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Nathan is Hebrew and means "gift from God" - we couldn't have been more blessed than to have been chosen as his parents!

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

10 Years, Over 800 Miles and Livin the California Dream.....

Recently, our family spent just under two weeks, celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary, exploring the gorgeous California coast.  It was a road trip we'd been saving for, and anticipating, since before we were married. We seriously had a five gallon water jug that we've been saving money in since before our wedding day. We called it our the California fund.  Now, it's our Italy fund! :-)    Anyway, Nathan enjoyed his first flight from Albany to sunny San Diego - a whooping seven hours in the air.  Thank God for the iPad and his Yogi Bear movie.    
The Southwest captain was so nice to Nathan. He let him see the cockpit and even gave him the nautical map of our flight!  We saved it for framing.
Two peas in a pod!  Nathan was awesome on the plane!  Dad, not so much!
Our first stop was for the love of our lives - Nathan. 

The San Diego Zoo

We arrived bright and early, and to our surprise, the zoo opens every morning with a fly over of the Macaws.  It was spectacular to see these beautiful birds fly right over our heads. I was so moved to be there with my family and having this experience together.  I truly felt blessed.   


I have tons of pictures, but here are just a few of our favorites.  If I'm correct, the US is only one of two places in the world (China is the other) where you can see panda bears, and for that reason alone, we waited over 30 minutes to see these beautiful animals.
Mama

Her little baby
What I loved about this zoo, compared to the Bronx Zoo, is the animals were so close, which allowed Nathan the opportunity to really see them, but on the other hand, at least at the Bronx Zoo the animals have more room to roam.  I hate seeing animals in cages or in zoos, but Nathan just loves them, and short of flying to Africa, this is the closest he's going to get.

This next picture is one of my favorites from our experience.  Nathan LOVES the monkeys and he could just watch them all day, but in this next picture, the orangutan came right down to Nathan and he thought the orangutan was signing to him! So, what did Nathan do? He responded! He signed back. Do you see they both have the exact same hand positions? It was so cute and who knows, maybe the orangutan was signing to him.  

Big Poppa

lots of monkeys at the zoo!



After we left the zoo, we headed to tour one of Danny's favorite brewing companies in San Diego, but unfortunately, I don't have any pictures.   From there we stopped at one of his favorite television show shops - West Coast Customs.    They customize cars.


Our next stop was for me - we were taking turns. :-)  I've always wanted to try hand-gliding, so I did some research before we left and found a spot in La Jolla, which means the jewel, right outside of San Diego. 

La Jolla ~ Torrey Pines


I actually thought I'd be laying on my belly, but I guess that's not how it's done, but the coolest part was running like lightening and jumping off the cliff overlooking the ocean. You can see it here. Once you're in the air, it's just peaceful.  The only hiccup was that we are at the mercy of the wind, so at one point, we got really low and almost had to land on the nude beach below us rather than on the cliff we jumped from! Now, that would have been an interesting experience. 

One of my favorite pictures.  Thanks for taking it babe!

After leaving La Jolla, we began making our way up the coast.

The below pictures are from somewhere.  No idea where, but somewhere in between San Diego and LA.



Seals in the wild.


LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, San Monica & Venice Beach 

We wanted to see as much as possible while in LA area of California, so we took a full-day tour that brought us to most of the hot spots.  We discovered the rest on our own.
 

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Kat Von d's LA Ink shop
We also visited the famed Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills, which is nothing more than a tourist trap.  I doubt stars even buy their clothes there.  Why would they?  Then they'd all be wearing the same outfits, so I doubt it. We spent some time at Venice Beach, which was REALLY interesting.  If you're ever in need of medical marijuana, no worries, they have doctors right there to make sure you have what you need.  Crazy. I've never seen anything like it.   We also drove through Sunset strip and saw some of the famous clubs and restaurants on our tour.  There were also some homes of the rich and famous, but no star sightings.  Well, unless you count the people dressed up on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  :-) 

Our next stop was Santa Barbara, but it was just an overnight, and after driving around for a bit  and seeing if there was anything to do, we decided to venture further up the coast.

Our next stop was Monterey, home of famous Canary Row and Fisherman's Wharf.  We had a lovely hotel room right on the beach.  We were able to watch the dolphins and seal lions swimming about.  It was really neat.  Beyond the shops, piers and restaurants, Monterey has an aquarium, so you know we had to bring Nathan!  He loves fish too.   

Monterey, CA


See any resemblance to the next picture?


We went out for Japanese one night, and for some odd reason the restaurant thought it was Nathan's birthday!  lol  We have no idea why, but we went with it and he loved it.

On our way up the coast, we stopped at Hearst Castle.  What an amazingly beautiful estate. Built in 1865 by George Hearst, but inherited by his son, William Randolph Hearst in 1919,  the castle has "165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways."  I certainly can't imagine living in such luxury or having to drive the five miles up that mountain every day, but what a sight to behold!  There were times, Danny and I were praying we weren't going over the edge of the cliffs.  Those roads were not made for buses, but it's the only way to now access the castle.

We got very lucky on this tour and ended up with our own personal guide, who took family pictures for us!     

Hearst Castle


the indoor pool, which is below the tennis courts


The outdoor pool. Now, I could swim in this every day!


The front door

Look at this view!  It was just spectacular.

After leaving San Simeon, we headed back on the California Pacific Coast Highway.  It's hard to adequately describe the sheer beauty of California Route 1, or the roads that seem to never end and snake in and out of the mountains and sometimes go right through the mountain.  Nothing, but driving this road for yourself, can give you a sense of this experience.  I tried to videotape it, but it just doesn't do it justice.  I hope everyone gets this chance to do this.

The Pacific Coast Highway


Can you see the highway? It goes right along the edge of the mountains.

Elephant Seals - Way to Cool!

Again, I really don't recall where we are now, but we are on California Highway 1, just outside of San Simeon, and we came across some signs that alerted us to elephant seals on the beach.  I've only seen these guys in the movie Happy Feet; who knew we'd run into them in the wild.  Beyond cool!  Nathan loved them.



Our next stop was Big Sur, which is known for its emerald green waters and purple sand.  On a clear sunny day, the waters appear emerald because of the limestone and the sands are purple due to the magnesium in earth.   

not sure if you can tell, but this is purple sand



One of my favorite pictures of the day!



After leaving Big Sur, we spent two days exploring and relaxing in Pismo Beach, which is right next to Pebble Beach.  Our final leg of the trip was San Francisco, Sonoma and Napa Valley!

WELCOME TO FRISCO!

Alcatraz - THE ROCK.

We wanted so badly to tour the Rock, but it's very difficult to get tickets, unless you do it months in advance. Considering we had no set schedule, and no idea when we'd by in Frisco, buying tickets for a set day wasn't something I considered until the last minute.  When I called to beg for tickets, the women told me about their cancellation policy and that people with tickets had three days to cancel, so those tickets would become available immediately online.  Well, I stalked their website until I was able to get tickets and we had a really cool experience!

For those of you who may not be familiar with Alcatraz, it was once of America's most infamous prisons. Today, it's a museum, operated by the national park service. It's completely surrounded by water off the coast of the San Francisco bay, and the officers that worked here, also lived there with their families.  Everyone was in prison on the Island.  



doesn't he look like he's in trouble? haha


I don't advocate for sensationalizing prisoners or their crimes.  However, as we were leaving the Island, we exited through the store and it just so happened that a former inmate, who authored a book about his time on the Rock, was there doing a book signing.   Robert Luke was a bank robber and spent five years and twelve days on the Rock.  He autographed this book for Nathan.  Someday, Nathan will think this was cool. 

We also spent a day exploring the wineries of Napa Valley and Sonoma, which is only about an hour from San Fran.  We love wine, so this was one of our "must do" adventures on our trip.  We visited several wineries, toured their facilities, sampled their wines and learned about their wine making process.  It was fun and each winery was so different.  One of our favorites was the Madonna Estate organic winery.



Happy Anniversary Baby!! xxoo  Cheers  to us!
My father recommended one of our must-do adventures, be to ride the San Francisco trolley. We waited for three trains to pass, just so Nathan and Danny could have the front seat and a birds-eye view of the hills. 

If you ever get the chance to ride the trolley, do it!  It's so much fun.  It's like riding a roller coaster in slow motion.  Check out this video. 

We also saw the famous Golden Gate bridge.  Who knew it was red?  We watched some of the America's cup racing, which was very cool.  We toured the Fisherman's Wharf and explored some of the famous districts like Union Square and Little Italy. 



If you ever get a chance to drive the California PCH - do it!  What an awesome experience.  The only one who wanted to come home was Nathan.  He kept asking for his friends and to go to school! lol.  Apparently, we're no fun.  :-)  We'd go back in a heartbeat and probably will.  I just hope it doesn't take another 12 years to get there, but Italy is next.
We waited a long time to take this trip!  Happy Anniversary! xxoo