During the June holidays, the whole family went to the West Coast of US for three weeks. The plan is to get in at LA and get out from San Francisco. We transited at Narita Airport and were glad to be able to get out and walk for a bit. Snowy the doll got the privilege of being the travel companion for the little girl
Almost 24 hrs later we touched down at LA airport sometime before noon. The kids and the husband all managed to get maybe 5-6 hrs of sleep? As for me? I perhaps watched 7-8 movies back to back? @_@ The Jeep that is going to get us around!
We put up at the hotel near Hollywood and headed out to Hollywood Boulevard to feel the buzz and erm shop? Shopping not quite his thing I guess? Out in the streets! and spotted Bug Bunny in the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the children promptly announced he is their idol? hmm…
Chanced upon these obese Spiderman and Ironman toys and the little guy took a long time to decide that he will have Spidey to be his travel companion for the rest of the trip! and that roly-poly fella caused Thaddeus much distress because Spidey is so fat and kept rolling away from him especially when we are in a hurry while on the road!
It says “The road to Hollywood”, to us it’s the “stairs to see the TINY Hollywood sign”!
The sign was so small it can’t really be seen in this picture even! and it was pizzas for dinner! one of many pizzas we will end up eating throughout the trip! The next day was a Sunday and the plan was to enroute visit the California Science Centre while heading towards Anaheim. Drove past the famous shopping districts, movie studios etc. We had all our luggages with us and while exiting from the car, one of the children actually accidentally lowered one of the windows in the back but we were not aware of it. We spent the entire afternoon in the Science Centre and only realised that when we were about to leave. And purely by God’s grace, nothing was missing in the car! Amazing divine protection! Ok! Back to the Science Centre, right at the entrance was already an interesting exhibit on the power of the pulleys! The children has lots of fun trying to lift up the truck! Fascinated by frogs’ brains……
…and bird watching…
A highlight at the Science Centre was the space shuttle Endeavour! We watched vids of how the entire city came to a standstill so as to transport the space shuttle to the Science Centre. Talia was especially fascinated by the toilet bowl in the space shuttle! The contraption to allow you to do gravity-defying erm poo-poo! We left when the Science Centre closed its doors at 5pm and headed towards Anaheim. Reached Hotel Indigo which is going to be our base camp while we spent the next 2 days at Disneyland! Spidey, Thaddie and Cheekie in a row!
Walked out to look for dinner and found The Cheesecake factory! Just looked at all the types of cheesecake they have! and somebody ate a plate of pasta with a plate bigger than the size of his face! but seriously, the portions are really enormous! We learnt our lessons and downsized our orders from 3 mains to 2 mains perhaps coupled with a appetizer. The next day, its DISNEYLAND! A shot with Minnie Mouse first!
The girl went on the Indiana Jones ride which the boy either was too short or didn’t want to go. So he went up and down the Tarzan tree house at least 3 times! Couple of rides later, the children posed with some props (because I didn’t want to buy them! hahaha!) in the shops. Then it’s lunch time! The good thing about restaurants in the US is that they have activities for the children to do all the time! Followed by Pooh Bear ride and a pic with Pooh Bear!
We came to the Frozen hut and oh my goodness! the queue was almost 2 hours long to get inside to take a pic with Elsa! Decided we shall just take a pic with the hut with Olaf on the roof!
The buzz lightyear ride was exactly how I remembered it when we went to HK Disneyland when the kiddos were younger, unfortunately none of the children could recall it! Taking a pic of the hubs taking a pic of the children!
It was sunny yet windy. Very warm when you are out there in the sun yet can get chilly when you are under the shade. We had fun until the park closed at 10pm! The next day we headed to the park next door, the Disney California Adventure and made a beeline for Cars Land. Lightning Mcqueen! We loved Cars Land. It was as though we stepped into the cartoon! So many picture moments! The children admiring the Frozen merchandise I bought for their cousin. There were almost nothing left of the merchandise when we were at Disneyland the day before and we did not even see this set of Frozen figurines there. There was this really cute caterpillar ride where even though it was real slow, when we passed by foods like watermelon and cookies, you actually can smell them! We didn’t expect that so cheap thrills for a while! Muppet*Vision 3D was the 3D show that was immensely entertaining! The next ride was perhaps one of the most fun rides according to the children. It’s arcade style shooting over and over again!
It is no wonder this is the happiest place on earth! Just look at how happy the children are!
And we experienced God’s grace afresh again when we reached Soarin’ Over California. The ride was only opened to people who have a ticket pre-booked earlier. We didn’t know and were just queuing there when the couple behind us asked us if we could like the 4 tickets they have in their hands. I can’t quite remember now why they wanted to give up the tickets and we happily thanked them and jumped queue to the front and got in! It’s a simulated airborne ride where you sit elevated in a gondola and treated to 3D scenes (4D actually as we feel breeze on our faces) of California underneath you! Amazing ride! and with that we ended our two days at Disneyland! The next day we are headed out to San Diego and to visit the USS Midway, a naval ship museum. And before that, we had lunch again at The cheesecake factory and this time managed to finally enjoy some cheesecake! On our way to lunch and check out the Frozen tee on the little girl! She was mighty pleased with it! Drove off after lunch and took a break halfway when the little guy turned a little green in the face due to carsickness! Cutest little wild squirrel! Made it to San Diego and USS Midway! The USS Midway is a naval aviation museum right in an ex-aircraft carrier.
Thaddeus the fighter jet pilot! Saw so many fighter jets and planes that I lost count! we were able to climb in most of them to take a look too! We also took a guided tour around the naval ship and it was already an eye-opener for the adults, what more the kids! We spent the night in San Diego and were at Sea World bright and early the next day! San Diego Sea World will always be memorable to me because the little guy had an upset tummy that day and I wiped backside 7 times that day in the park and also because Talia lost her second front teeth there and got a huge ice cream as a treat to remember that! Funny how sometimes we remember places we go to with unforgetable events like these? Needless to say, we enjoyed the dolphin and whale shows, little girl took rides, we ogled at penguins and flamingos and spent a wonderful and sunny day at Sea World. We set off the next day towards Las Vegas. Drove 5 hours and it was amazing when we were nearing LV, how out of the desert a gleaming and bustling city just come into sight!
Spent the night at The Venetian! and the children’s verdict was that it was the best room they stayed in during the whole trip! It has got to be considering how much we had to pay for it! It was a split level unit and has its own whole spacious living area! Spent half an hour fooling the kids that we had supernatural powers in controlling how the binds go up and down *chuckles* (it had a remote control which we hid in our hands), we left the room to explore the rest of the hotel! This was an oxygen bar where you can have yourself a dose of different types of oxygen! Little girl could only content herself with a pose in front of it! Dinner was at the Grand Lux Café from the people behind The Cheesecake factory. It was cosy and had great food plus little knickknacks to entertain the kids to boot! We had food ranging from miso-glazed salmon to pastas and after our tummies were filled. It was time to venture out! Within minutes of stepping out, all their jackets were dumped onto me! It sure felt sweltering hot, I cannot imagine how it would be like during the day! We trooped down the main street and were amazed at the spectacle that greeted us! Neon-lights, swanky hotels, fountains and music, people dressed as Bumble-bee/spider-man/Iron-man you name it, or girls wearing so little clothes I feel embarrassed for them. It was really sin city at its decadent seediest! Worth one trip to just see for yourself and for me, no reason to come back again!
We headed back to the hotel about 10-ish in the night and the next morning, after a Chinese lunch (voted erm top 3 in Las Vegas but was really quite bleh), ready to head towards Mammoth Lakes, a ski resort in the mountains except we are going there in summer! It was a 6-hrs drive from Vegas to Mammoth. We started the journey with some serious looking desert outside the car windows. We passed by scrubby bushes, cactuses in the distance and dusty mountains in the even further distance. But eventually as we began to climb higher, the landscape turned a little greener and we finally reached our hotel for 2 nights, the Sierra Nevada at around 6pm. The children wasted no time to play at the playground! Dinner was at Rafters, right next to the hotel! The next morning we set off to explore around the Mammoth Lakes area. First stop was Convict Lake. It was so named because apparently in the 1800s, a group of convict escaped here! Anyway, it was serene. A beautiful lake set on a backdrop of rugged alpine peaks. It is also popular for fishing and we encountered quite a few chaps doing that. We packed a picnic lunch of bread, ham, salads, ice cream (Can you believe that Ben and Jerry’s only costs US$2.99 there! hnnng!) and enjoyed an outdoor lunch in the gorgeous mountain air, breath taking mountain scenery. After lunch, we took a trek to see Devil’s Postpile! What a name! Devils Postpile is a unique geologic feature, formed 100,000 years ago by an eruption of lava. The lava cooled uniformly, leaving surface cracks, resulting in six-sided basalt vertical columns.
We then took a drive to Minaret Vista which offers breath taking views of the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas. It has the 2 tallest peaks in the range, all at an elevation of about 12,000-13,000 feet. The Minaret Vista is a popular spot for star gazing but alas since we were there during the day, we only feasted our eyes on peaks gazing instead. The little girl even joined the father in trying to follow a wild deer which was roaming nearby! The next day we were ready to head to Yosemite via the tioga pass.
Before we even came to the pass, we just had to stop at this spot to check it out because it was so pretty!
After many a winding turns in the scenic drive of mountain pine forest, alpine meadows and granite rocks, we are finally at the Tioga pass! Stopped at this beautiful spot for lunch! and yes you can see! Ben and Jerry’s again! It was so cold eating in the shade that the children had to sit in the sun to really enjoy the food. Finally reached Yosemite Valley and decided we shall take a little trek out to see the lake/waterfalls. Somebody made sure he had a lot of snacks along the way! Halfway through the trek, we were informed by people heading back that there was nothing much to see as there has been a severe drought and not enough water for a nice lake or waterfall. We promptly turned around as well and headed to the store. Kids made a beeline for the books. The destination to spend the night was 2 hrs away at Oakdale. We reached about 8-ish at night and had a junk food dinner at Jack in a box! Yumz by the way! Thought we will check out the K-mart before checking into the hotel and the entire store was virtually deserted! All the toys were so cheap but no luggage space to cart back! *weeps* We set off early next morning towards San Francisco. First stop was UC Berkeley. We drove around the campus, soaked in the atmosphere and had Japanese ramen within campus. Also bought the girl’s first rainbow loom set in an art and craft shop there. We headed to Fisherman’s wharf afterwards.
Alcatraz in the distance but we were not planning to visit. We walked around, browsed the shops, enjoyed clam chowder and seafood and headed to our friend’s house where we were going to stay for the next 2 nights just for the experience of staying in a house in the US. The children were really glad to meet their new friends. Played with them until late into the night and we headed out for a pancake breakfast the next day. After breakfast we headed to the California Academy of Sciences. The children’s new friends were not able to join us as they are actually in the midst of a shift to their new house. We were actually privileged to spend the last couple of days together with them in their old one! We spent an amazing day there! There are so much to see and experience what with an enclosed tropical rainforest to walk through, a planetarium where we watched a show on dark matter which was absolutely mind boggling, an aquarium, an interactive earthquake exhibit.
The little girl very carefully going through the exhibits on the earthquake.
We took a nice stroll in the Golden Gate Park where the Academy of Sciences was situated and had fun in the playground there! We went home, caught up with our friends for dinner at a shopping cluster in Foster City and went shopping at Costco where our friend is a member. It was unbelievably cheap and I could only weep some more for not being able to bring more stuff home even though we bought ourselves 2 more luggage there! In the night, the kids had another wonderful night of playing together The next morning, we were off to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Oh the wonderful breeze! The very beautiful bridge! Children having a snack in the car, away from the very chilly and strong wind! We spent the rest of the day exploring Fisherman’s wharf again! Before that we went to San Francisco Cable Car Museum where we saw historic cable cars, photographs, mechanical displays and a rather nice gift shop run by the Friends of the Cable Car Museum.
On our way walking to the wharf, we saw a naked brigade of men and women on bicycles cycling by. The children were too slow to realise what was going on and asked what’s happening! Thank goodness they were cycling by rather fast!
Our first stop was the San Francisco Maritime Museum.Here we boarded the Balclutha and made our way below deck to experience where this ship has sailed to and carried what kind of cargo in the past
and explored the insides of the ship.
After a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream break, the little guy refused to let go of the B&J cow he saw outside!
Someone was very interested in the shopping!
The number of sea lions at Pier 39 apparently has shrunk!
The hustle and bustle at Pier 39. We had the most yummy seafood dinner and had an enjoyable night shopping, people watching and snacking on clam chowder.
In the morning, we said our goodbyes to our friends, did farewell shots and hugs around and we are off to Stanford University.
We visited the Hoover Tower on campus.
In the lobby, we viewed the Herbert Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover exhibits, which feature memorabilia from the careers and lives of the thirty-first U.S. president and his wife, both of whom were Stanford alumni.
The observation platform is on the 14th floor and we were treated to a panoramic view of Stanford’s campus. Told the children Daddy and Mummy is not every going to come back here again unless one of them made good and study here so we can come again for the graduation ceremony *grin*
Then we made our merry way to Silicon Valley to pay homage to Google and Apple.
The next morning we went shopping at DSW before starting our journey back to Los Angeles for the flight home. The plan was to travel by the coast to see Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara etc.
We were greeted by the beautiful Pacific coast.
Lovely quaint shopping along the way.
The rugged coastline set amidst the blue skies and the even bluer waters. We stopped to see wild seals whilst on the 17-Mile Drive.Reached Monterey and visited the Presidio Museum where the exhibits lead visitors through Monterey’s various stages of military development from the indigenous period which highlights the area’s native populations; through the Spanish and Mexican periods; and up to present day.
A life-size horse and lieutenant depicts the Presidio that is clearest in the memories of long-time residents of Monterey.
Stopped for lunch at Cannery Row at Monterey Bay and enjoyed this lovely coastal scene.
I could have spent all day just staring at the waters!
Arrived at Pismo Beach about dinner time and this is the hotel where we will be spending the night. Chose to have our dinner indoors as the temperatures really starts to dip when the sun goes down.
It’s really lovely when it gets dark.
The next morning we had our breakfast in the park facing the sea. It was actually kind of chilly even under the sun as the sea breeze was just so strong
and so we set off, continuing our southward journey towards Santa Barbara. There were lots of opportunity to play at the beach. We were so overdressed for the beach but really it was so chilly. How did the rest manage to lounge around just in their bathing suits?
One of the places we visited in Santa Barbara was the Old Mission Santa Barbara.
It was established by the Spanish Franciscans almost 200 years ago. It was serene just walking around the grounds. It has a beautiful church apparently with an active parish. On site there is also a cemetery and mausoleum and a huge beautifully landscaped gardens. There is also a museum with information about the early days of the Mission and Santa Barbara.
We had a Chinese lunch, one of the few we had during the trip, in town and continued driving towards Los Angeles.
We reached Santa Monica sometime in the late afternoon.
And the kids had a great time playing at the sand. And as usual we were overdressed! Brrrrr!
We just sat at the beach and watched the sun go down.
As the evening progressed and the light slowly waned, the kiddos were still reluctant to leave.
Dinner was at Bubba Gump. The food was nothing to shout about really.
Back in LA, We decided to spend the last morning with some last minute shopping and end the day at the Griffith Observatory. The observatory is set on top of a hill and offers great views of downtown LA. And apparently the best time to visit would be at sunset as the night view is spectacular as well.
The front lawn of the observatory is full of green spaces. Beautiful historic building from the 1930s and a wonderful place to experience astronomy.
There are some amazing and interactive exhibits inside. We were treated to an interesting presentation on the Tesla coil and viewed Saturn on one of the massive telescopes
Fun and engaging exhibits!
and with that we ended our almost 3 weeks holiday to the West Coast of the US. It was an unforgettable experience and one of many family memories that we will always cherish!