It was that time of the year again, which means our annual trip to sunny California. With some proper planning, we managed to get away for 2 whole weeks and organise the ultimate California Road Trip, Mrs O-style of course. Roughing it? Absolutely not. As my mother always told me, if you are leaving home, it has to be better.. much better!
We started our California adventure in San Francisco, taking advantage of BA’s ability to let you fly in and out of various airports, and after touching down refreshed in Club, we were ready to go! The itinerary was exciting and we were even going to new places – we visited San Francisco, Monterrey & Carmel, drove through the Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Palm Desert and finished off in San Diego.
San Francisco was exciting as always – and we had the city to ourselves as jet lag was so bad, we were up at 6am everyday – yes, everyday. Even Chinatown was closed.. We stayed, as usual at the Westin St Francis, bang on Union Square, which is where exactly you want to be. We started our days at Sears Fine Food, for the ultimate American breakfasts – 18 Swedish pancakes with buttermilk and maple syrup and couldn’t help but notice that most people weren’t sharing! We had to.
We rode around town in the trolleys – Tiffany trolleys, I must add and had to make a special stop at the city’s hottest Spa – Mizu (www.mizuspasf.com) where we treated ourselves to mani+pedis and massages – my legs hurt from all the walking! We had crab for lunch, salt water taffy for tea (no comment) and amazing dinners at Kokkari Estiatorio (www.kokkari.com) – my favourite Greek in the world) and the brand new La Mar Cebicheria Peruana (www.lamarcebicheria.com).
Of course, nights were ended at the Clift bar (www.clifthotel.com) – I take my traditions seriously!
From SFO, we drove down US1 to the one of the most amazing places I have ever been to – Monterrey and super super pretty Carmel. We stayed on a deserted beach at the amazing Sanctuary Beach Resort in Monterey Bay. Room with a view? Oh yes. In-room massage? The best hands I had over my body for the last 30 something years.
The next 2 days were spent lounging around the area, where we visited the “world famous” (my favourite American expression) Monterrey Aquarium.
The highlight of the trip? California’s best wines. Evan Oakes from AG Venture spent a good part of the day showing us around the best little wineries in the Carmel Valley – Chateau Julian, Bernardus and Joullian. As wine on an empty stomach usually leads to disaster, Evan also took us to Earthbound organic farm in the valley, where we handpicked golden raspberries (and every other berry there was), smelled amazing herbs and even forgot we were in America.
Day 6 and time to get a bit further south. Not blessed by the sun, the drive through the Big Sur was slightly tedious – stunning, but a bit long.
Nevertheless, we were excited to be there, but even more excited to be on our way to Santa Barbara. We didn’t see Kitty McAllister, but we saw a lot of this stunning city which reeks elegance and style. The Canary Hotel is THE place to stay. “Half a block” from State Street, we slept in the most comfortable beds ever (high ones as we needed a step to get on to them!) – but who wants to sleep when you have so many places to see? The shops are of course… fabulous… and we started our afternoon… wine tasting!
The Santa Ynez Mountains also produce some good grape juice – and they are organised in tasting rooms around town.. so you can walk everywhere and look forward to the next pit stop. And food, I hear you say? We had one of the best ever dinners of our lives (I kid you not) at the Bouchon Santa Barbara , which favours Santa Barbara “Wine Country Cuisine”, using an “as-fresh-and-as-local-as-possible” approach, paired with delicious wines. We had an amazing time in Santa Barbara and look forward to going back!
Next stop? Oh guess… please! One of our favourite places in the world, Palm Desert, of course. At our home away from home (and I don’t use the word lightly), the Westin Mission Hills welcomed us back again for a week of sleep, rest, eating, drinking and… of course, shopping. Speaking of eating, I am no stranger to this place, as we come back year after year, and thoroughly enjoyed returning to the Coachella Valley, which offers the perfect combination for me.
We were there for Labor Day sale… let’s just say that Xmas shopping has been taken care of, and Tumi sold a few more cases, as we had to bring it all back somehow. Energy was restored at some new and old favourites. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to food, and our favourites this time around were Roys Hawaiian Fusion (have never been to Hawaii, but must confess I am intrigued) and 3rd Corner , where you choose your bottle of wine from a choice of… 800, and take it to your table for a corkage fee of $5. Cakebread Reserve for $45? I will have a couple of bottles, please!
All good things come to an end, as they say, but in my defence, we ended in style. San Diego is absolutely stunning and the perfect place to end this stylish California adventure. Our stay in town was slightly more exciting than predicted, as we had a 12-hour power outage which led to interesting moments, namely selecting places to eat and drink until the ice was gone. A special mention goes to Eddie V’s (www.eddiev.com) in stunning La Jolla, 5 miles north of San Diego, which feed us (oysters and shrimp), paired with some of finest California’s pinot grigios until they were warm, and had to close down, just before sunset, which was breathtaking. We stayed at the W (where else?), shopped a little bit (not too much) and even had our first California beach visit at Coronado island, but sadly the water was a tad too cold.
The last night was spent awake until the 11th hour – San Diego has a lively nightlife, which may cause headaches the following day! We were due to return home mid-afternoon, but a timely warning from BA allowed us to spend a whole day in town, and enjoy a fantastic last supper at Island Prime, opposite the airport, which was the perfect way to end this trip, with some crab, steak and of course key lime pie. California, I miss you already!
PS. Will be back