California Part 4: SoCal

And now..the dramatic conclusion to my California Travel Blog series..SoCal!

Let me first tell you that I want nothing more than to live in San Diego. I love San Diego so very much. A few years ago I took my first Cali trip with my roommate Kelly, as soon as we saw the seals at La Jolla my heart was set that I must move there. Flash forward 2 years later, I took a trip out to visit friends and wound up meeting a guy I now call my boyfriend in the San Diego airport. SoCal is just magical to me, it is everything I love in life and some of my happiest memories have taken place here. OK, I will stop gushing now.

Hearst Castle was first on our list after leaving Big Sur. We booked tickets for one of the tours in advance for first thing in the morning, it lasted about 1.5 hours and was well worth it. Opulence at its finest. Apparently, Mr. Hearst wanted a place to stay when he went to visit his ranch so he commissioned a San Francisco architect to build his Castle in the hills. Visited by the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill, Hearst Castle is the Versailles of California.

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Next, we headed back down the coast in search of lunch. I heard Pismo Beach was known for its fish tacos and it did not disappoint. We stopped for a quick bite to eat downtown at the Cool Cat Cafe, strolled down to the beach to take a picture of this sign and then turned straight around and back to the car as it was ridiculously windy. That, and we were on our way to the tasting rooms of Los Olivos!

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While there were many options for vineyards to visit, I read in my handy guidebook that Los Olivos was the best kept secret. So, rather than vineyard hop, we parked the car and hit up the tasting rooms that lined the street. It was really quaint, very quiet and one of my favorite afternoons on the trip. We made the first stop Saarloos + Sons after seeing the sign “Wine & Cupcakes”. The wine selection was good, especially the reds, but the cupcakes were truly out of this world!

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They also had a nice outdoor seating area with fire pits and lounging chairs. It was heavenly, a much needed break from all the running around we had been doing. We made our next stop at the Carhartt tasting room, I was quite curious as I had no idea Carhartt made wine! There was no one else there (its a really small area) so Rob & I got to pick the brains of their employees which was really fun–super nice guys with a ton of knowledge about wine making. I think its safe to say at this point we may be able to make our own..

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After our nice, relaxing afternoon it was time to head to the final destination of the day: Santa Barbara. I was pumped! Beings as we had gone with the cheaper hotel options for the first few nights I decided to ball out and get us really nice accommodations for the evening: the Villa Rosa Inn. It was a block from the beach, had free breakfast, and a complimentary cocktail hour. Sold. Plus, this was the view from our room:

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After checking in and getting the most of our free wine’s worth, we made our way down to the beach.

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We then wandered down to the pier for an incredible seafood dinner at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, it was a pretty bare bones place and had quite the line but it was worth it. Their clam chowder was out of this world and the crab legs were divine (yes, I said divine, they were that good). Add in some of the local beer and it was another great meal for the books. It was a VERY long, but incredible day. Exhausted and slightly intoxicated we went back to the hotel to get some use out of the pool before morning checkout.

Which brings me to the final leg of the trip, our descent into L.A.

Santa Monica was first up, just to check out the pier. I was then talked into riding the Ferris Wheel, cause why not?

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Next we headed to Venice Boardwalk. I have to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, there was some really cool street art to look at but overall it wouldn’t be on my list of “musts.”

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Now we were in L.A. On a Friday. At 4pm. We decided to focus on one task, rather than trying to do too many things and get frustrated. So, we decided the Griffith Observatory / Hollywood sign would be our goal. This was where I discovered that L.A. traffic is no joke. Coming from Philly I know very well the gridlock of 76 at any time of day. I also know the stress of 95 construction, or a closed parkway on marathon weekends. This, was different. A mass of automobiles that far exceeded anything I had seen before. When it comes to traffic, L.A. wins. I will admit, I left L.A. a little disappointed. I know there is so much of the City of Angels I did not get to see and experience..I suppose that just leaves the door open for a next time.

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There was one last stop before our final Cali destination: Huntington Beach. I had 2 goals in mind: Beach Sunset and Sancho’s Tacos. Both were a resounding success.

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Leaving Huntington Beach my heart was so full. You know that feeling when you travel, the one where you just feel so content with new sights and experiences? Wunderlust-ness. Just thinking about that purple sky and salt water air warms my heart. What can I say, I am a California girl trapped on the East Coast.

We ended the night in San Diego, staying at Liz & Joel’s (Rob’s friends house) in Oceanside. We played Cards Against Humanity and I partook in my first ever power hour to ring me into my 30th year.. and quickly discovered a 30-year old body does not recover at the same rate as a 29-year old one does.

The rest of my time in San Diego was a blast, it was a “Day of Surprises” (which included a trip to see my absolute favorites, the sea lions!) filled with visits from good friends, bright California sunshine and lots of laughs. If it seems I am being evasive, I kind of am–some memories are really precious and I prefer to keep them to myself.

This trip was a long time coming, months of planning and a lot of variables/unknowns. I am really happy I had such a great travel partner, who was up for anything and made the trip and my birthday the best yet.

I hope you guys have enjoyed reading about the adventure, I hope to have more coming soon!

And Cali..in the words of the Governator Arnold, “I’ll be back.”