California North America Travels

California Road Trip – Part 1

We have spent 3 weeks driving around California and have written about some of our first stops in this post.  Part 2 will be written this week…and will include Death Valley, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and LA.

San Francisco – by Sophie

We had a very long drive to San Francisco which started in Gold Beach, Oregon.  We didn’t plan to do this 8.5hr (400 mile) marathon drive, but I had felt very homesick in the accommodation we had at Gold Beach and my husband, being the understanding and supportive type, agreed to leave a day early and start the drive south.  Keith has been a demon driver and that day he just kept on going fuelled by coffee and listening to the podcasts he, I and Lola (although possibly not age appropriate…) have got addicted to; S-Town and Serial.

We arrived at our hotel at midnight – not ideal really when travelling with three young children and so the very frosty welcome we received from the receptionist at the Hilton, triggered a pretty angry response from me. (He got it with both barrels and the next day a complaint to the manager resulted in free breakfast for us and our friends, who were joining us for the duration of our stay – result!)

Quite a few people had warned me that in the twenty years since I last visited San Francisco, the city had gone down hill a bit (no pun intended – jeez I actually did just write that!)  I wasn’t too worried as I had very happy, albeit a bit sketchy, memories of my time there with Kari in the late 90s and was sure we would have fun.  Whilst that turned out to be absolutely true, I have to say it was quite shocking just what a problem the city has housing people in need.  There were so many people sleeping on the streets. It was also really sad and worrying just how many of these people seemed to have quite serious mental health issues. Made me fear for our own country’s future if we don’t manage to address the huge funding gaps for mental health care… I digress.

So here are our highlights: The main excitement for us was meeting up with some of our best friends Sarah, Todd, Darcy, Grace and Flo.  Our three girls are almost exactly the same age as their three and we have known each other and holidayed together for seven years. The girls were absolutely desperate to see their friends and we could have quite easily headed up to the pretty rubbish pool at the Hilton and sat there for three days, occasionally feeding them and they would have been happy…but we didn’t do that. Instead, we had a lovely couple of days walking around the city and hitting some of the family-friendly sights.

Alcatraz – We had taken advice and booked Alcatraz some months before and so the next morning we headed down early to the waterfront to catch the 10:30 boat.  This really is one of those things that if you are heading to San Francisco, you really must try and book. Everyone I knew who had been raved about it and we all loved it.  The audio tour is just brilliant and kept all of us – from the 50yr old to the 5yr old really engaged. We also bumped into another family from Richmond on the same tour!  I wonder how many others we might meet along the way?


Boudin Bakery – We loved watching the bakers bake the bread in this famous bakery before heading downstairs to order our freshly baked lunch.

Ghirardelli’s Square – We spent an hour in the sunshine playing the game that we keep finding in public spaces – where you try and throw a bean bag into a hole in a piece of wood 20 yards away – and tasting the incredible Ghirardelli chocolates and ice cream.

The Farmer’s Market – We bought and ate the freshest and most delicious ‘super plums’ and peaches from the farmer’s market outside the Ferry Building that I have ever tasted.  Our fabulous seller looked a bit like Tom Sellick and hence he features below 🙂

Peaches and Plums!


A boat tour around the bay – Sarah and Todd had bought Keith a birthday gift for his 50th which was a 90 minute trip on a catamaran around San Francisco Bay for us all.  It was fantastic!  Such an amazing thing to do.  The view of the Golden Gate Bridge was stunning.  It was choppy and very, very windy and cold which left some of us huddling down below, but the girls really enjoyed it and even got roped in to helping the crew take down the sail.

The Sea Lions – we could have watched the Sea Lions at Pier 39 for hours.  They are so funny and noisy and the regular fights between the males, knocking each other off the pontoons had us all in hysterics.

Lastly, I would absolutely, definitely NOT recommend the Mexican cantina in the Ferry Building Market Place that we walked for an hour to find because Keith fancied some Mexican food.  Less said about that, the better.

Lake Tahoe – by Willow

Willow dictated this to me (Sophie) on one of our long car journeys.  I helped her remember some of the names of places but other than that have written word for word (tales of my moans and all!)

On the way to Lake Tahoe we met the people who Megan (our nanny) used to look after when they were little. Their names are Lucy, Turner and Samantha. We went for pizza and frozen yoghurt. I’d never had frozen yoghurt before and we tried it and it was so nice. We went to the playground and they pushed us on the swing and on the big swirly thingy Turner span me around. The girls were so nice and they went travelling too in south America and they showed us a book of photos. One of them was them on the salt flats which are really big and they took a picture of someone making a circle with their hand and there is another person who is standing far away and it looks like they have been shrunk and the first person is holding them. It was very cool and we are going there soon too!

At lake Tahoe we had a house with a hammock outside and me and Betsy used to go on it. We face timed Eve, Megan’s daughter on her birthday.

The house was really cool because it was in the woods and we could play outside. The first day we went to Sand Harbor beach. It was quite empty because all the children have gone back to school. We went in the lake and there were ginormous waves and they pushed us over.

The next day we went to Emerald Bay. It was $10 to park and it was full so Daddy parked on the road. We put on our trainers to walk 1 mile down a steep hill. It was hot and so quite hard work. At the bottom there was a nice beach and we rented some kayaks and kayaked to an island but we didn’t actually go on the island we just went around it.

Then we came back and had lunch and mummy had a tiny bit of a moan because she’s never in any pictures and then we walked to a waterfall and that was cool. We had a game of Uno on the beach and mummy won immediately and me and dad kept on playing until the very end and we even had to turn the pile over and then daddy lost. At the end of the day we had to walk back up the hill and it was really hard. We had to stop on a bench and drink water.

Emerald Bay

Climbing to lower Eagle Falls


Me at the top of a big rock

Beautiful Emerald Bay

The next day we went to South Lake and hired bikes. It was really fun. We went road all around the shore on a bike trail for 10 miles. *Willow announced later that afternoon it was the best day of her life.*

On our last day we tried to find a beach but it was so crowded we couldn’t fit on any of them (it was Labor day weekend) and so we came back to the closest one to where we staying in Kings Beach and we just about squeezed on. We couldn’t go in the lake that day because it was a bit yucky.

We tried to do some school work in the morning when we were at Lake Tahoe, before the fun stuff. School work was quite hard because I couldn’t concentrate and it meant the next day I didn’t have electronics for the whole day.

Yosemite – by Lola

After Lake Tahoe we drove to Yosemite. We first arrived in Yosemite late afternoon and we went in the pool straight away! As the room only had 2 beds we couldn’t decide who slept on the floor but it ended up being me. Luckily, I had the duvets under me so it wasn’t too bad. In the motel we had to pay for wifi but could only have two devices which were Mum’s phone and Dad’s laptop; which was very annoying.

Our alarm woke us up in the morning as we needed to get into the park before all the crowds. We drove to Yosemite village to do a small hike to the bottom of Yosemite falls. Walking back there were flies EVERYWHERE!!! We had to keep swatting them away from our face and Betsy was freaking out and jumping around screaming ‘ GET AWAY!!!’ which we thought was quite funny. After lunch we set of on a longer hike up a waterfall. Half way up there was a footbridge with a view of the waterfall: here was where mum and willow went back down but Betsy, Dad and I carried on. It was very steep and slippery from the waterfall spraying on to us but it was refreshing. Near the top we had to climb up a very narrow pathway up the side of the mountain.

The narrow pathway to the top

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Climbing Vernal Falls

Nearly there

View from the top

At the top!

Finally we were at the top: the view was incredible!!!!! There was a sheer drop down to the bottom where the water was flowing. The walk down was harder but a lot quicker as we jogged most of the way down until Betsy got a stitch. We met Mum and Willow in a cafe and drove back. We ate pizza then went to bed .In the morning we drove into the park early as well but this time into half dome village. We all did some running races around the courtyard while Mum and Dad drank their coffee. After that we hired some bikes and road around the villages and mirror lake. Tired from that, we drove back to the motel and got in the pool. That night we watched the movie ‘Holes’ which was great!!! In the morning we started the drive to Death Valley.

6 Weeks on the road – by Betsy

Being on the road with your family can be nice and sometimes stressful.  For us it has been a mixture. Sometimes it’s really happy in the car but sometimes mummy and daddy get angry and shout.   A way that we have fun is that we play the song game. The song game is where mummy puts on different songs and lola willow and I have to try and get the name of the song. In the song game there is loads of tension and you’re always like ” Oh my god I know this!!!!”  We filmed us playing…

Whenever we get to a place after a really long drive we feel really nice to finally be there, but it’s quite annoying when you have to unpack. A few days ago I realised that before we went I thought I would miss my friends so much, but I feel like I don’t miss them as much as I thought I would. Obviously I still miss my family and friends, but not as much as I thought I would. I thought I would cry every day because I miss them.

We have been rating all the places we have been to and for our family Lake Tahoe has scored the highest. This was definitely my favourite because I really liked the house we stayed in. It was made of wood and was in the woods so felt very adventurous. There was also lots of beaches and every one we went to was amazing.

Overall I’ve loved the road trip and it has been very fun.

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