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Roadtripping California (with Kids) 2012: San Francisco and Berkeley.

Mark Twain’s saying that the coldest place he’d ever been to was San Francisco in summer rang in my ears as we approached the city. And first impressions seemed to back him up, as a dense cloud of fog hung over the city.  We’d been in 2009 in spring and the weather had been glorious, but now it was cold. The last time we had visited all the major sights. This time round we decided to see some of the lesser known sights as we didn’t wish to repeat what we had done before.

Our first full day was spent exploring the gritty Mission district. It was apparent to us very quickly that this was a totally different area from anywhere we had been before. Predominantly Hispanic and poor, it is a real eye opener. We explored the stores, the restaurants and best of all, the murals that cover whole blocks in some areas. We ate tacos in a traditional cantina for lunch, bought the kids Mexican wrestling masks and felt as if we were in Latin America. Dinner was an intro to pupusas at a hole-in-the-wall place frequented only by El Salvadorean families.

The following day we went to the Walt Disney Museum. Covering the life of Walt himself, it’s a great museum for adults, but not so exciting for kids. It’s really expensive too, at around $20 a ticket. It is an incredible testament to someone who really did change life for the better for millions. We also went to the Legion of Honor, a great museum in an incredible building, with a remarkable view of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. There is a magnificent collection of huge bronze sculptures by Rodin, and this immersion in culture paid off – the kids were enthralled! Apart from trying to find a place to park, it’s a great place to take the kids and then to walk in the surrounding woods.

Our final day was spent in nearby Berkeley. We were amazed that as soon as we left the city limits of SF the weather cleared up. Apparently it’s always like this. Blue sky and warm, it was like being in a totally different state. Berkeley was great – quaint streets, a magnificent university campus to explore, and then we tried our luck at Chez Panisse to see if they had space for us. Chez Panisse is an icon of California cuisine, and this was our lucky day – they had a table available and the food was fantastic.

I’m not sure I’d run to San Francisco again in summertime. Mark Twain was right!