Thursday, July 1, 2010

Back in Business! (aka the longest post ever)

So I have been MIA (again), as you can see.

But... I have a better excuse this time! H and I just got back from a bit of a road trip we took to California. It's somewhere that we've always wanted to go, and were excited to see as much as we could. So, we flew into San Diego, rented a car, stayed there a few nights, drove up to Los Angeles, stayed there a few nights, drove out to Yosemite, stayed there, then San Francisco, and then Napa. Whew, it was quite a trip!

I figured I would share a little (OK, a whole lot!!) about the trip and some of my favorite pictures.

First of all, I loved San Diego, it's a gorgeous city- from the weather to how clean it is to the views, to everything! The first evening, we drove to the other side of the Bay to the La Playa area. We had dinner at Point Loma Seafoods (we split a crabcake sandwich and the shrimp Louie salad). We then hiked down to the beach at Sunset Cliffs, and had an incredible view there.

We spent the entire next day in Balboa Park and if we had more time, I think I could have spent another day there. There are so many museums, attractions, and gardens there that no matter what you're interested in- from the Museum of Natural History to the Air and Space Museum to the Museum of Photographic Arts- there is something for you.

We chose to do the San Diego Zoo- which was awesome. We went early, before it got too hot, and the animals were so active! They are usually sleeping and hidden from view most times I have been to zoos. (I think it was near feeding time for a lot of them as well, and I'm sure that helped.) We also went to the Spanish Village, the Rose and Cactus Garden, Museum of Man, the Japanese Friendship Garden, and the Koi Pond and Botanical Garden. We had lunch at the Cafe at Sculpture Court in the SDMA, which was delicious (I had a grilled shrimp and mango salad with feta and toasted almonds, and H had a grilled portobello sandwich with fresh mozzarella and arugula on focaccia).


That evening we went to the Altitude Sky Lounge at the top of the Marriott at Gaslamp Quarter for a couple drinks, which had awesome views of the city. We were lucky enough to have a Padres game going on at Petco Stadium below as well, which was great to see.

The next morning, we had brunch at La Puerta in Gaslamp, which has authentic Mexican food and $1 mimosas! The food was delicious and the decor was really cool. I had the carne asada and egg burrito and H had a pork pozole. The homemade chips, salsa, and salsa verde were awesome as well!

Then we made our way up stopping at Mission Beach and La Jolla. Mission Beach was cool, but very touristy. We walked along the boardwalk for a while, then the beach, and then wandered around the amusement pier, taking in the sights. In La Jolla, we hung out on the beach and then went kayaking in the caves, which was incredible. I wish we had a waterproof disposable camera to take pictures of the caves and the sea lions on the rocks, but unfortunately we didn't. But trust me, it was gorgeous!

After that, we made our way north to Los Angeles, stopping in Laguna Beach for dinner and a sunset. Laguna Beach was pretty, but very upscale and we were certainly underdressed for almost everywhere. We ended up just getting pizza (and my suspicions were confirmed- NY/Phila/NJ pizza > Laguna Beach pizza), but the pizza place served giant glasses of wine and we were able to sit on the front patio and people-watch, so who was I to complain.

The next day in Los Angeles, we hit all the touristy Hollywood places- the Chinese Theater, walk of fame, the Wax Museum, and the Grove. Got some great "celebrity" pictures in :) We also did a bit of traveling up and down the Pacific Coast Highway for some views, which was great. We spent some time at the beach and lagoon in Malibu.

Then we went to Venice Beach for dinner, as we stayed in Marina Del Ray away from the downtown area and it was close to our hotel. That night was... interesting. The place that we went for dinner was a Swiss (cuisine) pirate (that's how the waitresses were dressed) beer garden (that's what they called themselves). And for drinks after that, we somehow ended up at what I can only describe as a hippy motorcycle bar. Yeah, I never thought those two could go together- but it does exist.

The next day we went to Joan's on Third for breakfast (delicious- I had a NY breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese, and bacon on sourdough and H had chocolate French toast) and stocked up on cupcakes for later. We then did a WB studio tour, which was a lot of fun. Touristy, of course, but they had a lot of soundstages and sets of movies and TV shows and it was really informative. They also had a costume and prop museum (that you can only get to by doing the tour) and the entire top floor was Harry Potter related costumes and objects (the real things!). Unfortunately, you weren't allowed to take pictures there, but I was in heaven :P

We had the obligatory In-N-Out burgers for dinner, and called it an early night to be able to get up for the trip to Yosemite at 6AM.

The next day we drove up to Yosemite, which only took about 5 hours, rather than the 6-7 we were planning on. We stayed at the Wawona Hotel, which is the farthest west and south so I'm sure that helped. We did three trails at Yosemite (only stayed 2 days)- the meadow trail, which was easy, but not much meadow; the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, which was really cool to see; and the Chinaluna Falls trail, which was 9 miles total and provided awesome views. We aren't terribly out of shape, but we're no athletes either, so I was super proud of us for that one! (the mountain/hump in the third picture below is where we hiked to!)

All in all, Yosemite was gorgeous. June is the perfect time to go, as that's when all the snow up in the mountains is melting and the falls are at their strongest. It's also when most of the wildflowers are in bloom. We drove up to Glacier Point as well, and the views were absolutely breath-taking.

After we left Yosemite, we drove out to San Francisco. We stayed on the border of the Nob Hill area and the Financial District, which was pretty nice. Our first day we took the cable cars down to Hyde Street Pier, Fisherman's Wharf, and Pier 39. The food was great- we had chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and a giant ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli Square. There were lots of cute shops and it was great to see the sea lions on the Pier.

We got some exercise walking back to Lombard Street (the line for the cable car at the Wharf was ridiculous!), which is the most crooked street in the city. Crazy! A couple blocks later was Filbert Street, the steepest street in the city. We stopped for some photo ops, then headed to Coit Tower. The stairs up to it were nuts! I'm not sure if we were still tired from Yosemite, but it was rough! But once inside, we found that sadly, the stairs were closed so you couldn't see the murals going all the way up the walls. The 360 views from the top were great though. And they had some murals to check out on the bottom floor.

Then we headed to the Ferry Building for dinner, which was great. We ate at Ferry Plaza Seafoods first, where I had shrimp spring rolls and DH had shrimp and avocado salad. We walked around, checking out the cute stores and snacked on a salted caramel donut, hazelnut macaroons, and a chicken empanada (I couldn't resist!).

The next day we took a tour of Napa. We booked the daily tour through Beau Wine Tours, and they really took care of us. We had to drive up to Napa, since they don't pick up in San Francisco, but they recommended a great hotel to meet us at, right in the downtown area. We stopped at Sweetie Pies Bakery (delicious and oh-so-cute inside) to fill up on carbs before drinking copious amounts of wine for breakfast, and then we were on our way. We were on the tour with another young couple, and an older couple with their two daughters. They were all really nice, the driver was friendly and informative, and we stopped at four wineries- Bourassa, Trefethen, O'Brein Estate, and Silenus. We also got a great lunch out of the deal, learned a lot, and picked up quite a few bottles of wine!

After they dropped us back off, we walked around downtown Napa for a bit before getting back on the road and check out all the cute stores and do some souvenir shopping (fine, and sober up!). We drove back over the Golden Gate Bridge (truly awesome!) and being the troopers that we are, decided the night was still young and walked down to Akiko for some awesome sushi.

And we had an early morning the next day, so sadly, that was our last day in San Francisco and of a wonderful vacation.

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