Tag Archives: san francisco

Top Ten Tips for the San Francisco Traveler

Click to read past installments of this trip journal … 

Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 – Day 4 – Day 5 – Day 6 – Day 7 – Day 8

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(1) If you’re going to San Francisco, book your tour to Alcatraz in advance … or you will not get in. I am still way disappointed about this one. Yes, we did take a narrated boat tour around the island … but I wanted IN. I wanted to see the cells, the dining hall, the common shower area, the “Hole” (solitary confinement). I’m just curious (weird) that way. And I’ve promised myself I’ll get back there to see it.

(2) Leave any high-heeled shoes at home, even if it’s your wedding day.  The slope of half the streets you’ll be navigating will make you want to chuck them into the nearest trash can. Which brings me to my next point …

(3) Trash cans are not always easy to find. When you do find them, you’re likely to see multiple cans with labels like recycle, compost and landfill … and you quickly learn the sorting process. (Nicely done, California.) The problem is that you can’t always find them. While in Chinatown one day, I searched three or four blocks to find a receptacle in which I could discard a wad of chewed gum until I finally came upon this one on a busy city street.


Yes, that’s a padlock.

(4) If you have a hankering for cheese, check out Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building Marketplace. I recommend basically everything in the place and give two thumbs up to their signature Mt. Tam cheese. (There’s a reason it looks just like butter.) And be sure to tell them ODNT sent you. But don’t expect it to get you anything … as they have absolutely no idea who I am.

(5) Try to knock out #4 on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. That way, you can also check out their killer Farmer’s Market. There won’t be something you seek  that you can’t find there. Seriously, they have every vegetable and fruit imaginable. Did I buy any? Nah. I bought cheese, bread, wine-soaked figs, toffee, honey and other non-produce.

(6) While you’re traipsing all over town on foot, try to work the Filbert Steps into your walk. They run from the east slope of Telegraph Hill (coincidentally right where we were staying) all the way down to Sansome Street. The hills of San Francisco are sometimes so steep that stairs need to be put in for pedestrians. In this case, 378 stairs to be exact. (For reference, the Statue of Liberty has a mere 364.) And this long and winding staircase actually serves as a street for the houses along it, many of which are only accessible via this wooded and beautifully-landscaped climb. (Can you imagine? … “Hang on. I think I left it in the %$&#ing car. Be back in an hour!”)

(7) When in Chinatown, be on the look out for New On Sang Poultry (also known as San Francisco Poultry), located at 1114 Grant Avenue. A writing friend of mine turned me on to it but she could neither remember the name nor the address of the place. Melissa, telling me to find the “You Pick It, We Kill It, But No Pictures!” place in all of the 24 square blocks of Chinatown just wasn’t specific enough. (Yes, I realize the irony of not Googling the name and location of this place until I returned to New Orleans.) Anyway, Melissa dared me to take a picture of the ‘old world charm’ that occurs at New On Sang. And, for the record, I searched to see if anyone else had ever tried … but found nothing. So, maybe it’s best that I didn’t risk Chinese prison for the sake of what would likely be a very disgusting photograph.

(8) Allow time on your drive back from Carmel to stop at one of the many fruit stands and take advantage of things like TEN avocados for ONE dollar …. TEN ears of corn for ONE dollar … TEN artichokes for ONE dollar. Seriously. And then send them to me. I’ll pay you back.

(9) If you don’t want to give up a whole day to the wine country … or, like me, you’re not high brow enough for it and are afraid the kid you’re dragging along will be bored to tears … consider the San Francisco Half-Day Wine Country Tour. It’s the lazy wine lover’s dream. The tour doesn’t even start until noon and gets you back just in time for dinner. And, in only five or so hours, we managed to taste 18 different vintages. That’s good enough for the likes of me. I had to get back to town for some valuable t-shirt shopping and oxygen bar testing.

(10) If you get the chance for a foot massage in Chinatown (or any massage of Asian descent), take it. They aren’t all hung up on propriety like the tightly-wound Americans. Clean water in the foot basins? Fancy towels? Privacy from other patrons? Screw it all. Close your eyes. There’s your privacy. What you get with the Asian massage experience is someone working their small hands and/or feet to the bone for you … using practices, in some cases, that are older than the Earth itself. And you’ll leave loose as a noodle for a very fair price.

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Thanks, San Francisco. We had a blast!

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ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 8


Last full day in San Francisco. Boooo. Man, am I going to miss this brisk, non-oppressive climate.

We headed out as a group (aka seven-headed monster) to see Lombard Street but my mom, Dave, the kids and I wound up splintering off to eat at Melt!, a European cafe and wine bar in North Beach. We had cheese in pure form (goat & Brie) as well as in fondue form. We couldn’t decide and, you know, it’s vacation. (If we weren’t walking SO much, I swear I don’t think my pants would still fit.)

After lunch, we continued on to Lombard Street, billed as “the crookedest street in the world,” to catch up with my dad. The street is famous for a steep, residential, one-block section consisting of eight tight hairpin turns. We took pictures from the bottom, climbed all 253 stairs (the Statue of Liberty has 354, by the way) and then took more pictures from the top. Though, to appreciate this street fully, you really need an aerial view. And, since renting a helicopter for this blogpost was just not in the ODNT budget, please enjoy this google image provided free of charge.


Navigating this street would make a very effective drunk driving determinant.

Oh, and we lucked out. At the top of Lombard was, not surprisingly, a cable car stop. So we pooled our cash and hopped right on one of the first ones that came by. And remember the old Rice-a-Roni commercial that gave the impression you could hang off the cable cars? Well, you can’t. The driver was very explicit about the rules of who could sit where and, while I totally get his need to ensure safety, he was kind of an ass about the whole thing. Whatever. Cable car. Check!


Did she love it? Well, sure she did. She’s 10.

We rode the cable car to the end of its line and disembarked to see Ghirardelli Square. Honestly, I was hoping for a chocolate river and some spray-tan-orange little men, but no such luck. I did see this little contraption though.


Dare me to drop something into this large vat?

It was an arm’s length from me and completely unsupervised. I considered dropping something into the chocolate like my car keys but then realized how ridiculous that idea was … because my car keys were back at the condo. Duh. And, just as I was starting to consider other options, my family called me to order ice cream. I’m not a huge fan (which I know makes me a freak in the eyes of 95% of you) so I sat and drank my complimentary water and dreamed of the baked good dessert I would have later when they were all still full from their lactose feast.

When everyone was done, my girl and I went off on our own again. We were surrounded by shops, food stands, street performers and other forms of entertainment so, naturally, we went to an oxygen bar. Honestly, it was her idea. Here’s what happened. First, they put us in the water massage coffins for about ten minutes while I crossed my fingers they weren’t stealing my wallet which was “safely secured” in a black leather box on the floor. Then, they hooked us up with oxygen masks.


I don’t think I’ve ever looked better.

Of course, much like with yesterday’s herbal foot bath experience, my girl asked the inevitable hygiene question again. “Mama … do you think these things they put in our noses get thrown away after we use them?’ (Shudder.) “I sure hope so, dude,” was all I could get out.

Now the massage and the “oxygenation” came at a low price for the two of us because she “liked our smiles” … but I’ll let you in on the racket. While she had me trapped there … literally by the nose … that aggressive little witch demonstrated no less than eight different relaxation products on my body. Microwaveable aromatherapy pads for the shoulders as well as for the lower back, two different vibrating scalp massagers, lavender eye masks, TENS units, handheld massagers, eucalyptus packs and more. So, I just sat there tethered to the oxygen and said no over and over again until she grew bored with me and descended on someone else. It was fun, I’m glad we tried it, but I’m good. Another pathetic bucket list item done.

Determined not to get sucked in by any more aggressive salespeople, my girl and I weaved through the crowd like dolphins in the wake of a ship. And we didn’t stop until we got to the sea lions at Pier 39. There were a few more today than earlier in the week.


Here we have some sort of small ad-hoc committee meeting led by one obnoxious blowhard …


… and here we have a loner sea lion who was sunning. (Gosh, I hope he was sunning.)

When we were done with the sea lions, my girl really wanted to get in a little more Chinatown trinket shopping before the end of the trip. So, we took the one-plus-mile walk to get there and, after perusing a great number of shops, she settled on the classic Chinese Panda Bear and I got a few cheap bracelets plus some fireworks (just snappers that pop when thrown at the ground) for my boy.

Satisfied and completely in love with her new bear who may or may not soon be named Buddha, my girl and I walked back to the condo to meet everyone so we could all walk to dinner together in North Beach/Little Italy. We ate at Calzone’s and picked up cannoli at a little place across the street afterwards then headed back to the condo … exhausted as usual … to pack and get ready for bed.

It’s going to be very sad leaving San Francisco. I love the city but I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to it. I’ve done nothing but sneeze and tear up since I got here. And I’m totally congested. Stupid fresh air and green living.

Since tomorrow is a travel day, I’ll be sure to write one more post about our San Francisco adventure. It’s been way hard writing about everything late in the night, after hiking up and down hills all day and usually having a little wine with dinner. Here’s your happy picture for the day – The Oakland Bay Bridge.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7


ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 7


Remember how the boys in our group went to Yosemite yesterday to spend a couple of days? Well, that meant the girls were able to sleep in a little today which was nice. We woke up, had a bit of a lazy morning and finally got ourselves together to head downtown. As part of our two-day girl stint, my mom and I promised my daughter we would take her to see Brave. And a quick search with my movie app revealed it was playing at a theater a mile away in just over an hour. Perfect. We’d have plenty of time to get there.

The walk was easy. Not too many inclines. And the weather, as always, was glorious. We did experience a little delay when we got caught up in the excitement of a protest rally featuring thousands of janitors and their families waving signs and beating drums as they marched to take on the man at some unknown destination. There were cops and reporters everywhere. I considered instigating a battle cry I penned for their cause … “COMPENSATION NOW – OR SANITATION NEVER!” … but I had a movie to catch. So instead, I just walked idly by snapping pictures. (It’s apathy like mine that will ultimately lead to the country’s demise.)


Content in my indifference, we headed downtown to the Century Theatres at Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street, grabbing a bite on the way in at their “food court.” It was called La Boulange du Dome … so, as you can imagine, we did a little better than corn dogs and waffle fries. The movie was great, better than I expected. Strong female heroine, the new trend. And a beautiful backdrop set in the highlands of 10th century Scotland. Hats off to these animators. I felt like I was looking at photographs of the actual scenery. Oh, and I know why the movie is rated PG. (Spoiler Alert!!) There is nudity in this movie, people. Grown … male … nudity. Honestly, I’m surprised the movie isn’t giving Magic Mike a run for its money. I’ll bet more guys are naked in Brave.

And when the movie was over, my girl simply said, “Wow. I didn’t know there were going to be two major bear parts in the movie.” I think she was impressed that Pixar actually ponied up for two bear actors. But I’ll bet they had to share a trailer on the set.

We left the cinema and shopped a bit in the luxurious mall where I could barely afford to purchase a pair of socks. We spent most of our time in a little toy store playing with the hula hoops. My mom did it like a champ so my girl and I had to have a go at it, too.


I managed one … and then (pretty spastically) even two …


… so, of course, my girl had to go for three. Little show off.

We left the shopping center intent (for the second day in a row) on taking a ride on a cable car, but found a very lengthy line waiting for us again. So we passed. Again. And, instead, we walked to Chinatown. My girl loved it. I couldn’t believe how much she wanted to shop. Perhaps it was because everything cost less than $10 … and you could haggle it for less than $5.

We checked out dozens of shops and storefronts until we came upon a little massage joint where they could take only two of us. So my mom bowed out (thanks, Mom) while my girl and I went in to have our tired feet pampered. The first thing they did was have us soak our feet in a plastic bag-lined wicker basket full of tepid water. Personally, I would have preferred that it be hotter or colder than body temperature, especially in light of my girl’s next question.

“Mama, why is the water brown?”

Trying to convince both of us, I said, “It’s herbs, baby. Remember? The massage said it started with an herbal foot bath?” Which was true. So, I comforted myself into thinking we were soaking in tea. Foot tea. Foot tea made freshly for us when we walked in the door.

After about five minutes, our therapists came over. A tiny woman who couldn’t have weighed more than my girl started on her feet. I got the dude, which was fine with me because he was likely to be a little stronger, even if he did have the stature of Prince. He dried off my feet with rags that looked suitable for wiping oil off a dipstick, then he got down to business.

He spoke not a word of English so my countenance would be his guide for my tolerance of pain. Now, I love massage, especially deep tissue. When asked of my pressure preference, I always say that there is “no amount” that I will resist. And, while that’s still true, I did involuntarily flinch three times during his massage today. (What a wuss.) And it’s not like I could just tell him I was fine. So, I smiled, no doubt catatonically through the pain, as I did not want the man backing off on his efforts. When he was done, my legs and feet were jelly. The whole experience was just what I needed. Foot fungus water and all. So, we slid out of our chairs and melted down the stairs to meet up with my mom again for dinner.

We found a great place where everyone could be accommodated. And that was a tall order considering my girl and I wanted sushi for dinner… in Chinatown. My mom was the only one who actually ordered Chinese food for dinner. Our table was an Asian smorgasbord of miso soup, spring rolls, California rolls, lemon chicken, shrimp rolls, steamed rice and spicy salmon rolls. With California wine. And fortune cookies. My stomach was very confused. Happy but confused.


Anyone want to interpret my fortune for me?

Following dinner, the men in our group (Dave, my dad, my brother and my boy) came to meet us to walk the area a bit until we were all too tired and cold to stay out any more. So, everyone returned to the condo and pretty much passed out. Everyone, that is, except me. I’m like the stupid mouse in the Night before Christmas poem. The one who really should’ve stopped all that ridiculous stirring and gone the hell to bed. Stupid, stupid mouse. Go to bed!

See you tomorrow. Oh, and before I go, here’s your happy picture for the day. It’s the Sentinel Building in the heart of North Beach, the Italian part of town.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6


ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 6


Today, the boy and girls of the ODNT Family Conglomerate decided to divide and conquer the great expanse of California. The boys packed up early and headed out to stay overnight at Yosemite while the girls took on wine country.

(To those of you standing there with your dropped jaw, pick it the hell up. We’ve been over this again and again. Me = Eva Gabor. On some days, maybe even Zsa Zsa. No, that doesn’t mean I’m slapping cops or dripping with diamonds. Nor does it mean I have a Hungarian accent. It just means I’m a city girl who hates getting her hair wet, likes manicured hands and feet and LOVES electricity, largely because of the flat iron upon which I am unapologetically dependent.)

So, we (the girls) took the one mile-ish walk to the pick up point for the tour. And, because we couldn’t get a straight answer as to whether or not food would be available on the tour, we stopped at a little mom-and-pop store along the way to pick some cheese, crackers, grapes, cookies and water and bring it all with us on the motor coach. Our guide was great and quickly fell in love with my girl. I heard her name spoken more than the word ‘wine’ over the PA. He was all “If you look out of your left window, you’ll see one of the original mission bells still hanging in the town square. Vivien, can you see the bell?” AND “I’m getting a little tired. Vivien, do you think you could come up here and take the wheel?” And it certainly kept her attention.

Our tour featured the Sonoma region (not NAPA, which was described as being much “more commercial”). We stopped first at Viansa Winery. It was absolutely beautiful … and here’s the proof.




As soon as we walked into the tasting area, we were welcomed with a taster’s glass of Vino Bianco. The staff there was busy but friendly and willing to answer any number of my (more-often-than-not) goofy questions. After finishing our introductory samples, we each opted for their Vino Classico flight, which allows you to choose four wines to taste for a flat fee. We purposefully selected different wines and shared so we could try eight in all.

My choices

  • 2010 Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Sangiovese
  • 2010 Cabernet Savignon Reserve
  • 2010 Tocai Friutano

My mom’s choices

  • 2011 Arneis
  • 2008 Cabernet Franc
  • 2011 Aleatico Rose
  • 2011 Vino Rosata

My girl’s choice


The label says “Vignette, Wine Country Soda, Chardonnay, All Natural, Non-Alcoholic.” I love that they had this stuff for her.

Oh, yeah. And we bought a bottle of wine. (hiccup)

The other vineyard we visited today (this was only a 5 hour tour) was Roche Winery & Vineyards. It’s situated within the little community of Sonoma, California. And the wine flight there was pre-determined.

Here’s what we sampled:

  • 2009 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
  • 2009 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Carneros Pinot Noir Reserve
  • 2010 Carneros Merlot
  • 2010 Syrah
  • 2011 Tamarix
  • 2010 Muscat Canelli
  • 2009 Late Harvest Chardonnay

Between the Syrah and the Tamarix, the vineyard hostess took us inside to sample wine straight from the barrel. She used a dropper to extract the wine directly from a small opening in the barrel. And … can I add that she said the small opening is called a bunghole??

(Scratch across record)

Here I am … trying to look all sophisticated … inhaling the aroma and volatizing the wine around in my glass … when the woman has to drop “bunghole.” The good news is that I’m not a laugh out loud kind of person (unless I am really tickled). The bad news is that I can make no such claim about my eyes. And the woman was looking right at me. She laughed and said she hears Beavis & Butthead jokes all the times. Now, because I hated that show as there are times that I really am holier than thou, I assured her that my reaction had nothing to do with those two animated boobs and that the term ‘bunghole’ was around long before they re-popularized it. (I’m quite sure I impressed the crowd with my bunghole knowledge.)

But, you know … I just had to look it up when I came home. Here’s what I found on Wikipedia:

Usage of the term as a slang word for the anus dates back to at least the 16th century, as shown in Gargantua by François Rabelais. “…I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs, arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose…”[3]

In the MTV cartoon series, Beavis and Butt-head created by Mike Judge, the term “bunghole” was popularized as both a personal insult and slang for anus. In hisCornholio persona, Beavis says that he needs “TP (toilet paper) for my bunghole.” The two central characters also use the term when referring to one another.

Truly, it was a proud day to be me.

Anyway, we bought another bottle of wine. And when the wine … and bunghole conversation … was complete, we walked around the little town, wishing we had more time there. We, of course, went straight to The Cheese Factory (NOT to be confused with The Cheesecake Factory) which was a gourmet food store where we bought everything from cheese, strawberries & creme fraiche, gelato, water crackers and fudge. (God, I hope I remembered to pack my stretchy pants.)

Then, we found our way back to the bus and were entertained all the way home by our tour guide’s extensive knowledge of all things San Francisco, Sonoma and wine. Free of charge … I’ll share one of the many things we learned today.

Q. Why are roses often planted alongside the grapes at these vineyards?

A. It’s the same logic as coal miners bringing a canary into the mines. They knew that the very fragile canary would pass out from lack of oxygen far before they would so it gave them fair warning. Roses are extremely susceptible to excessive moisture and thus will wilt long before the grapes so the farmers have time to take the necessary action to save them.

Yes, I know. You’ve all been wondering for years. You are welcome! I’ll bet you don’t this kind of information on David Snape‘s blog. Probably just a coupon for a whitening toothpaste. Wait! I could probably use that after drinking all of that red wine! Damn it, Snape.

When we were almost home, our guide pulled over to a beautiful look out spot right before the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a little tricky to take pictures and keep from blowing off the mountain but we managed.


We got back to the tour drop-off spot right around 6pm. Our plan was to catch a cable car to Chinatown (which is right near our condo) but the wait to get on was 45 minutes. Not today. So, we went on foot, taking a different but still-one-mile walk back to the condo and passing right through’s San Franciso’s Little Italy. Everything looked amazing. But, unfortunately, we weren’t hungry and we were tired, so we kept walking, stopping only once to pick up half a dozen things at the little grocery store. Plus, it gave us a short breather before taking on the steepest incline of our trip home. I guess I thought a gallon of milk in one hand could balance two wine bottles in the other. I guess I thought carrying more on the steep incline would be easier. Maybe I should’ve offered my girl a piggy back ride on the way up as well.

Whatever. I’m here. We made it. We’re exhausted. No one slept much last night so we all are tonight. Until tomorrow, I leave you with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge as taken from Marin County.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5


ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 5

Warning: Today’s post is neither witty nor clever. It is, however, informative and sleepy.


This morning, we drove down to Carmel (I think I’m supposed to say Carmel by the Sea, which reminds me of tuna … and Jessica Simpson, so I’m sticking to the short version). The trip was a little longer than we expected so we stopped along the way for a quick, nutritious lunch at In-N-Out Burger.


Morgan Hill, California – en route to Carmel from San Francisco


The menu’s pretty straight forward. I was looking for chicken-centric options, kids’ meals, maybe even a salad. But why mess with perfection when your lines are already out the door, right?


Yes, of course, it was delicious. It’s fried and it’s fast food. Try NOT to be delicious.

The service was ridiculously courteous and the burger was yummy. Greasy and even a little bit crunchy. (Those are both meant to be compliments.) The fries, however, were nothing special. But, for the record, I say that about almost every fast food fry. Cheap filler that is often tasteless and doesn’t hold its heat. And, while I really did like the burger and am happy to have checked In-N-Out off my (sad) Bucket List, it doesn’t come close to replacing its New Orleans counterpart, Bud’s Broiler, in my heart. Give Bud’s a shout out in the comments below if you’ve been.

Following lunch, we stuffed our sodium-bloated bodies back into the car and finished the drive. Carmel was yet another lovely coastal town offering much in the way of shopping and eating. For the former, I actually bought a top for myself and, for the latter, my girl and I enjoyed some of Lula’s dark chocolate almond toffee.


Here’s where we sat to eat it. Jealous?

Afterwards, we met up with my brother, Dave and my boy at the beach which is located just at the foot of Ocean Avenue, the main drag of the area. The sky was overcast and the sand was like powdered sugar. It would’ve been a great place for a nap. I settled for getting to sit down … while the kids ran around and eventually put their toes … then ankles … and then, well, knees and pant legs into the Pacific Ocean. It was a very enjoyable respite for everybody.


My brother getting a Thai-style massage from my girl.


Aww, man! He IS taller than me, isn’t he?


I have no idea what they’re looking for here … but it made for a nice picture.


My wonderful boy …


… and amazing girl … enjoying the Pacific.

We packed up and headed back home. The ride back always seems shorter than the one there … unless you have to pee. That’s me. The one who makes you stop every other hour for a restroom. The one to whom you want to say, “Michele, are you sure you want that third refill of Diet Coke?” The one to whom you want to yell, “HOW THE HELL CAN YOU HAVE TO GO AGAIN? YOU JUST WENT. EVEN THE KIDS DON’T HAVE TO GO! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?”

Alright, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. No one yelled at me, but I know it’s annoying. I know it more than anyone else in the car. So we stopped to pee … and gas up … and eat … and grab a few groceries on the way back. And we passed several farms along the way boasting such amazing produce prices as ten Avocados/Kiwi/Corn/Artichokes for $1. Ten for a dollar?!!? I pay up to $2 for a single avocado. No wonders Californians are so healthy. They can buy produce for less than the cost of a gumball.

Anyway, it was dark when we arrived back here and we were all exhausted. The boys are leaving for Yosemite in the morning and the girls are going on a wine tour. So we should all probably be getting to bed. Until tomorrow, I’ll leave you with this soothing beach picture. I think I can hear your blood pressure dropping.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 – Day 4


ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 4

1:15 am

Pertinent ODNT trivia … Over the years, I’ve worked as an extra (also known as “meat”) on different movie sets for kicks. Kicks plus $100. It’s not proud work. It’s usually me, the unemployed and, in one case, even homeless people. But it’s interesting and different … and I’ve gotten to meet some pretty cool people like Hillary Swank, Anna Sophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Lloyd, Nicholas Cage, January Jones, Guy Pearce, Forest Whitaker, Madeline Zima, etc. along the way. 

Enter today’s installment.

When I began writing tonight, I was immediately reminded of a song. And I was looking for a You Tube clip for the post when I remembered seeing the original performance of this one. It was sung by Renee Zellweger for a movie I “meated” for called My Own Love Song. Nick Nolte was in the scene, too, playing the ‘Nick-Noltiest’ character I’ve ever seen. And … if you look carefully (like super carefully with your finger poised over the pause button and some high-tech enhancement software to illuminate the background) … you just might see me around 2:15 and 3:15. Honestly though, I’d be impressed if anyone actually spotted me as it took even me a few times to find me. Anyway, here’s the clip:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me


  1. California – CHECK! (now Northern AND Southern)
  2. New York Island – CHECK! (Though, personally, I usually omit the ‘Island’ or just call it Manhattan)
  3. Redwood Forest – SEE BELOW!
  4. Gulf Stream Waters – CHECK! (I live in the Southeast so I’ve known these waters on a first name basis for years)

We rented a car today and drove as a group (battling four sudden cases of car sickness, myself included, thanks to some pretty winding roads) to Muir Woods National Monument to see the famed Redwood Forest. And I’ll be the first to admit that they modeled the Eva Gabor character on Green Acres after me. Even still, these trees are magnificent. Case in point.


The picture gets hazy at the top because the trees are actually scraping against the sun.


Two kids in a tree. (Great children’s book title. Or maybe the name of a yo-yo trick.)


How cute is this little hiker? #biased #hashtagsoutsideoftwitterarecool

If you are a nature lover (I am insomuch as cows, goats and sheep all live on farms and give me precious cheese), this stop is a must on your trip to San Francisco. It’s an easy walk, there’s a restaurant on site and even a place to purchase necessities like this stuffed chipmunk. We saw scads of them in the forest.


Why is he wearing a paper bag you ask? Apparently, ‘Herve’ is a homeless chipmunk. (My girl‘s been exposed to San Francisco’s large population here. Don’t blame me. I just bought some pretty silver earrings.)

We trekked back to the car and drove from the park to Sausalito for lunch, shopping and general sightseeing. It’s a cute little town. But, honestly, the whole time I was there, I could NOT get this stupid song out of my head. Warning: Do NOT click unless you want to be afflicted with the same problem. I’ll bet Sausalitans (if in fact that’s what they’re called) have been saddled with this unwanted spokesperson for years. Or maybe they just embrace it as with the whole ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ phenomenon.

After stocking up on candy and Dramamine, we drove back across the Golden Gate into San Francisco again. Parking the car was a little challenging on the 45-degree angle street on which we’re staying but we got it done. Everyone was pretty much in for the night but I really wanted to see Chinatown, located only a few blocks from the condo. So, I took the short walk on my own, made a mental note of all foot massage joints for later and snapped a few pictures.



Then, I called my family for their dinner order … springs rolls, fried wonton, crispy chicken, miso soup, etc. That’s when I confirmed the microphone on my iPhone was completely dead. What that means is, when I’m on a phone call, I can listen but I just can’t talk. Can you imagine how frustrating that would be for a verbose person like myself? It’s a good thing I can text with the dexterity of a teenager.

Anyway, if you need me … don’t call. Unless you just want to tell me off and not have to listen to any of “my lip.”  Stupid iPhone. And on vacation, too.

Until tomorrow, here’s a nebulous view of San Francisco taken from the heart of Sausalito.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1Day 2Day 3


ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 3

1:45 am

Wow. I don’t think I thought this whole trip journaling thing through. Beat the pavement (often severely inclined pavement) with six other people across San Francisco all day then return to the condo, get the kids to bed and wait for everyone to settle in so I can finally write everything down while the others sleep. Oh, yeah. And try to be interesting. And witty.

That’s hard for me even on a good day. Sigh.

But enough of my belly aching. Let’s talk about today. We did lots of planning so (spoiler alert) there’s great stuff on tap for the next few days. And we got out later than we should have (you hear this comment a lot on my family vacations) and started the day with the same one-mile walk from our condo to Pier 39 to try to charm our way into a (booked-until-August) Alcatraz tour. (My brother is known for these silver spoon moments in life.) Unfortunately, it didn’t work today so we settled for the next best thing: a bucket of Trish’s Mini-Donuts (36 in all) and hopped aboard the ferry for a San Francisco Bay cruise. The boat ride was awesome but (A) it was freezing and (B) the boat bar didn’t accept credit cards. (They could have made a fortune!)


Here I model for you my “snazzy,” new Mexican-made blanket-like pullover alongside my girl and my brother. I know. You are jealous. Not everyone can pull this look off.

But we braved the cold on the deck for the first half of the cruise and seated inside by a big picture window for the second. (I had to think of my hair at some point.)  And we took in a lot of great city views, sailed right under the Golden Gate Bridge and fully circled Alcatraz at a really slow, appropriately-eerie pace. Honestly, it seemed like they literally cut the engines for this part of the tour.


This might be the closest view I’ll be able to give you. Still bummed about that.

When we got off the boat, we did a little shopping and grabbed a late lunch (also known as an early dinner) at the Franciscan Crab Restaurant where we, along with (assuming the walls don’t lie) hundreds of famous people from the last century, ate seafood immersed in butter until it hurt to speak. (Bloated, after-dinner me just HATES menu-holding, wide-eyed, let’s-just-get-BOTH me. Come to think of it, still-suffering-from-late-night-indigestion me hates her, too.)

After dinner, we waddled over the Musée Mécanique, one of the largest working collections of antique arcade machines in the world. And, I have to admit, it was pretty cool. My kids loved it, too. Although half of the stuff in there was so very creepy. Check out this old relic called ‘The English Execution.’ The placard beneath it says “Place Coin in Slot and See the Last Rites Performed.”


Did I put a coin inside? Have you MET me?? 

Of course, I also found this one in the back of the arcade.


Check out the high scores below.


MRP = me. There was NO WAY I was advancing any higher than that.

But I learned I’m no longer cut out for 1980s video gaming as I gave myself a pounding headache in that place. Fortunately, everyone was ready to move on so we split up into a few groups. My brother and I took the scenic route back to the condo on foot with my girl. It was only a mile so we knew she could make it. And this time, instead of taking on the steep streets (say THAT three times fast), we opted for the rock wall of stairs. I honestly believe the Statue of Liberty has less.


The picture shows only about a tenth of the stairs we covered on the way up.

But we did it, with me only having to stop twice to massage my heart into submission, and we were treated to lots of amazing views along the way.


We escalated so high that I had to fight the urge to belt out “Climb Every Mountain” at the peak of our staircase ascent. It would’ve looked ridiculous, me being neither Julie Andrews nor a nun.

So far? I love San Francisco … but it’s definitely kicking my (hopefully decreasing in size because it’s not living its usual,  sluggish, 180-degree lifestyle) ass. We’ve got a lot planned for the next few days so I’m thinking I should get to sleep … right now.

Until tomorrow, I’ll leave you with this lovely view of the city I took with my phone’s crappy “zoom lens” from the boat today.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1 – Day 2


ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 2

12:50 am

Everybody slept in this morning. And by slept in, I mean like 8:30 or 9. (Fools. I was hoping for 11.) And we all took a while showering, making a grocery run and getting things together. Actually, I have no idea what time we finally got out as a group but it was getting close to lunchtime and, since we hadn’t eaten since the night before (in Phoenix!), we were all pretty hungry when we set out on foot in search of food. (Makes us sound like a pack of wild bears. Which fits.)

I think if I lived in San Francisco I could eat whatever I wanted and yet somehow manage to have a butt of steel. The streets here are pretty steep for a flatlands Louisiana girl. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. I’m a very pedestrian person, especially on vacation. If my family didn’t stop me, I know I could walk Manhattan top to bottom in one (albeit long and blister-inducing) trip.

So, after lots of fat-burning activity, we reached the Farmer’s Market at Ferry Plaza, located along the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street. Behind this open air market is the Ferry Building Marketplace.

And take a look at what I found inside!


Holy cheese, I’m home! I found my people.


If you’re a true turophile, you should be able to SMELL this picture.

And, after sampling a quantity of cheese that most people would call a meal, I finally made my selections, bought them and went to enjoy everything with my mom and kids outside in the courtyard area.

Here’s what we had on the menu:

  • Herbed Fromage Blanc
  • Mt. Tam (their signature, award-winning, triple-cream cow’s milk creation)
  • Colston Basett Stilton
  • Port-soaked Figs
  • Rosemary Bread Rolls
  • Sourdough Batard
  • Chocolate Almond Toffee

I don’t think Johnny Depp himself seated beside me gorging on cheese with us would’ve made me more happy. FAT and happy.  I’d better look for lots of those San Francisco butt-busting streets to trek up an down tomorrow.

After coming down from my cheese high, we shopped the Farmer’s Market a bit then the boys splintered off to take in a San Francisco Giants game while the girls hopped a trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco’s answer to Times Square. (Sure, it’s touristy. Don’t judge. I AM a tourist. Duh.) The temperature was really starting to drop so I am now the proud owner of a Mexican-made, pancho-style hoodie. (Again, don’t judge. What is WITH you today?)

We did lots of mindless shopping in the area … and a little more mindless eating. My girl finally got the Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl she’s been angling for all day. Oh, and I got my palms read. And my chirologist said half of you are going to die and half of you are going to meet a mysterious stranger.  Wait … I wonder if all of these “mysterious strangers” have anything to do with all of this “dying.” Well, whatever. The next winning lotto numbers are 8, 11, 19, 27, 32 and 41. (If you win, I expect a nice cut. I’m totally serious.)

Anyway, here are just a few of the other interesting things I saw today:


It doesn’t say it will give you a lisp … but maybe it makes you sound like Jim J. Bullock?


I really want to know who’s buying “One for $1.00.” Honey stoners.


One of the only two sea lions hanging out at Pier 39 West Marina. Apparently, their numbers can get as high as 900 in the winter, but they migrate South to the Channel Islands for mating season this time of  year. I guess this dude has no aspirations of becoming a father.


Alcatraz, as seen from the stupid pier. I really hope we’re able to get a little closer before this trip’s done. Or we’ll be the only boobs ever to break INTO Alcatraz.


I’ve heard tell of this chain for years. We went inside to buy one of the four items on their menu but were totally dissuaded by the long line. Feel free to tell me if you think I made a mistake.

Anyway … I should probably go. My upstairs neighbors just got home and I’d hate to think that the clicking of my keyboard is keeping them up. So, I’m off to bed. See you tomorrow.

Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1.


ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 1

12:39am (which is really 2:39am according to my internal clock)

The role of ‘weary traveler’ this evening will be played by me. No, it’s not like I crossed the country in a covered wagon fighting disease and rabid wolves in search of gold, but having left my home twelve hours ago for the New Orleans International Airport then passing through the Bermuda Triangle (also known as the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport) on my way to San Francisco has worn these false-sense-of-entitlement, 21st century bones out. Plus, I just settled into my rollaway bed/exercise mat for some much needed sleep, but all I can hear is the tromping around of heavy feet (one in high heels and one in sneakers) of the two people who just returned home to their hardwood-floored residence ten feet above my head. And I’m pretty sure they have a dog, unless the baby talk I’m hearing is being directed at each other. Dear God, please have a dog … and take off your shoes … and go to bed!

I hate the people upstairs.

Anyway … our first flight, the long one from NOLA to Phoenix, was uneventful. I managed to tear through two People magazines (Thanks to Kelly, my neighbor and overseer of all things Milo while we’re gone) and even read some of my book. I’m finally getting to Jenny’s Lawson Let’s Pretend this Never Happened. (Totally captivating so far, Jenny … in a rubbernecking-past-a-traffic-accident, can’t-help-but-smell-the-spoiled-milk-one-more-time kind of way!)

And then we arrived in Phoenix. Our feet had barely left the habitrail tube from the plane when we heard and saw the announcement. Our plane was already delayed two and a half hours. “And,” said the ‘lady’ on the PA system, “don’t go wandering off from the gate because, if you miss your flight, you can’t come crying to me!”

She loves to fly … and it shows.

So, we kept one foot at the gate and pivoted with the other to get such airport delicacies as pizza, sandwiches and (almost) a $5 bottle of Naked Juice. I put it back as soon as the cashier (who apparently is required to do so) alerted me of its price. “Go get a soda instead,” I said to my girl, like any good mother would. And, since eating took all of 15 minutes, I occupied the other two+ hours with electronics (thanks to everyone who played the #PhoenixNameGame on Twitter with me), window shopping the snacks, power walking the 30 feet of carpet area and, of course, alcohol. One glass. One $12 glass of cheap airport Merlot.

Then, we were finally called to board our plane for San Francisco. The flight length was only half as long as the first but they made up for it with double the turbulence. Which for me apparently drowned out the announcement that, because of our air travel inconvenience, the drinks would be free on the flight. Stupid, stupid me and my Diet Coke. Sigh. My girl and I passed the time chatting with the third person in our seating pod. She was a nice person with whom I found myself talking about how the movie When A Stranger Calls scared the crap out of me in no time. I took that as a good sign. And she liked cats so she and my girl also had lots to talk about. We might even be going to a special event as her guests on Friday. (No, I’m not Ferris Bueller or anything, but it could be fun.)

And, before we knew it … and our plane circled the runway three or four times … we landed at San Francisco International Airport, grabbed our bags and all jumped into a limo together.  (Yes, I said limo. Okay, fine. Maybe I AM Ferris Bueller.) We arrived at our condo in the city, we’re FINALLY settled and now I need to go to bed. I think I might just be the only one up. I mean, except for the people upstairs.

Have I mentioned that I hate them?

I’ll check in again tomorrow at some point … after lots and lots of sleep. Oh, but before I go, I was thumbing through Sky Mall when I found this little innovation. What do y’all think? Is Milo up for the task?


It’s 2012. Shouldn’t ALL cats be doing this by now?


The Griswolds are Hitting the Road Again. The Destination? San Francisco.

Dear ODNT-ville,

This post is short and sweet.

My family is headed to San Francisco and I was thinking of keeping a little online journal here for posterity and, if I play my cards right, your enjoyment.

(1) Wanna follow along?

(2) Have any travel tips, advice, recommendations, complimentary passes, or traveler’s checks you want to share with me?

(3) Promise not to rob my house or be any part of such villainy while I’m gone? It’s tacky, it’s in bad form and it’s entirely possible you’ll get mauled by the bloodthirsty biker gang I have housesitting for me.


Or at least by Milo

If you agree to these terms, please ‘like’ or comment below. I’ll be as “consistent” with my journaling as possible.

Wish me luck,