Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Part Deux

On Tuesday, we bid a fond farewell to the Ritz and headed into downtown San Francisco by way of the Pacific Coast Highway. It was a beautiful drive, but Hadley was none too happy about being in her car seat, so it was also a rather loud drive. And sort of stressful.

We pulled into the Westin in downtown San Francisco, and my first thought was, "Uh-oh, what am I going to do with Hadley in a downtown hotel?" It's one thing to be beside the ocean with plenty of room to play. It's another to be trapped in a hotel with sirens and cars and a 24-floor ride in the elevator to get out.

But, it turns out that Hadley loves the city. The more people, cars and lights, the better. That evening, we popped Hadley in her stroller and walked a few blocks to a microbrewery. She was enthralled. And the next morning (Wednesday), after Jason went to work, we strolled around town, past a guy who was yelling at his imaginary friend, around the Moscone Center with its beautiful water features, to a bakery where I grabbed breakfast and back to the hotel.

Speaking of the hotel, I began to wonder if the Westin has only one doorman because the same guy always opened the door for us. And he always smiled this huge, amazed smile at her. And Hadley returned the favor. I saw her in the reflection of the big glass doors, shooting this charming, open-mouthed grin at the doorman. Hey, I'd run to open the door if I got that kind of reward, too.

My friend Becky works for the state government, so she had Wednesday off for Veteran's Day. She rode her bike into the city--she's such a champ like that--and met Hadley and me outside our hotel to escort us a few short blocks to her husband Kent's art gallery. Oh, the gallery was fabulous. Beautiful and smart and inspiring. It made me think of all the BIG DREAMS that each of us carries around. Kent and Becky carried theirs around for a while...and then they pursued one of them. And it rocks.

Becky, my sweet scientist friend, launched into explanations of the art--the artists, their media, their personalities, how they came to be represented by the gallery. It was fascinating. Kent answered all of my questions, even the kind of dumb ones, with patience and sincerity. Hadley, meanwhile, enjoyed the attention that Becky and Kent gave her in between showing me the art. I think she appreciated the artwork, too.

Becky and I walked to the Ferry Building, the gorgeous building where you can catch the boat to other communities across the bay. It's also home to a great marketplace, full of shops that offer my favorite things: cheese, wine, bread, chocolate, flowers and gelato. There are also meat shops, a mushroom shop, a grocery, a restaurant or two--the list is long. But it's all fabulous and fun and worth a stroll. Becky bought us lunch--a hunk of crusty bread, a hunk of Mount Tam cheese, olives and chocolate--and we sat outside and had the best picnic I've had in a long time. It was a beautiful sunny day, and Hadley seemed to enjoy the picnic, too--mostly by smiling and "talking" to the people behind us, who were trying to have a lunch of their own.

Becky and Hadley by the Bay Bridge behind the Ferry Building.

From there, we trekked to the entrance to Chinatown, where Becky snapped this photo of Hadley and me...

...and then we made our way through Union Square, where a rather large number of people were ice skating, and then back to our hotel.

Hadley was such a good girl the entire time. She needed to take a nap by the time we got back to the hotel, but you never would have known it. She just took it all in, soaked up all of the sights and sounds and smells, and probably would have happily gone for another hour if I had let her.

Hadley before a bath at the hotel...

That night, Jason wanted to see Kent's gallery before it closed at 6:00, so we stopped by again before dinner at a local Mexican place that Kent and his business partner Eli recommended. (It was delicious.) I think Hadley was pretty well done by the time our meals arrived, so we took turns entertaining her while the other person ate, but considering all of the places I had schlepped her that day, I was impressed that she was so good for so long.

On Thursday morning, Hadley and I went back to the Ferry Building to buy a couple of gifts for Mumsie and Granddaddy. On our way back, we passed a strike in front of one of the hotels, where a stream of people paraded, chanted and occasionally banged a drum. Hadley's eyes grew to twice their normal size as she watched the mass of people, and then she turned in her stroller, looked up at me and grinned, as if to say, "That was cool, Mom. Thanks." I had been worried that she'd freak out, but no, she digs a good protest. That might not bode well for her teenage years...

The rest of the story is rather dull: We checked out, headed back to the airport and checked in, only to discover that our flight was two hours' delayed. So we pulled out all of the tricks we knew to keep Hadley happy, and they worked. By the time we got home at 9:00 that night, she was exhausted--and she let us know it--but overall, she was an excellent traveler.

Oh! I promised a bit about the red beret. Mumsie bought Hadley a red beret before our trip, so Hadley sported it at the Ritz and one morning in San Francisco (until she started taking it off and throwing it over the edge of her stroller). She looked urbane, like a tiny French artiste. I didn't get a photo in SF, but here's a shot of Hadley modeling at home:

Jason has a break from business travel until mid-late January, and we're enjoying a long Thanksgiving celebration this week. Hadley would be up for another trip at any second, I'm sure of it, but her mommy needs a rest. This week, as we celebrate the blessings in our lives, I'm thankful that we got to see the Baers, spend some time together and see a beautiful part of the country.

Oh, and I'm thankful for the simple joy we got from the friendly doorman and the red beret...

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