Take a Walk!

I’m so excited because my sister is here!  Hooray!  After finishing a tough clinical rotation, she came up to visit me, her coolest (ok, only) sister and SMS!

SMS and I went to pick her up at the San Jose Airport, which was a ghost town.  We headed home and relaxed, ready for a fun adventure the next day.  I just found an awesome San Francisco blog, 7×7 and I was inspired by their Ocean Beach to Presidio hike article. So Sunday morning, off we went!

The Bakery Walk added another mile, I think

We followed the article pretty much to a T, but I mapped out the hike on Google maps before going. I’m glad I did b/c the article describes landmarks more than distances and it’s nice to know that I wasn’t adding extra to an already slightly lengthy hike (until we got to the Presidio, ooops!).

General Store Patio with hilarious (to me) painted cat rock

First, we went to Outerlands for a delicious brunch.  This did not happen b/c the wait was 1 hour, 45 minutes.  Nope, nope, nope!  We had places to be and we were hungry.  First, we went to Trouble coffee shop and had delicious coffees, a slice of the deliciously buttery, thick-slabbed cinnamon toast and a slice of coffee cake.  We looked around the General Store, which was a really cute shop but Sunday was a window-shopping only kind of day.  The store also has a gorgeous courtyard in the back with the most beautiful succulents and drought-resistant plants.  I could have hung out there for awhile but again, there were places to go!  Like…

The Bakery!  We went to Devil’s Teeth Bakery, where there was quite a line.  The breakfast sandwiches sounded great but there was a 45-50 minute wait so we went for the baked goods.  I ordered a kale and cheese scone (good, but that savory scone I had in Sacramento was so good, all others have paled in comparison), a cinnamon bun (eaten the next day but still good), a peanut butter cookie and a doughnut muffin.  We also got some beignets which were ok, but I’d pass in the future.  I know, I know, this list makes us (me) sound like a bunch of pigglie wigglies.  In my defense, most of the pastries served as mid-trail snacks.  *oinkles*

The happiest dog in the world!

So, SMS wasn’t sure if we were ever going to start hiking and that’s when we were off!  We walked down to Ocean Beach and headed for the Cliff House.  Along the way, we saw a lot of people and the world’s happiest dog.  It was a cute Pomeranian with long hair being blown straight back in the wind. It was a little camera-shy so he kept tottering away which was even funnier to see.

CW from top left: From a distance; near the entrance; inside looking at the projection dish; a schematic

After reaching the Cliff House, we went behind to the Camera Obscura.  It’s based on the world’s oldest camera, described by da Vinci but apparently around in even earlier writings.  There’s a open aperture that rotates 360 and the light that comes through projects on a surface inside a dark room. The picture is everted but otherwise a faithful reproduction.  The $3 admission granted us access to the room which featured the image and several holograms (?).  It felt slightly old-school and carnival-like and we were glad we stopped.

After the Camera, we went inside the Cliff House to use the bathroom and then we were off to the Sutro Baths, a former indoor pool center now in ruins.  It looked like it would have been a spectacular place to swim.  The ruins were cool and we headed to the Sutros Bath Upper Trail which led to the Land’s End trail.  We missed the turnoff for the Eagle Point Labarynth, but apparently it was recently vandalized so we didn’t miss too much.  The viewpoints were pretty amazing though with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge.   Although the day had started out with some high clouds, it cleared up at the start of our hike and we had fantastic weather the whole day.

Views along the hike.  On the right, the Sand Ladder with a nudist just off-camera to the right.  You’re welcome?

After the Land’s End trail ended, we were in the Sea Cliff neighborhood itself which is super-swanky with amazing house.  We turned onto 25th Ave to access Baker’s Beach and we walked down to the Sand Ladder.  This was where I was glad I had checked the map prior to setting off because the ladder was pretty far down the beach where there were several nudists sunning and it would have been awkward to keep walking back and forth (“What are you looking at?!?!”).

Sights along the way.

We walked along some more trails past a few old gun batteries before heading into the Presidio.   The Presidio was cool but there’s a lot of construction so beware, if you walk by the water, you’re not going to reach the main lawn without back-tracking or walking to the Palace of Fine Arts.  We did walk by a pet cemetery though so that was pretty cool!

We walked along Chrissy Field and took some more pictures.  At this point, I realized that we weren’t going to make it to the main lawn since by this point, we were kind of done with walking.  We decided to call Uber from Chrissy Field.  It was our first time using Uber (B thought we were kidding) and it was great.  Our $20 credit meant our long (time-wise, not distance) trip back to our car was pretty cheap.

We decided to eat dinner in the city so we headed to the Mission District after realizing that the Anchor Steam brewery closed at 4, much to the disappointment of SMS who had wanted to add a stop there to our day’s activities.  We went to West of Pecos which was a great Tex-Mex sit-down place with a small front patio with a table open!  Score!  We got drinks and snack while waiting for Brady’s friend Rosa since we weren’t sure if we were going to restaurant hop for dinner.  As it turned out, Rosa had been wanting to eat there for awhile so we had a delicious dinner there.

Twin Peaks Sunset

After dinner and feeling a little stuffed, we decided to race up to Twin Peaks to view the sunset.  It was absolutely beautiful, as well as chilly and windy.  It felt very magical to see all the different parts of the city and the entire bay but we only stayed for a bit before piling into the car to drop Rosa off and then heading home to Mountain View.  It was an incredible day and I was so happy to explore new parts of the city with SMS and my amazing sister!

Angel Island

Last weekend, SMS and I continued to explore the area.  This time, we headed up to Angel Island on Saturday to check out the hike and city view from the top of Mt. Livermore.  We decided to drive to Tiberon to catch the ferry.  It will be interesting to see if the traffic abates once Summer is over but we definitely made a few rookie-ish mistakes driving-wise.

Golden Gate in the Distance from the Ferry
The traffic was terrible and it took over two hours to get there.  This meant we were really hungry when we stopped for lunch (this shouldn’t be a rookie mistake but it’s still one I make) but we made up for it by stopping at In & Out.  BTW, the grilled cheese at In & Out is not very good but it does have the weirdly magical, addictive fast food taste.  Strange.

Anyway, so what did I learn?  Driving around lunchtime in the city on the weekend.  Ill-advised. Also, a better route from the South might be the I-280 but for now, I’ll be scouting out BART options when I can.
Golden Gate from the top of Mt. Livermore
Once we got to Tiberon, we headed over to the Angel Island ferry.  The tickets are bought as passengers board.  We got to Angel Island and headed to the North Ridge trail.  This trail is the first part of a 4.5 mile loop.  Apart from the initial flights of wooden stairs, the hike isn’t too strenuous but I would advise bringing water since parts of the trail are really exposed.  After hanging out at the top of Mt. Livermore, we headed back down via the Sunset trail which I’m sure is really spectacular at, yes, sunset since it faces West towards the Golden Gate.
San Francisco and Alcatraz
After our hike, we headed towards the Visitor Center.  The Center is not the Immigration Center which is on the East side of the Island.  I really wanted to check it out but we were out of time and we had already walked quite a bit.  Angel Island is colloquially known as the “Ellis Island of the West” so I thought it would be cool to check out.  Maybe we’ll go back but we did get a pretty good overview at the Visitor’s Center so it’s not mandatory.
Bonfire at Ocean Beach- so cool!
We headed to Outer Sunset for dinner.  The area has been on my radar since reading a cute travel series on it.  I still want to go to Outerlands for dinner and I’ve made a reservation for September but since that restaurant requires that type of advance planning, we were going to go to Pisces California Cuisine.  It has several prix fixe menus and good reviews so that sounded like it would hit the spot.  Until…we saw Tazaki Sushi next door.  They had kanji, plastic food and a good-looking menu so we were in!  We ate at the counter and the sushi chef was a Chinese-American older guy who said he didn’t really like fish except for tuna.  The sushi was pretty good and satisfied our craving but man, both price-wise and taste-wise, I’d love to go back to the sushi go-round under Yokosuka-chuo station!
On Sunday, we relaxed for awhile and then headed over to the rock climbing gym.  SMS passed his lead climb test, which made him really happy.  It had been on his to-do list for awhile but since we were always there on weekday evenings, the place was crazy crowded.  It was still pretty crowded on a beautiful Sunday, which was surprising, but we were able to get a route for SMS to show off his mad skills!

Local fun with family!

Filoli house entrance

Today was another awesome day!  SMS had made plans for us to hang out with his cousin Jeff and his wife Hope.  I was along for the ride and we all had a great time.  We arrived at Jeff and Hope’s house and after having a quick cup of coffee made with Jeff’s home-roasted beans, we were off to Filoli, a National Trust country estate from the early 20th century.  Hope has volunteered there as a docent for the last 3 years and we had the most incredible small group private tour.

The house call center- because the Bourn’s were involved with energy, there was incredible
circuitry and electricity in the house for its time
Embroidered dining room screen

Ballroom mural

Filoli was built by William and Agnes Bourn between 1915-1917.   The Bourn’s wealth was both inherited and made from the Crystal Spring Water, Napa Vineyard, gold mine and energy holdings he had.  The estate is built on the Southern edge of Crystal Springs Lake.  The house is a modified Georgian English style with 43 rooms and over 36,000 square feet.   We toured the entire first floor to include the kitchen, serving preparation room, formal dining room, drawing room, several parlours and the ballroom.  It was absolutely beautiful and Hope’s guidance really enriched the experience.

Lurilane Roth, from the second family who owned the house

The name Filoli comes from a shortening of Mr. Bourn’s motto: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.”  Unfortunately, the mention of Love made me want to call Hope “Faith” for the rest of the afternoon due to thinking of Faith, Hope and Love.  Oh well.  I suppose there are worse things to want to call someone!

The resident peacock, outside the window at lunch

We took a lunch break and enjoyed salads in the little cafe.  Then it was off to gardens and this was really an incredible experience.  Hope knew the garden styles and plants and it really increased my understanding of how all of the gardens interconnected.  It was really amazing.  Gardens included the marriage garden, a garden modelled on the stained glass windows of Chartes, a Dutch garden,  an English garden and a walled-in secret garden.  I loved it.  It made me want to garden which, knowing my aversion to yard work, meant that I had really drank the kool-aid.  My poor basil plant that I keep forcing to the brink of death before bringing it back will be very happy to hear about my newfound love for horticulture.  (Hang in there, little guy!)

The sunken garden

Sunken garden from a different angle

Gorgeous lavender
Resting in a temporary sculpture

Moroccan blue tree

After the tour, we dropped Hope off at home before heading to Jeff’s community garden plot.  While not quite as impressive as the Filoli gardens, it was still pretty cool to see so much in bloom and ripening produce.  I really wanted to pick from others’ gardens since some heirloom tomatoes were totally ripe for the picking but since that’s a cardinal sin in a community garden, I refrained.  Barely.

Where the internet was born?

After touring the 1%’s home in Hillborough, we headed back to the house where we hung out on the balcony.  We had some drinks, freshly picked tomatoes, homemade paneer, sauteed peppers and polenta slices with tomato sauce.  It was delicious.  Reluctantly, we decided it was time to head home in order to get ready for the upcoming workweek.  I can’t wait until we have Hope and Jeff down here for dinner in Mountain View!


Certain weekends can feel a little “meh.”  I’m not sure why this weekend didn’t feel as wonderful as others.  Maybe I was coming down off the high of Rip and Linda’s visit where we did cool things and had numerous meals very generously bought for us.  Hmmmm, this sounds like a very likely reason!
This weekend was actually quite fun.  On Friday, SMS decided he wanted to drive us down to San Jose to eat at Santana Row.  It feels a lot like the downtown Silver Spring area in MD- very cute but slightly over-manufactured and corporate.   We weren’t hungry enough to feel like an expensive meal was warranted so we went with Bahn Mi sandwiches from a little cart next to an astroturf green area where people were gathered for a free concert.  It was an Australian cover band whose weak point was its singer but since they sang songs everyone seemed to like, these small sins against pitch and staying in tune were apparently forgiven.  We finished off the evening with cupcakes with delicious frosting and perfectly moisture levels in the cake. 
The next day, I went for a run with the Mountain View Runners meet-up group.  The rest of the day, I read most of The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.  It follows a young Hungarian Jewish man through most of his teens and young adulthood as circumstances transform his life from aspiring architect to surviving the shifting horrors of war in Hungary during WWII.  This book was everything I was hoping All the Light We Cannot See would be   I highly recommend The Invisible Bridge even though it’s pretty long at over 600 pages.  It’s worth it.  SMS had a photoshoot on Saturday and then we watched most of Silicon Valley, Season 2.  It was pretty funny but I don’t think binge-watching is totally my thing.  It creates a similar feeling to eating too much candy although more mentally than viscerally.
Sunday was spent planning for our BBQ party at the pool.  I bought tri tip for tacos and made several vegan options such as veggie taco filling, kale salad and roasted beets and brussel sprouts.  It was delicious.  We had a great time hanging out with friends.  I had to steal away for a bit to go to work but otherwise, things were a lot of fun. 

I have a list of places I would like to visit in the area over the next year.  I think next weekend, I’d like to do a daytrip.  I think a daytrip gives an overall project and feeling of accomplishment to the weekend rather than several smaller activities.  My thought is San Francisco.  I would really like to explore the Presidio and the Outer Sunset neighborhoods.

A quick trip to Monterey

After missing the answer to my security question three times, I was locked out of my payroll account and could no longer access my paystubs.  This is a problem, especially so close to a move when I want to keep an eye on the changes and make sure I’m getting paid what I should.  This is important since pay mistakes are never in my favor.  If I get underpaid and don’t claim it, the money could be gone forever but if I ever get overpaid, I could face an unexpectedly diminutive paycheck.  Smaller and cuter are not words I want to describe my paycheck.
The security question, by the way, was “What was the name of your first boyfriend/girlfriend?”  I thought I knew what I would have put but apparently, I decided to modify my answer.  Maybe I just put SMS since I haven’t dated anyone before him anyway.
So, I had to drive down to Monterey to verify my identity.  The upside to this story is I realized Monterey is only 90 minutes away and I will definitely be going back.  I drove past the fruit stands and garlic ice cream of Gilroy, somehow avoiding the temptation.  Then as I approached Monterey, there were beautiful beaches on my left with the most enormous sand dunes.  I wanted to sled down them!
My time in Monterey itself was short and sweet.  The weather was beautiful and I got to take the scenic loop around the Navy Postgraduate School.  It really is a nice campus with pretty Spanish architecture, similar to Balboa Park albeit with a few modern classroom buildings.  This makes it very hard to find a specific destination since the buildings look the same and the signs are carefully hidden.  But eventually, I found the “trusted verifier” who reset my password to a temporary one and, undoubtedly, thinks very highly of my intelligence.







I had to get back to work for an appointment, otherwise I would have braved the summertime traffic to downtown.  I did make a brief stop at ACME coffee, a very firebrand coffee shop with delicious coffee.  I had an iced Vietnamese coffee that was awesome and totally woke me up.  I have pretty much cut out caffeine in the last few months to get ready for otology surgery so when I do drink it, I get pretty turbocharged.   Giving up coffee gives me the sads but SMS and I have been experimenting with some decaf varieties.  The taste is pretty much the same although subjectively, I feel like it is missing a little J’ne sais quoi.  Oh no, wait, I do know.  Caffeine.

Pt Reyes Magic

The old lighthouse, decommissioned in 1975

Pt Reyes is a gorgeous place for a road trip.  SMS and I went on a Tuesday in late June and wanted to go back on a day when the lighthouse and Cowgirl Creamery were open.  Linda and Rip had never been so we all decided to forgo the temptation of a Napa daytrip and headed northwest of San Francisco.

Do you see SMS?

I had heard about the daytrip on a NorCal lifestyle blog and it was nice to have a go-by to follow for the day.  We reached Pt Reyes by way of Lucas Valley Rd, which has beautful rolling hills and gorgeous groves of trees- redwoods, birch and eucalyptus.  There is an incredible rock with a tempting crack that SMS really wants to climb but since it’s on private property with barbed wire on the fence, I would have to stand a really good lookout if we ever decided to pursue that dream of his!

The North view on Pt Reyes

First, we stopped in Pt Reyes Station.  After a long drive marked by prolonged periods of sitting, we were all understandably hungry due to the calories expended.  We went to Bovine Bakery where we purchased a morning roll and cookies.  We also purchased baguettes for our upcoming picnic.

Our ultimate destination was Tomales Bay Foods.  Ostensibly a market but really, it’s dedicated to Cowgirl Creamery and all picnic accouterments to highlight the cheese eating experience.  The Red Hawk cheese is the only CC cheese (CCC?) made there; the rest are made at the corporate headquarters in Petaluma.   We all had a small cheese tasting consisting of Red Hawk, Mt Tam and the seasonal Pierce Pt with flowers and herbs in the rind.  They were all fantastic and we ended up with half-wheels of the Red Hawk and Pierce Pt, in addition to the Inverness, a spreadable, tangy cow’s mild cheese.  I also added honeycomb and Marcona almonds to our grocery basket!

So many people!  No reservations, no eating at TBOC!

Our last stop in Pt Reyes Station was Palace Market for some water, paper plates, olives and fruit.  Finally, we were off to our main destination, Tomales Bay Oyster Company.  We had a feeling our plans might be slightly altered when we saw so.many.cars parked on the sides of the road approaching the area.  It was crazy crowded and all of the picnic tables were pre-reserved.  We decided to grab our oysters and go.  We ordered a dozen of the “smalls” (really more medium-sized to our untrained eyes) and a dozen of the extra-smalls.

Our awesome picnic site!

We briefly stopped at the park just down the road at Millerton Point but there weren’t any picnic tables.  It would have been perfect if I had brought a large picnic blanket but since I thought we’d eat at TBOC, I hadn’t brought it.  Instead, we headed back to Pt Reyes Station and ate at one of the shaded tables on the side of Tomales Bay Food.  It was an absolutely delightful setting and our picnic was amazing.

Best in-laws!
On the stairs and still smiling!

Afterwards, we piled into the car and drove out to Pt Reyes lighthouse.  It was open and we headed down the stairs to check it out.  The day was crystal clear and we had a brief park ranger-led tour in the inside of the lighthouse.  The trek up the stairs was slightly intense but doable.

Father and Son
After the lighthouse, we headed home along the 1.  We stopped at Stinson’s beach and it’s definitely a place I’d like to go to for an extended beach day.  It was a huge beach with fine, gorgeous, clean sand. There was a nice surf and although I’d need to get pretty warm to want to go in, I think it would be a great place to spend the day.
Stinson Beach

We headed back to San Francisco along windy roads that SMS had an awesome time navigating, sometimes in Sports mode.  He was having an awesome time.  We drove through the Presidio and decided to grab dinner in the city.  I found the Bella Trattoria on yelp and after a brief wait, we were seated despite it being a busy Saturday night.  The pasta dishes were amazingly fresh and really delicious.  We were really happy to have found it and it was a great meal to cap off the day.  Despite sitting in the car, we had walked quite a bit so that meant our carb-loading was necessary.  Seriously, thank goodness we found the place, otherwise we might have been in trouble!