Show me a person who doesn’t love California. The golden state has a lot of sunshine and a little something for everyone. I just spent a long weekend there: from visiting friends to a few (too many) bottles of wine, along with haunts new and old, it was definitely hard to say goodbye and head back to concrete and colder climes.
Monterey & Carmel-by-the-Sea
After a few nostalgic stops in San Jose (where I briefly lived), my friend and I drove down to the Monterey area for the weekend. Our first destination was just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, considered the “crown jewel” of California’s state parks. We arrived mid-afternoon and the light could not have been more perfect. We took a short hike to Whaler’s Cove, basked in the late day sunshine, and then sat for a while staring out at the sea.
Unlike trips I usually take, I did not have any plans of places to go - only people to see. We decided last minute to have dinner at Mission Ranch in Carmel, and wow, I will definitely make every effort to visit there again. We were luckily able to secure a table on the patio which overlooks a vast sheep meadow, the Pacific and Santa Lucia Mountains in the distance. Heat lamps kept us warm as the sun set and we toasted to our good fortune and friendship. Then we feasted: baked goat cheese, oysters on the half shell, pasta primavera, filet mignon, creme brulee, chocolate mousse pie, and homemade ice cream. Needless to say, we imbibed - because vacation - and were happy to take an Uber back to our hotel, a firepit awaiting us.
The next morning, we headed to Katy’s Place for a late breakfast. I love autumn in California - it’s cool enough to wear a sweater and jeans, and warm enough during the day to not. We sat on the patio (a theme is emerging) and ate again to our hearts’ content. Fortified for the day ahead, we drove to Cannery Row in Monterey Bay. It’s overdone and full of tourist shops, but I had to pay homage to John Steinbeck before heading down Highway 101 on my own to San Luis Obispo (SLO).
San Luis Obispo
SLO is home to Cal Poly and definitely gives off university vibes - its cute downtown full of restaurants and coffee shops with students on laptops and yoga mats slung over seat backs. The city is more than that though: wineries, beaches, hiking, and (most important) home to my good friends. The next couple days were SLO - see what I did there - dinner at Giuseppe’s Cucina Rustica, breakfast at Sally Loo’s, wine tasting and sunbathing at Edna Valley Vineyard, garlic twists from Round Table Pizza (it’s tradition), and lots of walking downtown.
Highway 1: SLO to SFO
My last day in California was spent driving from SLO to SFO up Highway 1. It’s a beautiful if somewhat hairy drive along the coast that takes your breath away at every turn, of which there are a lot. I pulled off at Morro Bay for some solitude on the beach before driving the over 200 miles to SFO. There are so many lookout points along the way; I of course stopped a few times to really admire the Pacific, which included a stop at Point Piedras Blancas to watch the Elephant Seals napping in the sand and a stop at Nepenthe in Big Sur for really spectacular ocean views. I hoped to stop again in Carmel, as I love the beach there, but the infamous California rush hour traffic bested me and I had to keep going. Sunkissed and sleepy after such a long day in the car, I boarded the plane back to New York that evening …already planning my next visit.