so many flights while dating, and where we flew in and out of for our wedding and honeymoon. California is certainly where we started from.

Since my family is still there, we have been back to visit since moving away too many times to count (Parker's overall plane flights are in the sixties now with no signs of stopping!). This trip, however, was the first time we took Parker "into the city" as we used to say (San Francisco). Living in the Bay Area, we went into the city for parties, or Giants games, to see the 49ers play, to take in a musical or to listen to a band. You always assume you'll do the touristy stuff "one day", that is until you move away. So this trip, I made it a point that we'd take one day as a little family of three and do Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz Island.

We drove into the city instead of taking CalTrain since we wanted the car to head to Palo Alto in the afternoon. We found tons of spaces in the lots around The Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf, though they came with San Francsico prices (think $40 to park for the day). We arrived around 11AM and ended up parking right by Pier 33 where the Alcatraz cruise would leave from, then made the fifteen-ish minute walk to Fisherman's Wharf for lunch.

We bought some San Francisco sourdough from Boudin, peeked into the show bakery, perused the vintage arcade, then headed back down to Pier 33 to be there by 1PM to line up for our Alcatraz cruise! 

It was the off-season, so I was able to snag the last three tickets for the 1:30PM boat a week ahead of time (if you're wanting to go during the summer, book as far in advance as you can!).

The weather was sunny and 67 degrees, but felt so much chillier on the bay and on the island. If you're going, layers are your friend.

The trip there was quick (just a mile and a half) and once on Alcatraz, we made the trek uphill to the top of the island, enjoying the views along the way.

We picked up our headphone sets for the audio tour of the prison, and Parker was all about them.

We selected an Alcatraz ornament from the gift shop (our go-to souvenir when on trips), caught one of the ferries back to SF, then said good-bye to the city by the bay as we set south in the rental car.

Our destination? Stanford! By the time we reached campus it was almost 6PM, making finding parking easy peasy (not so in the morning on a weekday!).

Last week, I wrote a post on how we try to make conscious decision that will affect Parker's future academic success, and taking about/visiting universities was on the list (read the full blog post here). Stanford is also super special to us as Max was attending grad school there when we met, putting us together on campus from time to time. Back then, I especially enjoyed special access to the super secret underground linear accelerator end station (that was no longer being used for that and instead for physics research), the rooftops to look at the stars, the gorgeous Palm Drive, and yes, even attending an engineering class that my then-fiancé was teaching as a lecturer! Seeing these same buildings and being on campus again was seriously like stepping back in time - I asked Max if it's California I love and miss so much, or just this time in our life (I think it's both). 

We picked up the requisite sweatshirt and t-shirt for our little guy. Stanford class of 2035? 😉

From there we drove into San Jose where my sweet aunt had dinner (and dessert from Icing on the Cake!) waiting for us! Parker was a champ as we stayed until about nine which was 11PM Alabama time. More to come on the rest of our trip!


  1. Aww! I love San Fran! I’ve only been there a few days, but I have great memories walking all over the city while pregnant. It’s such a beautiful city!

  2. Gosh there is so much to comment on here! It looks like a really fascinating city with plenty to do (where children won't get bored) - the photo of Max and Parker at the Alcatraz prison gates was so surreal! it seems unlike any other US city. LOVE Parker's outfits - Caspar had a navy duffle at that age too, but the little loafers you have it with are so adorable. Taking Parker to Stanford is a great idea - we did the same with C when I was at St Andrews doing post grad a few years ago - always good to plant the seed! I would LOVE C to attend a US un though. Stanford looks amazing and would be ideal for him as he loves tech (his knowledge at 11 is frightening). You husband sounds like he has an amazing career by the way - what an accomplishment to have that knowledge. Love your yellow top / dress btw with the flowers. We have never been to San Francisco but one of my best friends from uni lives there and I would love to go and visit her. I have family in Rancho Santa Fe San Diego and only really have experience of that part of California so would love to twin San Fran with Seattle (where another friend lives) and some wineries. Ok, I will stop the essay now.... :)

  3. California is really good state to visit as there are lot of things to do and lot of place to visit which can make your visit memorable for life time. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. I lived in New York city and planned a road trip to California, I agree with Eddie, There area lots of places to visit in CA. We travel in a limo service los angeles ca and visit many places to make our trip memorable. Thanks for this article.


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