I woke up far too early on July 27, 2021 and finished the last of my packing. It was time for vacation. Just me and my husband, Jack. We braved Spirit Airlines and arrived in Oakland, California just after 9am Pacific time. Still adjusting to the time change, we headed to the town of San Rafael for Sol Food, Puerto Rican cuisine you cannot miss. The restaurant was a short ten minutes from our first destination for the day/night: Mill Valley.

Mill Valley is just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and it’s your destination for mountain grandeur. Charming, colorful homes dot the twists and turns up and down the hills. I was rejuvenated by a local yoga class (The Studio at Mill Valley, in case you want to try it). Jack and I then hiked through Muir Woods. The Redwoods were the tallest and sweetest-smelling trees we’ve ever experienced.

Scenes among the Redwoods

Exhausted but so excited to be on vacation, we checked in at the Acqua Hotel, a place where you’ll feel at home right away, and got ready for dinner. We made the hour-ish commute to Napa for dinner at a farm. The food was delicious, and we slept well after packing all that into our first day!

We woke up to a beautiful morning and a fantastic breakfast at the hotel before checking out and crossing over the foggy Golden Gate. San Francisco hummed along as we got acquainted with its many neighborhoods…so close together, but so many steps apart! We walked and walked. The first real order of business was lunch. Jack has Celiac disease, but back when he was a kid/before he was diagnosed, he and his family ate sourdough bread at Fisherman’s Wharf. He graciously told me that I must try it, even though he couldn’t have it.

To my delight, I found the current site of the arcade museum from The Princess Diaries, Musée Mécanique. I vlogged my way through the site while Jack played a few games.

Left: Musée Mécanique; Right: Fisherman’s Wharf

Wouldn’t you know, we were a convenient jaunt from Ghirardelli Square! Cute shops, fun atmosphere, and chocolate. I accidentally ordered a $14 ice cream sundae–oops–full of toppings and hot fudge. Hot chocolate for Jack. Somehow, we climbed our way up to Coit Tower after the treats. If you’ve ever seen the season 8 Full House episode where they film around San Francisco (the one where Comet gets lost), then you’ve seen Coit Tower. You’ll find lovely murals inside and breathtaking views both below and atop the tower.

Jack got to have a rare gluten-free deep-dish pizza for dinner. Again, we slept well after a full day. We rose for Full House house day! Which also happened to be our anniversary…which also happened to be the 20th anniversary of The Princess Diaries. This was a huge day for us, so I’ll outline every glorious part:

  • A downtown yoga class (Allison only)
  • Coffee/tea overlooking the bay with the Eric Choate, Director of Music at St. Mary the Virgin.
  • Getting a little lost on a walk from one end of the city to another.
  • Vlogging the Princess Diaries school, which is actually a residential home.
  • Walking to the Full House house for another fun vlog.
  • Touring St. Mary the Virgin–it’s such a warm, peaceful, beautiful church.
  • Walking to the Presidio for the Walt Disney Family Museum!
  • A fabulous anniversary dinner at Monsieur Benjamin (go there if you like French restaurants).

The list above made for one of my favorite days of vacation. It was the first day of several where we got to see a friend. Eric was the only friend who came from “real life” on this trip versus the Internet–he and Jack met at a conference years ago. Throughout the day, I had a blast documenting the places I’d watched on TV since childhood. This excitement continued as I worked my way through film/TV locations for the rest of the trip. The Walt Disney Family Museum was immense. We walked from beginning to end of Walt’s life, seeing years of his family and animation history. The main exhibit was full of curiosities, wonder, enchantment, and realities both joyful and sad.

Left: Me at Full House house; Right: Exterior of Grove High School

The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination

The next morning was our last full day in San Francisco. We were surprised to find a fantastic barbecue joint while we meandered through more of my TV houses. We saw the Painted Ladies (not in the exact location of the Full House house but seen in many title sequences for the show). I vlogged the That’s So Raven house, which sits on a historic street from the counterculture movement (Ashbury). We met Christopher Keady, the Assistant Director of Music at Grace Cathedral. This was super cool to me since I recently did some research on the Beyoncé mass at this church. Jack even got to play the cathedral organ while we were hanging out with Chris.

Left: Painted Ladies, Right: That’s So Raven house

We headed in the direction of our dinner and stopped to sit on the beach and enjoy the scenery for awhile. With the cooler temperatures dropping even more, we were surprised to see people swimming in the water. We went vegetarian at Greens, a waterfront restaurant where we got farm-to-table food and yet another spectacular view. One more stop after dinner: the Mrs. Doubtfire house. This one didn’t jump out at me as much as my TV houses, even though I love the film. I would watch the movie a couple weeks later to find that 1. the house is painted white in Mrs. Doubtfire. 2. Sally Field’s character, Miranda, says the real address of the home: 2640 Steiner Street.

Mrs. Doubtfire house

Saturday morning was bittersweet. We were nearing the halfway point of our vacation, and it was time to bid San Francisco farewell. But not before breakfast! I scoured the Internet for a place close by with beignets, since I’d seen them advertised on a few menus earlier. This brought an opportunity to ride the MUNI train to a place with beignets and the perfect title: “Just For You Cafe.” It was everything I’d hoped for, and good for us to take the train so we can do that more on the next trip!

We picked up our rental car for the next phase of our vacation, but there was one more thing I had to do. I knew that Mia’s house in The Princess Diaries wasn’t exactly within walking distance of us in San Francisco, so we drove there before moving on. I vlogged for a minute on the quiet street, snapping a picture of what appeared to be Princess Leia and Princess Mia together on a sign at the firehouse.

Princess Mia’s Firehouse

This concludes part one of “My California Adventure.” The next installment will take us through the Pacific Coast Highway before our final chapter in Los Angeles. Thank you for reading, and see you on the Internet! 🙂

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