Trip up the CA Coast

by - March 27, 2018

It was really important to me to make this past spring break one for the books, because it's probably my last one. Unless I go to grad school, I will most likely be working a full time job this time next year. So, I wanted to make sure it was a special week off!

The first thing I did was search for flights. Since spring break is a really popular time to fly, we decided not to spend lots of money on a short spring trip and put it towards our upcoming summer vacation (TBA!) We settled on San Francisco because we had been trying to visit there since last year. Long story short, we had a roadtrip from Los Angeles to Oregon planned in August 2017, but it got canceled because of the solar eclipse (we ended up in Orlando, FL!). So, we thought spring break would be a great time to finally embark on a roadtrip. Anyway, without further ado, here is the itinerary we followed up to Northern CA:

Day 1: Solvang and Pismo Beach

We left on Thursday, March 22nd, and it was cold and pouring rain.  Atypical weather for this time of year in SoCal...it usually gets warm (even hot) during March. We were a little nervous to travel through Santa Barbara in the rain because of the devastation from the Thomas fire a few months back. Luckily, there were no mudslides, and we made it to our first stop: Solvang!

Solvang is the sweetest little town that you must visit at one point if you're ever in California. It's a Danish village that has lots of windmills, boutiques, wine tasting, and not to mention all the bakeries! I feel like there is a treat shop every other store...you can't go wrong.

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Our favorite place to get a treat when we go is the Old Danish Food Farm for fudge and soft pretzels. I'm not sure how they do it, but their pretzels & cheese are the best ever. Sooo yummy!

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We also like Mortensen's Bakery - the shop has a great view of the lane of shops, and the pastries are fantastic. We've been taking day trips and overnights to Solvang once in a blue moon since I was a kid. We didn't stay there overnight because we had seen it several times before; we wanted to spend the majority of our time in a new place. If you've never been, I highly recommend staying overnight though, because there are a bunch of adorable inns and bed-and-breakfasts.

[caption id="attachment_100" align="alignnone" width="3178"]fullsizeoutput_111 The view from Mortensen's

After Solvang, we continued on the 101 fwy towards Pismo - it's about 50 miles north of Solvang. I had never been there before, so I was excited to see it. It was not anything like I expected. It's really small, and there's not much to it. It's an older beach town that's pretty quiet and doesn't have a lot going on.

We stayed at the Beachwalker Inn & Suites, which was okay for one overnight stay. I would only recommend it as far as a place to sleep and shower. There was nothing wrong with it - it was clean and kept-up, but it was very basic and very small. It was tough to find a place to stay in Pismo, because the nicer hotels were super pricey. I searched through lots of different hotels at a lower price point, and they were really dumpy. Since Pismo is an older town, a lot of the places to stay are old and run down. I picked the Beachwalker because it looked decent enough, was reasonably priced, and it was only a 5-10 minute walk to the local row of shops and the pier.

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After we checked in, we got hot chocolate (it was in the low 50s) and perused the streets. There are some cute restaurants and stores to see! If I ever go back, I would stay at the Inn at the Pier. I didn't go inside, but it looked like the kind of place you would want to go back to after wandering around the beach all day. The pier has an awesome view of the sea and nearby hills & cliffs that is especially beautiful at sunset.

Outfit: Adidas Samoas / Topshop Jeans / Kate Spade Backpack  (mine is from last year - slightly different) / Brandy Melville Jacket / Target Scarf (old) / Madewell Sweater (last year)

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One last thing about Pismo...definitely get a doughnut at Surfside Donuts. They have all kinds of neat flavors, like the Fruity Pebbles one that I got. Ahhh it was so good!

Outfit: Zara Jeans (last year) / same jacket (I left my other jacket at home, lol)

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Day 2: Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea

We got up early on Friday morning, grabbed our Fruity Pebbles doughnuts, and hit the road. There are a couple of different routes you can take up north from Pismo....either the coastal route on Highway 1, or the inland route on the 101 fwy. Highway 1 is about 40 miles longer (190 miles vs. 150 miles), although you do get to see the ocean most of the way. We ended up traveling via the 101, and it was a really scenic drive....we got to see the ocean through some parts! We went all through Paso Robles, San Miguel, and the whole way up is very green. It was so nice to see so much greenery!

We arrived at our hotel, Arbor Inn, in Monterey that afternoon. My initial thoughts were, "What a cute cottage-like place!". If you look on the website, you'll see some pictures that make it look very cozy. Admittedly, I was slightly disappointed when I saw what our room actually looked like. We paid a little extra to have a fireplace in our room...Monterey gets in the low 40 degrees at night, so I thought it would be extra special to have a fire going. While our room did have a fireplace, it looked totally different from the pictures online. The room was definitely not as cozy as I hoped it would be, so it was a bit of a let down. Heads up, they charge an added fee if there are more than 2 adults in the room, plus an extra $5 fee at check-in for some reason (annoying). There were no problems with the room or the inn overall, but I would stay somewhere else if I ever went to Monterey again.

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[caption id="attachment_120" align="alignnone" width="5184"]fullsizeoutput_120 view from the room's balcony[/caption]

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While in Monterey, we got fish & chips for lunch at the London Bridge Pub at Fisherman's Wharf. Oh my gosh...the best fish and chips EVER. And that's coming from someone who hates seafood, haha!

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From there, we took a tour on the famous 17 Mile Drive. Monterey is another small beach town, so there isn't much to do there either. This drive is definitely one of the highlights, and I highly recommend it (just FYI, there is a $10.25 entrance fee that is cash only). Part of it is through the forest, and the other part of it runs along the ocean. The forest part is nice but gets boring....the ocean part is just stunning. I couldn't stop staring...the water is so BLUE!! We kept pulling over to get out, stare, and take pictures. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a little easy to get turned around/go in circles, so try to mind the map as you're going through it.

Outfit: Madewell Jeans / Madewell Canvas Ballcap (my pink one is from a couple of months ago) / Necklace

[caption id="attachment_138" align="alignnone" width="5184"]fullsizeoutput_122 Part of the forest area[/caption]

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The drive has a few different entrances/exits from the surrounding towns. We entered on the Monterey side and exited on the Carmel side. Carmel is so charming...it's another small town with stores from tiny coffee shops to Tiffany & Co.. Parking was a bit of a challenge, but we got lucky and found a spot right outside a candy store (it was meant to be!).

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After we wandered around, we got back in the car and drove over to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, which was a really special visit. The mission is so beautiful. Unfortunately it was closed when we arrived, but even just being on the grounds was a really nice experience.

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One other thing we did in Monterey was get lost! Haha. We wanted to see the sunset in Big Sur, and according to Google Maps it didn't seem too far from Monterey. We wound up on a winding, narrow road and accidentally passed Bixby Bridge, which I had always wanted to see, and I didn't get a picture of it because we drove by the turnout before realizing where we were :( We continued on the road into the mountains, and as it turns out the path to the coast of Big Sur was closed! It was such a bummer. We had to go all the way back through the twists and turns at dusk, but at least we had an ocean view most of the way.

Our last stop in Monterey was for dinner at Gianni's Pizza. It was a really fun family place to eat. We got a salad and a big cheese Pizza...I would totally go again!

[caption id="attachment_193" align="alignnone" width="2448"]fullsizeoutput_158 I get hungry just looking at this![/caption]

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Day 3: San Francisco

Saturday was the big day! I had been waiting the whole trip to make it up to San Fran. On our way, we tried to stop in Half Moon Bay to see Mavericks. If you aren't familiar with Mavericks, they are massive 60 foot waves that you can view from certain cliffs in an area called Pillar Point. I'll spare you the details, but we went out of our way only to find completely FLAT water hahaha. Apparently Mavericks only happen under certain weather conditions, and the day we went was a totally clear, sunny day - who knew.

[caption id="attachment_159" align="alignnone" width="3436"]fullsizeoutput_13a View from the highway[/caption]

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Our hotel was actually about 20 mins outside of San Francisco. We booked the Marriott in San Mateo thanks to a great deal from Priceline. It's a sweet hotel...I would definitely suggest it! It ended up being kind of lame having to travel a distance to go in and out of San Fran, so next time I go I will try to book a hotel in the city. (PS - I forgot to get a pic of the hotel).

San Francisco was a lot of what I expected based on seeing it in pictures and movies over the years....but it was also totally different than I had imagined. When you get a first glimpse of it from the freeway, all you can see are houses and buildings everywhere...and I mean everywhere. It is sooo crowded!! I knew there were big hills, but you can't really tell on TV just how steep they are. I was freaking out when we came to a stoplight that was nearly at a 90 degree angle, haha!! The houses look just like they do in pictures - it's unlike any place I have been before.

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We didn't make it into the city until around 3pm. We wanted go to confession at St. Patrick's Cathedral between 4 and 5pm since it was our last chance to go before Easter the following week. Boy were we naive!! We had no clue what kind of traffic we were getting ourselves into. When you enter the city, there is so. much. traffic. We actually almost missed confession because we were stuck in gridlock for so long! On top of that, there was a gun protest going on, so traffic was being redirected all over the place. We rerouted to a different church called Saints Peter and Paul Church - what a place. I was blown away by its architecture....I didn't even know such breathtaking churches like that existed in San Francisco!



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[caption id="attachment_161" align="alignnone" width="1836"]fullsizeoutput_13c low quality iPhone photo - I forgot the camera at the hotel! :([/caption]

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From there, we found a parking spot on the street (after lots of prayers, lol) and walked to Pier 39. It just so happened that some of my dad's family was in the city by coincidence that same weekend, so we met up, walked from the pier to Ghiradelli Square (which was lots of fun), and then went to dinner at an Italian place called Cioppino's. It's between Ghiradelli & Fisherman's Wharf. It was a really warm, lively place with great food - I would eat there again if I'm ever in San Fran! (I still didn't have the camera with me, so I didn't get the greatest photos)

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The next day, we went back into the city for Palm Sunday mass at St. Dominic's and WOW what a church! I know I said that about the other cathedral, but this one equally blows your mind. Even if you aren't religious, you can definitely appreciate the intricacy and the old gothic style. I wish I could go to mass there every week, lol!

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Then we got brunch at The Grove. This was hands down my favorite meal we had on the trip. The restaurant was totally my style - adorable. Cute restaurants are my thing! Breakfast places in the city are sort of few and far between, not to mention low on space....we tried a couple of places, and everywhere was so packed. The Grove has a decent amount of seating (including a couple of sofas and outdoor tables), and there were still not enough places for everyone to sit. When we got there, there was a long line just to order. Then there was a separate line for those who had ordered and were waiting for a table. They have a strict policy about not finding a table until you've ordered, because tables are that hard to come by. We got really lucky and got a perfect seat for 4 right inside! The portions are a good size, so we ordered the eggs Benedict with ham and hash browns, cinnamon roll bread pudding with strawberries, and a big omelette (with more hash browns) and shared everything. Such good food, such good ambiance...I was in hog heaven.

Outfit: Split-Back Sweater / Anthropologie Handkerchief (old)

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And now...the main event...the bridge! I got chills when I first saw it, how corny haha. I really did, though. It is so phenomenal to see in person, I can't even describe it. It's so great, you can't help but wonder, "How the heck did they build this??". We first went to Crissy Field, which is a massive grassy park with a fantastic view of the bridge. We also drove over the bridge (so fun), tried to take a picture in the picture-taking parking lot area that was completely overcrowded, and then drove back over. When you return southbound, there is a $6.75 toll, but it was totally worth it. We snapped a few pics at the field, and then we headed home.

Outfit: Adidas Superstars / H&M Beanie

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The way home took roughly 7 hours because we made a couple of pit stops for gas, dinner, etc. When we passed through San Miguel, we stopped at the historic mission that was founded in 1797. I loved the old, rustic look of the exterior....it's even pretty just passing by on the highway.

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PHEW....I wrote a novel! Haha....thank you so much if you read the entire thing, or even skimmed it! I hope you enjoyed it or learned something! Let me know if you're ever going up north <3 <3 <3

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