JANUARY 4TH - JANUARY 12TH
After returning from New Orleans last October, my friend Bobbi and I decided our next trip would be California. We set our date for January 2019 and for our friend Katie to come along as well.
Fast forward - the trip has officially come and gone. I’m already missing the west coast tremendously. So here I am, ready to reminisce on one of the best trips of my entire life thus far.
We flew out of Philadelphia bright and early on Friday, January 4th and had a quick stop at the Dallas/Forth Worth airport before flying to San Diego. We picked up the rental car (adult milestone achieved!) and our first Airbnb was all the way up north in Fresno, California. Let’s just say, driving 7 hours after flying all day is something I’ll never do again; however, we were greeted with the absolute cutest loft. String lights? Succulents? A HAMMOCK? 10/10 space (location on the other hand was a little sketchy but we’ll let that slide for the aesthetic). We ordered a super late night pizza and immediately passed out.
We stayed at the loft for less than 12 hours before checking out and driving two and a half hours north to our first leg of the trip in Berkeley.
PAUSE. Why did nobody warn me that tumbleweeds are TERRIFYING? And LARGE? Waze told me to “watch out, object on road ahead” meaning a whole BUSH was about to fly into the lane. Okay, continue -
Since we couldn’t check into our Airbnb until 3pm, we found a local spot in Berkeley for lunch - Tomate Cafe. Get the breakfast burrito. I think I had a thing for breakfast burritos on this trip. We still had time to kill after lunch and it was raining a bit (we brought the East Coast weather with us) so after googling museums, we stumbled upon Aftel Archive of Curious Scents. Check it out if you’re ever in the area. It’s a family business and it’s fun to smell all sorts of things. You’re even allowed to take three samples home with you.
Our Berkeley place felt like home. So cozy and comfortable. I really enjoyed the Berkeley area. Low-key and easy to get to a lot of shops. Plus we were located close to a few breweries. We each ordered flights at Fieldwork Brewing Co. - I tried 6 different IPAs that were all delicious. I quickly learned that California has some great local beer… and to be continued later on in the trip.
Well, more rain. An all day soaking kind of rain. You’re welcome California. We single-handedly saved your drought.
We grabbed coffee at Gold Leaf Cafe and pondered over what we should do for the day. I visited Oakland/San Francisco briefly back in 2013, so I suggested we do a free tour of the Jelly Belly Factory. Pro tip: don’t visit on a Sunday since there’s no workers in the factory.
What do you crave after eating jelly beans? Apparently Mexican food from Favelas Fusion. Since we were close to Napa already, and it was still raining, we set off to drink wine. (For the record, I am not a wine drinker. At all.) I stumbled upon JaM Cellars located in Downtown Napa while googling wineries and I’m so happy about that find. We tried wine in a relaxed environment all while watching the original IT movie. S/O to the girls that worked there - they were super cool and friendly. (I learned after this trip that JaM is responsible for putting on Napa’s BottleRock Music Festival! The lineup is A+ this year… hmm)
The. Rain. Stopped. Taking advantage of our last day in the Berkeley area we set off for our San Francisco adventure. I’ve been in love with San Francisco for a long time. Last time I visited, I didn’t have the chance to check out Alcatraz because it was during the summer and tickets sold out. Luckily Alcatraz was still open during the government shutdown. Something to check off the San Francisco bucket list.
Bobbi mentioned that she had never been to a Hard Rock Café before so we ate at the location right on Pier 39. We quickly walked around Pier 39, played on the piano steps a bit, then drove over the Golden Gate Bridge into the Marin Headlands. We explored Rodeo Beach, Point Bonita Lighthouse (well, the actual lighthouse was closed for the day - bummer), and an overlook to see the Golden Gate Bridge at night. Wow. That view will stick in my mind forever.
This is a big picture day, take the time to scroll through for the Golden Gate Bridge photos at the end.
A long day was ahead of us. The next leg of our trip was our original destination, San Diego. We said bye to our lovely Berkeley home and headed south. We knew we wanted to drive part of the Pacific Coast Highway. I say part because of the recent fires and mudslides in Malibu, we skipped the southern portion of the coast.
Our first stop was a hole-in-the-wall donut place in Castroville - which is the artichoke capital of the world apparently? I got a chocolate sprinkle donut for the road.
We got onto the Pacific Coast Highway and made our first overlook stop in Carmel. I was in absolute awe of the coastline. It really got me pumped to drive the rest of the coast. It started raining soon after driving again. A constant rain from Carmel to about San Simeon. That didn’t stop us from making a stop at the beautiful McWay Falls in Big Sur. We braved the rain and took a short walk out to the overlook. It’s even more beautiful in person, even in the rain. As we were walking back to the car a hummingbird landed on a flower and let me snap photos for a few minutes. Our final overlook stop was in San Simeon and the clouds broke to let the sunshine through.
We picked up some snacks in Cambria for the remaining part of the drive, which was another 5 hours. Man, I have never driven so much in my entire life. Wait until I tell you how many miles we put on the rental car.
The last few hours of our drive was filled with loud singing to a throwback playlist I made on Spotify called “Songs off my blue iPod Mini” and you can listen to all of my favorite middle school songs here.
Whew. We made it to San Diego. Our final Airbnb was a garage conversion in North Park. After ordering a very late meal from Grubhub, we passed out after our long day on the road.
No more long distance driving! We now had the next few days to explore San Diego and enjoy the beautiful weather. San Diego’s weather is as great as everyone says.
We found a waffle place called Atypical Waffle Company within walking distance. Oh. My. God. I ordered the “Nutella Chocolate Lovers” which was a waffle topped with Nutella, chocolate drizzle, homemade whip, and berries. Can someone from California please send me one right now? Thanks.
After high recommendations from everyone who visits San Diego, we did a touristy thing for the rest of the afternoon - the San Diego Zoo. This zoo is HUGE. Like, 5 miles of walking huge. Probably one of the best zoos I’ve ever visited.
Random thought - I’m kind of mad that California has succulents everywhere and they’re thriving. Then I look at the half-dead succulents in my room and cry.
Earlier that day we walked by a restaurant that looked super cute and delicious called Dunedin New Zealand Eats. I think this is my favorite dinner spot by far of the week. Actually, this was the best food day we had. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a yogurt dressing with a side of shoestring french fries. Someone please send this over to me too, right now.
We realized there was a local arcade bar called Coin-Op right up the street from Dunedin and we definitely wanted to check that out. I personally love Barcade Philadelphia in Fishtown, but I think Coin-Op gave it a run for it’s money. I tried local beer (okay, like I said… San Diego/California’s local beer scene is amazing) and even got the top three high scores of the night on Beer Pong Master. Should I be proud or embarrassed of this accomplishment? The bartenders there were super cool as well.
The next morning we set out for more breakfast burritos. North Park has so many great breakfast options. We chose a small coffee shop called Subterranean. The Crème Brûlée cold brew I ordered… YUM.
After fueling up, we walked around North Park checking out some of the local shops. Two of my absolute favorite finds were Pigment and Artelexia. I bought a few things for myself including a gorgeous dainty initial necklace handmade locally.
Because I enjoy cookies (A LOT) we stumbled upon Milk Bar and I had a warmed up chocolate chip cookie.
At this point sunset was only a few hours away and we were told by many people that going to La Jolla for sunset is a must. Ironically the place called Children’s Pool Beach is not a place to let your child swim, or anyone for that matter. It’s covered with seals! I’m pretty sure the three of us were plotting how we could get away with taking one home, but we decided keeping our limbs intact was more important. Well, maybe not for Bobbi. Watching the sunset on the cliffs of La Jolla was breathtaking. It was a little cloudier than I had hoped for photos, but I can’t complain at all.
For dinner we stayed in La Jolla because Bobbi and Katie were craving sushi from Sushi on the Rock. I should have taken this as a time to try sushi for the first time (sorry) but I didn’t. So, I ordered the most American thing possible - chicken fried rice, which was delicious.
As we walked back to the car we passed a small deli-bakery. Bobbi ordered a danish and the lovely gentleman working behind the counter slipped us a few extra treats. Thank you!
I think exhaustion finally hit us because we had no motivation to go out after returning back to our Airbnb this night. Gooooodnight.
Our last full day in San Diego. And California. We were already bummed thinking about having to return back home to cold weather.
So rewind a bit - Bobbi and I originally made our California vacation around a tattoo appointment she had set up. Today was the day for that tattoo.
Her appointment was in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego so we had breakfast at Breakfast Republic to start off the day. Oh. My. God. (PART TWO) They had pancake flights on the menu. Sold. I am a self-proclaimed pancake professional. I tried the strawberry cheesecake, Oreo, and cinnamon roll pancakes. Absolutely delicious.
Bobbi’s tattoo appointment took up most of the afternoon, but it went by quickly and we had great conversation with her artist while waiting. Her tattoo artist, Jasmine, told us to check out North Park’s Mexican restaurant called Saguaros and try the Carne Asada. I had a burrito version and the saying is true, usually the most hole-in-the-wall places have the best food.
At 3am I woke up to RAIN. Loud rain. It rarely ever rains in San Diego. Once again, you’re welcome California. An hour later at 4am the alarm went off for us to quickly pack up the rest of our belongings, return the rental car, and catch our first flight out to Phoenix before heading home.
And now we’re back home in Delaware. I know the three of us are missing the west coast a lot right now. Especially because it just snowed here.
Oh yeah, how many miles did we end up putting on the rental car the entire trip? Over 1300.
I’m already looking forward to the next time I can make it out to California.
Here’s some iPhone snaps from the trip in apparently no order whatsoever:
Check out my “California Coast” playlist on Spotify. This was the soundtrack to most of our driving!
Leave a comment or email me if you have any questions about our trip! If you read this whole thing, I applaud you. I don’t typically write this much!
I’ve been thinking about selling some prints of these photos, so if you’re interested please let me know!