The week before Memorial day I had a super relaxing and fun trip up the famous Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). A winding road that snakes along the California coastline taking you from LA beaches, through Santa Barbara farmland, between the redwoods of Big Sur, and into the skyline of San Francisco.
The day started with a sore head from birthday festivities the night before, but we managed the 1.5 hour drive to the Strawberry festival in Oxnard. Strawberry nachos, smoothies, kebabs, and popcorn screamed at us from the food stall signs as we walked in. Picture perfect strawberries were for sale from local farms and we picked up a few on the way out.
Back on the road, driving through lush farmland, we stopped into Solvang, a Danish Village. Wandered through the cute Danish style houses, windmills, and shops.
On the way out we stopped at Ostrichland where we fed the Ostriches and Emus. They were quite aggressive, so both Chris and I were happy to get back on the road with all our fingers intact.
We spent the night in San Luis Obispo, walking to the Mission, bubblegum wall, eating delicious tri tip at Firestone Brewery, and of course, watching Game of Thrones.
The following day was my birthday! The drive to Hearst Castle did not take too long and we were soon on top of the hill at La Cuesta Encantada. The lush grounds, European inspired architecture, and awe inspiring views never cease to amaze me. For lunch we drove across the highway into San Simeon for delicious burgers made from Hearst beef, yum! A quick stop off at Piedras Blanchas to see (and smell) the elephant seals and then were on our way to Monterey.
We had a gorgeous 2 hour drive alongside the coastal cliffs of CA. Across the famous Bixby bridge and into the redwood forests of Big Sur. It was a wonderfully relaxing drive despite ending up behind a very slow tractor at one point.
We got into Monterey late afternoon, checked into our Air BnB and went for a walk along fisherman’s wharf. All of the buildings on the wharf looked ramshackle and randomly put together, but in a beautiful, functional way. After sampling a number of clam chowders (all of them award winning of course) we headed to Cannery Row for dinner. For my birthday dinner we splurged and I had fresh crab, scallops, and shrimp at a beautiful beachside restaurant.
The next morning was spent at Monterey Aquarium. I highly recommend stopping in here if you are in the area. From the deep sea exhibit to the sea otters, I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the aquarium and seeing the variety of fish and animals.
After the aquarium we ate delicious chowder on the wharf and jumped in a cab to Carmel-by-the-sea. A charming little town, and Clint Eastwood was once the mayor here! We wandered along the beach, dipping our feet into the freezing ocean and stopping to pet the numerous dogs running around. Afterwards we went wine tasting and then stopped into a cheese shop where they stuffed us with samples. Walked down to the Mission and learned about a bit of California history.
On the walk to/from the mission we saw so many wonderful looking houses, each with their own personality. In Carmel, the houses don’t have numbers, they just have house names and the street reference! Stopped into a pub for bacon bloody mary’s before heading to a wonderful dinner at La Balena. I HIGHLY recommend this restaurant for anyone in the area.
The following day was a quick drive into San Francisco where I parked the car and vowed not to touch the car until we had to leave the city. After checking into the hotel we did the very fun and touristy cable car ride to the wharf.
Took in views of the Golden Gate bridge, pier 39 shops, the sea lions, and then headed straight up the hill to Coit Tower.
The views at the top of the hill were amazing and the hike was a great workout. On the way down we stopped into Washington Square before heading into Chinatown. Stopped into Li Po for a Chinese mai tai, then moved to the Buddha lounge where we drank buddha beers and had a “three penis” shot. The siblings showed up and we all went for dinner and drinks before heading to Holy Cow club where we got to shake hands with Shaq!
The following day the parentals arrived and we all went for a lovely graduation dinner at La Bricola. Another winning restaurant we visited on this trip.
Friday was more wandering around the city. We stopped at Girhardelli square for a sundae before preparing ourselves for my sister’s graduation.
Graduation was at AT&T park and the views were gorgeous! The graduation itself was very disorganized and after 2 hours of speeches, the whole family decided to bail and go for dinner (including my sister).
The next day, we all piled into the car to head to Lightning in a Bottle festival. It took about 3 hours to get there and we arrived in the mid-day heat to a huge camp already set up by our festi crew. The rest of the day was an awesome combination of music, events, and meeting new people. We played giant skeeball, impersonated a blowfish on acid, saw fire dancers, and danced our legs off in animal onesies.
Second day of the festival was just as exciting and full of hippy activities. We napped during the mid-day sun in the shade of meditation mountain, did some yoga, listened to a talk on how to get high from licking frogs, and watched the most bizarre burlesque show I have ever seen. As the sun set over the hills, it was a great moment to enjoy the time I spent at the festival with family and friends.
The next day was difficult to pack up and head home, but we said our goodbyes and were back on the road to LA after 2.5 hour waiting to get out of the festival venue.
This trip was a great balance of relaxation, adventure, family time, and festival excitement. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment and cannot wait for the next trip!