This summer, our eldest daughter had the privilege to choose the destination of our family holiday trip as a kind of gift for her 18 years-old birthday. She said, “California.” Then, my husband took the tickets and I found myself with a big long 15 days’ trip to organise.
In my mind, California was synonymous with palm trees, waves, surfers, breathtaking views … After a month at the beach in France, I was a little afraid that this could be a bit repetitive … Obviously you can not miss all the clichés that I listed, they are closely linked to California but this State has so much to offer!
I prepared the 15 days according to our desires and interests. This is very subjective and personal but we all keep an unforgettable memory.
This is our itinerary and the names of the hotels where we stayed :
- 4 days in Santa Barbara (Hotel Milo on the beach)
- 4 days& 3 nights roadtrip between Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz (Pines Lodge in Cambria, River Inn in Big Sur )
- 3 days in Yosemite (Hotel Tenaya Lodge at the park entrance and the famous Majestic Hotel in the heart of Yosemite Park)
- 4 days in San Francisco (Hotel Handlery Union Square : very central)
We deliberately decided to avoid Los Angeles and directly took the road to Santa Barbara, a pretty seaside resort 160 km from LA : it’s quieter, smaller and more family friendly than LA. Santa Barbara was perfect to adapt the time difference and we found there a great mix of California essentials : very pretty beaches (and palms), the famous Stearns Warf, interesting museums, a beatiful mission and well-preserved buildings from the Spanish Era, and boat trips to watch the whales … We also enjoyed the sweet way of life : a good mix between beach and cultural activities, a lively city center and an extraordinary flora. The perfect place to quietly start our journey!
Then, we left Santa Barbara for the mythical Highway One but, before, we took the pretty wine road that winded through the hills to visit a masterpiece : the purissima mission. A perfectly preserved place that beautifully described life during the Spanish era with a very large place given to the American Indian lifestyle and incredible craftsmanship.
We spent the night in Cambria, a charming village amongst pine trees. The hotel welcomed us with a beautiful fire. California always, but mountain side!
Then the next day, we visited Hearst Castle, before heading to Big Sur : we drove for 4 hours and we we travelled only 100 km, as Highway One panoramas are stunning.
In the evening, back to the woods along Big Sur River : all the waterfront motels were so charming!
A new (and last) day on the road, spending lots of time stopping and marvelling on the roadside, before reaching Monterey and Carmel. We were charmed by Monterey, its canning district, its aquarium, its historic neighborhood … and all these houses disappearing under bougainvilleas.
After a festive night in Santa Cruz, the city that gave birth to surfing and where a permanent funfair invited to party … And always amazing beaches, palm trees, lovely pontoons, restaurants and other attractions.
We then spent 3 days in Yosemite, a wonderful natural park. We crossed another California, dry, yellowed and scorched by the sun. The temperatures (very soft near the sea, fresh in the mountains) climbed to over 32 degrees. The Yosemite Park is the first park in the world and the valley has remained wild (no city is disfiguring it as it’s often the case in France). The scenery is breathtaking and really wild. Many excursions are possible with various levels of difficulty. One main flaw : the park is really crowded during summer.
Finally, the last stage of this trip: San Francisco. We had been advised to visit this city at the end to enjoy it without being jetlagged.The return to the big city after more than 10 days in a sometimes very wild nature …
Lots to see, of course : museums to suit all tastes and ages. For kids, the coach cables (the famous tramways) or the old boats on Hyde Street Pier (the ticket is valid for a week!)
For everybody, Alcatraz of course, which made us want to watch again the movie, the picturesque streets of Chinatown (one of the most beautiful in the United States), the Ferry Building and its stunning local market, the historic mission of San Francisco and its eponymous district …
None the less, San Francisco is very large and public transportation not really up to the city dimensions.
On the last day, we escaped from the city, walked across the Golden Gate up to the North, headed for Point Reyes. An amazing nature once more. Big crush for the Bolinas beach resort that tried to stay out of the touristic tour and remained rather authentic. Then, the natural reserve of Point Reyes which was a very beautiful place.
- A truly beautiful trip but preferably with children up to 5 years-old if you really want to enjoy it, because of the time difference (-9 hours from Paris) and of many car trips.
- The sea water is very cold but all hotels have heated pools.
- The food is really delicious in San Francisco but very expensive …
I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey to California!
Next Thursday, Emilie will talk about a beautiful vintage-inspired kids’ brand she loves…
Have a very good week,