Picking back up where I left off… Tuesday night! The Illenium show was awesome. We (myself, Kristy and PP) started off with some tacos/burritos at a quick outdoor restaurant and then headed to a speakeasy style bar near the venue called Local Edition. It was really cool underground bar and we enjoyed delicious cocktails before walking to The Warfield. Once we got to the venue, we were pumped to see that it had the feel of a Broadway theatre; our seats were in the front of the upper balcony, and we were looking down at the stage with curtains and old fashioned looking décor covering the ceiling. I think this was maybe Kristy’s favorite night of the trip 🙂
We had a bit of a slower start on Wednesday morning, but we made it up and out of SF by mid-morning. With a quick stop at the Full House house (pretty unexciting in my opinion) we passed through the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and hit Route 1. Before long, we were overlooking views of the Pacific Ocean and the stunning rocky shoreline. Waves were rolling in and we saw a lot of surfers out enjoying the day. At this point I was freaking out. I’ve definitely noticed that I get way more outwardly excited about nature-things when I travel. I think it is the unexpected views and beauty of a landscape that I am not used to that always surprises me and makes me realize what a special place I am in. We stayed on Rt 1 South for about 2 hours, weaving in and out of ocean views, rocky ledges, open fields, forests, small towns before reaching Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is a small town near Monterey. Carmel was probably the CUTEST town I’ve ever seen; it had a complete storybook feel. I am unable to describe how the homes, shops and restaurants looked, so here is a Wikipedia description: “While there is no specific definition of what makes a house storybook style, the main factor may be a sense of playfulness and whimsy. Most seemed snapped out of a craggy old-world village with intentionally uneven roofs, lots of cobblestone, doors and windows which may look mismatched and odd-shaped.” That sounds about right.
Kristy and I chose a restaurant called La Bicyclette for lunch which turned out to be our favorite meal of the trip:
(Minus the prosciutto) and
Had to share from the menu because my own words definitely could not describe how good this food was. We laughed that we couldn’t do more than just smile and shake our heads as we ate this entire meal.
Hearts content, we walked up and down the shop-filled streets before finding the car to continue onwards. We made a pit-stop at the Carmel town beach which also proved to be a spectacular place. It was about 3:00 with the sun beginning to slightly set, and we were in heaven as we watched the people, children and dogs running around on this little local beach which was tucked into the side of the coast-line. Cue my first “I think I need to move to California” thoughts.
Back in the car, we made our way to the entrance of 17 Mile Drive: “a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula in California, much of which hugs the Pacific coastline and passes famous golf courses, mansions and scenic attractions, including the Lone Cypress, Bird Rock and the 5,300-acre Del Monte Forest of Monterey Cypress trees.” This drive was simply amazing. We wound our way first through the Pebble Beach area before reaching different pull-offs which gave endless views of the rocky coastline and the mansions overlooking it. We finished up at the opposite end of the peninsula, closer to Monterey, as the sun set and then made our way downtown to grab some dinner and snacks for the next day. We spent the night at an Airbnb in Seaside, right outside of Monterey. I feel like you never really know what you’ll get out of an Airbnb, especially one that is a “shared room” aka just 1 room in the host’s house, but this place was perfect. We ended up not seeing our hosts at all, possibly because of Thanksgiving Eve, but had a restful night in their cozy home.
On Thursday, Thanksgiving, morning we continued south towards Big Sur. I was really excited. For some reason, Big Sur has always caught my attention and I’ve always hoped for the chance to explore the area myself. Because Wikipedia continues to do a better job in describing the details…”Big Sur is a lightly populated, unincorporated region on California’s Central Coast where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The coast is frequently praised for its rugged coastline and mountain views. As the ‘longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the [contiguous] United States,’ it has been described as a ‘national treasure that demands extraordinary procedures to protect it from development’ and ‘one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere in the world, an isolated stretch of road, mythic in reputation.'” I had high expectations and the day did not disappoint. It also helped that it was about 65 and sunny outside! (We actually had phenomenal weather the entire trip, I think we got lucky.)
Coming from the north, we began to hit some of the famous bridges, including Bixby Bridge which is one of the most photographed landmarks in the area. We essentially drove through 3/4ths of the stretch of coastline, wanting to get to our southernmost stop before turning around. We stopped at various pull-offs along the way and then ultimately arrived at Sand Dollar Beach where we figured we could go down to the sand and relax for a bit. You don’t realize, but there is not a lot of beach actually accessible in Big Sur, since so much of the area is huge rocky drop offs and nature reserves. Though it was high tide and sand gnats were everywhere, we still found a place to sit on the rocks/sand and watch the activity on this little hidden beach. There were a good number of families coming and going and it felt so wholesome to watch the children and dogs playing in the ocean. There were a ton of dogs off leash who were running around like crazy. We spent about an hour people and dog watching before heading back out. Most notable was one scraggly looking dog whose owner was throwing his tennis ball into the waves and he was running full speed into the ocean to fetch it. We laughed at this pup and it made my heart happy.
When we returned to our car, we found that someone had left a pink carnation on our windshield, and on the other cars around us. That made me happy too. We turned around and drove back north, which felt like a different drive, in a way, because we were now able to see all of the views from a different angle. We made a stop at McWay Falls, another famous landmark in the area, and spent some time taking in the last views before exiting the Big Sur region. Overall, Big Sur met every expectation that I had, and I feel lucky to have driven one of the most famous and notable routes in the world.
As the sun began to set, we drove back towards Santa Cruz, where we planned to stop at a restaurant that served Thanksgiving dinner and did not require reservations. The restaurant ended up being much more funky than we anticipated; Shadowbrook Restaurant had cozy dining areas tucked into the side of a cliff. There were dim lights and the rooms were built with brick and redwood. There was a cable car that could bring guests up and down from the parking lot to the restaurant and inside there were green vines, plants, and trickling water. It was perfect for our big meal, and we even had the surprise of a live guitarist who played while we ate. As Kristy said, “It would be so much more romantic if it wasn’t with you”. You and me both, girlfriend.
It was dark when we left the restaurant and we took the interstate back towards the San Francisco airport. We dropped the rental car off and got settled into our airport Marriott Hotel for the night– thanks for the hookup Dad :)! We reflected on our trip and called it a night as we both had early flights out on Friday morning.
This vacation was everything that I had hoped for and so much more. I was more than happy and willing to do the trip solo, but having the company and companionship of my best friend made it that much better. We realized that this was the first major trip that Kristy and I had taken together, and I think we both feel as though we traveled well together and would definitely do it again. While I maybe held back my happy tears in front of my friend, I will always continue to cherish that truly happy and content feeling that traveling brings me. I’m not sure where my next trip will lead me, but I am sure it will be another success. And maybe I’ll get back out to Northern Cal one of these days…