Exploring San Francisco

With as much traveling as I’ve done, you’d think I would have already visited San Francisco! But it was one major U.S. city that had escaped me over the years, so when planning our Highway 1 trip, I made sure to include a couple days for exploring this beautiful northern California city.

For our two night stay in the Bay Area, I booked a super cool vintage airstream! The couple that owns it lives on the property, bought it about several years ago and completely refurbished it themselves. In fact, in 2014, the New York Times published a piece about them and how they had to use a huge crane to lift it up and over the neighbor’s house and down into their backyard.

While not in San Francisco, it was such a short drive into the city from Mill Valley, that this would be the perfect place to stay if you were also going to Muir Woods. There are plenty of places to eat nearby, so it’s a great and more affordable location than other options I found in the city.

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We crammed as much sight-seeing as we could in a day and a half and hit most of the major areas of the city. Our first stop was Mr. Holmes Bakeshop so I could grab a croissant and snap a photo at their fun neon wall. The line was out the door and it was a tiny place with tons of other people taking photos, so we didn’t stay long.

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After that, it was Chinatown for lunch! The traffic and parking here was pretty crazy, but we got a spot and walked around for about an hour. It’s a bustling area of the city and we felt like we were truly in a different country.

There are many colorful murals that line the streets of Chinatown, so be on the lookout for those and grab something to eat while you are there. A lot of places we saw didn’t take cards, so make sure you have some cash on you. We had teriyaki bowls at Floating Sushi Boat.

 

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Then, we checked out the Golden Gate Bridge which was pretty much covered in a cloud of fog even though the rest of the city was sunny! We also did a hike to Land’s End Labyrinth, which was a nice way to wrap up the day.

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Our second day began with a cruise to Alcatraz! The boat ride there was pretty short – I’d say about 15 minutes and then you walk up a steep hill to the prison. It was very educational and I learned a lot I never knew about the island prison. There are also great views of the city and the bridge from here.

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After spending a couple hours at Alcatraz, we boarded the boat back to San Francisco and spent a large chunk of the day in Fisherman’s Warf. There are so many things to do and places to eat, but make sure you walk all the way down to Ghiredelli Square to see and sample the chocolate!

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Then, check out the adorable sea lions at Pier 39! It was a small group this time, but I hear that often the pallets they lay on to sun themselves are packed.

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By this time is was late afternoon, so we drove up to see the Painted Ladies (famously from the Full House opening scene), walked a mile or so down the same street to see Mrs. Doubtfire’s house, then went to several different viewpoints of the Golden Gate Bridge and had a lovely sunny evening to see it.

I think the view from Baker’s Beach and Battery Spencer were my favorites.

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Continue reading “Exploring San Francisco”

Highway 1: L.A. to San Francisco

Called one of the most beautiful drives in the United States, Highway 1 spans several states and follows the coast from Washington all the way down to southern California. When driving this route, experts suggest taking days or even weeks to take in the beauty – and I can see why.

It’s been on my road trip bucket list for years and while we didn’t drive the WHOLE thing, we did take in quite a bit of it all the way from California up through Oregon. There were so many places we could have pulled over along the way, but didn’t, instead choosing to just enjoy the drive, take in Big Sur, then headed to San Francisco for a few days.

On the way out of Los Angeles, we drove through Malibu where I tried to stop to see the Cohen house from the television show The O.C. The home that was used, along with Marissa Cooper’s house and an adjacent neighboring house with the famous pool house from the show were in the path of the wildfires last summer. Online blogs reported the home was undamaged, however after making my way up the winding road into the community, you’re met by a gate at the bottom of the driveway and you can’t see anything once you get up there. It is visible from farther down the street, just no up close views. Sadly, the home with the pool house burned, so that’s no longer there.

Adam and I split up the drive that day; I took the first couple of hours and he took the rest. Highway 1 does take about twice as long as catching the 101, so take that into account when planning your trip.

The road is also very winding – I would not enjoy driving it at night. On one side, you have the mountain and the other a sharp drop off into the ocean. I can see where it would be very dark at night, and there are some construction zones following the mudslides from a few years ago, so plan accordingly.

It took us nearly all day to get to Big Sur, which was the highlight of the drive for the day. We pulled off at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and hiked the short trail to the overlook for McWay Falls.

The view was stunning. It was golden hour and pictures just really don’t do it justice.

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Note: there is no beach access, so don’t plan to swim here!

From there, we kept driving up Highway 1 toward Carmel-by-the-Sea for the night. On the way, I had to stop at Bixby Bridge, which some people probably recognize from the opening credits of Big Little Lies. In fact, residents in the area are pretty annoyed by tourists stopping to take photos because it’s clogging up the traffic and some are even doing dangerous things like hanging off the side of the bridge for an Instagram shot.

Please don’t be like these people! There is a designated viewing area – park there and don’t trample down the embankment or hang off the side of the bridge.

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Our hotel for the night was the Carmel Mission Inn. Hotels along this route are pricey, so factor that into your budget. I booked through Orbitz, so it was about half the price as what their web site says.

For dinner, we walked to a pizza place right behind the hotel called Allegro Pizzeria and got carryout. The pizza was New York style, pretty delicious and hit the spot after a long day on the road. I didn’t take any photos of it because I was too hungry, haha.

On day 4, we headed to San Francisco, which was another two hours or so. We left Highway 1 for this portion of the trip, stopping at Google Heaquarters in Palo Alto. I would have loved to have gone to Shark Fin Cove, but it was a more efficient route to jump on the 101 again, but if you aren’t detouring to San Francisco, consider adding it to your list of things to see.

Here are a few photos from Google. There’s a gift shop and the andriod statue garden, but if you want a tour of the place, you have to know someone who works there. We did walk around outside, but there’s not a lot to see on the campus.

We also went to Facebook but there were zero parking spots there, so no photos with the famous thumbs up sign by the road 🙁

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Making the Most of Two Days in L.A.

We just got back from a wonderful road trip up Highway 1 in California and Oregon. The weather was beautiful – no humidity, mosquitos or rain. The trip began in Los Angeles, and while we have been there before, it’s impossible to see everything in one visit!

In this post, I’ll recap what we did, where we ate, stayed and how to make the most of your time in a city where traffic sometimes throws a wrench in your best laid plans.

Where We Stayed

I chose to book through Airbnb this time for our two nights in Los Angeles. Hotels can kind of be pricey and since we were heading out after a studio tour on day 3, picked a spot that was just a few blocks away from that. Our host, Kathy, was lovely! We talked with her a little bit when we checked in to “The Lavender Cottage” and discovered she used to work for CNN and knew Anderson Cooper. She now does lighting for theater and retail stores, but has worked in the film/TV industry for a very long time.

Included with the room were two bikes! We didn’t use them, but this would be a great option for someone wanting to explore the immediate area.

Where We Ate

Cinnaholic. If you watch Shark Tank, you may remember this vegan cinnamon roll place from an episode a few years ago. I made a note of it and we stopped to get some on our way to the Nixon Presidential Library. Holy Cow were they good!

In-N-Out, obviously! Haha. It doesn’t get more West Coast than In-N-Out burgers, so we had two meals at the famous joint. Personally, I think their special sauce is pretty gross. The first meal there, I’d asked them to leave it off but that didn’t get communicated and I scraped most of it off after tasting it. Adam liked it, but to me it tasted like a mixture of pickles, onion and mayo. Bleh. The second meal there was way better as they got my order right.

We also had dinner at an amazing Lebanese place in Culver City called Almaza.  I had falafel with hummus, rice and Adam got the chicken shawarma. The portions were huge, food was excellent, but the service was somewhat lacking. Maybe it was an off night, but they were slow to take our order and slow to bring our check. I would still eat here again, but that was definitely a down side to the restaurant.

I also had a birthday cake milkshake from Milk Bar, owned by Christina Tosi from Master Chef. It was good; a bit over priced and more just for Instagramming in my opinion. If I went back, I’d try the actual cake, but it’s really not all that different from other dessert shops.

Shop my look: Striped Dress, Converse


What We Did

Our plane landed around 8:30 am PST, so that gave us a full day to explore. Last time, we went to President Reagan’s Presidential Library and enjoyed it so much that we decided to go to Nixon’s this time. It’s about an hour drive outside of L.A., but if you enjoy history or politics, worthwhile to go. I know I learned a lot!

Shop my look: Free People Denim Jacket, Striped Dress, Kate Spade Cat Purse, Converse

Once we left there, I drug Adam to an AMAZING library that had an aquarium, huge children’s department and several stories of materials. We also checked out The Last Bookstore in downtown L.A., which was a mad house of people trying to take photos for Instagram.

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Most of the first day was gone by the time we got done in downtown and West Hollywood, so we decided to check in to our Airbnb for the night.

Day two started off with a hike behind the Hollywood sign. I am really glad we waited to do this hike then, because it was overcast and breezy and it was a tough trail to climb. If you are interested in doing the hike, get out there early as parking was FULL when we left and the crowds were increasing. Here’s the link to where we parked (Bronson Canyon) and the actual hike we took. Make sure you summit Mt. Lee to get behind the sign – another path takes you to a viewpoint of the front instead (which is also nice, but if that’s where you go thinking you’ll be behind it, that’s not the right path to take).

We then did a little location hunting, seeking out some filming locations for The Office and Silicon Valley.

From there, we ended our day at Santa Monica Pier and walked down to Venice Beach. The cultural vibes between the two are so different! Santa Monica is much more upscale and Venice has a hipster vibe.

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Day three, our final morning in L.A., started off with a tour of the Sony Pictures Studio. Last time we did the Warner Brothers Studio Tour and decided to take a different one to see how they compared. I felt like Sony had more history – their lot had many classic films (like Wizard of Oz) filmed there and our tour guide was the voice of Young Tod in Disney’s Fox and the Hound.

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We also got to go on the set of The Goldbergs, see cars from Ghost Busters, Breaking Bad and my favorite, tour the Jeopardy set! The tour took about two hours and was definitely worth it. It is an all walking tour, so no carts like the one at Warner Brothers.

If You’ve Never Been 

Obviously, there are some top spots I’ve left out because I have been to L.A. before! If you are looking for other things to do, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame or attend a taping of a live event, check out my older post with what we did back in 2016.

making the Most of Two Days In

Willowfield Lavender Farm

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Quietly tucked away on a county road near Mooresville, Indiana you will find Willowfield Lavender Farm. Four acres of organic lavender dot the fields surrounding the gift shop and main house, which has been a hidden gem on the south side of Indianapolis.

Kieran and Elizabeth O’Connor, who own the farm, were inspired to turn the property into a relaxing and educational retreat after visiting Provence, France in 2008. It’s free to visit, and when I was there, several people were painting the beautiful purple flowers and spending time with their families.

The best time to go is during mid-June; that’s when the lavender plants will be in full bloom and you’ll get to experience them at their finest. Keep in mind, the O’Conners do harvest the blooms for products like fresh teas and cookies as well as bundles of the flowers which they sell in their shop.

I tried a raspberry lavender tea with honey and it was quite refreshing!

Once you’ve grabbed a tea or some cookies, head out to the field to enjoy some quiet time away from the city, breathe in the fresh lavender scent and watch the bees and butterflies frolic among the blooms.

Shop this look here!

In years past, summer concerts were held at the farm, however there are none scheduled for 2019. I recommend checking their web site in the future to see if these resume for 2020 and beyond.

The farm has also rented their space out for weddings in the past – can you imagine how pretty that would be??

If you go:

Willowfield Lavendar Farm is located at 6176 E Smokey View Road, Mooresville, IN 46158. They are open Wednesdays thru Saturdays from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. during the lavender season. Check their Facebook page to see when that begins as it can vary from year to year depending on weather.

Bring your own water; they only sell tea in the store. Dogs are also welcome as long as you pick up after them. Admission is free.