I have come to accept that there are two things in life that you cannot control and must simply accept.
1. The Weather
2. Your Children
And both of these factors conspired to affect my ambitious San Francisco sightseeing itinerary.
Here’s what I had planned:
Wake up early, breakfast at Omni hotel restaurant
Catch Muni cable car down to the piers
Blue & Gold Fleet bay cruise
Visit California Academy of Sciences
Visit Aquarium of the Bay
All of these attractions (well, not the meals!) were included in our San Francisco CityPASSes, and are easily accessible by public transit (also included).
As it happened, though, our visit coincided with a big winter storm. Now, you might already know this, but winter storms in California mean just one thing. RAIN. Enter: the weather. Then again, I have heard of forecasts and had come prepared – we each had our umbrellas when we headed out that morning. We hopped on the cable car (what a treat for me…I kept singing “Rice-a-roni – the San Francisco treat!” and embarrassing my kids) and rode it the short distance from our hotel to Pier 39. When I told the girls we were on our way to board a boat for a cruise of the bay, they flatly refused. It was too wet, too cold, and too well they remembered a similar cruise around Helsinki Bay on our trip to Europe three years ago. I wasn’t about to give up that easily (I am the Mom here, right?) when my older daughter (eleven years old) inexplicably began to cry. Just standing in the street, her umbrella slumped, head drooping, shoulders shaking and full on bawling.
I took a closer look, and saw her face was ashen, big black bags under her eyes and when I felt her forehead, she was roasting. I don’t know if it was fatigue or flu, but that kid was sick. And as I said above, I am the Mom here. And that job brings certain responsibilities with it. Chief among them is this: do not force a sick child to board a boat in rainy ten-degree weather. Having tried similar tricks in the past I knew we would all regret it, as well as any the other passengers on the cruise.
So back up the street to our hotel we went, and my little sick girl slept for three (count ’em – three) hours. When she finally woke, her younger sister had discovered a new favourite TV show and I had made a good dent in my book (Game of Thrones – yes, I’m a purist “book firster” and also way behind on my TV watching!). By this time, it was rather too late to head to the California Academy of Sciences as it would be closing within a matter of 2 hours or so, and was a bit more of a distance to travel. So I took stock of our options, and decided to forge ahead with our plan to see the Aquarium of the Bay after dinner, which we enjoyed in our room.
Now, when you travel with kids, especially as a single mom, you have to learn to roll with the punches. Yes, we did miss out on much of what I had wanted to do during our one full day in San Francisco. On the other hand, we spent that much-needed “wellness time” in luxurious surroundings in our suite at the Omni Hotel. We all had a chance to wind down, and we were able to tackle the aquarium rested, refreshed and – most importantly – healthy.
And the Aquarium of the Bay? Let me put it this way: if you ever find yourself in San Francisco (and I hope you have the good fortune to do just that) do not miss this attraction. It’s perfectly located on the bay itself right at bustling Pier 39. I’ll let the pictures speak for the beauty of the Aquarium’s exhibits, but note also that the staff are outstanding: knowledgable, friendly, helpful and passionate about their creatures. When you’re done at the aquarium, be sure to browse the shops and food offerings on Pier 39, and make sure you take a walk to the end of the pier – from here you can see Alcatraz (it’s surprisingly close to the city), and you’ll be sure to hear the barking of the famous sea lions that have decided to call Pier 39 home for many years. Just down the way you’ll find the famous Ghirardelli chocolate factory (which you can tour if you’re so inclined), and take a drive up to Lombard Street – famous for being the world’s “crookedest” street – and then drive down the eight hairpin (and hair-raising) turns its most famous block boasts.
As I stood (soaking, freezing and shivering) on Pier 39 admiring the sea lions, I promised myself that I would be back to give San Francisco its due. More than just a day, next time. This grand city deserves at least a week. And I think next time I might leave one variable out of the equation. You can never leave the weather behind (and San Francisco is notorious for cold, rainy days) but you can leave your children behind. I’m just saying.
Tune in tomorrow for a hair-raising tale of rocky cliffs, crashing waves, towering redwoods…and a washed-out highway.