Weddings spayings and babysitting in paradise
When we got our cat Annabelle about a month ago at the MSPCA at Angell Memorial they provided a contract regarding the spaying of her. Since they didn’t have an appointment for the following few weeks and we were going to California we scheduled the appointment to spay her for the day after we returned from our vacation surrounding DK’s wedding. Given that we took a red eye with a baby back on Monday night and spent Tuesday trying to sleep and pick her up Annabelle was the main project upon returning.
Traveling to California with Madeline at 10 months is about as challenging as when she was 3 months but our minor adjustments to the plan made the trip much easier and often more fun. The adjustments were as follows.
1. Travel in first class in the first seat of the airplane where there is a little area where a baby could stand-up, crawl around, and play with toys while we have lots of legroom to kick our feet up when tired.
2. Minimize driving times and separate them with long periods out of the car. Try to place driving activities strategically near expected nap times.
3. Utilize babysitting resources at night. Hire a babysitter through the hotel for one night and bring parents in an intersecting trip to watch her while partying at the wedding.
4. Keep things simple by keeping events and activities to a minimum including skipping events that don’t appear realistic for coordinating moving the whole crew around to like the slew of social events associated with a wedding (rehearsal dinner, post wedding brunch, dessert hour, etc.)
5. Don’t bother bringing a laptop.
I won’t say we didn’t have our challenges but the adjustments helped us to avoid doing too much. But we did have some challenges.
In order to travel with our first class ticket using frequent flyer miles I needed to accept flights with a layover in Chicago. What that meant was that we left on an 8AM flight. Given the recent hullabaloo about liquids, gels, and other ways to make improvised explosives the word on the street was that we needed to be at the airport at about 6 AM to clear security and drop off our full load of items including a car seat, stroller, baby backpack, and two massive bags. Since before this we needed to wake Madeline, feed her, change her, and prep her mentally for a flight the start time for the day in Boston was 4AM.
The flight itself was bearable although we couldn’t take advantage of the more comfortable seating arrangement with Madeline requiring constant holding or attention. This meant that the day really started at 4AM and we never got to catch-up on the sleep during the flights. Furthermore while the real time elapsed may have been 8 hours, somehow it felt like about two to three days had elapsed on the plane such that by the end of the second flight Madeline had determined that the only thing left to do would be to shred the magazines we had brought and since we didn’t have an alternative that she was interested in we helped her to do so with the provision that Sarah periodically fished mid-sized magazine spitballs out of Madeline’s mouth.
So when we arrived at SFO we were tired and had we been home we would have gone straight to sleep. Instead we took the asinine transportation system that is the SFO rental car area. I have become so annoyed by the SFO rental car system that I have considered flying to San Jose where all you need to do is cross the street just to avoid it. The first problem is that they have a train that you need to take to the rental car area. In the past I had made the mistake of going to an off airport rental car location and the punishment is that you have to take the train to the rental car area and then take a bus from there to the rental car location. Most airports just have a bus that picks you up but because the train is so slow and awkward to get to they don’t want to provide any advantage to the off airport folks who could probably get you from the baggage claim area to the rental car in a minute using a shuttle. Instead we went through numerous elevators and lifts in a map that can only be considered idiotic but necessary for traveling with a large load of items just to get to the rental car location where we then were able to wait for half an hour while the one agent dealt with two people who had errors with their agreements. This was at Budget. I would consider renewing my Hertz get to your car fast membership but now that it is over I may just avoid this airport.
Had this been the only problem with rental cars at SFO I might not be calling for a public pillory of the planners who devised this devious rental car system but upon returning to the airport on Monday night I had additional problems getting to the location. I had filled the car with gas as required to save a few bucks on South Airport road. This road pointed towards the airport and I took it there but as it approached it suddenly turned into 101. The signs on 101 said something about taking the San Bruno exit to get to the rental car areas. Upon taking this exit I found myself going 70 miles per hour on 380 or some other highway away from the airport and couldn’t turn around for 8 miles. Upon returning to the airport I decided to ignore this sign and went into the airport where I was able to painstakingly travel through every part of the airport on the local airport road until about 5 miles later, the approximate distance of the train ride from the airport to the rental car location, when I saw a sign for “Rental car customer parking”. I turned into this location only to find that it was not what I had expected. It was a place for people renting cars were expected to park their cars. I didn’t have time to ask anyone about why this service was useful at an airport but did finally reach the rental car lot.
While dropping off the car the attendant was blasting some Spanish radio station on the car next to us. But when we left with our stroller, car seat, baby backpack, two suitcase, diaper bag, and travel backpack luggage on the second floor there was an elevator either to the 3rd floor or to the first floor. The 3rd floor is where the train lets you off to go to the rental car offices. The first floor is under the train platform and the elevator specifically instructs you to go to the first floor to get to the train. We did this but since we had a ton of luggage and so did everyone else the tiny elevator didn’t fit more than one family at a time. So we needed to wait for an elevator to go down one level. When we got to the bottom we then had to walk to the other elevator that takes you to the top of the train station and then wait again for a tiny elevator that couldn’t fit more than one family at a time. Finally we were up at the train station on the third floor and then I watched as the people were let out into the rental car entrance area followed by both sides of doors opening and we saw we could have just gone up one elevator instead of the idiotic route we took. Next time just go to the rental area.
But the rental car got us to Half Moon Bay fairly quickly. I was surprised, although I should have known, that in the morning and evenings anywhere in the Bay area during the foggy months that it is foggy and somewhat cold regardless of where you go. So we found that Half Moon Bay was foggy and cold but we did look around and then went to sleep in our room at the Best Western about five thirty PM with a brief wake-up to get the room service hamburger and club sandwich. Madeline’s diapers smelled terrible so I left them outside the room beyond the slider on the deck in plastic bags in the area overlooking the golf course. At night we heard what sounded like an animal rustling near the slider but the diapers were still there when we awoke.
We had breakfast at the hotel but then decided to tour the area by going the ten miles to the Ritz Carlton. We didn’t actually know where the Ritz was so we drove up the highway looking for it only to learn later when Sarah called them that it was a right turn at the corner where our hotel was. The Ritz was fun to see and offered some great views of cliffs over the water. We walked the edge of the golf course and didn’t have to pay for parking. An agreement must have been made between the folks at the Ritz and the government that they would be allowed to build 36 holes of golf by the ocean if they provided free public access to the beach. The lot we parked in had multiple Bentleys and Lotus vehicles in it. We parked next to a Bentley that was parked diagonally across two spaces to avoid riff raff from getting too close to it.
After leaving the Ritz we explored the downtown area of Half Moon Bay and decided that there wasn’t anything there. We then went to a local restaurant for lunch after checking out of the hotel and found that the view was great through their plate glass windows but the glare was enormous. I ordered a crab roll and decided that lobster is a better crustacean than crab since it tastes better. Sarah ordered a chicken Caesar salad despite being at seafood restaurant. Madeline ordered fruit salad.
After lunch we walked the beach and remembered the same thing we always remember on vacations when we get to the beach. Wouldn’t it be great to have something to lie down or sit on now so that we don’t get covered with sand? We are going to have to start bringing a lightweight blanket on all trips that might involve a beach or park.
The trek into San Francisco was quick. We stayed at the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental and upon arrival the bellman stole my car. He basically didn’t offer much choice in whether I would use their $65 per night valet service. It wasn’t a terrible service but I figured there might be a cheaper one. I had told Sarah that I loved the food at Tsunami but in order to go out to eat we were going to need a baby sitter. I called to the front desk to learn that they offered babysitting through an agency and hooked up a babysitter with a $15 fee for the set-up and $11/hour with a 4 hour minimum. So we put Madeline to bed at 7:15 and then waited until about 7:30 PM when the babysitter was set to arrive. The reception folks thought it would be best to call us to alert us that the babysitter had arrived and the call rang a nice loud phone by Madeline’s crib and woke her up. A few minutes later Donna, a grandmother, appeared at our door covered in big jewelry on her hands, ears, and neck. Donna was a professional at babysitting and was confident that Madeline could be brought back to sleep. Sarah first tried to comfort Madeline and then switched to nursing her. Donna mentioned that babies that are still nursing are the hardest because the only thing that they really want when they are tired or upset is their mother. Despite multiple efforts to calm her down Madeline had clearly become aware that she was about to be ditched and to be left with this total stranger and she was absolutely pissed. So as we walked to the elevator after about 45 minutes of wrangling to try to leave Donna with a sleeping baby we could hear the screaming of our baby about 50 doors away from our room. We told Donna to call us at dinner whenever Madeline fell asleep. Sarah looked as if she had just been through a war and was experiencing some form of traumatic stress having to leave her screaming baby in a fancy hotel in order to go to a restaurant. We did manage to eat at Tsunami with Molly and Yuval and Sarah spent about an hour calming down after 30 minutes into dinner we received a call from Donna to let us know that the she had rocked Madeline to sleep in her stroller.
The next night we went to the Top of the Mark with Zoe and Dave after a walk in Golden Gate park at the Japanese tea garden. We saw some great views and halfway through snacking on gourmet cheeses, raw foods, cocktails, and a bottle of wine Sarah and Madeline disappeared back to the room to change because Madeline had spat-up on her fancy dress. Sarah didn’t return and we decided to stay in for the night and watch most of a season of “Flavr4Lov”, the reality TV show where Flav-a-flav does some odd version of the Bachelor while wearing clocks around his neck.
Tiburon was a quick drive out of the city. It was purported to be Paradise given locations like the wedding being held at Paradise beach and a road for walking called Paradise drive. It was quite nice. The best part of Paradise was having a babysitter for Madeline both nights. My parents arrived in town at about 3 in the afternoon and watch her while Sarah and I enjoyed dinner at the hotel restaurant. We stayed at the Tiburon Lodge in a spa room. The Spa room included a hot tub in the back and mirrors on the ceilings over the hot tub and the bed. I didn’t think to bring back pink champagne on ice but next time I will.
Sarah’s mother had made the astute observation about Annabelle the cat that her nipples were growing about two weeks ago. By the time that we returned from California and I picked-up Annabelle in Bedford she had also grown very round in the belly. The two theories were that she either had worms or was pregnant. It turned out that she was pregnant despite our never having exposed her to a male cat. The spaying included a complementary cat abortion operation so we aren’t going to have kittens in the near future.