We boarded a plane and flew out to San Francisco, California to drive the coast! We had some amazing little adventures along the way and ended up in Phoenix, Arizona...
We flew out on Dec 24th to San Francisco. We've both explored SF so we got our rental car and quickly headed to Monterey. We visited the Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey Bay, enjoyed a glass of wine, Asilomar Beach and boardwalk, and watched the sunset with our Prosecco. Nailed it! And yes, it was CHILLY!
Our goal was to hurry to Carmel to grab dinner with a few of Luca's friends visiting from Italy. We made it in plenty of time to enjoy a walk around Carmel by the Sea, a drink and snack, and then dinner at Affina's (lousy food, lousy service, but GREAT company!!).
We followed dinner up by heading to Big Sur for our first two nights. We found a cozy little cabin on AirBnB and made our way south on Highway 1 through the woods. We met our host at the bottom of the mountain and loaded her truck with our things since the car would have NEVER made it up the steep quarter of a mile straight up the mountainside. The place was VERY primitive, with only a small propane fed heater and even an outside shower. What a treat! HA!! The most amazing part though was being surrounded by Big Sur; it was captivating! So quiet and peaceful.
Welcome to The Lotus Blossom! Oh, and Merry Christmas!!
Pretty tiny, right?! And rustic. And cold. Needless to say, we cuddled up tight to stay warm. The next day (Christmas Day, Dec 25th), we jumped back on Highway 1 to head south for some hiking and wandering. If you've never driven the west coast, it's BREATHTAKING! Seriously so beautiful! We wanted to stop every 500 feet for photos!
The blue waters and untouched beaches below the steep cliffs make me want to EXPLORE!! Can you imagine being the first to discover this land!? WOW!
In between our stops for photos, we found an awesome little gem in Big Sur, Pfeiffer Beach. It's actually off the beaten path and quite unknown to the random Highway 1 traveler. A single lane road takes us several miles down and around to the coast and presents us the most beautiful, lavender sand filled hidden beach.
Described by Luca as a place “without time and space, a place that seems far away from everything, untouched by man, as if only in the movies”, high rocks, beautiful surf crashing, and lavender-tinted sand wowed us! We spent some time walking the beach, snapping photos, and building our Christmas Cairn.
Passing over Bixby Bridge, our next stop was a special place that my mom brought me to last year. I remember being so impressed and enjoying the short hike and amazing views from the terrace (which is all that remains) of the Waterfall House.
and McWay Falls.
We also crossed the street to the park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, to hike the Canyon Trail and a small part of the Ewoldsen Trail ~ very short hike as my heel was causing some discomfort. BUT, we had a sweet lunch next to a waterfall!
Later that night, with little supplies, we cooked an awesome Christmas dinner in our tiny rustic cabin. As well as painted pictures with art supplies provided by our host. My super talented guy also drew this amazing picture in the guest book:
Monday Dec 26th we headed to Santa Barbara with stops at Hearst Castle (which we did not get to tour) and the Elephant Seals. These guys pack the beach and are so intriguing to watch! They don't do much, sleep, scratch, sneeze, bark, and argue with one another. For any movement they make, they need double that time in recovery; it's pretty funny to watch! And their enormity is SO impressive. They're just plain adorable (although I wouldn't want to have a run in with one!!!).
Once in Santa Barbara, we enjoyed ice cream on the pier and the beautiful beach. We ended up in Ventura for the night, also exploring the city and having a very nice dinner with a friend!
Tuesday Dec 27th morning we woke up in Ventura and ran the steep mile to check out the Serra Cross and amazing views of the city. A perfectly clear day, we could almost see Los Angeles! We finished our run on the Ventura Pier, cleaned up, and headed to Santa Monica.
We made stops at Zuma Beach to catch dolphins AND seals playing in the surf...
And Point Dume where we totally evaded the parking police!! (Fun quick story, we took the nice and easy path to reach the point but standing atop, noticed the police writing parking tickets down below. UH OH!! We raced down the volcanic cone, literally, down the SIDE of it!! Off road, no trail, and raced to our car. HA!! No ticket for us ;)
Please note the steepness of Point Dume :O
About the time we saw the parking patrol...
And while playing here, this is actually where we ended up coming DOWN from the rock!
Next stop was Malibu for the BEST lunch on the pier (grassfed burgers from Malibu Farm).
And we made it to Santa Monica where we played on the pier for a bit experiencing the vast array of people, vendors, artists, and performers, blue ice cream, and to my dismay a closed carousel, and a gorgeous beach, long walk, and sunset.
Later that night we had dinner at Stella Barra which Luca says was the BEST Italian food he's had in America and even beats some Italian restaurants!! Kudos to Stella Barra!
The next morning, Weds Dec 28th, we ran from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach and back. Well, WOW! That's all I can say. Approaching Venice Beach it gets really disgusting. Lots and lots of bums and trash on the streets. There seem to be some really cool beachside apartments but then a whole slew of tents and filth. I was not impressed although Muscle Beach (an outside gym) was pretty cool. Regardless, we had a great run together and excited to experience the area.
Now we're headed to San Diego with stops in Long Beach to see the Queen Mary, Dana Point for lunch, La Jolla Cove to visit the seals, and Sunset Cliffs...
...which ended up not really being Sunset Cliffs but we posted the hammock and enjoyed our time together anyway.
Once in San Diego we checked into our... we'll call it QUIRKY, AirBnB. I think Luca would call it disgusting. It was small and very full of things. So many things. Lots and lots of things. It didn't smell very nice. It wasn't an ideal place to spend our two nights in San Diego but it worked and it was within walking distance to downtown. We slept and prepared for Thurs, Dec 29th day of exploration which included Old Town (San Diego's original downtown), USS Midway, Coronado Island, and Gaslamp Quarter.
The USS Midway was super neat! Luca gets way more excited about boats and planes than I do, but I love his excitement and knowledge of all the different aircrafts.
And Gaslamp is a must do with hundreds of restaurants, bars, and small shops to explore.
With San Diego behind us, we headed to Phoenix, Arizona on Friday, Dec 30th. It was a long uncomfortable drive, I'll spare you the details. Thank goodness for a half way stop in Yuma to explore the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park (I have a strange obsession with prisons so I had to stop!). It was super cool though and like I said, a refreshing stop!
We finally made it to Phoenix, met mom, returned our car, and stopped at the grocery to prepare dinner (okay, Luca prepared dinner, he's an amazing cook!! It's not really Italian unless it's prepared by an Italian, right!?) Fresh bruschetta, prosciutto and sage wrapped chicken, and ratatouille. Perfetto!
On Saturday, Dec 31st we woke up for a nice run and prepared to hike Camelback Mountain. It's only a 3 mile round trip but quite a challenge with some serious boulder climbing. I've hiked the "easy" side once before but this time we were all in for the HARD side. I'll admit, it was quite tough and I was very impressed with my mothers tenacity, even after several major leg cramping episodes. I discovered that Luca is quite the little mountain goat ;) We all had a great time!
And the views from the top are absolutely gorgeous!!
We spent New Year's Eve with friends (mostly mom and Bob's friends) but great people, enjoying wine (which Luca won the wine tasting game. He commented, "I've been drinking wine since I was 3!") Ha ha ha!! and playing pool.
The next morning, Jan 1st, we slept in, joined the local bike club for a picnic, and explored more of the desert with mom and Bob describing plants and animal life in Arizona.
Later that afternoon mom prepared sauerkraut and spareribs for a fortune filled New Year while we relaxed and watched movies with Bob. It was a quiet and perfect last evening with my family before jumping on the red eye to return home (which btw, the red eye is never a good idea!! We were trashed the next day!).
I picked up Jake upon our return and got settled back home. I can't say our trip was perfect, but I can say it was amazing. Luca and I learned a lot about each other and met so many new friends! I'm also so glad we got to spend some time with my momma and Bob. We explored a lot and covered a lot of California and Arizona ground in a short time. We laughed and cried, celebrated and fought, shared and clashed; it was quite the experience. But most importantly, we made it! Connected at the hip with someone in such close quarters for so long can be tough; we survived and we're stronger together because. I've never been more happy!
We hope you too had a memorable holiday celebration and we wish you the happiest of happy for the New Year!! *hearts* LM (squared) ;)