Sutro Baths and Land’s End

Thursday’s plan was to do a hike along Land’s End. It’s one of Zack and Susan’s favorite hikes in the city and, this being the week to celebrate them, it made sense to torture our out-of-town family members on this mildly strenuous and painfully beautiful excursion. By Thursday I was starting to feel human again (thank God!), thus able to venture out with everyone.

Alex and Mom Cliff House

We started at Cliff House where you are bestowed with an amazing view of Ocean Beach and in the morning light it glows golden like this.

Zack and Nathalie’s matching hats are adorable. And I love how Nathalie’s hand positioned over her mouth makes it look as though she’s pondering some deeper thoughts on the meaning of life while wistfully staring off into the far ocean horizon. The way that girl’s mind works, I totally wouldn’t put it past her.

Zack and Nathalie

Below is a shot of the Sutro Bath Ruins. Built in the late 19th century, the Sutro Baths opened as the world’s largest indoor natatorium. There were seven pools, one fresh water and the rest salt water all ranging in different temperatures. During high tide the pools would fill in a mere hour from water flowing directly from the ocean, but during low tide a turbine water pump would help to fill the tanks, which would take five hours. Sadly the building burnt to the ground in 1966 and today all we see of it are ruins.

Sutro Bath Ruins

Here’s what a shot taken from the same location would have looked like in the early 1900s.

Perhaps a photo taken from the back can give a better view of the immensity of the structure.

Sutro Baths Behind

Also, it wasn’t just the world’s large pool complex, but it additionally housed a museum and restaurants.

Sutro Baths Museum

Alex, Audrey, and Quinn enjoyed exploring and climbing on the ruins.

Climbing Sutro Bath Ruins

Climbing Sutro Bath Ruins

And here’s what the inside of the building looked like back in its heyday.  From a newspaper clipping on opening day, I read that it could accommodate 8,000 spectators, which I assume was a lot of people in 1896 considering only 300,000 people lived in the city at that time. If you’re curious, you can see a ton more photos and info about the baths here.

And today instead of people frolicking in the water here, birds and other sea creatures enjoy the remains of these salty pools, while people observe from a distance.

Watching Ducks Sutro Baths

I find the next photo amazing—simply because everyone is actually smiling at the camera. With a group of four that includes a 2-year old (who is Nathalie and usually off doing her own thing) in the picture, that’s pretty rare. At least in my experience.

Watching Ducks Sutro Baths

Group Sutro Baths

So the turbine used to pump water into the pools during low tide that I mentioned before was actually built inside a cave. And I’m pretty sure that cave is the one we walked through pictured below.

Sutro Baths Cave

The hill and subsequent stairs to climb up to the parking lot area are a good workout. Too much of a workout for Nathalie’s baby legs so she caught a lift from Uncle Zack.

Zack Climbing Sutro Baths Steps

But, once at the top, she was all about walking on her own.

Nathalie Sutro Baths

While smiling and looking fantastic for the camera is often the most desirable photo, I actually love this more unconventional one. And my favorite part about it is not just Quinn trying to photobomb again, but that he appears to be missing his body from the waist down.


After a quick break soaking up some vitamin D we were off on the hike.

Lands End Trees

Alex and Quinn Hiking

Ah, to be a kid and want to climb all over everything. Were we all like that at age 9? I guess what’s most shocking about this photo is that Alex isn’t up there with them. What?!

Climbing Wall Lands End

Most kids hate hats. Parents purchase them because they know how adorable their kid will look in one, but their child will have nothing to do with it. However, that’s not the case with Nathalie. She adores her hat and even knows how to properly salute with it as exhibited in this photo.

Graeme and Nathalie

Audrey and I were discussing her loose tooth at the beginning of the trail and, after examining it, my assessment was that it would fall out “any day now”. However, I didn’t expect that moment to occur five minutes later while hiking along the trail.

Missing Tooth

Audrey Tooth

Audrey and I were originally walking ahead of the group so after I snapped the previous two photos of her tooth she excitedly ran back to tell everyone what had just transpired. The expression in her face and body as she skips down the trail after revealing the exciting news is priceless.

Group Walking Lands End

Naomi and Zack Walking Lands End

At this point, Naomi and Zack headed back to go pick up their dad from the airport. Meanwhile, the rest of us trudged on and came to this outcropping.

Climbing Hill Lands End

What could they all possibly be looking at?

Group on The Edge Lands End

Why, it’s a zen labyrinth!

Climbing Down Hill

For as long as we’ve lived in the city, this zen labyrinth has been here. And after doing a bit of research just now, apparently it was the year that we moved to SF in 2004 that it was created. However, being a quarter mile off the main trail many people don’t even know about. Perhaps that’s why it remains here to this day without being disturbed.

Walking Lands End Labyrinth

Quinn and Alex Lands End Labyrinth

Audrey Labyrinth Lands End

From the labyrinth we could see the shore below and since the elders in our group decided to take another route to the Labyrinth they ended up just going straight down to the beach (and never actually made it up there—bummer!) They look teeny tiny from here, but if you look really closely you can see them by the stairs.

Cliffs and Beach Lands End

All of that green down there by the beach that looks like grass is actually this…some kind of water-retaining succulent? With our arid conditions (did you know that it only rains during the “winter” here? It’s rare to see even a drop of rain during the summer months) this plant blankets a large chunk of the California coast.

Flower Lands End

I climbed down the cliff to join the others near the water.

Beach Lands End

And not too long after, Audrey (you can spot her mid-way along the trail) followed.

Cliff Lands End

Beach Lands End

Beach Lands End

With the rest of the crew not far behind her.

Beach Lands End

Beach Lands End

Beach Lands End

Back up on the main trail we saw a hawk swiftly dive to the ground, pick at something, and then fly off.


Walking Up Steps Lands End

Walking Down Steps Lands End

Right near the end of the hike you get a glimpse of the mega-mansions residing in Sea Cliff with their multi-million dollar ocean views.

Seaside Cliffs

Trees and Stairs

After the hike we returned to the apartment, quickly changed our clothes, and headed to Millennium for an amazing multi-course gourmet vegan meal.

There was such a large group of us that we got our own private room, which was even more dimly lit than the main part of the restaurant, and if there’s one thing that I hate it’s flash photography in dark places, but when that’s the only option…

Alex and Christina Millennium

Surprisingly, the kids loved all of the food (and I say surprising because kids don’t usually like gourmet food, right?). Aidan and Quinn split the February harvest four-course meal and ate every last morsel of it. I had even ordered an appetizer of the crusted oyster mushrooms and Quinn, who claims to abhor mushrooms, LOVED them. In fact, he loved them so much he wanted me to order another round after we collectively “licked the plate clean.”

Nathalie loved the ice cream so much that she stuck her head in the bowl to slurp up whatever last bits she could get.

While walking home, Nathalie was serenaded by a man on the street and she was completely mesmerized by his singing. It was fascinating to watch as I don’t recall that I’ve ever seen any other toddler be so moved by song.

Rock Climbing and Trampoline Dodgeball

Sadly, I can’t really provide much commentary on these photos because instead of enjoying being out with everyone, I was stuck at home vomiting my stomach through my nose after eating some tainted food at the Academy of Sciences the day before.

On Tuesday the plan was to go to Mission Cliffs, which is a pretty badass rock climbing gym. The height of the tallest wall is five stories and their route creators do an amazing job of creating interesting and challenging routes. From the sounds of it, everyone enjoyed it—even the photographer who happened to be Naomi on this adventure.

Alex said that Audrey had great form and was fearless, which is awesome to hear because those are two important elements to becoming a good rock climber.

From the looks of it, Quinn has some good form too.

Naomi said that Aidan enjoyed climbing so much that he wants to continue doing it in Ann Arbor, which is totally rad. Maybe he’ll be ready for outdoor climbing the next time he visits 😉

After several hours of climbing, it was late enough that some experienced climbers had shown up after work and the kids were able to see what lead climbing is like.

Alex Climbing Mission Cliffs

The next day Alex took the kids and Graeme to House of Air, which is an impressive trampoline gym. Meanwhile, the ladies stayed at home—my stomach was still trying to repair itself from the activities of the day before, my sister needed a few minutes of down time, the baby was napping, and my mom wanted to hang out with us.

On the way to the gym, Alex took everyone through the Industrial Light and Magic campus (Lucas Films/Lucas Arts) where they walked by the Yoda statue. Had I thought ahead, we could have gotten one of our friends to give a tour of the facilities—it’s always fun seeing characters, vehicles, or other items from favorite movies in person so I’m a little bummed I thought of it after the fact.

There are a number of different jumping areas in House of Air and one of them is a dodgeball court where Quinn and Aidan spent most of their time. Quinn ended up winning a game and Aidan came in second a number of times. Overall, they did an awesome job of representing the fam.

Aidan Throwing House of Air

Family and Visiting the California Academy of Sciences

I feel so bad. My poor blog hasn’t gotten enough love lately; however, I’m proclaiming that all ends today when I start to flood the site with a post mortem of the wedding week every day. Expect lots of photos and hopefully not too many words.

Walking down Sutter Street San Francisco

Two weekends ago my brother got married (so happy for him!!) and the entire week prior my mother and sister, Naomi, and her entire family stayed with us. That’s a total of nine humans and three cats in a two bedroom one bathroom apartment. Originally, my mom thought that she’d get a hotel nearby for the time that Naomi was staying with me, but, at Naomi’s suggestion, she ended up crashing on the couch in the living room with the kids. My first thought was “thank god we’re such a close family and enjoy spending time in close quarters together!” But the more I thought about it the more I realized that it’s actually the reverse. Because we’re such a close family (and don’t get to see each other nearly enough), we all wanted to stay together. And, honestly, it all worked brilliantly—amazingly so.

Audrey Pushing Nathalie Down Sutter Street

Sunday ended up being a fairly low-key day since they didn’t arrive until very late Saturday night after their plane was delayed for three and a half hours. The girls ended up going to Union Square and shopping, while the boys went across the bay and took part in a General Assembly at Occupy Oakland. Alex took the camera, but didn’t take any photos and since I was cameraless these three photos are complements of my mum; the two above of me, Naomi, and Audrey walking down Sutter Street and the one of Audrey pushing Nathalie down the street while she napped.

Eating Sushi in the Westfield Mall SF

And this one of us having a sushi break in the food court of the Westfield mall. I don’t know what it is about Nathalie’s expression, but the adorableness of it elicits something in me that makes me want to fold her up and stick her in my pocket every time I look at. Need to stop looking…but can’t peel my eyes away. Ok, my hands are covering my face. Oh wait, but my eyes are peeking through the cracks between my fingers.

Oh my god. I’m such a two-year old.

Moving on.

Being President’s Day on Monday, I didn’t have to work (woot!) so I was able to enjoy the day with everyone frolicking amongst creatures from the rainforest, underwater sea dwellers, and African penguins at the California Academy of Sciences. One of the greenest structures in the world, the building itself is a museum and worth seeing for the architecture alone, but the interesting animals and exhibits inside are also worth your time.

For the first thirty minutes, I had Nathalie all to myself because the super young’ns are not allowed inside the planetarium (which happens to be the largest all-digital planetarium in the world) and everyone else wanted to enjoy the “Life: A Cosmic Story” movie. She was wide-eyed like the photo below pretty much the entire visit through the museum—it’s a lot to absorb for a two-year old, dontcha think?


Standing on her itty-bitty tip-toes, she loved watching the fish and kept excitedly telling me “The fish! They’re swimming!”


After the planetarium, we satiated ourselves in the museum cafeteria (where I likely got food poisoning 😦 ) and played outside. Alex unsuccessfully attempted a handstand on the head of this seal statue. Looks like his gymnastics days are over…(totally kidding, hon! I know you’ve still got those backhand springs in ya!) 😛

Nathalie and Audrey ran laps in the grass and threw wood chips in the play area. You can tell this was taken post-lunch because Audrey ever so adorably has spaghetti sauce smeared across her chin. And I’m still trying to figure out how Nathalie managed to keep a clean face throughout lunch.

Audrey and Nathalie California Academy of Sciences

Audrey and Nathalie California Academy of Sciences

And when you’re two years young falling goes hand-in-hand with running.

Audrey and Nathalie California Academy of Sciences

After our bellies were bulging and my body was infected with a foodborne illness, it was onward to the rainforest.

Christina and Nathalie California Academy of Sciences

Inside the rainforest we saw tons of crazy animals and insects. Like the green lizard sticking out his tongue on the left. I love how you can see his earhole so clearly in this photo. And then like this spider who caught a fly, spun a cocoon around it, and proceeded to eat it.

Bird and Butterfly California Academy of Sciences

And there were lots of beautiful butterflies. If you take your time slowly through the rainforest they will eventually land on or near you where you can closely observe their stunning colors and patterns. The butterfly on the bottom right is aptly name the Owl Butterfly.

Ooooh, I just don’t do well with spiders. My family tells me that as a young babe I actually loved spiders, called them “Piders” and only wished them to be friends with me. But I think that at some point it was revealed to me that they bite and are potentially poisonous and then our friendship was no longer. There’s no animosity between us, just an “I see you, you see me and we go our merry way” kind of relationship. In fact, I always try to bring them outside whenever I find those little buggers in the house. But I will admit that seeing those little fuzzy pipe cleaner things on this spidey’s legs makes me convulse a little.

Then there were these crazy frogs and other reptiles who could suction themselves to the glass. I think what you see there are four little legs with many toes tucked into this frogs underside as he’s glued to the wall.

Haha! I love how Graeme has an almost evil grin as Quinn is being face planted with a spider.

Quinn and Graeme Spider

After the Rainforest the elevator drops you in the aquarium where there are so many fascinating underwater sea dwellers. If you think the rainforest is full of crazy lifeforms, all you need to do is look to the oceans to find even more crazy life adaptations.

Fish Academy of Sciences

It’s not easy taking photos in the darkly lit basement, but Alex (who had the camera at this point) was able to snap some amazing photos of these jellyfish. They’re so beautiful they belong in a museum (harhar). The photos not the jellyfish, silly. 😛

Jellyfish California Academy of Sciences

Jellyfish California Academy of Sciences

After the aquarium we stopped by the African hall and saw the penguins right as they were being fed (forgot to take photos, though.) And then we were all so pooped from hours of being on our feet observing nature that we sat on this bench intermittently while going outside and running in the grass again as we waited to meet Zack and Susan for dinner.

Audrey and Nathalie California Academy of Sciences

Leaving California Academy of Sciences

And quite possibly the best photo of the day was captured by my mum as Quinn was perfecting the art of photobombing. After seeing this photo me, my siblings, and mom all got into a laughing fit—the kind where you can’t stop, breathing becomes difficult, and tears are streaming down your (my) face. I should mention that this is prone to happen with my family all the while our spouses/significant others are all just looking at each other wondering what the hell is going on. Susan got her first taste of this at dinner—a perfect initiation into our family. I’d say that’s pretty much the perfect end to a perfect day (except for the food poisoning part.)

Quinn Photobomb

Hiking Land’s End

It was another glorious weekend in San Francisco and we started our Saturday early with a hike on Land’s End. We arrived at the Cliff House shortly after 10am and it was already starting to feel warm.

Our notoriously late friends (we love them regardless!) were running an hour late so we had some time to enjoy the sea breeze, soak up some vitamin D, and enjoy the marvelous views. I also had time to take a bathroom break in Cliff House and refill my water bottle while Alex sat down on this bench and caught up with Twitter.

When our friends arrived, we began our trek. The trail hugs the cliff along the ocean and provides incredibly dramatic views—such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Sea Cliff (where you’ll find houses priced in the 10s of million dollars) neighborhood pictured below.

You can see the beautiful, rocky coastline below and then Danijela meditating in the middle of the labyrinth on the right.

We continued along the trail and I was able to snap some photos of our friends; Amy, Alex, Marius, Brian, and Danijela.

Oh, and I can’t forget the littlest guy of our group, Mr. Mathias. Look at those gorgeous bright blue eyes.

And by the time we arrived back at the parking lot the sun was very warm and intense, creating a glowing baby. Dada was doing something super funny at the time and it made him giggle like mad.

And then he turned and smiled for the lady with the camera. Precious!

Chinese New Year Flower Fair

The beautiful weather will not let up. We’ve had nothing but warmth and bright sunny skies for months and there isn’t a cloud or drop of rain expected in the forecast. I know the skiers in Tahoe aren’t happy nor are the farmers who depend on winter rain to irrigate their crops through the dry summer months. But this girl? Nope. You won’t find her complaining. No siree.

Today was another one of those glorious days and I spent the late morning through afternoon with my brother and his fiance. We spent most of this time chatting about their upcoming wedding plans interspersed with browsing for items that could potentially be used during the ceremony and reception. Our first stop was the SF Flower Mart, which Martha Stewart Living claims to be the “best flower market in the country.” And, crikey! I would totally believe it. Since I knew not of it’s existence before this morning my mind was devoid of any preconceptions, which likely made it even more impressive, which is to say that it totally blew me away – the volume, variety, and number of shops was astounding. Apparently this is where florists, and even stores like Whole Foods, come to buy their flowers wholesale to sell to consumers.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of it (next time!), but after a quick detour to the Ferry Building for lunch and picking up fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market we stopped in Chinatown where they were having the annual Chinese New Year Flower Fair and this is where I felt compelled to whip out my camera and snap a few photos.

When we were approaching Grant Street and after seeing the sheer number of people flooding the streets I knew I needed to take a photo to remember this:

Holy cats that’s a lot of people, right?! It looks just like I remember China or even Istanbul. Come to think of it, I took a very similar photo in Istanbul a couple years ago. After digging it up – here it is:

Personally, I love it. I love the energy that people coming together can create.

At 6’4″ Zack (in the white cap) looked like a giant among the predominantly Asian crowd. It’s funny, the only times I’ve ever felt to have sizeable stature are the two times I’ve been to China – and I’m only 5’4″, mind you, so I can’t imagine what being in China would feel like for my brother. Though, maybe at that height he wouldn’t notice it because he’s used to towering over people and it’s really only people like me who are usually dwarfed by colossal American’s that notice. Hmmm.

As we made our way through the festival, we ended up taking a side street and went to a market where Zack and Susan picked up some produce:

I love the paper lanterns that line the streets of China Town:

Being a flower festival and all, it’s only expected that you’d see some lovely blossoms and orchids were out in full force. Why, yes, I’ll take one of these:

And one of these:

And something I wasn’t expecting – the streets were teaming with pinwheels! If you were a child under the age of 5 you’d likely be clasping one of these in your hands.

What a fun day exploring the city.