California Trip (Part One)

A month ago, Brad and I snuck away on a little vacation to Northern California. I called it our babymoon. Brad abstained from that label because he says he’s not a yuppie.

Believe it or not, this was our first major vacation with just the two of us. We’ve traveled to numerous places together, but along with family.

We decided to go to Northern California because Brad had never been and I had only been to Tahoe (on this amazing trip). Plus, my older brother, Ryan, is currently living in Sonoma county.

After flying into San Francisco, Ryan picked us up and drove us back to his neck of the woods. We spent the day exploring wine country, the coast, and a redwood forest.

Here’s a view of Lake Sonoma.

lake sonoma

We saw sea lions or harbor seals (sorry, couldn’t tell the difference from a distance) on the coast.

sea lions or harbor seals

We walked around Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in Guerneville. These trees are beasts.


Ryan’s beautiful 70 pound pit, Lola, demonstrated the size of the roots.

Jack was so excited to smell her on our dirty laundry when we came home. Kinda gross, but he misses his cousin/play buddy. Plus we can’t have the only dog who likes to smell laundry upon returning from a trip. Right?


And here’s the view from my brother’s front porch. He literally lives in the middle of a vineyard.

Feel free to despise him.

sonoma county

The next day we packed up our stuff, kissed Lola goodbye, and headed into San Francisco with my brother. He hadn’t done a ton of touristy stuff yet so he spent most of the day driving us around to the spots we wanted to check out.

Our first stop was Battery Spencer to see the Golden Gate Bridge and surrounding views.

san francisco

golden gate bridge

Then we went to check out The Palace of Fine Arts, which is basically right across the Golden Gate Bridge. The Palace of Fine Arts was constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

That’s all I really remember about it. It’s always Brad’s job to be the nerd and read all the informative plaques at historical places and fill me in later because I get ADD and start to wander around.

palace of fine arts 2

The inside of the dome is gorgeous. I almost felt like I was back in Italy.

palace of fine arts 1

The Full House lover in me couldn’t go to San Francisco and NOT see the Painted Ladies. As you can see, one of the ladies is getting a face lift.

We attempted to find the real Tanner house but after being misdirected a couple times we decided to give up. Mostly because Brad was over it and couldn’t understand my brother’s and my obsession with the popular 90s TV show. That’s when I started telling him to cut – it – out.

painted ladies

We had a late lunch with my brother and said our goodbyes as he dropped us off at our hotel.

Brad and I didn’t do anything exciting that night. Mostly because I was tired and pregnant. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep around 8:30 PM.

The next morning we woke up ready to explore more of San Francisco. After breakfast, we hopped on a trolley and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We walked around, ate mini donuts, visited the left-handed store (Brad’s a lefty), and checked out the Pier 39 sea lions.

pier 39

After lunch at Kokkari, which was amazing by the way, we headed to Ghirardelli Square. We split a sundae, walked around the shops, and sat on a bench next to a young couple that hardcore made out for 30 solid minutes.

We walked around the area some more to kill time before we needed to board our boat for the Alcatraz nighttime tour.

alcatraz 2

I’ve always wanted to visit Alcatraz because I’m weird and think prisons, especially the old dilapidated ones, are highly interesting. I mean, one of my favorite movies of all time is Shawshank Redemption. Seriously, it never gets old to me. Brad was game to visit because he’s worked as a correctional officer in a supermax prison and a case manager in a work release prison. So Alcatraz was right up his alley.

alcatraz 1

I find most seagulls to be super annoying, but these guys were particularly cute. And I may or may not have talked for them to Brad.

alcatraz birds

This one modeled for me.

alcatraz 3

I learned a lot on the tour. Mostly because I didn’t have to read anything.

The audio tour, which comes with the tour, is narrated by former guards and inmates. They guide you through the prison and tell you stories about the prison.

alcatraz 5

I highly suggest the nighttime tour. I heard there’s less people lingering on the island, and they open up parts of the prison that are closed during the daytime tours.

Like the prison hospital. This here is the operating room. Looks totally legit and sterile, no? The painting peeling off the wall definitely adds to the ambience.

alcatraz 4

Well, that’s it for the Sonoma county and San Francisco part of our trip. On Friday I’ll share the Monterey Peninsula part of our trip.

In case you’re heading to Northern California in the future, I thought I’d share the restaurants where we dined while in Sonoma county and San Francisco because I know when I travel I always want to know of good places to eat. So I’ll share where we ate and what we ate below. If we didn’t like the restaurant I won’t list it.

I didn’t take many pics of what we ate, but I’ll post what I did photograph.

Diavola – Geyserville, CA – gnocchi with rabbit, The Dictator pizza, Rustico pizza

The Parish – Healdsburg, CA – beignets, breakfast po-boy, shrimp & grits, omelette

Woodhouse Fish Co – Filmore St. – San Fran – crab cakes, fish & chips, crab melt

Kokkari – Jackson St. – San Fran – saganaki, chicken souvlaki, lamb souvlaki

chicken souvlaki kokkari

Ghirardelli – Ghirardelli Square – San Fran – world famous hot fudge sundae

ghirardelli sundae

Boudin – Pier 39 – San Fran – turkey avocado, rustic tomato soup bread bowl

Here’s Part Two of our Northern California trip, where we traveled to around the Monterey Peninsula!

Have you been to Northern California? What fun things did you do?

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  1. Good grief, I AM despising him for that view of the vineyard! LOL What a wonderful trip. I’ve only been to California once and think it’s time for a return trip. Looks so beautiful. Isn’t Lola a cutie too, posing for the root shot. lol

    1. Hah! It definitely beats the view from the front porch of his house here in Indianapolis. 🙂 Yeah, Lola should be a professional root model.

  2. I can’t decide if the seagulls or the operating room is more terrifying!! Eeeek.

    Looks like a GORGEOUS trip!

  3. Shawshank Redemption is one of hubby’s favorite films too and I already lost track of how many times he watched it. He had it recorded in the DVR and probably have memorized the lines already. As he told me, he would never get tired of watching the film over and over and over again. So, I think that makes him weird too, huh? LOL.

    I will show him this post. We’ve never been to San Francisco. He might want to go as soon as he sees your photos of Alcatraz. (“,)

  4. Looks like you had a wonderful trip! All the pictures are gorgeous! The Shawshank Redemption is in my Top 10 favorite movies ever, and the pics from the prison are so creepy, especially the operating room.

    1. Thanks! And I’m glad there’s other Shawshank fans out there. I thought I’d be more creeped out by the hospital than I was, but I didn’t find it too spooky. The photos on the other hand…

  5. Beautiful! What kind of camera do you use? I recently ordere a Canon T5 and am anxious to receive it and start using it! Also, HUGE KUDOS for mentioning that your brother’s dog is a Pittie and showing that she is so sweet, fun, friendly and happy go lucky, like like any other dog! So often they get a bad rap and I am the dog-Mommy to two pitties. With the exposure of your blog, the POSITIVE press is so appreciated and we need more of it! 🙂

    1. I took my smaller Canon Rebel XT because it’s not nearly as heavy as my Canon 7D that I use for blog photos. Some of the photos in the post were taken with the Rebel XT and some are from my iPhone.

      Oh yeah, we love Lola. She’s the sweetest dog. She doesn’t know her size and thinks she’s a lap dog, but she’s still the sweetest. 🙂 It’s sad that pits get such a bad rap. It’s all in how the owner raises the dog. I don’t think a lot of people know that pits used to be nanny dogs because they are so loyal and protective.

  6. Totally hating him for that view. What an awesome trip! I can’t believe I live within driving distance of all this and haven’t been. Bad Rachel!

  7. Not only am I jealous of the view, but I’m jealous that you got to go to Alcatraz! I have always wanted to go there!

  8. I have family in Nor Cal! I have toooons of family in Placerville (know where that is?). That’s funny about the yuppie comment. Sounds like something Hubs would say!

  9. Love the pics! Looks like fun! The prison was cool – my hubby watches Shawshank over and over too! Thank you so much for showing sweet Lola and another wonderful pitty in a great light!!! They get too much undeserved bad press and not enough good press for the wonderful dogs they are. I have three – and they literally saved me when I had a stroke – they are an amazing breed. Thank you so so much and I love your blog!

    1. I hate how they get such a bad wrap. It’s like every decade or so the media chooses a breed to pick on. It’s all in how they are raised and trained by their owners. Lola is seriously the sweetest girl and wouldn’t hurt a fly, even after clearly being abused the first year of her life (she was a rescue dog).

  10. Holy crap, that last photo almost made me lick my tablet screen. I had to fight it, haha. Your photos are amazing! It likes like you guys had fun & I’m glad ya did. Everyone needs a little time out now and then. I hope you guys are having a great Wednesday.

    1. Haha! I don’t blame you. After we finished the sundae Brad said, “Maybe we should’ve gotten one for each of us instead of sharing.” Hah!

  11. Looks like you had an amazing trip!! San Fran/Sonoma holds a special place in my heart and I’m dying to get back! Thanks for sharing- helped me to feel like I was there for a moment! Excited to see Monterey xo

  12. We had a great time when we visited a few years back. Did a lot of the same things you did. Those trees are AMAZING right? Also you may want to mention that the Alcatraz evening tour sells out really quickly, especially in the summer so if you are thinking of going reserve your tickets for that early!

  13. OMG I love the bay area and am totally jealous and living vicariously through your pictures. Alcatraz is my favorite thing in San Fran, and we’ve tried to book a nighttime tour both times we were there to no avail. I love your pictures.

    1. Dang! Sorry you guys haven’t been able to book a nighttime tour. I booked our tickets a month in advance and didn’t have any issues.

  14. I live about 10 miles from the Mansfield Reformatory where Shawshank was filmed. It is now open for tours and an area for wedding receptions, I’ve not made it to a tour yet. Oh at Halloween it’s open at night for tours, traffic is crazy.

  15. I’m so excited that you posted this! Justin and I are kind of planning a trip to Cali, but were overwhelmed with things to do. Now I have some great ideas! Everything looks so beautiful and it looks like you had a blast.

    1. Yay for vacationing in California! I feel like Brad and I need to do an East coast trip next. I’ve only been to DC and that was in the 8th grade. But it’s looking like Alaska next summer (sooo excited to go back!).

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