Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

A Week of Sightseeing with Visitors – Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco Counties

On March 24th, Mark, Lola and I picked up my cousin Griet and her husband at SFO, the airport of San Francisco. While visiting us many times on Irie, in the Caribbean and the South Pacific (they also helped us transit the Panama Canal in January 2013), it was the first time they came to the United States. Customs and Immigration procedures took a while, as expected, but once we found each other, their 10-day vacation could start…

The heavy rains paused for about an hour and a half, in which we brought them to a viewpoint over San Francisco and to Fort Funston, an awesome off-leash dog park. Lola had been very patient in the car during the two-hour drive in rain and traffic and the one hour wait at the airport. She loved her reward in nature, our guests enjoyed their first impressions of the city and Mark and I appreciated stretching our legs during a break in the rain.

On Saturday, we revisited Armstrong Redwoods, still as impressive as the first time we came with Lola.

I had saved photographing the coastline along CA1 (scenic Highway 1) until this moment, knowing we would do an extended drive by (and “stop by”) with our visitors. It was very windy and quite chilly, but the vistas and beach walks were beautiful.

Sunday was to become the worst day weather-wise. Yes, Griet and Wim lucked out during their stay! The five of us went back to Pinnacle Gulch for a drizzly walk to and along the beach.

When the workweek started again, I released Mark as chauffeur and enjoyed being tour guide for my family. Monday encapsulated a return visit to Point Reyes, with its lighthouse, elephant seals and spectacular coastline. This time, we walked out to Chimney Rock and stopped along the way for photos.

On Tuesday, Mark decided to join us and postpone work. We all piled up in the car and drove south again. First, we visited Muir Woods National Monument, another forest of giants and a place Mark and I visited separately many years ago.

In the afternoon, we explored the Marin Headlands. I can’t believe I had never been here before. The views of the city were outstanding. Unfortunately, the lighthouse on Point Bonita was closed. It has been on my list of “must sees” for a few months, so Mark and I will have to return on a weekend one day.

Wednesday was spent in San Francisco proper; just the Belgians. The cable car, Chinatown, the waterfront…. Ah to be a tourist. While Griet and Wim set off for Alcatraz (the National Park grounds are free, but the only way to get there is by an expensive, $37 p.p. ferry) I enjoyed some me-time walking along the water and soaking up the sun.

The following day, we remained in Sebastopol. After a “relaxing” morning, we showed Griet and Wim Florence Avenue with its interesting sculptures by local artist Patrick Amiot. It is called junk art, since his pieces are assembled from “junk”. His wife Brigitte Laurent is responsible for all the painting. Then, it was onward to The Barlow, a hip and upcoming area full of restaurants and bars, where Wim could compare the equipment and finished products of The Crooked Goat Brewery with his own. Mark still prefers Wim’s creations – real, hardy and quality Belgian beer. I am happier with the Belgian chocolate they brought!

Friday morning, Griet, Wim and I took Lola for her hour-long walk in the neighborhood. She (and we) needed some exercise before the long drive in the afternoon. On their last weekend here, our visitors treated us to a three-night getaway near Yosemite Park. But, that will be for the next post.

On the day of our guests’ departure, a Tuesday, all of us had a 5:30am start. Mark needed to fly to Seattle to do some Wirie testing for our business. We dropped the couple off near the Golden Gate Bridge for a walk, Mark was safely and timely deposited at SFO and Lola and I met up with my family back in the city. This last morning of sightseeing brought us to Lombard Street, dubbed “the crookedest street in the world” (because of its steepness, the road is extremely curvy), Alamo Square with the Painted Ladies and Balmy Alley, sporting lots of street art in the Mission District.

After dropping our generous and appreciative guests off at the airport for their long flight home, Lola and I spent the afternoon and evening back at Fort Funston, until we picked up Mark after 9pm. Another hour and a half drive finished the busy, but fun ten days.

This turned into a long post with loads of photos,  but I hope you enjoyed visiting these special places with me. Have a wonderful second part of the week!


  1. Thanks for taking us along for the tour. I really must visit that area. Looks beautiful and unique. Love Belgium chocolate!

    • Soon, I’ll be stocking up on original Belgian chocolate again myself. Where shall we meet? 🙂

      • REAL Belgian chocolate… I’ll drive miles for that LOL. We’ll be traveling around AZ most of the year. May and June we’ll be in Prescott. Have you guys figured out yet where you’ll be spending the summer?

        • We will return west on June 20th and have lined up a three week house sit in Oakland upon arrival. No plans yet after Mid-July, but still hoping for a 1-2 months sit in the Pacific Northwest, ideally Vancouver Island. 🙂 Keeping our eyes peeled for longer dog sits up there, or Oregon or Washington State.

  2. Not only did I enjoy visiting these places with you, I enjoyed re-visiting them. This post brought back such great memories of the summer we sailed up the west coast. I really enjoyed the redwoods and lighthouses. I can’t remember if we made it to Point Reyes Lighthouse (which means we probably didn’t), but I definitely have a picture of it from the Pacific.

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

    • Seeing the coastline and the lighthouses from land provides such a different perspective than from the water. And a different feeling as well. Both the East and the West Coasts of this country seem to sport cute lighthouses. 🙂

  3. Wonderful pictures! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you for swinging by and commenting, Cecilia. I’m looking forward to checking out your pet blog!

  4. Looks amazing! It’s so fun to do touristy things and see so many vistas!

    • You know, visitors (on the boat or on land) make life a bit more stressful (we always want to please and for everything to go perfectly), but it is so nice to be tourists ourselves during those periods and give (boat) work a break. 🙂

  5. Richard and I have spent some time in Marin and San Francisco counties and greatly enjoyed our time there. Your post and stunning photos bring back fond memories. I look forward to reading about your getaway near Yosemite Park!

    • While this is certainly a beautiful and exciting area, we are looking forward to making it up to the Pacific Northwest still this summer. Yes, I keep bringing this up, and, no, we haven’t found anything worthwhile yet. Still keeping our eyes peeled, but after returning from Belgium the end of June and another house sit in Oakland until mid-July, summer will pass quickly!

  6. You have transported us back to some of our favorite places! Muir Woods, the Headlands, San Francisco: we need to take a trip up north again. I’m glad that you had a few nice days to experience it with your friends. Maybe you can convince the people you are house sitting for to stay away a bit longer. 😄

    • We wish we could have gone on the walks you mentioned in Muir Woods, Janis, but we had a dog with us and she needed to stay in the shaded car, so we couldn’t leave her alone too long. We might go back, now that we have the park pass. 🙂 The current owners have asked us back to house and pet sit already, multiple times a year, so we will see. There is definitely a lot more to do and revisit here! They like their house in Mexico, but they like their house in Sebastopol more, so I don’t think they will extend their current trip (plus, we have other plans already). 🙂

  7. Thank you for the wonderful tour, Liesbet! Rain or shine, your photos are lovely!

    • Thanks, Terri. We have that in common – we like to be out and about, and to take loads of photos. 🙂

  8. Great post, Liesbet. And those photos are stunning! This brought back memories of my own travels to California. I always loved those redwoods!

    • California is a nice state, Kim, which is why we wanted to return here and do some house sits. But, there is so much to see and do that we really have to live here or travel by camper again to make a dent. 🙂 Glad you liked it here. You have a lot to compare to!

  9. You were not kidding about the large amount of photos, were you! 🙂 Not sure I like that steep walk down, not one for heights!! Looks like you all had a great time exploring. New Zealand has a Redwood Forest in Rotorua, which is also an adventure forest for mountain bikers and trampers/walkers.

    • I can’t help the photo taking, Suz. It is almost an addiction – so much beauty out there. But, sometimes, when I revisit a place I leave the camera home, which is nice as and liberating. You know, the lighthouses in this country do remind me a bit of the ones in New Zealand, as does the coastline and the grassy hills. I have made that remark a few times, recently.

      • Liesbet, you do realise I was teasing you about the photos, as I am the same 🙂 I am limited at the moment with my photos as only have a certain about using a free wordpress site. Yes, I have walked up some steep steps to get to a lighthouse in NZ, though I did come down faster!! Time for dog walking! Suz

        • The joy and the curse of digital photography… I take way more photos than before, which creates so much more work going through them all, organizing, filing and then, for the blog, searching, selecting, resizing, captioning. We do make our lives harder, but there is much pleasure to be found as well! Enjoy your new house sit!

  10. What a wonderful week! Even if the weather didn’t entirely cooperate. I particularly liked the look of Point Reyes.

    • Luckily, we did luck out with the weather when the visitors were here. The day after they left, however, it started raining again and it hasn’t lit up since. The drought is officially over. While we are happy about that, I’m not sure we are happy to have witnessed all the rain storms that caused it, though. We came to California for the warm and dry air. Haha! 🙂

  11. Thank you for taking us on a wonderful tour – I love all the coastline scenery especially and Lola looks so happy on the beach :o)

    • Xenia, we will miss Lola so much. And, realizing that now, makes us sad before we even leave. She is an amazing dog!

  12. This looks amazing!!! I love the photos and seeing the redwoods in person has been on my bucket list forever! Looks like such a great time hanks for sharing!!!

    • I hope you make it our here, to the redwoods and the coast, Melanie. It is not that far away from you guys! 🙂 All the parks in Utah are on my bucket list. Wanna swap? 🙂

  13. I don’t suppose it’ll surprise you that I like your watery scenes best, Liesbet. It’s a fabulolus coastline, isn’t it? Even when it’s grim and grey 🙂 🙂

    • I have to agree with you, Jo, despite my aversion to grey skies. But, better along the coast than anywhere else. We went back to the beach last Sunday and just sat on the sand, listening to the waves, playing with Lola and petting her soft fur for hours, without a camera. It was so simple and nice. 🙂

  14. I always feel happy when first-time visitors get good weather and see beautiful things here in the U.S.! Silly, I know, to take it personally when I don’t even know the people, but I always feel that way. Our country’s reputation has taken some big hits in recent years, so if a pretty coastline, some sunshine, some amazing trees, and of course, excellent hosts can show us off well, I am happy! Glad you had such a nice time with your family!

    • I do recognize that feeling, Lexie, since I have it in Belgium. I just hate it when people visit my country and all it does is rain! And, I had it here with our visitors as well. When people come for the first time, fly this far and spend money and vacation time on getting and being here (or on the boat when we were there), I want the weather to be perfect and everything to go well. I usually have more stress about it all than the visitors themselves, who are already so happy to be in a different environment with beautiful surroundings. I think the US scored big points on their visit and I have a feeling they will be back! 🙂

  15. Oh how I long to return to this area of the US. San Fran, CA1, Muir Woods. It is great to visit it here with you right now. You’ve captured it beautifully and only deepened my desire to visit again. And I have never been to the Redwood Forest, so I have to come back. Amazing! And what is not to love about Baby Elephant Seals.

    • It has a big draw for us as well here, Lisa and we are happy to be back. Kind of wished we had a camper, though, to do the bigger national parks. But, we have to remain focused on our goals here: work! 🙂 It is such a nice area to live and, while we really are on the lookout for sits in the Pacific Northwest, we feel like we might just remain in this area for the time being. A lot of house sits are available in California. Not a bad place to hang for a while, if the weather gets a bit warmer. 🙂 I can see why you like it!

  16. There are some super places there Liesbet. I loved the redwood forests. It must be marvellous to walk amongst such giant trees. And that coastline looks impressive. Glad you had a taste of home.

    • We are very fortunate that there are quite a few famous and old redwood groves around here, Denzil. And, as a matter of fact, some of our current neighbors have stands of them in their yard! 🙂

  17. Thanks for sharing all of this, Liesbert. I’ve visited San Francisco four times and my favorite place is Lombard Street. We must have driven down it at least 10 times! Shame we don’t have anything like it in the UK. We also visited Napa Valley and went on a wine tasting tour. There were only four of us on the tour but we had a jolly good time and even arranged to have wine shipped back to the UK. It reached the UK before we did.
    Stunning photography. The weather looks amazing although I note you said it was a little chilly on some days.

    • Lombard street is pretty impressive. I was too focused to enjoy the drive, but I have had fun in the past as a passenger and pedestrian. Some of the hills in SF are quite steep and good exercise! 🙂 During this two month house sit, we did not visit any wineries, but we have in the past, and they are always a lot of fun. Still chilly and rainy for the time of the year here, but once the owner returns next week, the predictions are sunny and in the seventies Fahrenheit!!!

  18. Ouch – that ferry is expensive, but from what I hear Alcatrez is well worth visiting. I did visit there when I was a child, but I don’t remember much about it. Looks like you crammed a lot into their visit and hit all of the highlights. Glad you had fun 🙂

    • I don’t remember much of my visit to Alcatraz over a decade ago, just that it must have been much cheaper back then. It sure was a busy schedule, Ellen, and I have needed a few days to catch up. Now, we are bracing ourselves for another super busy period starting next week!

  19. What fabulous hosts you were! With my brother living in the area so many of these gorgeous places are familiar sights. Loved the tour vicariously and no need to apologize for the photos. I enjoyed each of them. Sending best wishes to both of you!

    • Having family and friends in different parts of the world is a blessing, Sue, as you know. Whether we get visitors or whether we turn into visitors, a lot of new, intriguing and sometimes exotic places become widely “available”. 🙂 I’m so glad you had an amazing time in Africa! Talking about adventurous and exciting places to visit! One day, we will make it to South Africa, where we have – you guessed it – a friend who lives there. 🙂

  20. Thanks for taking us on this beautiful tour Liesbet. 🙂

  21. I’ve only been to the San Fran area once, but loved every minuted of it. I’m a cheesy tourist, and my favorite part was the expensive ferry ride and subsequent visit to Alcatraz.

    • San Francisco is a pretty special place, especially when you can avoid the crowds. There are some amazing views! Together with Washington DC (sorry, not NYC :-)), it is my favorite US city thus far.

  22. California is so beautiful. The one time I visited San Fran it was cold and rainy. I’d love to go back. Seems like there’s a lot to do and see!

    • It is often cold and rainy in San Francisco, unfortunately. And, foggy! My cousin really lucked out, besides the first few days of their visit. And, guess what? From the moment we left, the sky turned sunny and the temperature was 28 degrees C for the rest of the forecast! So much to see and do in Northern California. I hope you will be able to get out here. We love the atmosphere and the mentality as well.

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