My family has never quite been a vacation family.
[Vacation Family- A family who, time and money allowing, takes vacations together.]
We always had too much going on, my parents having school and work, my brother and I having school and rehearsals, and my sisters being hell-raising toddlers that were on the verge of becoming leash babies.
That didn’t mean that we didn’t spend time together, that we didn’t love each other, or that we didn’t go places and do things outside of work and school and rehearsals.
We went to family events and parties, we went to the beach and the park, to baseball and hockey games. I even (vaguely) remember a weekend trip we took to a place I don’t remember. We stayed in a motel, when it was just four of us and a beagle named Jack. I don’t remember where we were or for how long. Arizona, maybe? But I remember watching Tom and Jerry with my dad and playing dolls with my mom, and a kiddie swimming pool that we drowned the aforementioned dolls in.
Despite those little trips, we had never taken a far away, longer than a weekend, hotel-stay vacation as the big group of 6 that we’ve become, not until I was nine years old.
When I was about nine, we took a road trip, all the way from Los Angeles to just outside of San Francisco. We stayed there for about five days, and we adored every second.
Below are about 40 heavily filtered photos, courtesy of my mom and dad’s Instagram and Facebook pages!
(For which I scrolled through what felt like my entire childhood to find, for about 2 hours.)
My brother and I ran around screaming, down the hotel halls and in the elevators, and ate breakfast at the hotel every single morning, where I learned how to use a waffle maker and what an Omelet was. Also, that I did not like Omelets and would never be eating them again.
It was the first real hotel I had ever stayed in, except for the night of my cousin’s thirteenth birthday, where we sang karaoke so loud that someone called the front desk on us.
Which, by the way, rude. Of them, not us. I happen to think I sang “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood with a passion and beauty that only she could have beaten.
But it was new and fun, for all of us. We got to spend real and uninterrupted time with each other, at Fisherman’s Warf and in Chinatown. We went everywhere we could, including the Aquarium, where my siblings and I met otters and jellyfish for the first time, of which I took multiple pictures on my mother’s kindle fire (because, 2013) that are now lost to time and space, because even though I took thousands, I can not find them ANYWHERE. (Trust me, I tried. I just spent hours scrolling through heavily filtered Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon photo digital albums, to no avail.)
After that, we didn’t take another trip together until Winter 2019, six years later.
My mom had work trips to San Francisco, and New York.
My parents took grown-up trips with their friends and siblings to San Jose and Las Vegas.
On top of that, my parents were busy getting degrees and working. Nik (my brother) and I were busy doing shows and trying to pass middle and high school classes. The girls were twiddling their thumbs and playing with dolls.
So as you can see, no time for any of us to really do anything but work.
But in 2019, something beautiful happened.
My parents, after years of late night classes and early morning drives to work, completed their degrees and moved themselves up in the world.
Suddenly, there was something called paid time off, things called vacation and sick days.
Suddenly, we were a vacation family.
We took a trip to San Diego for Thanksgiving, in a hotel together again for the first time in six years. I’d tell you about it now, but I already did, in “The Past Few Weeks,” a blog post from pre-lockdown Kate, which you can read here.
Above are a few pictures from then, because why not?
(There’s more in the actual blog post, The Past Few Weeks, just sayin!)
We took another to Temecula, just after New Years, to celebrate how great 2020 was going to be (ha!). After that, we were talking about going to Oregon for the summer, some place we’d never been, but had always wanted to go to. Maybe even San Francisco again, San Jose too.
We had to wait a year, but as things started to open up, we took trips again.
My dad took me and my siblings to San Diego for a weekend, my parents went to Las Vegas on their own.
And just last week, all six of us returned to San Francisco.
The first day was just the drive. Like the first time, a six-hour drive became an eight-hour drive. Last time, it was because we were all so small, we needed bathroom and diaper-changing stops every 30 minutes.
This time, it was because Elena, my little sister, gets motion sick, and we all had to pee every thirty minutes.
We spent that day unpacking, eating, and then passing out.
The next day, we went to Fisherman’s Wharf. We ate at Boudin’s, where my parents had crab cakes, Nik and I had salmon panzanella, and the girls had burgers. Afterward, we walked around the Warf for a few hours.
We went to the Musée Mécanique that sits on the Pier and played games for a while. I was obsessed with getting fortunes and prophecies from every machine available, all of which either read me for filth or foretold an elopement and pregnancy within the next six months. So…there’s that.
After, we stopped by a souvenir shop and got some mugs, sweaters, and stuffed animals. We walked further down and got Beignets and iced coffee, and kind of just sat around waiting for what we had planned.
The main event came up about an hour later, when we took a ferry that went around the bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge (which me and my siblings had never seen in person before), and past Alcatraz (which we’ve yet to visit, but plan to. Tickets are always sold out.)
It was maybe the coolest thing we’ve ever done together, and I can’t wait until we actually get to go onto Alcatraz and explore the rock that we’ve always been obsessed with.
Once we got off the boat, all of us freezing and Elena glad she didn’t puke, we stayed on the Wharf for a little longer. My sisters and my dad got ice cream, and I got bread from Boudin’s, which I had been waiting to get all day (I got one large sourdough loaf and a chocolate sourdough loaf. I ate the chocolate one that day and saved the sourdough one for the second part of our trip.)
We took public transport back to the hotel, like we did to get there, and just like we had when we came in 2013. The whole time we were on the Wharf, we were talking about 2013. How worried my parents were about the money we were spending, how little the girls were, how little Nik and I were. I can’t remember much about it, given that I was 9 years old, but I remembered the flag poles on the edge of the Wharf (for some weird reason), the Full House houses (the Painted Ladies, I think they’re called), and my mother screaming at me to not drop her kindle in the water while I was trying to take pictures of the bay, over the railing. Screaming was indeed a valid choice.
Like the day before, we took showers, ate, and crashed. The next day was another adventure, this time to the Muir Woods and Chinatown.
That experience was so beatiful that I forgot to take pictures. So, pictures courtesy of Dad!
We took a bus to get there, which irritated my siblings, excited me and my dad, and worried my mother, because Elena’s stomach does not take well to busses that go on extremely winding roads.
Like expected, she threw up and got a bit embarrased and we helped her best we could, but as we did we heard the sounds of someone else throwing up, the little boy in front of us. It was the worst game of dominoes I’ve ever witnessed, but thankfully it stopped there. We were just pulling into the Woods as it happened, thankfully. We cleaned her up, got her a new shirt that made her okay with parting from her Frozen 2 one, and continued on.
The woods were breathtaking, literally. We only got to walk for like 20 minutes because of the bus’s schedule, but we were out of breath by the time we came back anyways.
Whenever we go and do things like that, I usually pop in my headphones, play Hozier, and make a movie in my head. I did that this time, except I didn’t take any reference pictures. I just let the film play.
It was cut to an abrupt end, right as things were getting good, when my phone lost service and Hozier’s voice went silent.
All was alright, though. I just had to talk to my family again until service was regained.
Which ended up being about an hour later. Apparently, my father’s favorite color is black and Victoria wants to be an artist when she grows up.
When we got off the bus, we beelined to Chinatown, around which we found a brilliant Ramen Place, Kan Ramen. We got some books from a local book publishing place/store. And, eventually, the same Fortune Cookies we had gotten from Golden Gate Fortune Cookies that we did in 2013.
We drove back to the hotel after that, to eat Mediterranean food and sleep in peace. Because the next day, we had an early drive to take to Santa Cruz, California.
We were all extremely grumpy that morning, because at some point, we were just going to piss each other off. Half of us were tired, all of us were hungry, and nobody could find a place to eat that didn’t have a 45-minute wait.
Eventually, we looped back around to a place called Bagelry, where I got a Raspberry Cream Cheese bagel sandwich on a poppyseed bagel (which I HIGHLY recommend) and a Starbucks Mocha Frappucino in a bottle.
We finished at 11:50, and had a train to catch at 12, so we booked it to the boardwalk.
The only problem being, the boardwalk was swamped. If you read my update from Monday, you already know what happens.
In case you didn’t, here it is:
“Which, side note, I mean literally. One day we woke up just in time to have breakfast, and with the combination of not finding a spot until 11:30, and crazy traffic at the Santa Cruz boardwalk, we almost didn’t make it to our train through the redwoods. The train was meant to leave at 12, and at 11:50 we were in unmoving traffic, a mile out from the station.
My dad made us get out and run to it, since the tickets were non-refundable. We waited on the train for about 20 nerve-wracking minutes to see if he would make it. Some families were getting on late, and each time a new one got on we would pray that he was with them.
He never was, but just before we left, my mom called him and, out of breath, he let us know he was right in front of the train.
He had broken from the traffic first chance he got, parked in a motel, and ran double what we had speed-walked to get there.
He was out of breath, understandably tired and annoyed, but he had made it, and that made it a good day.
The woods, just like the Muir, were beautiful. We only got to spend time walking through those woods for about 10 minutes, but the train ride through them, there and back, was just as gorgeous and movie-worthy. They were just endured without the angelic vocals of Hozier, because I had, again, forgotten about the lack of cell service.
We had planned on eating at the boardwalk after, but something about that Saturday (Juneteenth, Father’s day weekend, or maybe just a Saturday during the summer?) ate the boardwalk alive with families and there was no where to stand, let alone sit down and eat.
So we headed to next hotel we’d be staying at, in San Jose. This one had a pool, and we jumped right in. It had been a long day, but no day is ever long enough to keep us from a hotel pool.
We spent the rest of the day there, and almost the entire Father’s Day as well. Except for the morning, when my siblings, my mom and I left dad at the hotel for the Winchester Mystery House, a gift to all supernatural fanatics like me and my mom.
I didn’t take any pictures inside, because it felt disrespectful to the spirits and I wasn’t trying to get cursed.
It was super cool, super freaky, and incredibly exhausting because it was 80 degrees out and Mrs. Winchester hadn’t thought to update with an AC.
Once we finished the tour inside, we walked around the gardens outside, grabbed some souvenirs, and bounced.
We spent the rest of the day in the pool with my dad, celebrating the day exactly how he wanted it: half the day of us leaving him the hell alone, half of it asking me what my plan was after I come back from my trip this weekend and what I’m doing with the rest of my life. (Which, rude, dad. I’m 17. I don’t even really know how money and driving works.)
This trip did a lot of good for us. It reminded my parents of where they’ve been and where they’re at, it reminded me and nik of how fast time flies, and it reminded the girls that once I move out, they’ll probably get double the stuffies and ice cream on trips because I’ll be paying for my own trip fare.
Well, I’d love to keep talking, but it is currently 3:17, and I was supposed to post this at 3.
I hope y’all enjoyed this little peak into the family trip, and loved the pictures we took as much as I do!
I’ll write to you all again next week, with the first Jukebox post since I’ve been back, and a piece about my San Diego trip!!
Until then, much love and good vibes
-Kate and the Rest of the Santos Fam, now a Vacation Family
Ranging 8-40 years old
Home, Southern California
June 23rd, 2021, 3:30pm