time reversal

the stories of four physicists separated by the whims of fate

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Alex visits California

September 28th, 2009 by liz

My brother came out to Berkeley this past weekend, so I determined it was my duty to show him some of the awesome things about California.

Day 1:

Alex showed up around 2pm, looking completely exhausted and really sick of traveling. Clearly the only solution to this was beer-lunch, so we went to Jupiter for beer and pizza. After lunch and the obligatory trip to the store to get shampoo and a toothbrush (really? who doesn’t pack a toothbrush?), we drove up into the Berkeley hills for a scenic overlook of the bay area. Grizzly Peak Blvd. goes right along the ridgeline above Berkeley, and you can see the golden gate bridge, San Francisco, and both the north and south bay.

Unfortunately, I had some quantum homework to finish up, but I got most of it done early enough that we were able to go to my favorite ice cream place in Berkeley: ici. The icecream there is absolutely wonderful, and my favorite part is their hand-made cones that have a chocolate filled tip so that the icecream doesn’t drip out all over you.

Day 2:

I decided that no trip to California is complete without going to the ocean, so we got an early(ish) start and drove down to Santa Cruz. When we arrived, the bay was completely socked in with fog, so we stopped at the Walnut Avenue Cafe for breakfast/lunch. I had stopped there once before when visiting grad schools, and I quickly remembered why I liked it–they serve breakfast all day, and it’s really good. After eating an enormous mushroom-avacado omelet I had enough fuel for anything, so we headed down to the bay to rent kayaks.

As soon as we got out on the water the fog cleared, and we set our sites on the kelp forest, where endangered sea otters like to hang out. We were lucky enough to run into an entire family, including 2 babies that were playing in the kelp.


Sea otters!

As we left the kelp forest and paddled out to sea, we ran into the worlds largest jellyfish. It was larger than a basketball, and stripey.


We also paddled out to “Sea lion rock,” which was basically a giant rock completely covered in sea lions.


When we finished kayaking, we drove up the coast to Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. for dinner and (of course) beer. We had two of their seasonal specials, Witbier and Oktoberfest, both of which were amazing. Finally, we returned to Berkeley for gelato at Almare Gelato Italiano and some relaxing before another day of adventure.

Day 3:

Unfortunately my day started out with waking up way too early for quantum class. However, after classes ended for the day I met up with Alex for lunch at Berkeley Thai House and then headed to San Francisco. We started out by hiking in Golden Gate Park, which had tons of flowers and paths through the eucalyptus trees.


It was a bit foggy on the coast, but we stopped by ocean beach and then headed to Presidio park to watch the fog stream over the golden gate bridge into the bay where there were windsurfers ripping though the water. After a good while of relaxing on the beach in the sun, we headed over to the fisherman’s warf to walk around and see the street performers.

While watching some break dancers, we pondered over where to obtain dinner, and finally decided on Il Fornaio, an Italian restaurant in the finacial district. When we walked in the place seemed a bit fancy for the likes of us (the servers had on white suit jakets), but we were nearly the only people there, so we figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. The food was absolutely delicious–I had butternut squash ravioli and chocolate mousse for dessert, but over the course of the evening the place filled up, and by the time we left I felt like a complete hobo with my purple hair and tie-dye.

Day 4:

For Saturday’s adventure, I gathered up two of my roommates (Nick and Kevin) and Alex, and we drove up to wine country. We started the day with a short hike in Jack London State Park up to a lake. It was pretty hot out when we started, and as we walked through the redwood trees we become more and more eager to get to the cool water. Unfortunately, when we arrived we found that the lake was a giant swamp. We were disappointed, but we had packed an excellent lunch, so we sought out a picnic table by the “lake” and sat down.

Then I discovered that I had failed to actually put the lunch in my backpack.

After our epic fail at a lake-picnic, we hiked back to the car to start doing what we really came to Sonoma to do: a day of wine tasting. We started out doing a tasting at Kunde Estate, which had quite good wine and a very knowledgeable staff. Afterwards, we did another tasting at Valley of the Moon Winery.

After our two tastings, we headed over to Ravenswood, where we purchased a bottle of our favorite white varietal we had tasted so far (Gew├╝rztraminer) and sat on a vista in the shade looking out over the vineyard.


We finished up the day at Buena Vista Winrey, where we ran into David Hardwood’s mom (from Vermont) while purchasing a bottle of Pinot Grigio to drink out on the deck. After our final winery in the sun, we drove back to Berkeley for Indian dinner at Vik’s, which included a GIANT puffy bread thing. I have no idea what it is, but Nick and I vowed to learn how to cook it.


After dinner, we relaxed for awhile and waited for it to get dark out. It was a perfect night in Berkeley–warm with no fog, so we decided that the best plan of action was to acquire icecream and then head up to the Berkeley Hills for stargazing. Despite our proximity to the lights of the bay area, we actually saw quite a few shooting stars, including a really awesome one that streaked across at least 50 degrees of the sky. It was an excellent end to an excellent day.

Day 5:

When I lived in Boston, I occasionally would go to Dim Sum in Chinatown, which is basically a bunch of delicious Chinese foods served in small portions, so you can try many different things. San Francisco has a large Chinatown, so my roommates, Irene, and Alex headed over to try out this Sunday morning tradition. Unfortunately a lot of dim sum has meat in it, but luckily I had anticipated this and ate breakfast before leaving home, which meant that I could just sample all of the delicious pastries while my compatriots ate dumplings and shrimp noodles. My favorite dessert was the red bean sesame balls, which are deep-fried fluffy rice flour balls covered in sesame seeds and filled with red bean paste.

After Dim Sum, we headed down to the Folsom Street Fair, which was quite a shock to those of us who had never been before. It is basically a leather/bondage fair with music, beer, and vendors. There were many people dressed up for the event, (and down–there were tons of naked or nearly-naked people as well). Despite the hot weather, there were even ice-sculptures made for the fair.

Ice sculpture at the Folsom Street Fair

After the fair we headed back to Berkeley to set up for a barbecue. Martin and Sirena had tons of wine, sausage, and veggie burgers left over from their wedding and wanted to feed it to someone, and our house is full of hungry grad students. It was a perfect match. The evening weather was great once again, so we sat in the backyard and enjoyed mojitos and other delicious cocktails in the waning sun while grilling.

I’m hoping my brother had a most excellent California adventure, because I certainly had a lot of fun.

For more pictures from this adventure, visit here.

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