I hadn’t had a holiday in over a year and I was really starting to feel it, I know, first world problems right? I won’t go into detail but it had been a really hard year for me so I was screaming out for a break. As I side note I feel I have to mention after the shell shock I experienced going from of 9 weeks holiday in France (yes that’s right, I said 9 weeks…….a year…….not a decade) down to 4 weeks working in London I really noticed the difference. I had to use most of my holiday allowance on travelling back to Paris for family and blog related things so I really wanted to use the remaining days to do something spectacular. So I started checking all across the world and what did I find……Zika, Terrorism, Typhoons, Rain, Storms……basically every place on the planet that had any sort of sun also had some worrying reason why we shouldn’t go there. So after an extensive worldwide search my boyfriend and I discussed the idea of a road trip across California that we had both long wanted to do but had always deemed too expensive. However he had some work commitments coming up over there and also loads of people he had put off meeting for years about his work so we decided now was the time and to do it on as small a budget as possible. We then started looking at the West coast and trying to focus in on where we should go and how this road trip would work logistically. It seemed there were two main possibilities, one of which focussed on the areas out from LA to Las Vegas with Death Valley and the Grand Canyon en route and the other was to start in Northern california and work our way down to LA trying to take in Yosemite and the Sequoia trees if possible. So we checked a million hotels, a thousand maps, hundreds of car rental options and every flight over the next weeks and finally, after a huge amount of wrangling, booked our tickets to San Francisco!
We arrived late, as always, at Heathrow ready to board our Virgin Atlantic flight to San Francisco which was going to be a big mix of work and fun throughout California. The flight was great, as the outward flight always is, and amongst loads of other films I finally got the chance to watch Brooklyn which was such a wonderful film. After landing and waiting hours to get through the US customs we finally boarded the BART train to downtown San Francisco. We had decided not to rent the car until our two days in San Francisco were up as we wanted to do loads of tourist things and would get around the city far faster on public transport and by foot. We then hopped on the bus the last mile or so to our hotel and after getting every single passenger involved in the discussion about which stop was best for us to alight we ended up in the very nice Buchanan in Japan Town. It was such a cute area full of lovely people and so well maintained. We were lucky to be right next to Fillmore Street which had loads of nice restaurants so before we passed out and slept we stumbled up the street and upon one of my boyfriends favourite things in the world…..Roam, an organic burger restaurant with the most sublime salted caramel milkshakes! Jet lag mixed with a full belly meant sleep was not far behind so we cuddled up in our comfy new home for the next two days and fell into a deep slumber.
The next morning it was straight back to food and somehow we were told we were metres from what is supposedly the best breakfast in San Francisco so off we went to test out that theory at Sweet Maple. We had a really great eggs florentine and French toast but the best thing was the mix of potatoes that came with the eggs and was comprised of about 6 different types of potato, each one Delicious in its own right and when combined together was like a treasure trove of potato delight! Next on the agenda was a high speed tour of some of the most famous tourist spots of the city; Union Square, the Cable Cars, Shopping & China Town so we hopped on a bus and went exploring. We walked right through the city and it was so clean and lovely. I of course stopped off at every single Sephora we walked passed and left my boyfriend admiring the cable cars. Then we decided to face the big climb up to Coit Tower to enjoy the spectacular views over the city including the Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco Harbour, The Piers and of course the infamous prison island of Alcatraz.
We then set off down the other side of Coit Tower, through an amazing part of the city that looked like a Caribbean island, and down onto Pier 39. There was one specific reason we had to come here and that was to witness the most amazing sight I have ever seen in a city, a colony of Sea Lions that have made their home right in the heart of San Francisco’s pier. In the time we were there we witnessed a fight for dominance, of what seemed to be the favourite area, between the some very large males while of course the smaller Sea Lions all escaped to safety. Then while the fighters were fighting the lovers seemed to be trying to love and there were quite a few attempts at courting. So life as normal obviously! As we were so pressed for time we then sped across town to check out the infamous Lombard Street, the most bendy street in San Fran, which is swamped by tourists at all times apparently. If you have seen literally ANY 80’s film you will no doubt recognise this street in an instant. Due to the amount of tourists not only taking pictures but also driving down this street all day and night, we didn’t stay there for long. Of course by now our bellies were starting to overrule any other thoughts so with hunger consuming our bodies we headed down to the Mission area of San Francisco to try one of their world famous Burritos! I have to say that after walking around what seemed to be the cleanest city I have ever encountered in my life we were both a bit shocked when we got into Mission about how many homeless people there were everywhere in the streets. For the city that booms from its vicinity to Silicon Valley, and the multitude of billionaires that inhabit that area, we were both a little shocked and upset by this sight. I have literally never witnessed anything like it. Sadly the Burrito really didn’t live up to expectation but as there were so many recommended Mexican restaurants we just tried one, perhaps this was not the best strategy but we were both exhausted and starving by this time. Finally as it was now dark and getting late we wandered back to our hotel in the lovely evening air to rest and recuperate before our second day.
After a quick sleep (and of course the obligatory stop off at another beauty shop called Credo Beauty, check out my haul here) we tried breakfast in another recommended brunch spot on Fillmore called The Grove. I had Avocado on toast and my boyfriend tried his first breakfast Burrito. A quick stop off in the coffee shop Jane was then followed by a journey out to San Francisco’s most famous landmark the Golden Gate Bridge. Our whistle-stop tour continued as we walked across it soaking in the stunning views of the bay and the spectacular architecture. After a severe battering from the wind we turned back and then jetted across town to Pacific Heights, an area of the city that was synonymous with hippy culture, to check out the picturesque houses known as the Painted Ladies. The view of these houses was absolutely stunning, especially framed by the backdrop of the city, and draws in tourists from all across the world. Of course after all of this walking we reverted back to our normal habits and searched for food. We came across an amazing (if very expensive) food shop called Bi-Rite which had an amazing array of produce including lots of organic, natural items ranging from meat, vegetable, bread, wine, ice- cream, chocolate…….basically everything you could ever want. I just wish it had been more affordable! As we walked up the road we then came across a place called Chile Pies which specialised in sweet dessert type pies, basically proper American Apple pie. We decided to try their Rhubarb and Strawberry pie as I had never had a hot pie like this before and never tried Rhubarb either, although I am possibly the world’s biggest fan of strawberries! I absolutely fell in love with this pie and am quite glad they weren’t a chain or I may have ended up visiting every day of the road trip! Finally we had some errands that need seeing to so it was a fleeting visit to Target (where I checked out the beauty products), Best Buy (who don’t have any beauty products) and Sephora (you can probably guess by now what I did in there).
So on our last half day in San Francisco before we had to pick up our car we decided to pay another quick visit to Mission (after a quick repeat visit to sweet maple for breakfast). Once in Mission we checked out a few shops before a taste testing trip to a patisserie I had been told to try called Tartine. We decided on two little tasty treats; one Banana and cream, the other berries and vanilla. We sat outside and ate them in the sun and I have to say that usually I think all patisserie outside of France is pretty lacklustre but this one was delicious. The banana and cream one would have been sickly if I had eaten it all myself but as we shared having the light vanilla and berries afterwards was a perfect combination. Then after checking out a few more sights, street art and some graffiti it was on to the other reason we had ventured down that way. I really wanted to see an amazing shop called Heath where they manufacture on the premises the ceramics that they design and sell. I think we spent a little too long in there though as then it was a manic rush back over the city to get back in time for the shuttle to the airport to pick up our rental car and start the next stage of the adventure…….Yosemite!
We picked up the rental car at San Francisco airport and my boyfriend only had a mini coronary attack trying to drive and automatic car for the first time on a 6 lane motorway on the wrong side of the road. After 20 minutes it was all fine and we were on our way driving east across the state of California as we undertook the long drive out to Yosemite. After driving across California through the night we arrived in pitch darkness and fell into bed. It was up early again as we were so excited to set off and spend our first day driving around the national park to see as much of it as possible in the short time we had. After paying to enter the first stop off point was by a beautiful waterfall before going through a tunnel that reveals one of the most spectacular views of the whole place from Tunnel View. Next it was a drive down into the valley for a quick stop off to check out a river and to have a wander around. After a very quick initial scout around we decided to head off for another drive up the other side of the valley to check out the views from that side and do the valley floor by foot the next day as the weather report was much better. I can’t put into words how spectacular the views were, truly breathtaking in every direction you look. We did also hit a snow storm high up in the mountains and the drivers in front of us span off the road and luckily were stopped from falling down cliff edges by the trees. It was quite a scary experience so if you ever go there be aware of how quickly the weather can change and also how the elevation can affect the weather so hugely in such short distances.
So initially we drove over Tioga Pass first and were followed by a massive biker crew consisting of Harley Davidsons and Indians. My boyfriends lifelong love of cars and motorbikes made him stop off to get some video of the bikes while they had a pit stop in a gas/petrol station. While we were inside we had our first experience of the weather changing suddenly and we were caught in a snow/hail storm. As the roads became more perilous the mountain passes became more slippery and dangerous and that’s when we decided it might be sensible to turn around and drive back down to the valley. As the light was starting to fade we headed back over the mountain pass to the hotel and one of the cars in front of us span off the road and down the edge of the mountain stopped only by the trees in its way. The car behind it did a 360 spin but managed to stay on the road and then all the other drivers, obviously being unused to driving in snow, went at a snail’s pace down the mountain! When finally they all pull over we managed to over take them all safely as after years of driving in British weather it’s not much different to a normal summers day in the UK!!!
The second day we had in Yosemite we chose to spend walking through Yosemite valley and getting back to nature as it was so much sunnier and amazing weather. We started by wandering through the woods and found a beautiful river where people were fishing and enjoying nature. After admiring the views we decided to head towards the most famous and biggest waterfall in the park, Yosemite Falls. En route to the waterfall we came across the Village store which was stacked to the rafters with everything you could ever need which surprised us as it really isn’t what I imagine a camping trip to be like, it was basically a supermarket! We then saw a cut down cross section of what they called Big Tree, a Sequoia that shows what happened during its years of growth, it’s like a history lesson in the form of some dead wood!. As we were trying to reach Yosemite falls we took a wrong turn and ended up in a small hamlet of houses and a school where, we presumed, the workers in the park get to live. It seemed like the most awesome and beautiful place to bring up children possibly in the world. Once we found our way back on the path we of course stopped off for (another) quick burger for lunch in the most phenomenal surroundings.
We finally managed to reach Yosemite Falls, and join the rat race again, to walk up the route to the falls with the multitudes of other people who are doing the same. En route we spotted some people meditating (which looked so serene and fantastic) and a squirrel being fed berries (which was scared off by some very disrespectful French tourists making a racket) before finally seeing the crowds all gathered below the spectacular waterfall. Against the better advice of the safety posters we decided to go a little off track and get a closer look at the falls by scrambling across the wet rocks. After this dangerous little foray was over we then continued and very quietly came across two deer grazing in the field which we stood and watched in awe for a while. That was of course until the crowds noticed them too and started getting far too close to the deer and scaring them off. As it was getting late, and it had been closed for the past two days, we decided to try and set off for Glacier Point, just in case it had reopened, but first we made a quick stop off at Bridalveil Falls for what turned out to be a complete soaking and again at Tunnel view for another few amazing shots. We were in luck as Glacier point had just opened an hour or so before and we had one hour left before it closed at 8pm so we drove up the hill immediately. What we got in return was one of the most awe inspiring views we have ever witnessed across the valley with Half Dome and all the other places we had seen over the two day visit in their full splendour.
The next morning we reluctantly sets off from Yosemite to head back across California and down the coast to follow the infamous Highway 1. After getting some pictures in the differing landscapes that the west coast of the US has to offer, the first stopping off point on the itinerary was the lovely town of Monterey where the famous jazz and pop music festivals take place.
After a quick wander along the beach and an investigation into why there were so many dead Tuna Crabs piled up on the beach and being ignored by the birds (turns out that the rising heat levels in the ocean seem to be bringing them higher up the coast and this phenomenon has only been noticed in the last couple of years) we then set off to find some good, healthy organic food to eat. We stopped off at Tilly Gort’s cafe to try out their organic burgers and tomato & basil soup (that was for my boyfriend of course) while I had a middle eastern plate with loads of interesting different organic food. Feeling sated we checked into our hotel for a very quick stop over before setting off in the early hours to drive down the coast again.