We did not have a great start to our final day of vacation. First of all, we discovered that we could not do online check-in for our flight the following morning because our youngest son had been listed as an “unaccompanied minor”. Secondly, we could not pull off our planned trip to the Muir Woods. We expected it to be busy and were not surprised to find the car park was full. However, on scouting for a parking space on the road, we drove for ages without spotting a single space. When we finally found a spot, it was so far from the entrance to the National Park that we would have had to walk on the road for well over an hour. The kids were absolutely not up for walking uphill for over an hour only to walk around another grove of redwood trees. This was especially frustrating for me since this was the second time I had failed to visit the Muir Woods. Third time lucky? Maybe some day. We abandoned the woods and headed towards San Francisco.
Prior to entering the city, we stopped at a vantage point to see the Golden Gate Bridge from up high. The famous San Francisco fog was in dense evidence. Initially it seemed like we would never actually get a glimpse of the bridge. Then, like a spectre emerging from the mist, a couple of bits of distinctive ironwork emerged.
That was the aperitif. Loaded back in the car, we headed across the Golden Gate Bridge. The boys know the bridge not just as a distinctive landmark but also as a location for many movies. They were, therefore, pretty stoked to be crossing the bridge. They were a tad less stoked when we told them we were going to be crossing it again. On foot. I have never walked on the Golden Gate Bridge before. I have driven over it and I have walked under it but I have never walked over it. It was time to tick that item off the travel bucket list whether the kids liked it or not. Plus, it was going to be the eleventh and final National Park of our road trip. It was chilly on the bridge in that way that the damp cold creeps into your pores. The kids pulled their hoods up and scowled. The bridge was crowded. The pathway was divided into a cycling lane and a pedestrian lane. The tricky part, however, was that when bicyclists travelling in opposite directions met, one bike would end up on the pedestrian side to overtake and all the pedestrians, therefore, ended up even more smooshed into their designated lane. Consequently, our walk across the bridge was at the pace of a very gentle stroll. We had promised the kids spectacular views over the bay and city but, alas, the fog was still dense. We could barely see the iron struts of the bridge let alone views. The kids scowled even more. In addition to their other gripes, the 10 year old did not like being up high. Allegedly. Finally, just as we were walking back off the bridge, the fog disappeared and we finally got a great view. We could see the bay, with Alcatraz plonked in the middle, and the skyline of the city. I am not sure the kids were convinced that it was worth it.
When we first booked our flights, our plan for San Francisco had been to visit Alcatraz. Mr Pict and I had taken a tour in 2000 and loved it. It was an incredible experience and one of the highlights of that particular vacation. We knew the boys would love it so we went online to book tickets. There were none. None. I guess to visit Alcatraz in July, one has to book a year in advance. With Alcatraz out of the question and having reduced our time in San Fran down to a single day, we decided to concentrate on Fisherman’s Wharf. First up: lunch. Mr Pict and I had fond stomach memories of eating soup from sourdough bread bowls and the kids loved the idea of trying that so we headed to a chowder place. The eatery itself was pretty basic but the food was utterly delicious. Most of us had clam chowder but my 14 year old had crab chowder and my 10 year old had shrimp salad. We all thoroughly enjoyed our food and were replete for the rest of the day because we had essentially eaten the crockery.
Wandering along Fisherman’s Wharf, we stopped to watch a very impressive one man band perform. He had an electric instrument, rock and roll twist on the traditional format. The kids were keen to see the famous bay sea-lions at Pier 39. Annoyingly, the sea-lions had decided to park themselves on a little floating dock that was as far as possible from the pier which made them difficult to see in any great detail. Nevertheless, the kids were entertained by watching the sea-lions jiggle around, slipping in and out of the water, and wobbling over each other.