Wednesday, August 20, 2008

California, Here We Come!

From Monterey we traveled inland to San Jose to visit the Winchester Mystery house, built by the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune. It has 160 rooms and 24,000 square feet of living area! Following the deaths of her baby and her husband, Mrs. Winchester consulted a medium (bad idea!). Supposedly, the spirits of all those who had been killed by Winchester rifles were angry at her -- and the only way to appease them was to keep building and never stop. I'd love to know if that medium was married to a carpenter...

With a massive fortune at her disposal, Mrs. Winchester started building and never stopped until the day of her death (supposedly she was to live forever if she kept building, but apparently that didn't work out!). Apart from its ridiculous origin, the house is fascinating. Stairways to nowhere, 1/2" cabinets, windows in the floor -- "Bizarre" doesn't even begin to cover it!

I loved the sewing room!

Here's a view of the rather convoluted layout of the house:

This door, located on the 3rd story, opens into nowhwere! And wait! Is that a ghostly figure standing in front of it?

Oops! It's just the photographer *wink*

Mrs. Winchester wasn't completely insane, though. There are many clever innovations in the house, including a stair system called "easy risers." As she grew older, it became difficult for her to climb stairs. She developed a staircase with 2" risers. One staircase we climbed made seven complete turns before reaching the top! It's more like a ramp than a staircase.

After the Winchester Mystery house, we continued our trek north to San Francisco. Oh, how we walked! I'd be afraid to know how many miles we covered in that one day. But the weather could not have been more beautiful, and we had a delightful time.

Our first destination was Fisherman's Wharf. Let's just say the walk from Pier 1 to Pier 33 is...long. But along the way we caught sight of the infamous island of Alcatraz, as well as numerous wharfs and ships of all kinds.

"The Rock"

I just love this little guy!

A short distance from Fisherman's Wharf is the mouth-watering locale known as Ghirardelli Square:

Oh, the hot fudge!

This was so delicious that we *ahem*... came back later! But we shared both times, so it's not quite as bad as it sounds! Our unanimous opinion skyrocketed the Ghirardelli sundaes to the top of our "Best Ice Cream Ever" list.

But we were soon to walk off those calories with a visit to the Exploratoreum, housed in the Palace of Fine Arts. We passed a military installment on our way, and I couldn't resist the opportunity of testing my college weight training "skills" on a convenient bar:

I can still hold it for 15 seconds! And no, my chin isn't actually resting on the bar; it's just really close.

Erected in 1915 for the Panama Pacific Exposition, the Palace of Fine Arts was not intended to last. As a result it has undergone extensive renovation over the years. Once again, scaffolding was embracing the Rotunda. We never have trouble finding our destinations -- we just look for scaffolding! Even in England it seemed that wherever we went there was scaffolding. Here's a picture of part of the colonnade. This was the loveliest spot in San Francisco.

Behind the Palace of Fine Arts is the Exploratoreum, a two-story ultimate hands-on science museum. It's "kid friendly," but our entire family thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

Polarized ice crystals:

This was the entrance to the mind exhibit -- testing the power of mental associations. I have to admit, even though I knew the toilet was brand new, using it as a water fountain was unnerving!

After several hours in the Exploratoreum, we stopped back at Ghirardelli Square before heading back. A historic neighborhood lay in our path, so we stopped to satisfy my architectural cravings.

The Haas-Lilienthal House:

We found a beautiful public rose garden tucked away on a side street:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stayed in this lovely house:

But no visit to San Francisco would be complete without a drive (or walk!) down Lombard Street. The hill has a natural 27% grade, far too steep for vehicles! Instead, it has eight hairpin turns. Here's the view from the top:

And one from the side:

There's a superb aerial shot of Lombard Street HERE. What got us laughing was that there are driveways on this section of Lombard Street! Can you imagine trying to get in? Or out, for that matter!

We didn't ride a cable car ($5 per person seemed a bit steep!), but we did get to see several. Besides, they were so crowded that I don't think the ride would have been all that enjoyable!

The next morning we left San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge -- if you drive north on the bridge, there's no toll!

Next stop, Redwood National Forest!


  1. You can do a pull-up!! I'm so envious. ;) That's one of my goals in life.

    You've been to so many lovely beautiful places. The disadvantage to living in California is that you settle down, consider it home, and never really see very many of the sights. I have been up and down and all around San Francisco, but the other places we've just talked about.

    When the California Missions and Hearst Castle are practically next door, you get a little lazy about going to see them.


  2. Sounds like you hit all the best places in San Francisco! Ghiridelli Square is lovely and their chocolate...scrumptious!

    Glad you enjoyed the Winchester House...very unusual and fascinating. I don't remember the sewing room...but it would have been my favorite place(if I wasn't 8 months pregnant when I went last!).

    Glad you enjoyed your stay in my neck of the woods:-)

    Lots of love,

  3. Wow, here I lived in CA for 6 years and never heard of these places up until now!

    I love the pictures! Thanks for sharing them.

  4. Oh, FUN! We visited California once, years ago, but didn't make it up as far north as San Francisco. For the most part, we were in San Diego. We wanted to see the Redwoods, but we caught wind of a terrible snowstorm brewing in the mountains, and headed east instead. I can't wait to see your photos of the national forest! Someday, we really need to go there...

  5. So fun to read about your trip! Very excellent presentation... glad you had a good time.

    Maria Pauline

  6. Oh, what fun Shannon! I love San Fransico! I wish I was able to go to the Exploratoreum when I was there last spring, though we didn't have time. We too went down Lombard Stree and rode on the cable cars though!

    Have fun in the Red Woods!

  7. Clare, I know exactly what you mean! When you live close to something, it doesn't seem quite as special as something on the other side of the country! :)

    Sommer, we were quite pleased with what we got to do in San Francisco. It was quite a packed day, but it still felt relaxed.

    Cheri, I had to do quite a bit of searching to come up with things to do in California!

    Janna, it's amazing just how big California is! I would love to see San Diego one day -- my parents used to live there, and they just loved it!

    Thank you, Maria Pauline! And I'm so glad you commented, because I was wondering where your blog had gone!

    Missnonaeleanor, I love San Francisco now, too! Those hills are quite something, though! I discovered muscles in my legs that I didn't even know I had ;)

    Yours in Christ,

  8. Your trip sounds wonderful. I especially liked all the photos of San Francisco, they brought back memories of when I was there a few years ago. I remember walking up one of those incredibly steep streets dragging along an oversized suitcase LOL!

  9. Thanks so much for sharing your pictures, Shannon...I feel like I got a little tour of the best things in California! :)
    I do remember reading about Mrs.Winchester and her house that she never stopped adding onto, it was so neat to be able to see those pictures. :)


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