In August of 2015 we traveled to Northern California. I have to give a shout out to my Mom as she gave me some great tips after her adventures in N. Cali. Her advice and help made our experience one for the books. We flew into San Francisco, rented a convertible and did a ten day road trip. By far one of my favorite trips to date. So I’m doing a bit of a throw back by posting these pictures, but it’s an experience that I always want to remember.
As soon as we drove into San Fran, we headed to the Ferry Building for lunch. Talk about a mecca of restaurants and shops. Literally something for everyone. It’s right on the water, with the best views.
It still wasn’t time to check into our hotel so we parked at the hotel and walked to China Town. I picked up these strange little treats, as I saw a guy in the window making them and I couldn’t resist. We also did a tour of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company.
I picked Hotel Carlton for our two night stay in Lower Nob Hill. The hotel was charming, the staff was friendly and we were in a central location to everything we wanted to do.
Brunch at Foreign Cinema was nothing short of enchanting. We didn’t have a reservation so we stood in line and waited for them to open. I knew this place was gonna be great as we watched the line get longer and longer. If the patio is available, ask for a table there.
After brunch, we did a bunch of walking to see the city on foot. Of course, I had a list of bakeries I wanted to try. Craftsman and Wolves, Dandelion, and Tartine are all worth mentioning. One of my instructors in Culinary school had mentioned Boudin a handful of times. I picked up a loaf of sourdough, had a few bites and shared it with someone who was less fortunate and looking for a bite to eat. It was REALLY good.
Devil’s Acre for a cocktail, was a refreshing stop.
We took an Uber to Lombard Street. We agreed that we could save him the hassle of driving down it and asked that he just take our picture at the bottom.
We did another touristy thing and hopped on a Cable Car. Lots of fun!
We stopped in Santa Cruz for lunch then proceeded on to Carmel for our stay at Tradewinds. This luxury hotel came highly recommended by my mom and was nothing short of MAGICAL. Seriously, ridiculous. I splurged on this hotel. With a cat in a basket at check in, a roaring fireplace in the room and picturesque views…our stay here was worth every penny.
We were in the mood for Italian food so we went to Vesuvio for dinner. The food was authentic, the roof top bar was perfect and the owner and I share the same last name. We felt right at home.
Carmel had everything. A short walk to the beach to see dolphins in the AM, wine tasting, restaurants and shopping. A beautiful sea side town.
17 Mile Drive had quite a few destinations to stop and take pictures. A convertible was the perfect pick to enjoy the view.
Big Sur was our next stay. The drive was spectacular…a little sketchy, but so much to enjoy. Due to a landslide and a collapsed bridge, it’s difficult to get into Big Sur nowadays. I feel that much luckier knowing that we were able to drive through and enjoy the beauty. I’ve read that there are shuttles and hikes to get in, I would say if that is an option for you, do it!
We had time as it was still early in the morning so we stopped to hike Pacific Valley Bluff Trail. It was the perfect distance for us. Not too many people on the trail and not too extreme.
After our hike we made our way deeper into Big Sur.
We spent the night at Glen Oaks. It was tough for me to get a reservation as so many places were booked for our trip. Nestled among the towering trees, there are a handful of rooms to choose from. The fireside lodge queen room was the only one available and it was beyond perfect. Head outside when they light the outdoor fire pit to sit with other guests and enjoy the cool air….don’t forget to ask for s’mores.
I had heard that the views of the Pacific and lunch at Nepenthe were fabulous…neither disappointed.
Big Sur Taphouse had a great beer selection in a laid back atmosphere, Big Sur River Inn had the perfect spot to sit among the redwoods and let your feet rest in the cool water of the river, and Big Sur Bakery was the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal and local wine (make a reservation for dinner and walk in for breakfast).
Pfeiffer Beach was tough to find, but amazing when we finally did. We got up early, so it was just us on the beach.
Big Sur River Gorge is also a great hike with a great destination.
We enjoyed breakfast at the bakery and started our drive to Sonoma. I had a couple of breweries I wanted to make it a point to stop at. Lagunitas was on the way, so we stopped for a flight. We spent our first night in Sonoma at Sonoma Coast Villa then moved on to Kenwood to stay in a beautiful VRBO cottage. On the way we walked through Armstrong Redwoods. The height of the tree’s and the sense of peace you feel as you wander through the forest, is something you have to experience for yourself. Truly remarkable.
Guerneville is a quiet little town with some hidden gems. We stopped at Guerneville Bank Club for pie for a sweet tooth fix.
We stayed at the Rosso’s cottage in Sonoma Valley. It was spotless, beautiful and close to so many destinations. The Rosso’s hospitality continued all the way through our stay at their perfect getaway. They gave us great tips on the area and couldn’t have been more welcoming. You can find the listing on VRBO. Wine country was gorgeous! We dedicated a day to wine tasting, it really wasn’t enough time to do as many as we wanted. Some of our favorite wineries that were within driving distance: Matanzas Creek, Benziger, VJB, Imagery and Valley of the Moon.
We picked Glen Ellen Star for an early dinner, we raved about the food all night long.
The next morning we went to Sunflower Caffe for breakfast. Delicious! Yes, in case you are wondering, Matt is used to me taking pictures before we eat our food…it may drive him nuts, but he bares with me.
There were some great easy hikes that were close to our cottage. I can’t quite remember the name of the trail we took but it was about a 15 minute drive.
We drove through Muir Woods on our way back to the airport. I have to admit, I think Armstrong was a bit more impressive.
Northern California will always hold a special place in my heart. I fell in love with the West Coast after this trip. I will definitely be back again!