Visitor Mania

Mountain View – Friday, 27 April 2012

By Melanie

How time flies when you are having fun!

And to add another cliché: The more the merrier. We acted on this and adopted the cutest, fluffiest, sweetest dog in the world, Porter. He is a 7 year old Beagle, has a very strong personality, likes rolling in the grass (and then continuously sneezes) and snores while he sleeps (which he does a lot!).

Porter en Pangan

The last month has been full of adventures and we had many visitors coming over. Now that everyone has returned to lovely Belgium, I finally have the time to write this blog post.

You know how I always post pictures of us wearing sunny outfits and brag about the high temperatures? Well, although most of this post will be the same of that, I’ll start with something totally different. SNOW! Yup, you read that right, we had snow. To be totally honest, we had to drive 5 hours to get to the snow but still, SNOW. The last weekend of March, Katie invited us to her parent’s chalet in Lake Tahoe for some relaxing. We were planning on doing some skiing, but in the end lazy relaxing took over. And the fact that we didn’t pack our skiing outfits when we came to California also had something to do with it, naturally. But we had the best time there, the chalet was beautiful and the hot coco at the fire pit was delicious. Porter also loved the snow and looked very handsome in his little jacket.

the three of us
Porter on the slopes

And then, April arrived, and so did the first visitors. My (Melanie’s) parents were the first to set food on American soil (well, not literally but you know what I mean).

After having a rainy rest day to get over the jet lag, skies cleared up and we started their 10 day visit at San Francisco. Although SF has a reputation of being misty and windy, we had fantastic weather. This allowed us to have a wonderful cycling trip over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. A must-do! Luckily there is a ferry that takes you back to SF, because what goes down must come up and the cycling trip mostly went down.

bike on golden gate
Golden Gate bridge

During our 2 day stay in the city we also went to Pier 39, ate the famous Cioppino (a fish soup with big crab paws in it), climbed the steep streets to see the most winding street in California, Lombard street and had a ride on the cable train.

Cable train

And last but not least, we did the night tour of Alcatraz. Although we were a little bit skeptical about this very touristic tour at first, it turned out to be a fun and interesting experience. Not only do you get great stories about prison life but you also have the best view on the San Francisco skyline by night.

SF by night

From the city to the total opposite, Carmel by the Sea. A cute little sea town where all the rich Americans and tourists with taste reside. Its most famous inhabitant is Clint Eastwood who was mayor of this town a few decades ago. But that is certainly not the only thing that this town can brag about. Little streets with art galleries, beautiful bed and breakfasts, Efteling-like houses, good restaurants and an amazing beach with great views are all on display in Carmel. I know I sound like a tourist info site that tries to lure tourists to Carmel but honestly, it is a magnificent place. We stayed at the Green Lantern Inn where breakfast was good and the afternoon tea (with salty and sweet treats) was even better.

Carmel sunset

South of Carmel places like Big Sur and Point Lobos are great to have a walk and enjoy the best that nature has to offer (my god, I really sound like a travel agency). We walked through Point Lobos park and thanks to my dad’s old-school binoculars were able to see sea otters and seals playing in the water. They were a little harder to get on camera but there were other things worth photographing as well.

Point Lobos

Monterey is another town/city close to Carmel, famous for its aquarium and canned sardines (that was before they over fished them and no alive sardine was found anymore). I have to confess that I have never in my life heard about Monterey. My mum on the other hand was recalling scenes from a certain movie with Robert Redford that was filmed in Monterey. The generation gap… We visited the aquarium and although the fish tanks were nice, the jelly fish were the coolest!


On our way home we made a quick stop at Santa Cruz, a city famous for its Boardwalk that offers unlimited fun all year round. My dad and I took a ride in its most famous attraction, the roller coaster ‘The Giant Dipper’! Apparently this roller coaster also got used in many older movies but again, from before my time… Nonetheless, the ride was fast and bumpy, I loved it, my dad’s back not so much.

Giant Dipper
Santa Cruz

The ride home was calmer than the roller coaster ride but the views were better.

mum and dad in front of the lighthouse

Back home and reunited with my lovely hubby (who had to work whilst I was traveling with the parents, life can be unfair), we went to a baseball game. The Oakland Athletics against Seattle. We were supporting for Oakland. They lost. Although the rules of baseball aren’t rocket science it was still hard to always understand who was doing what and why all of a sudden people could start running without a ball being trown. But the beer and hot dog and the company were nice so it was a fun night out.

We spend the next day at Half Moon Bay hiking along the coast and afterwards we went to Sam’s Chowder House to eat the famous lobster sandwich.

Half Moon Bay hiking
Lobster sandwich

So we had cioppino, sardines and lobster. Just two things left we needed to have a culinary orgasm: wine and oysters!

Wine: Napa Valley! By now, Andrew’s friends Tom and Thomas arrived and the six of us went to Napa. What happened on Andrew’s visit I don’t know and you know what they say, what happens in Napa, stays in Napa. I know that on my trip I was the responsible young driver and very responsibly drove my parents to some wine tastings. After a week of seeing magnificent nature, Napa was somewhat a disappointment. Not the nicest road to get there and the town of Napa was pretty boring. But who knows, maybe if I wasn’t so sober I would have loved it all :-)

Tom and Thomas

Oysters: Driving back from Napa we made a stop in Point Reyes national park and apart from the scenery, there was something else that caught our eye. Hog Island Oyster Farm! At this place you can have a picnic with sea view and taste delicious oysters. Honestly: one of the best experiences I had in California so far. Made me consider a career as an oyster farmer.

Hog Island Oyster Farm

As a cherry on the whipped cream, we had a surprise visit. Whilst standing on a beach were we just stopped to stretch our legs and let Porter out, we saw whales. And not in the far distance as a Fata Morgana, no, there were a couple of whales sticking their heads out of the water and diving under so you could see their tail fin, only a couple of meters away from us. We were so stunned that by the time we thought about getting the camera out they were already gone, but still a memory that will always last.

This is already becoming a very long post and we are not even mid April yet.

On April 11th, my parents left for Belgium in the morning, and my friend Melissa arrived in California around lunch time.

Two weeks of girl power! Meaning: shopping on Union Square in SF, dancing at Mollie Magees in Castro Street, afternoon picnic at Crissy Fields in SF, sun bathing at the pool (one of our 3 pools) and… Hollywood!

When I was 12 I used to save up pennies with the genius and not so original plan of going to Hollywood and becoming a movie star. The latter didn’t really work out and those pennies were spent on shopping instead but still, I finally made it to Hollywood!

A 6 hour drive through amazing scenery took us to the city where dreams come true.

Road to Hollywood

Well, I don’t think everyone’s dreams came true as there were a lot of homeless people and wannabe movie stars who work as companionship ladies. But that didn’t spoil our fun. We saw the Hollywood sign, walked the Walk of Fame, photographed the Kodak theatre, saw Spiderman, Darth Vader and Catwoman and last but definitely not least, stood in front of Astrid Bryan’s villa. And it was… ameeeyzing!

Walk of Fame

We also went to Venice Beach but it was a little bit to cold to parade in our bikinis.

Safely returned home we enjoyed the very warm weather at the pool and worked on our tan. We also went to Santa Cruz were we had a blast. Unfortunately all but 7 attractions were closed but that didn’t spoil our fun. And honestly, after the 4th attraction which was a spinning, turning who knows what, our stomach was getting somewhat upset. The carrousel was more our thing :-)

stomach turning attraction

By this time Andrews parents had also arrived in California. They rented an RV and went to Carmel with Andrew. And from what I heard, they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Dominique en Patrick

The rest of the week Andrew’s parents traveled to Napa where Patrick trained for his next Iron Man on his hired Specialized bicycle and Dominique enjoyed the views and weather. Unfortunately they could only stay for 6 days. So that leaves us to just the three of us again! And now that we both had a small taste of what California has to offer, we plan on making many road trips in the future!