As unbelievable as it is, yesterday I turned 50 (50!) years old. I have no idea how it’s possible I am half a century old. I don’t feel that old. It’s not that old… now that I am that old.

For my birthday I got a ticket to San Francisco (Minneapolis, Chicago & Columbus)! To celebrate with family & friends. There is not a better present in the world. I love 3 things: family, friends & travel… wait 4: Giraffes! There will be giraffes on this trip.

I had a wonderful, albeit uber-windy flight to London, then San Francisco. I’ve never flown British Airways, and this was my first non-military, non-discount airline flight in years. Wow! I had a great seat, blanket & pillow, a seat-back video player and usb charger, a meal with FREE wine, snacks (popcorn, chips & chocolate) for my movie time, and lunch. Plus, the wonderful flight crew came round with juice or water every hour. Top notch service. Top notch flight. I am so impressed.

I got off the plane, struggled with the technology of self-check-in to the United States (I took a test, submitted finger prints, scanned my passport and had my mug shot taken), grabbed my bag and ran into the arms of my sobbing sister. She’s such a dork! I missed her more. My mom bundled us both into the rental car, and drove us just up the peninsula to our lovely hotel on the bay. Happiness complete.

My first full day in California, we drove straight to the  Golden Gate. Despite having lived in the Bay Area for over 20 years, I am still impressed by it’s size & beauty. It was foggy as we entered the city via 19th avenue, after 8+ years it was still familiar. Some things have changed, but so much is still the same I easily recognized my city & old haunts.

As we approached the Golden Gate, the fog started to lift and beautiful warm sunshine washed over me. It is incredibly peaceful walking the paths along the bay, under the cypress and eucalyptus trees, the salty sea air filling all my senses. I’d seen some photographers up on a rock off the beaten path, and I wanted to stand there and take that shot too. It meant climbing up, and down some small hills (mountains!). Sadly I’d chosen flipflops for the day. Worried about my accustomed-to-cold-Germany feet being too hot in sunny California.

Even sadder? On my way down the second micro-mountain, my flipflop noped me. The thong separated from the bottom in an irreparable manner and I had to finish my hike half barefoot, half flipflopped. Luckily, I can do that. Much to the amusement of both my mother and sister… and multiple passerby’s.

I’ll be honest, I miss my flipflop. But I have a brandnew pair, and incredible shots of the Golden Gate. It was so worth it.

The official span #s for the Golden Gate

The Golden Gate is 80!

Foggy morning, and then the sun started to peek out.

Everything is gorgeous. Trees. Flowers. Bridges.

My sister Manon, me & our mom

Hiking (climbing!) up to the best spot to photograph the Golden Gate.. my flipflop broke.

From Bakers Beach, on the west side of the Golden Gate.