Archive for » July, 2012 «

Two weeks ago, the four of us greeted the happy faces of my cousin, his wife, their 10 year old daughter, their best friends, a couple in their late 30’s, and their 9 year old son at the San Francisco International Airport.

The ten of us got into two cars and drove 30 minutes to the Tied House Brewery & Cafe for drinks and finger foods.

Beer and finger foods at the Tied House

After a pleasant meal at Tied House’s garden patio, we dropped them off at their hotel, told them to get some rest, and left them to contend with their jet lags.

Day 1:

We picked them up at 9:30AM and headed for San Francisco. We went straight for its famed landmark and crossed the bay on the Golden Gate Bridge to arrive at Sausalito. Sausalito is a beautiful upscale seaside town just north of San Francisco.

I have on good authority that Chinese people love to eat, so we officiated the tour with a nice branch at a charming sea-view restaurant at Sausalito.

I warned them earlier that San Francisco, as beautiful as she is, can be very temperamental. Any day, even in the middle of the summer, can be cold and cloudy. And I was proven right.

San Francisco was having a fit that day and covered herself under a thick blanket of fog. Even though we knew just the place to take our guests for the best photo opportunities of the bridge and the city skyline, our best photo showed a mostly covered bridge and a completely covered skyline.

Golden Gate Bridge in a cloud of thick fog

Undeterred, we carried on to the postcard famed Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world, alive with its many beautiful flowers and colors, and full of camera clad tourists. Finally, we ended the day with a long stop at Pier 39.

Day 2:

We picked them up at 9AM, and headed south this time for Monterey’s 17 Mile Drive and Carmel.

While the headline news was all about the record high heat in the East Coast and mid-west region, we were enjoying unseasonably low temperatures. Once we arrived at the coast in less than two hours, the temperature dipped into the high 60’s.

They were surprised how cold our summer is, even as I insisted to them that wasn’t the norm.

Their two kids were from land locked region of China, so when we came upon a nice beach, with enticing clear turquoise water, they couldn’t contain their excitement; to the horror of their parents, I gave the children my blessing for them to enter the water to get their feet wet.

The excited kids kicked off their shoes and socks, and ran off like a mob to the beach to meet the approaching waves.

They were running wild with their feet spattered on the sea water on the soft sand, and squealed with happy laughter.

Kids on a beach on the 17 Mile Drive

All parents like to see their children happy. Soon, the parents also walked closer to the water’s edge on the beach and snapped pictures of the kids.

Despite a chilly day, Monterey and Carmel are majestic and beautiful in any kind of weather.

The Lone Cypress of Monterey

Day 3:

We drove inland to visit Napa Valley’s wine country. Apparently, wine is very fashionable in China these days. And they wanted to see Napa valley, a famed wine region in America that they have heard so much about.

As we entered the town of Napa, the road narrowed into thin straight lines that cut through the vineyards on both sides. It was a beautiful sunny day. The sky was a deep blue, and the air was crisp.

Napa Valley

We drove past acres and acres of neatly lined grape vines and made quick stops at the picturesque towns of Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga.

We stopped at St. Helena’s Tra Vigne for lunch, where we enjoyed a delicious meal in their charming Tuscan courtyard, under a canopy of festively lighted trees.

That afternoon, we visited two wineries and drove around the town some more. My charges always managed to get excited whenever we drove past a winery they recognized from a label they had seen or heard of in China.

They wished that they had more time to taste more wines at Napa.

Grape Vines

Day 4:

Road trip to Vegas

We drove 9 grueling hours to Las Vegas in 2 cars aided by our walkie-talkies and arrived just in time for their gazillion amount of lights to drape the entire strip that wows even the frequent Vegas visitors.

Las Vegas is like no other place on this earth. It has no rivals and features a mind boggling supply of choices in things to do, to see, and to eat. It is alive 24 hours a day, and even though we were extremely fatigued by the time we got there, Vegas seduced us to stay up really late.

Bellagio Fountain

Related post: A Family Outing
America, the Beautiful

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We are doing something totally different for our summer vacation this year! And to do that, I have signed up to become a volunteer tour guide.

Travel is my second-favorite passion in life. And my idea of summer vacation requires a long flight of some sort. After all, travel means getting away from home.

This summer, however, we are going to visit world-famous places that we have taken for granted in the past, because they are too close to home.

Why? you might ask…..

My cousin, his family, and his best friend’s family are coming to visit America for the first time, and I have decided to delay my original travel plans to next summer. So, we can show them America, the beautiful.

My cousin has always graciously took care of me and my family and particularly my father, whenever we went to visit China. Now that he finally can come to visit America, I wanted to do the same for his family and friends. And they welcomed my offer to be their tour guide, since none of them speak English.

In two weeks time, we will visit the following places:

1) San Francisco Bay Area.

The Golden Gate Bridge

2) We will drive the 9 hours to Las Vegas, where I plan to immerse them in some wicked sin city business. But not to worry, I won’t get too carried away. We have four kids in our group.


3) We then move on from the outrageous man-made wonderland to nature’s outrageous wonderland of Grand Canyon. I have booked hotel rooms inside the park, to better our chances to see the famed sunset and sunrise.

Grand Canyon

4) After Grand Canyon, we will drive 8 hours to Los Angeles; there, we will properly spoil the children with day trips to Disneyland, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld, and then some serious shopping trips for the grown-ups.

Disneyland-Southern California

Our guests arrive next Tuesday. And I am quite looking forward to see these amazing American sites through the eyes of these first time foreign visitors. Perhaps I will come back with some interesting stories to tell….

Related post: Preparing the Kids for China
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Traveler vs cheesy tourist

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