so i really did go to california for three weeks, and i think it’s time i told you about it. gather round young people, i’m going to spin you a tale. mostly this is a reference piece – b/c when i’m going to a new place, i like to google the interwebs and see what fun stuff other people came up with to do; so internet, take this and store it for future california-bound researchers.
so the plan was for me to head solo for the west coast, where i’d stay with my ladyfriend amber for a week, and then brian meares would join me and we’d spend the next two weeks driving up the coast, ending in san fran.
i could probably vacation with amber for ever, because we seem to do exactly the same thing every day.
we get up, eat eggs benedict, sit around on our laptops for aboutever, get really excited about stacking pretty fabrics together, sit around some more, gossip, then drink some wine and eat mexican food. sleep. repeat.
fastforward, brian shows up, and we head to hermosa beach to stay with some great college friends for a few nights. how cute are hermosa and manhattan beaches? real cute.
we rode bikes on the boardwalk, had the most delicious eggs benedict right by the ocean two mornings in a row, played video games at dive bars and ate french fries covered in garlic oil.
after a morning at the beautiful getty museum catching up with our lucky friends who are much much smarter than us and decided to live their lives on the beach in year round 75 degree weather, we rented a (convertible, how dorky) car and started our drive up the coast.
we left LA and set out for big sur, stopping for a late lunch in santa barbara. sb was fine, a little tourist trappy, at least what i saw of it, but we had some great fresh seafood and beers at brophy brothers right on the marina, and we checked the maritime museum because one of us likes boats a lot.
we stayed in sb too long and made a bad decision to drive into big sur when it was dark. the stars that night were unbelievable, but nothing to compare to the view we woke up to the next morning
well, i wake up to this view every morning. zing!
we rented a rustic little cabin at the lucia lodge for 3 nights, which was pretty much a perfect amount of time to be there. we’d watch the sunset every night around 5:30 from our cialis adirondack chairs and we’d spend the rest of the evening like pioneers, by the fire reading and eating leftover taco bell.
during the days in big sur, we’d explore parks and lookouts, we’d hike and picnic on beaches and sit in trees scouting for animals. brian climbed rocks, i looked at things and wondered. we met big fat elephant seals, ran into friendly deers on paths, and ate cheese out of brian’s backpack.
things you should definitely check out in big sur:
eat lunch at the ragged point inn
julia pfeiffer burns park (there’s a sweet little waterfall and a great story to go along with the origin of the name)
the elephant seal overlook near hearst castle
breakfast at deetjan’s
cocktail hour at nepenthe
andrew molera state park, where this little guy walked with us for a while
and just driving. it’s an event on its own.
big sur is unbelievable. it’s sort of like taking acid — there’s a ‘NOW i get it’ moment once you’ve taken it all in, that you could never have imagined without actually being there.
notable mentions here:
breakfast at deetjan’s
eggs benedcit and mimosas. by this fire that was stoked every little bit. i read the new york times and planned that one day in life, i will be the proprietor of a little artist’s retreat like this, but hire someone else to stoke the fires.
nepenthe restaurant, an amazing structure perched on a cliff, hanging over the ocean
here i had a serendipitous moment, stumbling upon a book in their gift shop by one of the most inspiring artists who has shaped my style, kaffe fassett. i picked up the book solely because i just can’t get enough kaffe, only to learn later that evening (taco bell by the fire), it was his parents who opened nepenthe in the 50s. lolly and bill fassett bought the original cabin from orson welles, who’d purchased it as a honeymoon gift for rita hayworth, and kaffe helped his family run the bohemian studio-54esque destination for years, until he embarked on a lifetime of travels, designing his fabric and painting. if you can’t get enough color and kooky pattern and fabulous anecdotes of coming of age in mid-century big sur, you’d really think this book is a treat.
next stop: carmel. the drive from big sur to carmel takes no time, so we wasted a few hours stopping at overlooks along the way and taking dirt roads to see where they ended up. brian really took to standing on rocks
we splurged and stayed at the hyatt highlands in carmel – totally worth it. the room was amazing; it had a fireplace and a perfect view of the pacific. dinner was delicious, the hot tub was right by our room and the service was on point (i’m a stickler for service, and they nailed it).
we had eggs benedict, took off on rented bikes to discover big trees and do some seal spotting, climbed some more and ended our day with drinks in the amazing floor-to-ceiling windowed bar at the hyatt.
the next day, we checked out the aquarium in monterey and we did the 17 mile drive at pebble beach. the aquarium was meh… too many kids (stressed me out) and the otters were closed for home maintenace. but the 17 mile drive was awesome. we stopped in at the posh little market on the loop and grabbed some cheese, some chips and a bottle of wine and had a picnic on a rock where we watched a pod of whales migrate and listened to some fatty seals whoop and bark.
from carmel, we headed for san fran, stopping in santa cruz for lunch
(holy fish tacos, have you ever?), and another stop at sunset at moss beach (where the mavericks surfing competition takes place yearly). i don’t surf – brian does – but i’m fairly fascinated by big waves, so checking out mavericks was definitely a highlight. there’s an underwater rock formation at this beach’s point which causes an unusually crazy large wave break seasonally. after winter storms in the pacific, the waves typically reach 25 feet, but they can top out at 80 feet. there’s an invitation-only competition held there once a year for the world’s best big wave surfers. 25 surfers are invited, and from november though march they wait for a call, telling them it’s on, and they have 24 hours to get to the contest.
we didn’t get to see any surfing – the waves aren’t coming in just yet – but we did get to explore the volcanic rock beach that at low tide was full of hundreds of small tidal pools with the most amazing sea life i’ve ever seen thriving in them. neon pink starfish, clusters of sea anemone, tiny weird crabs, and sparkling little fish. make sure you do this.
after sunset, we headed into san fran, which i admit, was a major culture shock after being out in the great wide open for days. i think if we did it all again, i’d want to drive south instead of north.
san fran was mostly about eating, and my highlights were:
-tyler florence’s wayfare tavern. they really nailed my trifecta of restaurant perfectness: excellent menu, spot-on service and well-executed decor with personality and warmth. just their bathroom made me have those dreams where you find extra rooms in your house you never knew about and you get all jazzed up about a new excuse to decorate
–baker and banker: probably the best meal we had on our trip, plus a gorgeous dining room with delicious food, an amazing wine list and impeccable service
–the slanted door: apparently majorly touristy to locals, but that was fine with us. it was delicious and extra spicy, again with just-eager-enough servers, fabulous ginger bourbon drinks, and a local fish ceviche that made me fairly breathless after every bite (it was served on fried plantains).
-chowder from the street stands at fisherman wharfs. we may have had this three times.
in between eating, we schlepped around the city and did our share of first time visitor things: we enjoyed the japanese tea garden, rode a few trolleys, took a ferry to sausalito for lunch where i found an amazing store full of only tiny things,
i checked instagram while brian studied west coast boats, and we saw the golden gate bridge (i had no idea of its dark secrets until a friend told me to check out this movie – so between this and the overwhelming homeless population, being in SF required contemplation of some of life’s more melancholy moments).
we rested, we explored, i was inspired and humbled, i unplugged, we caught up with old friends, spent our days in the sunshine and laughed a lot. it was a good trip.