Trip to the Bay: Day 2: Berkeley and Oakland

Sunday was spent at church for most of the day. When we were members at the church years ago, my husband and I served on the kitchen team where we prepared lunch after service once every month. Our designated menu item was meatball sub sandwiches and  people either loved it so much they’d pack a ziplock bag full of meatballs to eat for lunch the following week or tolerated it enough to fill their stomachs as a snack/meal. It was known as a “church meal” and we wouldn’t order it or seek after it anywhere outside of church. As mentioned in a previous post, we last visited the Bay two years ago, and during that Sunday we happened to visit on the meatball sub Sunday and my husband and I had a good laugh about it. According to the church members, that was the last time they served meatball subs and they hadn’t eaten it since. That is, until we visited again this past July. Two years later, the meatballs greeted us as though it knew we were coming, welcoming us with its marina sauce and toasted bread. Just like the olden days.

Babies had turned into kids, kids had turned into teens, teens had entered college, and familiar faces were mixed with new. Of course, we had also changed…

After church, we stopped by Artís Coffee on 4th Street, a street we often visited for eye-shopping and walks. The coffee shop was new and spacious, although we couldn’t find any seating indoors because of all the people chatting or studying/working that Sunday afternoon.

We transferred hotels to Claremont Club and Spa for the last two nights. It was a nice hotel and they had some recent renovations done to their rooms. I especially liked the bathroom (not pictured) because it was white-marbled from floor to sink to shower tiles, and it looked very fancy and clean. But it was also very cold. *Note to self: for any house renovation, don’t install marble floors; instead, install floor heaters. ;) The hotel itself was massive and they had tennis courts that were always busy.

Later we grabbed dinner near the hotel, a local spot called La Mediterranee, which has good Armenian food. The reviews on Yelp aren’t great, but the food and atmosphere hasn’t changed, and personally, I really like it and I missed the cinnamon-y chicken cilicia. I’ve never found it anywhere else. After dinner, we stopped by our past favorite ice-cream shop: Ici. One time they had a flavor called ‘mint cookie,’ which was a mint flavored ice cream with oreo cookies blended into it. The cookies weren’t crunchy but almost chewy in texture. So good, but we had only tried it that one time and never caught it again on their rotating menu. Their solid and can’t-go-wrong flavor is the ‘earl grey’ but I also like their affogatos. This time around, I tried the ‘coffee cookie’ (I think that’s what it was called) and it was also very good.

We ate so much, we wanted to take a walk and enjoy the rest of the evening before heading back to the hotel. College Avenue would have been the ideal place since we were already there, but all the shops were closed by the time we finished our ice cream (I had forgotten how most shops close by 7pm), so we decided to head over to Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland. The sun was setting and people were out and about enjoying the last bit of the weekend, talking, dancing, walking their dogs, jogging, and even riding a gondola on the lake.

Trip to the Bay: Day 1: Cypress Tree Tunnel and the Golden Gate Bridge

For our anniversary we decided to take a trip to the Bay area for a 4-day weekend. Our last visit was two years ago and it seemed like a good time to visit old friends and familiar places. The Bay will always have a soft spot in our hearts and we are turning out to be the sentimental types.

We stayed at Emeryville Hyatt Place for two nights. The hotel didn’t exist when we lived in the area five years ago, so it’s relatively new and clean, and decently priced. They provided free breakfast every morning (as does the sister branch Hyatt House next door), so that’s a definite plus especially if you have little ones who wake up hungry. The rooms were spacious and clean and the staff were friendly even during its busy breakfast and checkout hours.

Saturday: Elaine was looking forward to seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, which was the only thing she knew about in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Karl the fog was back and blocked our view of the bridge. (Oh, that Karl!) We drove up to the viewing area across the bridge and our view turned out to be a grey-white wall. A typical happening for us, I’d say.

We hung around Sausalito for a quick break, grabbed a couple sandwiches to eat later, then we drove up to Point Reyes to see the cypress tree tunnel. I tried to incorporate a few new places to visit and eat during our trip, and the tree tunnel was one of them, recommended by my mother who visited in the 80s.

After the long drive to and from the tree tunnel, we headed back to the city to get a better view of the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point. Most people were heading to the overlook, but my tip would be to pass the area a little further down and drive to Fort Point (see the Seven Places to Gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge). It’s less crowded and you get a grand view of the bridge from water level.

The weather was cold and foggy, which is typical San Francisco weather, but we were exhausted by this point and didn’t feel like walking up and down the steep hills with an irritable toddler. So we headed back to Emeryville and grabbed dinner at Yuzu Ramen and Broffee. Local, low key, no line, good food. That’s one thing we really missed.

 

 

 

Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood

Every year Kaiser hosts an evening at Universal Studios for its employees and their families. We pay for discounted tickets and are admitted at 3pm and can stay until midnight. The park closes for non-Kaiser-family-people at 8pm, so the park is somewhat empty from 8pm-12am. Last year we went with my brother and sister.

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This year we went with my husband’s brother and my sister. It felt like we had a more leisurely time last year and were able to do so much: ride more rides, play some games at booths, participate in the kid’s corner, take a bunch of green-screen photos, eat leisurely, take photos with different costumed characters, sit and drink butter beer.  This year we didn’t do much in the same amount of time, and we felt rushed:  part of the reason may be because we spent 2+ hours in line to ride Studio Tour (we didn’t ride this last year).  You’d think we’d be pros by now with the number of theme parks we’ve visited in the past year, but it seems we are becoming more and more like novices and by our next visit we’ll be entering and leaving the park without having accomplished anything. Mind-boggling.

 

 

Birthday at Disneyland

Birthday at Disneyland

We didn’t start out as Disney fans. Sure, we grew up watching Disney films and visited Disneyland maybe once every decade, but there was no ingrained fascination with the megacorp that a certain group of people seemed to share. We weren’t those people.

My husband and I moved down to SoCal (from the Bay Area) for his residency program in 2013 (before we had Elaine) and many of his colleagues were annual pass holders to Disneyland who seemed to make it their mission to haul him onto the bandwagon. “It’s only 30 minutes away,” they said. “You can go there for date nights/days whenever you want.” “You can go there on your days/afternoons off.” “It’s a bargain if you think about a day’s admission cost.” Spellbound, my husband found himself purchasing the premium annual memberships for the both of us so that we didn’t have blackout dates and we didn’t have to pay for parking for every visit. By the end that year, after about one or two visits a month, we were converts; we shared the same sentiment as the other Disney people whom we didn’t understand at first. There’s a certain desire for fiction and magic that Disney provides, and you come to love walking down Main Street with the view of the castle, the foods associated with each section of the park, and riding the silly rides that only last a minute or so. I rode “it’s a small world” at the end of the day around 11:30PM with a sleepy Elaine, and a family came rushing into the line standing behind me in which I overhead a lady say, “I always ride ‘it’s a small world’ whenever I come to Disneyland. If I don’t, did it even happen?”

Fiction, magic, traditions. That’s how they get’ya.

Food highlights from Pixar Fest (see this post for all the details): I had a long list of foods to try, but our stomachs could only handle so much in one day and we had a dinner reservation at Goofy’s Kitchen, which was a dinner buffet with the family, so we couldn’t stuff ourselves in the afternoon. We tried the grape soda cake pop, alien macaron, cheeseburger pizza, apple and cherry slushy in a Finding Nemo souvenir light-up sipper cup, a habanero meatball cone, and a “Choose Your Racer” churro in which I chose the red churro for Lightning McQueen. My favorite was the alien macaron because it wasn’t that sweet and it was a well-made macaron with a sweet-tangy blackberry flavored filling. I wanted to try at least 3 churros (the cocoa churro (inspired by Coco) and the multi-colored fruity churro (inspired by Up)), Jessie’s Berry Jubilee funnel cake (inspired by Toy Story 3), the three-flavored corn dog (inspired by Jack-Jack from The Incredibles), and the three-course Remi-inspired (from Ratatouille) menu at Cafe Orleans, but again, our stomachs could handle so much and I think the Lord was keeping me in check with all the sweets. ;) I didn’t indulge too much because I only took a bite or two from each food item. I just wanted a taste, that’s all. hehe.

 

 

Field Trip: Echo Park, L.A.

June 2nd: Impromptu trip to the Echo Park in L.A. The weather was sunny and not too hot. I thought it would be nice to have a picnic and ride the swan boats at the lake. Echo Park was also on my Summer List. We packed a light lunch by digging up leftovers from the week and headed to the park. Note to future visitors: street parking can be tricky on weekends because there’s a lot of people especially on nice days and the swan boat rides are $11 per adult and $7(?) for each child. I didn’t know it would be so costly, but since I didn’t think we would ride it ever again, we decided to take the plunge. All in all, it was a pleasant afternoon in the city.