Travel

You guys, this has been a doozy of a week.

First, we made a somewhat big announcement last Thursday. Also, today is my last day at my current job. (I know, I know, Justine changes jobs like most people change their Brita filters…moving on.) ALSO, we’re getting the keys for our new apartment this week.

All of that would have been enough to solidify a super busy week. And then two days ago my new job called and asked if I would be okay with them sending me to Belgium for job training. Sunday. As in, six days later. HA! Um…sure?

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So now I can add “visit new country” to my March to-do list. Who knew?

SO anyway…have any of you ever been to Brussels? What should I do while I’m there?

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I tell you what: There’s something about seeing how the other half lives.

This week, I’m working in my company’s San Francisco office. Instead of shelling out a zillion dollars on a hotel, I took a friend’s suggestion and opted for a much more affordable airbnb. I had never done airbnb before, but so far, I’m a fan. (As is my company’s finance department, I’m sure.)

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Let me tell you a little bit about the apartment. It’s a one-bedroom in San Fran’s South of Market neighborhood. The entire south wall is windows. The living room is HUGE and opens up to the kitchen and a dining area, plus a desk nook. It has two gigantic closets. (The bedroom closet is a walk-in.) There’s a washer and dryer in the unit. It has a dishwasher and a sink disposal. The bathroom has the world’s largest tub.

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Basically, I’m never leaving.

Because I dare to dream, last night I decided to look up the building to see if it was even in the realm of possibility that I could live there some day.

Spoiler alert: It’s not.

A 1-bedroom runs at least $3,700. And the most devastating part? This isn’t even the owner’s primary home.

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They actually live in Palo Alto, but the wife works a couple of days a month in the city designing stores for Anthropologie, and traffic is such a bother. So they bought a little pied-à-terre that they can let their kids use or stay in when they want to go to a restaurant in the city and not worry about driving home.

Life is hard, right?

So, bad news, I will never live here. Good news: I DO FOR NOW.

The California trip continues!

I’ll be the first to say that you should spend as much time in Big Sur as you can. As the name implies, it’s big. There are several state parks, plenty of places to camp or stay overnight, and so many incredible vistas that you could probably fill a week at least with to-dos. Our schedule, though, only had time for one day in Big Sur, so we did our best to make the most of it.

Tip: Print out paper directions to anything definitely want to see. Cell service is nonexistent through most of the drive, so you won’t be able to rely on a GPS.

Tuesday night, we drove from San Francisco to the Mariposa Inn & Suites in Monterey. The hotel was simple and clean, with a pool and a free breakfast in the morning. The next morning, we set out early to begin our trek.

Tip: Make sure you start out with a full tank of gas. There are loooong stretches on Highway 1 with exactly zero gas stations — the last thing you want is to get stuck with an empty tank. One full tank should get you the whole way through Big Sur, though.

First stop was Big Sur Bakery, which had been recommended to me by pretty much every person I told I was going to Big Sur. We got breakfast (eggs and greens on toast), but I’ve been told the dinner is also excellent.

Tip: This is also the last place to get good espresso before you get lost in the wilderness, so take advantage of the bustling coffee bar. I would also recommend getting a few baked goods for the road. (We opted for a pumpkin scone and a maple baon bowtie.)

After fueling up, we started our drive. There were a couple of things we wanted to see for sure (included below), but the main thing I would like to impress upon you is the importance of just stopping a lot and taking in your surroundings. This place? It is BEAUTIFUL. Like, stupid beautiful. You won’t even be able to believe it. It helped that we had the world’s most perfect weather, of course, but regardless, I truly believe California is the most gorgeous place on earth. Get OUT of the car and take it IN. Be the corny tourist on the side of the road taking deep breaths of the morning air and snapping a photo or two. It’s worth it.

LOOK AT IT.

LOOK AT IT.

Ok, now for the specifics. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was one of my favorite stops. There are two must-see hikes here, both starting from the parking lot.

Tip: Do not park in the parking lot unless you like paying $20 for no reason. Park on the main road with everyone else who is not a tourist (for free) and walk down to the trail.

First up, McWay Falls. You’ve probably seen this shot a billion times from either movies or your West Coast friends’ Instagram feeds, but it is still 100 percent worth seeing in person. I mean, LOOK AT THAT WATER.

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The trail also barely qualifies as a hike — it’s short, totally flat, and can be done in flip flops. For something a bit more adventurous, hit up the Ewoldsen Trail on the opposite end of the parking lot. This will take you through redwood groves, over streams, and up some serious height if you feel industrious. The full trail is a little over five miles, but you can go as far as you like. If you’re in for the long haul, I’d recommend legitimate hiking boots and a backpack with water and snacks.

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One thing that we were not expecting but LOVED? An elephant seal rookery. Hundreds of these animals flock to this beach to sun themselves, sleep, and mate every year, and it was pretty incredible to see in person. And not just because they reminded us an awful lot of a certain lazy dog we adore. Definitely worth joining the crowd ooh-ing and ah-ing over the seals.

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After the seals, we started to head inland to Paso Robles where our hotel was. The downside was that we couldn’t see the water anymore. The upside is that we accidentally found ourselves in wine country! And, you guys. This country was so beautiful we almost couldn’t take it. The rolling hills and golden vineyards literally look painted on. We may have made a few more stops for photos. (And, okay, a wine tasting at Zenaida Cellars. We’re only human!)

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We ended the night with dinner in nearby San Luis Obispo at a place called Novo with a really pretty back deck.

All in all, this was our favorite day of the trip. (Not counting time spent with family, of course!) And even though it feels like we packed a lot into the day, I love knowing that we could go back again and do completely different things.

Here are a few things we could have done but didn’t have time to do:

Hearst Castle
My dad had actually mentioned this place when I was first soliciting for activity ideas, but I didn’t look into it enough at the time. Basically, William Randolph Hearst was a SUPER rich man who wanted to build an American castle that would rival the European versions. And, I’ve only seen pictures, but I think it’s safe to say he succeeded. You can tour the estate, but reservations are highly recommended. If I went again, I would book the night tour when docents dress in period clothing and you get to see the most of the castle.

Tip: Hearst also collected a pretty impressive menagerie of animals that he kept in a personal zoo and allowed to roam the grounds. Most of the animals were sent to zoos when the fortune dried up, but you can still see a small herd of zebras grazing along the highway — keep a sharp eye out!

Nepenthe Restaurant
I had actually planned to stop here for lunch, but I got my directions mixed up and it ended up being right by Big Sur Bakery. If you’ve done the bakery before, though, this place looks pretty awesome. The lunch seating is arranged stadium style next to this huge overlook so you can take in the view while you eat, and it has been run by the same family for three generations.

Have any of you been to Big Sur? Did you do something we didn’t? Give me ideas for our next trip in the comments!

Since our California Adventure spanned nine days and basically the entire state, I figured it would be easier to break down the trip into areas. It will also make it more useful for anyone who is not exploring the entire state at once. (Thought I do recommend that if you have the opportunity.)

We spent the first day and a half of our trip with my brother and his family. They live near Sacramento, so we saw a bit of their ‘hood as well as the Berkeley area. The highlight was a lunch at Easy Creole, where the kind folks will let you sample six of their menu selections before you make your final choice.

Tip: Spring the extra $2 for the corn bread. It’s gluten-free, and oh-so worth it.

Monday morning, we kissed the fam goodbye and headed into the city.

Tip: Give yourself an hour longer than you think you will need when traveling on a week day. It took us an hour JUST to get through the tolls into the city. AN HOUR. I was climbing the walls of the car by the time we got through.

Joey had never been to SF, so I had planned out a day of the finest touristy options the city has to offer. First up, Sears Fine Food for the “world-famous” Swedish silver-dollar pancakes. We also split the veggie omelet so we’d have enough energy to get through our busy day. Both were delicious.

Next up, we popped into Walgreens to purchase a visitor one-day pass, which you can use on almost all of the public transportation (cable cars included). Then we grabbed a cable car heading toward Ghirardelli Square.

Tip: Try to get on at one of the first stops on the line. These little cars fill up very quickly, and people WILL cut the line. You have to be New Yorker aggressive.

We hopped off the cable car at Lombard Street to see the crookedest street in the world. You’re also treated to a pretty spectacular view of the city.

From there, it was time to head to the Golden Gate bridge.

Tip: Take the bus. There is very little parking by the bridge, and the bus is actually pretty simple. Plus, it’s covered by your visitor’s pass.

I wasn’t truly aware of how spectacular the weather was until we got to the bridge. The water looks so blue next to the bridge (which is actually red, fun fact). We took a million pictures in the nearby park and then walked about halfway across. (We wanted to get back to the city before sunset.)

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A quick bus trip back brought us to Ghirardelli Square, where we just strolled along the coast making our way to Pier 39 because the ONE thing Joey really wanted to do was see the sea lions. Fisherman’s Wharf was predictably crowded, but the weather was great, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. We split a crab sandwich and enjoyed the views. And the sea lions did not disappoint.

Finally, we took the bus back to our hotel (the cable cars are impossible to get on from that end unless you want to wait an hour and a half), freshened up, and then went to dinner at Lolinda, an Argentinian steakhouse. Several people had recommended it to me as their favorite restaurant in SF, so we were excited to try it. And, you guys? So. Good. The food is served tapas-style, and we had four small plates, a large plate, and steak between the two of us. Plus two desserts because when they have banana bread pudding and peanut butter mousse, THAT IS THE RIGHT DECISION.

The second day, I worked in my company’s San Francisco office. (After a workout at Barry’s Bootcamp through my ClassPass, of course! The instructor was basically Barry’s Bootcamp Barbie, complete with anecdotes about her modeling gigs and her impending nose job. Oh, California!) Joey met up with me and my boss for lunch at Marlowe, which was SO GOOD. I highly recommend the brussel sprouts chips, baked cauliflower (it’s basically mac and cheese with cauliflower instead of mac), and gingerbread cake. That cake. I will dream about that cake.

After work, Joey and I went to dinner at The House near Chinatown. Do not be fooled by that sad little website — this place is boss. I highly recommend the coconut creme brûlée. And the take-home cookies, of course. (This was basically the vacation of desserts, as you can tell.)

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So that’s how we spent two days in San Fran! It was pretty awesome, and the perfect weather didn’t hurt one bit. Post-dinner, we headed to our hotel in Monterey to begin our day in Big Sur. More on that later.

So did I miss your favorite San Francisco treat? Share with the group in a comment below.

 

I’m not going to lie — there are a lot of days when I give Joey a lot of credit for staying married to me.

I mean, I’m annoying. Like, roll-your-eyes, is-she-serious annoying. I actually care about how things are arranged in the pantry, and I throw things out with wild abandon because the clutter gives me hives. But the man sticks around, God love ‘im.

Case in point? I am very annoying to go on vacation with. Because I like to plan. But not just, like, plan-to-go-on-a-trip. PLAN.

Not only have I been working on a Google doc itinerary for our upcoming California trip for the last couple of months, not only do I plan to put together a binder of confirmations and maps (like I did for our Paris trip), but today I spent about an hour outfit planning. And then turning those plans into detailed packing lists.

Don’t believe me?

The crazy is very, very real.

The crazy is very, very real.

Like I said. Annoying.

The one thing Joey can be grateful for? I am generally much more rational in person when I feel like I have my life together. AND these plans make it much less likely that I will overpack.

See, babe? Everyone wins!!

…please don’t leave me.

When I first went to type the title of this post, I almost wrote “November 2014.” So that should give you an idea of what to expect from this post.

Aannnnnyyyyyway. Here are a few things going on that I just couldn’t make warrant full posts.

1. I went camping. 

This looks more dangerous than it actually was.

This looks more dangerous than it actually was.

Like, over a week ago. Obviously, nothing earth-shattering happened. But it was nice being in the woods. It was also Bogey’s first time camping. He loved it, but was EXHAUSTED by the time we went home. Guess it’s hard to get by without your usual 8-hour nap every day.

I didn’t take a ton of pictures, but I like the above shot. I’ve always been a little bit afraid of heights, but every year we hike this gorgeous area called Mohonk. It’s a literal rock scramble, and occasionally you’re clinging to a fairly slippery boulder trying to launch yourself over a narrow (but deep) hole in the mountain. I’m never exactly terrified for my life, but there are times I feel uncomfortable about the fact that I could get hurt.

At the end of the day, though, I like to chalk it up as one more thing I do that scares me or pushes me out of my comfort zone. No point in getting complacent at the ripe old age of 27, right?

2. I ran my fifth half marathon.

So fast. So tough.

So fast. So tough.

This was the first distance race I’ve ever done without really training for it. Granted, I work out 5-6 days a week, and I have a full marathon under my belt, but I was a little nervous considering I hadn’t run more than eight miles in one stretch since April.

Things went surprisingly well, though! I finished in under two hours, which was a relief after the bust of the Philly Half and my unpleasant Paris experience. It’s always nice to run a full race without ever wanting to die at any point.

Plus, this race gave you a crown and a glass of champagne at the end. So I didn’t hate THAT.

3. Bogey had his first tick.

This picture has nothing to do with the tick. But how cute is that face??

This picture has nothing to do with the tick. But how cute is that face??

I woke up this morning to our usual cuddle session, but got distracted by a pill-shaped mass clinging to the tip of his right ear. Surprise, surprise, our little fuzz face had an interloper.

We did the classic hold-a-blown-out-match-by-the-tick’s-head and then removed it with tweezers. We’re not quite sure when he picked up his little parasite (maybe camping? but that was a while ago…), so now I’m keeping an eye on him for any signs of infection. So far, though, he has been acting the same as always.

It’s weird having this little life form that we feel so responsible for. Like, we love the crap out of that dog. The thought of something happening to him kills me. Yet another reason why I firmly believe a dog is a great preview into parenthood. (I know, I KNOW that having a kid is a million times more complicated. I’m just saying it’s similar.)

So that’s pretty much everything of note. October is going to be busy, and then we take our California Adventure in November. December (I’m hoping) will be nice and quiet.

What have y’all been up to?