That's right. As many of you know, Alexandre and I went back to California to visit all my people and places and things. I shall recap in pictures:
We flew out of Guarulhos. My friend Bianca was so nice as to give us a ride to São Paulo! What a pal.
At our layover stop, we had our first American breakfast of champions, in Ray's honor:
This "meal" was the start of a downward slope of deliciously unhealthy American eating, 2 weeks of gorging on crap, crap, and more crap! Yum yum.
We were welcomed by my mom at the airport, and she took us to my grandma's house. Our first home-cooked meal was my English grandmother's roast beef and yorkshire pudding. That's right, Brits. You can be jealous.
The next day, Alexandre and I took my grandma to my aunt's house a couple of hours away. My sister met up with us, and we all went to a casino (gotta love the Indian land in California!). Fun was had by all, whether it was with the games, or the alcohol, or both...
This was only day 2 of the trip, so we were still skinny
Danette (my twin sister), us, and my grandma :)
they respond similarly when someone shouts, "take a picture!"
Alexandre made up a good luck dance for us to do while the slot machine was rolling
Don't worry, those casino game machine makers are equal opportunity stereotypists (is that a word?)
some of the ladies of the family
After our fun casino day, we took my grandma to a sushi restaurant and my cousins met up with us. It was her first time eating sushi! She's so brave. We're all so proud of her. She taught us a valuable life lesson: you're never too old to try something new!
my beautiful Nanny and my beautiful cousins
After lots of board games and shopping at my aunt's house, we went back to my grandma's and did some more shopping. I went to a used book store and bought some wonderful new cookbooks! The best one is called "The Market Fresh Cookbook" by Taste of Home Magazine. It's organized by vegetable; the idea is that you can more easily use what you buy from the farmer's market or pick from your garden. I earmarked like, half of the recipes! So great! You can see it here (or just do your own Google search for it to see a bunch of cheap used copies for sale).
Back at my grandma's house, we had some time to explore around Los Angeles.
We did touristy things.
We met up with Martin, a dear old friend of mine (sorry Alexandre, this was the only pic we all took together!)
We shared traditional Japanese food and lots of laughs with Jamie
(remember her? She came to Brazil to visit)
Then, the next day, we had a little get-together at my grandma's house with my family and some friends. My grandma cooked. My friend Nancy (check out her fashion blog here) made cupcakes. They were perfect. I ate four of them. I gave myself a stomachache. Worth it.
me, Jamie, Danette, and Nancy the cupcake queen
cousins and funny faces
After more family time / Jamie time / shopping on Sunday, Alexandre and I drove up to San Francisco.
this was the only pic I took on the drive up. Quality over quantity!
We stayed one night with my friend Rachel and her husband Lee (check out Rachel's baking blog here, and her amazing sailing adventure blog here). Rachel and I went to Berkeley together. It was really good to meet her new husband and to catch up with her.
We spent the other nights with my old NorCal neighbors, Tony and Patrick. We didn't get any pictures together! How sad. But it's more sad that I didn't get any pictures of their amazing new apartment. They're now living in a giant building that used to be a storage warehouse for submarines in WWII and that has since been converted into lofts. The history and style, combined with Tony's unique and eclectic art and decorations, made the place really memorable.
San Francisco was as special as I remembered it. It was Alexandre's first time up there. He agreed that it was a special place, but he had less tolerance for the extreme liberalism and the cold than I did/do.
Did I mention it was cold? Highs in 40s and low 50s during the whole trip!
we took a picture in front of it instead of paying to ride it
the seagull is not amused
We went to Pier 39 and saw the sea lions.
What a silly sign! Everyone knows sea lions can't read. ;)
We went for a walk on the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. It was some gorgeous stuff.
I took that!
us with Rachel's doggie, Doc. I made it black and white to try to hide the blurriness from the stranger's shaky hand.
Rachel and I have a series of pictures with her dog. We needed another one to add to the collection.
huddling together for warmth!
While still in the Bay Area, we met up with some more friends for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. I got to meet longtime blog reader and online buddy Tracy! (You may know her from her comments on all the bird posts.)
I also got to see Natasha, my partner in crime from my days at UC Irvine. Unfortunately, she's still against the idea of smiling in pictures (I'll get you one day!).
The next day, Alexandre, Tracy and I explored Berkeley and I showed them around the campus and I reminisced a lot.
After some boba, the three of us went under the water on BART to play in The City some more. (That's right. I called it The City.) We had lunch at Bubba Gump's.
Alexandre's punishment for never reading my blog
yay! fellow bird fan Tracy
(I suppose I shouldn't call her a "fan"...birding is her career! OK her career's not exactly birding...I'll stop)
Rachel joined us for lunch, too, but it was over before we knew it! We didn't even get a picture with her at the restaurant. Alexandre and I were supposed to have a tour of Alcatraz after lunch, so we left the restaurant in a hurry, but we were late and missed the boat (literally!). Luckily, the Alcatraz people are cool about letting you change your tour time, so we rescheduled it for the morning. Then we reunited with Tracy and went to Chinatown and Union Square instead.
This is a picture of a painting of a poem. I took it because I though Jennifer would like it. It says, "Her favorite moments / were those / when she let go / of all expectations and worries / and just simply celebrated / the very moment she was living. / In those precious moments / she was truly present / and listening to grace." I tried to remember it during the rest of my trip.
This day was Valentine's Day, so after our fun day with Rachel and Tracy, Alexandre and I went out for a romantic Thai dinner and then went back to Tony and Patrick's to chat. :)
The next morning was our Alcatraz trip. The second try was successful. Hooray! We weren't out 50 bucks, after all.
Alexandre took this one
I'd never been to Alcatraz, even though I lived in the Bay Area. (If you've ever lived in a tourist-y place, you know how that goes.) But it was an interesting trip. I recommend it. They do a great job of giving you a feel for what life was like for prisoners and guards.
The pics I took inside the prison didn't come out that great. So instead, I'll show you some of the seagulls that joined us on our boat trip to the island:
Those were the last pics I took on our whole trip to the US! Whoops. Our last few days were spent shopping and hanging out with my grandma and my mom. We also went out for dinner and drinks with a great friend of mine named Crystal and her friend Candace. The night was such a blast that I was just inspired to use the expression "a blast" to describe it. I wanted to have 5,000 more hours talking and laughing with them.
Before we knew it, Alexandre and I were both 5 pounds heavier, and the trip was over!
I think we did an admirable job of combining "time with loved ones" and "touristy experiences", if I do say so myself. I'm so happy I got to see everyone that I got to see, and do everything that I got to do, and eat everything that I got to eat, and buy everything that I got to buy.
Until next year, America!