Monday, August 13, 2012

I Took a Vacation! (lots of photos)

You haven't seen a blog post from me in a couple of weeks. Sorry about that, but I did something kind of crazy. I took a vacation. And not just any vacation, but a vacation by myself. That's right, me. I took a few days and drove Highway 1 along the coast from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz (where I attended a 3-day yoga retreat) and then continued my drive along the coast to my home, which is just south of San Francisco. I've been wanting to do that drive for a while now, and many of the pieces seemed to align to allow me to do it. Only problem was that no one was able to do it with me. My sister, who I'd driven down to Los Angeles with (and spent the first weekend with), was flying to New York. My boyfriend could not take the time off work. My friends had their own plans and work schedules. So I was on my own. My first solo vacation. And though I was a bit nervous about traveling by myself, I was pretty excited!

Now comes the hard part. How do I condense ten days of travel, journaling and pictures into one blog post?? I decided to do two. This post will focus on the bulk of my road trip, and the second post (to come next week) will detail my experience at the yoga retreat.

My trip started off with spending time with my sister. As we've gotten older we haven't been able to see that much of each other, so it was great to be able to spend a weekend together. On Friday, we drove to Los Angeles from San Francisco on I-5 (not picturesque, but it is the fastest route), and spent the weekend at a gorgeous resort on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes.

The view from our room was pretty awesome!

Walking the resort's nature path. The bluffs were so cool.

Walking the resort's nature path.

More nature path.

Ahhh...peace and quiet at the adult pool.

On my way to brunch on our last day.

After being pampered at the resort, I was off on my own. My sister went to stay with friends in Los Angeles, and I got a hotel room in Marina del Rey for a couple nights before starting my drive. I visited with some friends who live in town, went to a couple yoga classes, ate yummy food, and reorganized my suitcases (yes, that's plural), but after a weekend of being social with my sister's work colleagues it felt really strange to be alone. It was so quiet! I love my sister, but I have to say that first night sitting alone in my hotel room with the television off and not talking to anyone was really nice. I guess this is even more proof that I'm an introvert, hah! As I sat there that first night, I began to realize that I was going to enjoy my time alone on my drive.

Before leaving LA, I made sure to check out True Food Kitchen in Santa Monica. This beautiful restaurant follows Dr. Andrew Weil's recommendations for an anti-inflammatory diet, and it is absolutely delicious! If you're in the area, I highly recommend you go there!

I also hung out with my friend Caley and her adorable puppy, and went to a yoga class taught by her before getting on the road. Caley is a fellow health coach from IIN and also an amazing yogi. Check out her website here!

Coconut Water, Honeydew Melon, Pineapple Juice

Grilled Sardines and a Mediterraneam Chopped Salad - yum!

I LOVED this sign I found while wandering Santa Monica!

After lunch on Tuesday with one of my best friends from high school (near to where the You Are Beautiful sign is), I hit the road and headed north on the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara. Getting out of LA involved some sitting in traffic, but I made it out pretty easily as I was already on the west side of the city. Sidenote: I think it's funny that in Southern California everyone says "the" before the freeway name/number, but no one in Northern California does (unless they're from SoCal).  Despite having my sister's speedy car, I kept my driving to the speed limit, as I saw a lot of CHP and did not want to start off my trip with a speeding ticket! Besides, going a bit slower allowed me to enjoy the gorgeous coastline views better.

I made it to Santa Barbara mid-afternoon, and wandered the beach path enjoying the warm sun. My hotel was half a block from the wide, sandy beach, and it could not have been a better location. For dinner, I wandered to the State Street/Stearns Wharf Pier and had an amazing crab dinner at the SB Shellfish Company. I tried the local rock crab special, and it was seriously one of the best meals of my life! Eating alone can be a little awkward, but the bar-like seating at this place made me feel comfortable by myself. After a good night's sleep, I awoke to the disappearance of the sunny weather. The fog I'd seen the night before had rolled in big time! Gone were my plans for a morning kayak in the harbor. Instead I opted to go for a run along the beach path I'd strolled the day before. I had to get in some exercise while on this journey in the car! On my way back, I ran into a girl I went to college with. We hadn't been close, but we had mutual friends and both recognized each other. I'm so glad we stopped a minute to talk and made the connection. The interaction I had with her was brief, but it made me realize how small our world is. You just never know how things are going to work out and who you're going to run into!

The multi-use beach path. Love it!

The site of my delicious crab dinner!

Watching the sun go down as I waited for my table.

Local rock crab special, served with soup and salad. YUM!!!

I find it unlikely the pelican heeded the sign.

Santa Barbara morning - lots of fog!

Despite the fog, it's a beautiful coastline.

I find empty beaches beautiful, especially in the morning hours.

After my run, I left Santa Barbara and continued my drive north on Highway 1 to San Simeon. I was off to see Hearst Castle today! This part of the drive began by taking me inland, and most of it was not all that pretty. I did see a cowboy herding cattle on horseback, and it made me smile to see the sight and know that some cattle are still raised that way. It's a much better sight than the horrible, smelly cattle feedlots you see and smell from I-5 in Coalinga. I stopped myself from thinking about the fact that these pastured cattle might end up there anyway, and focused on how happy they looked running in the pastures. When I stopped for gas in San Luis Obispo, I used my smartphone to check Yelp for a good lunch spot. I found a well-rated vegan restaurant called Shine Cafe in Morro Bay, and decided that was it. A good excuse to check out yet another coastal town!

Pretty scenery on the drive from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay.

Vegan Green Curry at Lavender/Holy Basil/Mate Iced Tea at Shine Cafe, Morro Bay.

My ride for the week - thanks, sister! :-)

Pretty coastline, looking north.

Pretty coastline, looking south.
The big stop of the day was Hearst Castle, in San Simeon. When I told people I was doing this drive, just about everyone's response was, "You have to go to Hearst Castle!" It's one of those places that is really awesome to see, but it's not really on the way to or from anything. Since I was driving right by it along Highway 1, I figured it was worth a stop. From the highway, I drove up the hill away from the water for a few minutes until I reached the parking lot and visitor's center. It felt a little like Disneyland, as this is where you buy your tickets for the tour, and also can eat at the cafeteria, shop at the store, and watch a video on the history before or after taking the bus up to the castle. I picked up my ticket and, since I was a bit early, watched the informational video before my tour. I'm glad I did, as it explained some of the history that would have been lost on me otherwise. The architecture of the place is amazing, but what is also really fascinating is the collection of ancient artifacts. From ancient Grecian pottery to Roman marble statues, entire imported ceilings, and lights from Venetian gondolas, it was like walking around a museum! I can't even imagine staying here back when it was in use by the family.

Another amazing thing about the castle are the views. From the visitor's center to the castle is a fifteen minute bus ride, and when you get to the top you see why - the castle was built where the weather is warm and sunny (as opposed to the fog and chill of the coast) and the views down the hillside to the water are simply amazing!

I loved this marble table, and the view.

Ceiling imported from Italy.

Views down to the water.

The library, with ancient pottery.

Mr. Hearst's office.

Really intricate carved wood under the eaves.

One corner of the castle.

The front entrance, and a wonderful lily pond.

A view toward the water.

The outdoor Neptune Pool.
Me at the Neptune Pool.

Amazing stone work. This was the floor!

One of the guest houses.

Self portrait!

On the right is the road the bus took us up on.

The indoor Roman Pool. Amazing!
After wandering around the grounds for about three hours, I was ready to find my hotel and rest my feet a bit. I stayed only a few miles from the entrance to Hearst Castle, in the town of Cambria. My hotel room could not have been any closer to the ocean, and I loved it! I slept with the window open, listening to the sounds of the waves. Hearing the ocean as I sleep is one of my favorite things, I find it so comforting. I had dinner outside at a restaurant down the street, and enjoyed the sunset as I journaled and ate. This was the only place I felt a little strange eating alone, as the restaurant was full of couples on romantic vacations. Before I left in the morning, I took a walk along the beach and found all sorts of neat rocks and driftwood. I then continued my drive up the coast to Big Sur, which included some of the best views of the trip. I also saw elephant seals, who make the strangest sound ever! It sort of sounds like a deep, throaty belch.

The view from my room in Cambria. Plus, there were fresh cookies! 
My walk to dinner.

Walk back to the hotel from dinner, as the sun was setting.

Beautiful sunset in Cambria!

My morning walk, the fog had returned.

I loved the sandstone bluffs, such interesting rocks!

Driftwood on the beach.

The pier in San Simeon.

The pier, it was used for the ships bringing supplies to build Hearst Castle.

Elephant seals at Las Piedras Blancas.
Such bizarre animals!

Fog on the drive...

Until you turn inland, then it's sunny!

Beautiful babbling brook at Limekiln State Park.

Road construction on Highway 1. Hopefully it won't wash away anymore!

Self portrait along the road.

Posing at the Big Creek Bridge.

Pretty wildflowers!

How this plant was growing here, I have no idea!

Coastline views, they never get old!
When I made it to Big Sur, I stopped for lunch at one of my favorite spots: Nepenthe. Perched on a hill overlooking the ocean, it's almost always warm and sunny here. Practically the entire restaurant is outside, and almost every seat has a view. Friendly service, and the food is good, too!

My seat for lunch at Nepenthe.

I made it to my hotel too early to check in, so I drove a bit farther down the road and wandered around the grounds of the River Inn. There is a hotel and restaurant here, but I enjoy bringing a book and drink (or maybe I even bought an It's-It from the store, shhh) down to the river and relaxing in one of the adirondack chairs they have in the water. It was so calming to sit in the dappled sunlight, feet in the cool water, and have nothing to do. Ahhhhh...

At the River Inn, Big Sur.

Relaxing at the river.
I got tired of my hat, so I bought a new one.

When the sun had gotten low and I started to get chilly, I made my way to my hotel, checked in, and started to think about dinner. A friend from college now lives and works in Big Sur, so it made sense to check out the restaurant he works at and say hello. The restaurant was busy, so we only had a few minutes to catch up, but it was great to see someone I hadn't seen in almost ten years! The food was also delicious, but I ate WAY too much and felt sick afterwards. Definitely a lesson in self control. Since then I've been watching my portions, and stopping eating before I feel full. Sometimes it takes the extreme of something for us to make a change.

The next morning, I was happy to no longer feel so stuffed, and didn't really feel hungry again until dinner. I continued to enjoy the coastal views and slowly made my way up Highway 1 to Soquel, where my yoga retreat was held. Check back in here next Monday for the rest of my vacation recap!

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