California Getaway: Part 1 (San Fran/Monterey/Big Sur/Carmel)

We’ve been back home for 3 days now and while my body is still struggling to adjust to the time change (my kids didn’t get the memo to sleep till 9 while we catch up!), I am still dreaming about this wonderful trip. Two years ago, I added “Northern California trip” to our shared calendar in hopes it would work out for us to make it. This is the year I turned 30 and we are celebrating 7 years of marriage so it seemed like a good reason to get away and celebrate. Obviously we had no clue what our lives would look like two years in advance (Quint wasn’t even on the radar) but I’m so grateful it was possible and it could not have been a more restful and restorative time. This was my first time away from the kids since Sutton was born so needless to say, I was turning my head at every baby I heard crying at the airport…you can’t turn off the mom radar! 

I want to start by saying we decided to stay at a different hotel/resort each night. I know thats not for everybody but there were so many properties we wanted to check out and now that its all over…I am so glad we decided to do this. It allowed each day to have an element of anticipation as we checked into a new location and we now know which properties we would want to return to again. 

I also plan to break this blog into a three part series since it would get pretty long if I tied to condense it all into one post. So…here we go!

We flew into San Francisco and it was my first time to see the city. As we drove in from the airport and I got my first glimpse of the skyline, it literally looked like a little lego village nestled in the hills amongst sky scrapers and low hanging clouds. Driving the streets of San Francisco was truly like being on your personal roller coaster and I couldn’t get over the architecture of the homes with their charming bay windows and unexpected color schemes. We didn’t do many touristy things other than drive across the Golden Gate bridge (while listening to the theme song to Full House, of course) and snap a photo of us in front of it but I don’t feel like I missed out on anything other than maybe seeing rainbow row homes and driving down Lombard St.

The first night we stayed at the Fairmont Hotel which is lovely historic hotel in the heart of the city. I thought it was reasonably priced given the size of our room and the location in the city so I would certainly recommend it. We had dinner at a cute Italian place called Tratto that evening and their mushroom pizza was heavenly. 

The next morning we headed out around 6:30 AM to beat Monday morning traffic. I know that seems terribly early to be waking on vacation but with our bodies still being on EST, we were up at 5:30 anyways. As annoying as it was to wake up early most mornings…it really allowed us to make the most of the days by starting early. We took the scenic route south and detoured through Palo Alto for breakfast and to take a peek at Stanford. We loved the venue of Blue Bottle coffee there in town and it was as delicious as we heard it was. I just realized we have one not to far from us in Hollywood so I’ll be checking that out soon!

Our first stop of the day was at Pebble Beach. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn Dwight did not play golf this trip…but just wanted to show me the Monterrey Peninsula and treat me to lunch at The Bench there on the 18th hole at Pebble. We had the most delicious dessert there called roasted strawberries that was this amazing cobbler style dish of strawberries with a balsamic reduction served warm with cheesecake ice cream on top. You must try this if you are ever there. Seriously yummy. We walked around a bit afterwards and did a little shopping in the village before we started our trip down south again. 

Upon arriving to Carmel, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and charm of the little town. I had heard from practically everyone who had ever been there that it was the most beautiful place in California and they were not exaggerating. It reminded me a lot of Hawaii with its lush green mountains. The drive to our hotel was breathtaking as we took the winding road up the mountain and had amazing views looking down into the valley. We checked into our hotel in Carmel Valley and immediately headed out to drive the PCH to Big Sur. Unfortunately the weather was quite cloudy during our time there until we reached just south of Big Sur but the views were still incredible and we stopped along the way to snap photos and get a closer look. I will say that for someone who is typically not scared of heights, it was pretty terrifying along some of those steepest corners sitting in the passenger seat. I was holding my breath and clenching my seat several times! The actual town of Big Sur was so unique and remote feeling. The one place we stopped, I felt like we had stepped back in time 30 years. 

We stayed at Bernardus Lodge in Carmel and y’all….this place blew us away. I’m not sure why we didn’t have higher expectations about it but we were constantly saying how overwhelmed we were by everything there. First of all, the property is so beautiful with flowers blooming everywhere you look, too many lavender bushes to count, an exquisite garden and a vineyard right there on property. Our room was so cozy with a fireplace and our own private spa on the patio with an incredible view of the mountains. Just outside our patio gate was access to the beautiful garden and vineyard. I woke up that morning and decided to take a stroll around in my robe and take some photos…thinking I had the space to myself only to have a run-in with the gardener! I’m sure its not the first time he has encountered a robed instagrammer in the wild 😉 Just a few more details about the room that I found top notch: heated bathroom floors, a beautiful soaking tub and a wonderful array of complimentary snacks/beverages for us to enjoy. The spa and pool on property is supposedly an amazing infinity pool with a mountain view but we sadly never made it over there to check it out. Its hard to want to use the community pool when you have your own little oasis in your backyard! We did however love the bocce court and putting green and had a few competitive rounds of bocce!

We headed to Carmel-by-the-Sea for dinner that night and the main street there of restaurants and shops is just picturesque. I didn’t particularly love the place we dined at that evening so I’ll refrain from mentioning the name but we had the sweetest waiter who pulled out his guitar and serenaded us when he found out we were celebrating our anniversary. 

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and it was so delicious. I’ve had lots of fresh squeezed orange juice living in florida these past 6 years but nothing compares to the California orange juice we had this trip! It was SO.GOOD. The hotel had a complimentary use of a Mercedes during your stay so we decided to take it for a spin to grab coffee and explore a little more of Carmel Valley before checking out that day and heading to Napa Valley. I guess it goes without saying that we throughly enjoyed that amenity!

I’ll stop here and pick back up next time on the first two days of our stay in the wine country in a few days! 


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