California 2016: Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Carmel, San Francisco
July 2nd – July 12th
3:00 p.m. Saturday. Columbus Airport.
I have never been out west before. I have never been past Michigan, nor switched time zones more than an hour in the United States. The only scenery I had seen in the U.S. was that of the flat, east coast. Don’t get me wrong, I love living on the east (most of the time). I love the Atlantic Ocean. I love that you get every single season. Well, when it’s spring and Ohio can’t seem to decide if it wants to snow, be sunny, or thunderstorm. I love the great big pine trees, the wooded forests, and the grassy dandelion covered fields. However, I was ready to see something new, which left me feeling extremely anxious to board the plane and get on my way to California.
The whole plane ride I had the song ‘Going to California’ by Led Zeppelin stuck in my head (for obvious reasons). I felt the same as I imagined those moving out west in the 1930s felt: excited and hopeful. My junior year of high school we read Grapes of Wrath, and to be honest I wasn’t a huge fan. However, it was the book that came to mind as we ventured out west. Maybe because I thinking about what it would have been like to be forced out west from your home. Or maybe I was searching for the same king of thrilling, scary, unsure adventure the people felt during the 1930s Dust Bowl. The flight was long (5 hours) and we had to make a pit stop in Oakland on the way. It passed quickly though, especially when the scenery changed from flat plains to mountainous hills and deep canyons.
We landed in L.A., grabbed our rental car, and made our way to the hotel. 100% had my “Party in the USA” moment. We stayed on Santa Monica Blvd. (hello world of Kardashians) and had about a 10 min walk to the pier, which would all been seen the next day.
I had my Rebel Without a Cause moment today. As in, I got to go to Griffith Observatory and picture myself standing next to James Dean, or imagine him rushing out of the Observatory doors. Sadly it’s not the 1950s and sadly no James Dean came out after me in his red, leather jacket. However, I did get to stand and look over the whole city of Los Angeles, which was almost as magical as James Dean. It was nine a.m. and already 90 degrees out but the air was calm and energetic at the same time. There was a peace felt standing up looking over Los Angeles. It felt powerful looking over this massive city that millions of people come tp in search of their dreams, in search of fame, in search of their goal life. Next, we decided to hike up to the Hollywood sign. Being average ohioans, we didn’t think anything of the extremely long and steep hike until we got to about the 2nd mile and realized that we had to keep going up the side of a pretty steep hill. So we snapped a few pictures and lugged our sweaty selves back down. Typical out of shape midwestern family. But, in the least cheesy way possible, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This was also the most touristy day in California. Most of the time when we travel as a family, we try to immerse ourselves in the lifestyle of the place we visit. By this I mean we will go to local coffee shops, walk through the small towns, and go hiking in the most discreet, hidden places. However, L.A. kind of forces you to be a tourist. I feel like it’s a city that no one truly fits int because every person living there is SO different. In the most perfect, unbalanced, refreshing way though. The on thing I loved the most about L.A. is that everyone seemed to have their own sense of confidence. Maybe because living in small town Ohio is a completely different culture. But, now, having traveled to a ton of different states, I can say that L.A. is truly one of a kind. We decided to go all out and try and see as much of the city as we could, as we were only staying there two more days. To be honest, I’m not a city person. I much prefer wooded forests or breezy coastlines. So, L.A. was pretty cool, but I was not as starstruck as I feel most people are when they set foot in the “city of angels.” I think part of this reasoning was that the T.V. perception of L.A. is completely different from how it actually is. Outside the world of Kardashians was dirty city streets, run down homes, and real life. It was kind of refreshing because it reminds you that life isn’t perfect. It’s never going to be perfect. And that’s okay. Because for every fake, Kardashian-like world, theres real people, struggling through life, but still happy. We went into Hollywood and walked along the Walk of Fame, a.k.a. the most cliche thing to do in L.A. True fact: the Walk of Fame is where you meet the most interesting characters of L.A. From guys dressed as Elmo to girls tattooed head to toe, you will be oddly fascinated and confused walking along the star lined street. The rest of the day was spent touring the signature spots of L.A. including Beverly Hills, Melrose Avenue, and yes, Rodeo Drive. Let me tell you, I felt very out of place in my jean shorts and tank top standing next to the Ferraris, Mercedes, and Range Rovers that lined Rodeo Drive. It was sort of fun pretending for a moment that I was the child of a rich, stuck up, business mogul. However, it was too stressful. Choosing whether to drive the Porsche or the Range Rover? Too much work for me. I was just waiting for Kim Kardashian to appear with Kanye by her side, but sadly all I got was Elmo.
As I said before, I am not a city girl. I’ve always preferred mountains and beaches to skyscrapers and taxis. So when I got my chance to pick what we spent the day doing, I voted beach hopping. Plus today was 4th of July, and I couldn’t think of any better way to spend the nation’s birthday than seeing it’s beautiful pacific coast. George Washington would have agreed. We made the hour drive south to Redondo Beach and then hopped all the way back up. Manhattan Beach was stop #2, which was a cute little beach surrounded by artsy stores.Our next stop was Venice, which is exactly as you imagine it to be. Aggressive bike riders and roller skaters, shirtless body-builders, and overly tanned women lined the streets. All I could think about was that Victorious episode where they get trapped in the RV. Any one else remember the good ole days of Nickelodeon? Also, guess who was the brave one who swam in the cold Pacific Ocean water? Yep, that’s right, it was me. I will swim in the ocean at any temperature, which has me convinced in another life I was a mermaid. By the time we arrived back home it was late, and so we decided to watch the fireworks from the Santa Monica Pier. Fun Fact, I’ve seen fourth of july fireworks on both coasts, and in multiple states. Preeetyyy cooool.
All the beaches we visited: Redondo, Hermosa, Manhattan, El Segundo, Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey, Venice, Santa Monica
More Beach Hopping to Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Long Beach. I felt like I was in Volkswagon heaven with the amount of “surf vans” I saw driving up and down the streets. One day I will buy a Volkswagon Kombi and name it something cool. I’m open for suggestions. I bought a Huntington Beach shirt with a surf van on it, and I swear I didn’t take it off for days (now it has two giant bleach stains on it 🙁
Drove into Santa Barbara singing ‘Santa Barbara’ by Nick Jonas, because, obviously, it was only appropriate. Before we reached Santa Barbara, we stopped at Malibu on the way. I tried to convince my parents to let me pretend to be Miley Cyrus/ Hannah Montana for the day and search for the locations where they filmed my childhood T.V. show, but sadly my dreams were shot down. However, we did get to explore some ridiculously pretty beaches. Malibu you win 10/10 for your beaches. We visited a few, but my favorite by far was El Matador State Beach. It’s a beautiful, rocky beach with giant caves. If I lived in Malibu, this would be my happy place. I could just picture sitting under one of the caves, reading a book, watching families come and go. My definition of content.
Three Words: Pacific Coast Highway. The coolest drive ever. I felt like I was in fairytale land the whole time. That is if fairytale land included cars and trucks, but still you get my point. This whole drive, I couldn’t contain myself. An hour into the trip, we had only made it a few miles because I kept asking my parents to stop so I could get out and look at the view. It was well worth it though because I got some pretty rad pictures. We stopped at Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park, home of Mcway Falls. This is one place you should add to your bucket list of things to see before you die. The water is the prettiest turquoise blue color, and although you can’t get down to the beach to see the waterfall, the view is well worth the drive. Fun fact about me, I am not scared of heights at all. Which seems pretty great right? Well, for me, yea. For my parents, not so much. I love climbing rocks to get to the edge and look at the view. This is how you get the best pictures but it is also how you give your parents a premature heart attack. After a few more stops and a few more hours of driving, we made it into Carmel. Carmel= definition of the cutest beach town. After exploring the stores, we drove into Monterey (home of the famous aquarium). If you can handle the smell of fish then this is the place for you. If not, I would hold your breath and visit this town anyways.
(Location #1 of giving my parents a heart attack)
(Location #2 of giving my parents a heart attack)
Drove back onto the PCH to stop at Pfieffer Beach, which my sister had on her bucket list. We weren’t able to get to it yesterday because the parking lot was full. So, word of advice, if you ever want to visit this super off the route, hidden beach, go early. Like 8 a.m. early. Otherwise the parking lot gets filled and they stop letting people through. Pfieffer Beach is one of those places where you have to know about it in order to find it. It’s a little hole in the wall beach, with only one sign pointing to it on the highway. If you blink you’ll miss the turn onto the two mile dirt road to get down into the gravel parking lot. Since we left super early, the only other person there was a surfer, so we pretty much had the beach to ourselves. This moment. This beach. This was probably in my top three favorite parts of this trip. Definitely in top 5 best moments of my life. The beach had giant caves and rock formations, just waiting to be explored. It also had purple sand that was formed by the runoff from the rocks staining the sand this purplish/red color. We spent probably two hours here just exploring. I’m the type of person that if you stick me on a beach or in a forest I could get lost for hours. Climbing into the caves, I found a bunch of little sea creatures ranging from crabs to sea anemone. If you ever get the chance to drive the PCH, stop at Pfieffer Beach at 8 a.m. in the morning. It will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.
San Francisco. The city of hills. The city with intertwining cities. The city with a fog named Karl. This was my kind of city, because, to me, it didn’t feel like your overly crowded, sky-scraper packed city. Instead, it was lined with beautiful town homes, parks, and coastal views. I’m usually not the type to want to be overly touristy, but I went all out for San Francisco. We went to Lombard Street and walked around Fisherman’s Wharf, where some lady sold us on taking a street car tour. That lasted about two hours and we went to the Palace of Fine Arts, Fort Point, and the Golden Gate Bridge. The fog, a.ka Karl, took full storm early in the morning so we only saw about 1/8 of the Bridge. The best part though, was that our Tour leader kept referring to ‘Karl’ as if it was a person and they were old pals. We also drove past the wealthy neighborhoods in SF (a.k.a my future neighborhood) and saw the Mrs. Doubtfire house. To continue our tourist adventures, we took a boat tour under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz. My claim to fame is going to be writing a book titled “How to See All of San Francisco in 12 Hours” because that’s pretty much what we did today. Motto: Aching Feet. Karl. And a trip around the City.
Chinatown. Chinatown. Chinatown. I’ve always wanted to visit Asia, and seeing Chinatown was a little bit of a preview. Fun fact: only 20% of the Chinese population living in Chinatown speaks English. So it’s basically a small sliver of China in the United States, and I loved it. I love learning about heritage and culture and lives that are different from mine. Living in a small town has its perks, but it also has its disadvantages, limited diversity being one of them. There were Chinese lanterns hanging in the street and buildings built in the style of Chinese architecture.
Our next stop was Haight-Ashbury: home of the hippies a.k.a. my dreamland. I’ve always said that if I could go back in time and live in a different decade, I would choose the 70s. Visiting Haight-Ashbury was probably the closest thing I got to time travel. I SAW SO MANY VOLKSWAGON VANS. I was in heaven. I told myself that I am going to live in Haight-Ashbury at some point in my life. It will happen. And I will come back to this blog post to prove to everyone that I made it.
The rest of the day was spent exploring Land’s End, Lombard Street, Chestnut Street, and the Painted Ladies.
Picture the setting of a Hallmark movie. Then picture the hot, small town boy that the girl ends up with. Then picture the feeling both of those give you. Well that’s basically northern California. Whimsical. Charming. And makes you smile the whole way. We did a little trip up north today to visit Napa, Santa Rosa, and Bodega Bay. Driving up to Napa took about an hour, and the whole drive was filled with different vineyards. Rows and rows of grape vines and wineries. A.k.a the setting of a Hallmark movie. We went to a few thrift stores. Thrifting has now become my new favorite thing to do. It’s fun giving a home to something that once belonged to someone else. We went to my dad’s favorite brewery for dinner (21st Amendment) which I ended up surprising him about two months later with a shirt and beer cozies from there for his birthday. There may have been a little swindling and conning involved but you can bet I was named daughter #1 for the rest of that year.
Last day 🙁 Beth really wanted to go to Bowl’d Acai in San Francisco, so we drove over there to find the food truck. Let me just tell you, California knows that every instagrammer wants that acai bowl for an artsy picture. They’ve figure out your secrets. And so they’ll over charge you for it. $13 dollars for an acai bowl. Yep you heard that right. $13 for your instagram picture. After that we headed to the airport and boarded our flight back home to Columbus.
I’ve been very lucky to get to see different parts of the United States, but this trip to California was by far one of my favorites. I’ve already decided that the west coast is the place for me in the future. California, especially the north, was me wrapped up into a state. Beautiful beaches, an array of different restaurants (from healthy to greasy), and a magnitude of the best ice cream you’ll ever have. I also LOVED the people. Everyone was friendly (maybe not so much in L.A. but everywhere else) and they were full of character. The only disappointment was that I did not get to see a single celebrity (apparently they go into hiding during tourist season), and trust me, I remained on the lookout all the way to when my plane left SF. Now I know what they mean when they say “I left a piece of my heart in California” because I feel the exact same way. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to return and get it back, or maybe permanently leave it there. Thanks for the memories, California. I’ll be back.