Wednesday, October 5, 2011

{wanderlust} route one recommendations

The second leg of our girls' trip to California was a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The drive can be done in about seven hours, but we decided to spread it over two days to ensure that we would have plenty of time for snacking and sightseeing. Some of my favorite pit stops are detailed below.

Road Trip Snacks
La Super Rica Tacqueria: Julia Child once stood in line at this Santa Barbara taco shack--do you really need to know more than that?

Crill's Salt Water Taffy: For me, no trip to the ocean is complete without a bag of saltwater taffy, and this seaside stand makes their tasty taffy in a variety of flavors.

Chapala: This Morro Bay fish taco spot may be housed in a former gas station, but don't be fooled by the decor--the tacos are great. Don't believe me? The New York Times agrees.

Big Sur Bakery: The gardens are gorgeous, the space quaint and quirky and the pastries delicious (and the cookbook is pretty fabulous, as well). I'm just sorry we couldn't stay for dinner.

Route One Sights
Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas Rookery: Just north of San Simeon is the Piedras Blancas Rookery, where Elephant Seals come ashore to molt and breed.  The seals are huge and playful, and it was fun to watch them napping and lazing in the sand.

Hearst Castle. Just across the street from Piedras Blanca is the Hearst Castle. The castle is supposed to be incredible, and we were disappointed that we arrived too late to take one of the tours. We did however see a heard of zebras, the last of William Randolph Hearst's private zoo, grazing near the side of the highway.

Big Sur: Big Sur is jaw-droppingly beautiful, which made it one of my favorite parts of the drive. The day we passed through it was both sunny and foggy, which made it look as though we were driving through the clouds. The scenery was just incredible and I had to resist the urge to pull over for photos every few minutes or we never would have gotten out of there.

Carmel-by-the-Sea: We chose the charming town of Carmel as our stopping point for the night.  A favorite of artists and celebrities (Clint Eastwood was formerly the mayor), Carmel is as upscale as it is low key. There's no shortage of lodging, eating and shopping options here--the stores alone could have kept us occupied for the better part of a day. However, my favorite Carmel experience was the run I took along Scenic Road, which mirrors Carmel's beautiful coastline and passes the spot where the ocean meets the Carmel River. We also grabbed coffee and pastries from one of the bakeries in town and took an early morning walk on the beach before hitting the road.

17 Mile Drive:  Just past Carmel is 17 Mile Drive, home to Pebble Beach, amazing mansions, and some truly stunning views. You have to pay a toll for the drive, but we thought it was well worth it.

Monterey Bay Aquarium: This aquarium is all kinds of awesome. We saw sea lions and penguins being fed, pet a stingray, got up close and personal with a giant turtle and much more. A great activity after a day and a half in the car.

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