I have finally sorted through over 2000 pictures from my honeymoon (we got back like over 2 months ago) and I wanted to share with you some of the pictures and a few tips and tricks if you were ever thinking of travelling to and around California.
I have to break it down into a 3-parter as there is SO much I wanted to share with you…so this first instalment is the places and areas we went and what I loved and didn’t love so much. (next up will be the food….and then the beauty shopping/haul!)
I’m not even sure why we choose America, we just starting discussing options and places we had both wanted to go. The idea of going and lying somewhere in the Caribbean for 2 weeks was appealing but my husband isn’t a keen sun-worshipper like me so we went for something more active and diverse and ended up booking a one-month trip to California and some surrounding states, including Nevada, Utah and Arizona.
We had a list of around 30 places we wanted to see, and with the help from Trailfinders, and a VERY keen agent who loved everything west coast, we whittled it down to *just* 15. We flew into L.A, drove up the West coast to San Francisco then inland to the national parks, Vegas then ended up back in L.A many weeks later. We hired a Jeep, which I would definitely recommend if you want to see a lot of places in one trip. We did A LOT of driving, but also got to see so much of this amazing country. I literally A) cannot wait to go back B) Would move there in a heartbeat.
We flew into LA, hot-footed it to the swankiest hangout in Hollwood…Soho House West Hollywood for a posh lunch and some sleb spotting (it’s riddled, no I can’t tell you) and by 5pm we were driving out of the big city up the famous ‘Route 1’ in our newly-rented 4×4 en route to Santa Barbara for our first night of honeymoon bliss and adventure.
I think it was good to pit-stop through some of the places, some locations, it seemed like 1 night is enough to take in and see the sights (such as the Grand Canyon), but others such as Yosemite & Lake Tahoe, we had 2 nights where we could have been there for 2 weeks exploring, hiking and seeing all it had to offer.
Santa Barbara. Just beautiful. Loved the weather, the beaches and the whole cycling-about-the-place vibe. Our hotel was really cute & perfect for a one-night pitstop (we stayed here) and they offered free bike hire for residents so we made the most of our first proper day in California by cycling all up the coast and beaches in Santa Barbara. We stopped off for an amazing & memorable crab shack lunch which is @ the end of the main pier, we literally spent the entire day exploring on our bikes and it’s easy to get around, navigate and park up. I loved the relaxed atmosphere of the city and it’s just beautiful. It’s a very beach/holiday/palm tree kind of vibe.
Seal Beach. This is on the drive in between Santa Barbara and Monteray on Route 1 and it’s a must-stop! I couldn’t believe my eyes at the hundreds and hundreds of seals and bulls along this strip of beach. Absolutely Breathtaking. It’s very near to Hearst Castle which is also worth a look-in if you have a few hours spare to ride up to the house on the tour buses and you get a guide around in groups. It’s quite literally *THE* most pimp house you will ever see in your entire life.
Lake Tahoe. We diverted here after San Francisco and what a welcome it was! It’s a vast Lake with surrounding mountains and there is just so much to do and see. In the winter it is a skiing destination and in the summer, people go for walking, water sports, cycling and more. The first day we arrived it was glorious and we went for an all-day hike and saw some breathtaking scenery and nature. We woke up on day 2 ready to go again and it was snowing!! We took this as an opportunity to have a more relaxing day and went to browse around the small independent (and overpriced!) shops, and have some nice food and drink. The hotel we stayed in was really lovely and there was lots to do even on a bad weather day. Would love to go back for the summer hiking.
Zion & Yosemite were 2 of the national parks we visited that I really enjoyed. Yosemite is probably one of the most well-know as recently those free-climbers were all over the news clambering up the El Capitan climb. When you see the sheer height of the rock faces it’s just breath-taking and surreal. It had a real out-doorsy active people kinda vibe….there was lots of camp sites where masses of walkers and professional hikers stay. We did a really hard hike on the first day up Lower & Upper
Yosemite falls which was tough but the amazing views made the sweat and toil worth it. The only downfall to Yosemite was there was a major lack of places to eat/drink in the PM besides our crappy overpriced restaurant at the hotel so we just ended up having food in our room.
TIP: If you ever go into the national parks, stop off @ a Walmart or similar en-route to pick up water/snacks/food/toiletries as the shops inside are usually way overpriced for tourists.
Zion national park was a National park I hadn’t heard much about (and no the Bob Marley song ISN’T referring to this place…). The weather was pretty rubbish but we did a tour of the different areas on the free shuttle-buses. These allow you to go to the areas you cannot drive to, and a range of different walks. We didn’t have a huge amount of time so we chose to do ‘The Narrows’ which is a famous walk that takes you in and up the river. Walking sticks are left at the end of the trail to help you pull yourself along the riverbed which made things a lot easier for balance …. the river-walking gets quite tough and thigh-deep so be prepared! Zion was also really memorable as we stayed for 2 nights at a wonderful Buffalo Ranch. We had our own log cabin with a fire and it was so lovely and cosy, plus there are loads of animals roaming around not just the actual buffalo herds ….and actual cowboys!
Monument Valley. A place to go just to see the beautiful sunset and sunrise in this amazing area. We stayed at the infamous ‘View Hotel‘ which you need to book way in advance to get a room or a cabin. From here, we watched both the sun go down and the sun come up from the comfort of our own balcony and got some great snaps. The visibility of the stars at night is something we had both never seen before and it was quite mesmerising. We also went for a horseback ride with a Najavo tribe guide which was absolutely brilliant.
San Diego. Stay classy. Our final stop but maybe one of my favourite cities. We had a few days here but am really keen to go back and explore the areas some more. We stayed right near Mission Bay which is the main beach (it’s REALLY long) and we went for a lovely sunset walk along the beach in the PM. It’s really lively and has a really friendly and fun vibe. There are loads of bars/restaurants and it had quite a party vibe as a huge amount of the sea-facing villas along here are rented out for people coming to party, but it has quieter bits and the whole atmosphere is friendly as opposed to ‘Oiiiiii Oiiiiiiii’.
We did a little bit of shopping in San Diego too and it has some good areas and malls to shop. One PM we went to the famous fish taco takeaway ‘Oscar’s’ which was really good. Expect huge Q’s and get a takeaway so you can go down to the beach, watch the sunset and eat your feast. We also went to Hash-House-A-Go-Go which is pretty infamous in the U.S after being featured on Man VS Food. THIS was unreal, and I’ll be talking all bout that in my second installement which is all about the food. If you like a beachy/active/outdoor/skating/running/party/everything kinda life then I think you will love San Diego. It kind of seems to offer everything and ticks all the boxes that you need from a city.
The only real let down of the whole trip was San Francisco which surprised me. I think we just stayed in the wrong area and didn’t have enough time to enjoy it. It has a HUGE problem with crystal meth and general drugs/homeless people. We saw a few things that were really upsetting and kind of ruined our time there in all honesty which I don’t want to share here, but it was just disturbing and wrong time, wrong place. We did go to the trendy ‘Mission District’ in the PM for food which was really nice and we found a lovely restaurant and had a bit of a walk around ; it’s kind of like London’s Shoreditch. However, I was quite happy to be leaving the next AM still which was a shame. I hear SO many good things about this city that I kind of wanna go back to give it a proper shot and experience it in a different way. We did do the whole Alcatraz thing, but for me, the Q’s and hoards of people out-weighted the actual place.
Enough Chat. PICTURES.
Part II : The Food…Brace yo’selves.