Our family spent the last two weeks in one of my favourite cities, San Francisco. (“One of,” Portland. Don’t get into a snit.) Our home was perched on a hill in North Beach, where you can’t walk two steps without tripping over a contour line.

A typical San Francisco hill, 75º incline and all
This being a family visit, we hit some of the more child-friendly sites, including the temporary home of the Randall Museum, which included a menagerie of rescued and domestic animals: a raccoon, chickens, ravens, crows, a barn owl, guinea pigs, a rabbit… the kids loved it. That said, I have a proposal for livening things up a little.
Childcare, Randall-Museum-style.

I’ve resisted visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, even though I’ve been to San Francisco a half dozen times or so. This time, I gave in, because my daughter wanted to see the sea lions at the marina.  The Wharf itself bore out every tourist-trap fear I’d had of the place (enjoy my Yelp review!)… but the sea lions themselves were delightful. Except when the wind shifted once or twice.

Come for the sea lions! Stay because the stench stuns you into immobility!
We loved the California Academy of Sciences. Try prying your kid away from the butterflies. Just try. You’ll feel like a war criminal.
Three butterflies: cute. A hundred butterflies: creepy.

We’ve been to the Exploratorium before, but not since they moved to the Embarcadero. It’s a great place to spend the afternoon, although I was a little disturbed at just how much one of my kids enjoyed bringing me to the brink of nausea at one of the displays.
They didn't really try to kill me at the Exploratorium. Or at least their hearts weren't in it.We stayed at a beautiful apartment with a stunning view, including the TransAmerica Pyramid. When TransAmerica’s first CEO died, he was interred there, along with all of the company’s original employees (it was billed as a “fun visioning exercise—there will be pizza!”).
TransAmerica Pyramid: early conceptual sketches We never did convince the kids to go to the cable car museum. I can only guess as to the actual underlying mechanism, which I think uses underpaid elves.
I really should patent this drawing of an elf pulling a cable car. This'll probably be the last option remaining to us once peak oil hits. The ornateness of some of the houses in this place is just out of control. Dial it back, San Francisco.
Outhouse, SF-style These people are very, very serious about their coffee. Or maybe it’s just the Silicon Valley types, who’ve turned it into yet another gadget to tinker with. (Don’t believe me? Try speculating loudly in a coffee shop about whether pour-over or AeroPress coffee is better, and then slip quietly outside in the ensuing mayhem.)
A very, very large cuppa.I bought myself a belated birthday present—a new-to-me camera lens—from a tiny but tidy store called Camera Heaven on Larkin Street. The owner, David, gave me a decent deal, and folks on Yelp say he’s great with both sales and service. In a city that’s becoming more expensive every day, I don’t know how he’s making a go of it, but I hope he continues to.
I suddenly feel level-headed, says the guy. That's because I've switched on stabilization, says the woman taking his photo.Back to the kids. We dropped by the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, which sounds like it should be a sprawling complex employing hundreds, but is in fact about the size of half a Radio Shack. The visit was brief (the only way you could conceivably make it last more than 10 minutes would be to submit a job application), but a lot of fun. And watching them try to break open a giant fortune cookie afterward was easily worth the purchase price.
In which I bribe the nice fortune cookie lady in the interests of parental harmony

Many books were purchased. Many bookstores were visited.
"Too many books"?! What the hell does that mean? In which someone discovers that steampunk minus tech equals Victorian historical fiction

One last little lesson we learned from our trip…

Yes, you CAN get sunburn on a foggy day